Tag Archives: academia

January goals

 

goal setting and wine

I like to set my goals with wine

I ended up picking just 2 goals for January: keep doing what I need to do to give Caroline exclusive breastmilk (I don’t even know why this is important to me at this stage, but I picked it so there we go) and to get my family into a workable daily routine. Actually, giving my kiddos exclusive breastmilk from my non-maternal breasts is such a huge challenge that it needs a whole routine in itself, so these two dovetailed nicely.

Pumping in meetings academic mom

Pumping in meetings

The long and short of it is that yes: at the end of January I feel like I achieved my goals, if not the sub goals like “take Fridays as vacation” (I only managed one 1/2 day as vacation… Sob…). With breastfeeding I did not remember all those darn supplements and every glass of water but I did keep to a reasonably healthy diet, stay fairly well hydrated, get some Reglan and end up pumping an extra 4 oz a day while also breast feeding evenings and weekends. So, I am going to call that job done.

Houston sunrise

One benefit was beautiful sunrises

I also stuck to a hellacious family routine. Combining pumping and returning to a demanding job with Houston’s horrific traffic has meant that I am up at 5.30 every day and it is go, go, go from then: 5.30 feed Caroline, 5.45 get up and get three people out of the house and fed by 6.30. 7: Arrive at daycare, feed at leave in time to be pumping at 8my desk at . Pump at 10 for another FORTY minutes. Leave the office at 11.30 and feed Caroline driving to be back for 12.30 meetings. Pump at 2 for another faking 40-45 minutes. Leave work at 4, feed Caroline, drive home for 5.30. Make dinner. Eat dinner at 6. At 6.30 Feed and bath Carokine. At 7.15 Bath and bed Sam (<— one of my favorite times of day) to get him down for 8.15 (pardon my French but fuck those sleep consultants with their 15 minute nighttime routines. I swear they don’t have actual children, just cats or something). At 8.15: Sort out the milk for tomorrow, sort out dinner for tomorrow, pack car and pump again at 9. At 9.30 collapse in bed with this little bundle of gorgeousness sleeping beside me. Then do it all again in 8 hours time.

3 months old rock n play

My sleeping buddy

I’m sorry, cry me a river and all that, but isn’t that just exhausting to read? Is it just me? Am I emerging from some deeply sheltered and pampered life blinking angrily into reality? I don’t know but it seems like a crazy exhausting schedule to me, but it is all that works for us right now so do it we will (and it is only going to get easier as I pump less, kids get more independent yada yada yada).

In unrelated news: I also eat a lot of chocolate and drink a large glass of wine every night.

Anyway, the point is not to moan, but to say that slowing down, calming down, climbing down and focusing on just one thing – the daily routine – has been very interesting to me. It has allowed me to see how exhausting it can be and how much energy it needs. Last year, I would have been focusing on that and 20 other things and nothing would have got done properly and I would have been stressed. Just doing this – life – properly has been eye opening.

I have had meltdowns – huge meltdowns. I have got through the check-out at target and realized my wallet is at home (and got bailed out by an amazing friend!). I have needed my friends desperately (all of whom been wonderful). From my friends’ behavior towards me, I have learned how to actually help someone, not just want to help them. I would have failed utterly without Wes (howl – where is my independence?). I have thrown pity parties all for myself and had a little tantrum if it is mentioned that many people do this every day and many people have it worse than me. It’s been exhausting and humbling, so humbling. But so rewarding. It has been so nice to think “I should fix my postpartum figure” or “I need to get my stampin’ Up! Business going or “I really should write a blog post” and just think “No. Those are not my goals right now, right now I M just getting my family trough this transition”. It’s been freeing! And I feel like I have achieved something! I feel good.

I am also amazed that I haven’t completely given up on future goals: we’ve cooked at home all but 2 meals a week, the house has been liveable, I have made some cards, I have seen friends, I have lost 1 lb… All these little things have just meandered along at a snail’s pace. I am also amazed at how relaxed about them I can be when I have a focus and when I give myself permission just to go with the flow.

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At work! Success collecting baby pee.

I have started to adopt this at work too – just focussing on one thing and trusting that everything else will get done adequately. I have focussed on my main twin study, and the second grant to find that. I got the grant in (Friday!) and am pleased with it. This month I am focussing on my twin papers, and saying ‘no’ to things that don’t align with that goal. Whether that works for not I will let you know – academia seems a separate beast to personal life.

3 year old happy

My happy

Amazingly, I have been so happy this month. So, so happy. Busy Lekki = happy Lekki, and my children delight me daily. I have realized that for now, building my family and getting the home right is my joy. I have felt a deep contentment and peace (I have also been renewing my relationship with God which has helped). I have felt supported and surrounded by so much love and friendship and understanding. And I have felt so lucky! Tears and grumpiness and meltdowns not withstanding, I have felt gloriously like I am where I am supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to be doing.

tea biscuits and emma bridgewater

Goal setting with tea and biscuits (and Emma Bridgewater) not wine.

For February… I am not so sure. Probably more of the same: get through the month with home cooked meals (not thinking about actual nutrition right now), and no late starts, and with feeding Caroline breast milk). I feel like I need one thing to add onto this base, but something small (like, being presentable at work would not be an option right now – as I sat in my oversized hoodie, maternity pants and glasses, my co-worker commented that I looked ‘depressed’). Maybe staying on top of our finances – that’s something that I need to get back to. Or building a family recipe book. Or doing craft activities with Sam (not sure if that is for him or me.. probably walking with Sam would be better for him). I’ll pick something and let you know.

Did you set any goals for January? Make progress on your New Year’s Resolution(s)? How do you stay on track?

Perfect weekend

Noah's Ark Houston

Quality Mummy-son time

2 1/2 years in, and I am definitely still adjusting to motherhood. 3 years in, and I am still adjusting to Houston. I have written before that I was unhappy for much of 2014, and 2015 was looking to possibly shape up in a similar way (albeit a little better). And honestly, partially because I don’t really recognize myself as unhappy (maybe a bit ‘flat’ or a bit ‘whiney’) until I get it right. Until I realize that I have made myself happy. That happened this weekend.

Saturday morning I took Sam to a kids’ swimming pool (Noah’s Ark) and we just had a blast. It was lovely to focus totally on him, and to be a big kid myself – yes, I climbed through all the water tunnels (so elegantly with my whopping bump), went down all the kiddos’ slides and picked Sam up and threw him in the water fountain (much to his delight). It was delightful, silly, exhausting fun.

I definitely did not look this cute on the slide

I definitely did not look this cute on the slide

Cue a stupidly large Mickey D’s, and then an unplanned nap on the sofa. Although I was woken by Sam waking from his nap (after only 2 hours! 3 hours at the pool is supposed to buy me more than 2 hours!)  he then played happily for several hours while I made a new card for my Etsy shop (<— still a work in progress) and updated my Stampin’ Up! blog. Pizza dinner, easy night down for the dwarf and then movie night with the Husband – we watched St. Vincent which was pretty good.

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Baby shower card

Today I played hard with the kiddo in the morning and then went and helped a friend set up her Stampin’ Up! website. She fed me lunch and I got a delicious frozen StarBucks on the way home. Sam woke the second I got home (again, after only 1.5 hours! What is up with this kiddo?) so we tidied the house together and then hit the garden.

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One of the best things Wes & I did was fence off a small area of our garden for Sam. We put in his sandbox, my hammock, and small IKEA table and chairs, a bench, a slide and a paddling pool. If Sam and I go out there I can get snatches of anywhere between 15 and 90 minutes to myself blogging, surfing the internet or reading. And when he does want to play, it’s easy for me to engage in water fights and sandcastles and chalk pictures on the wall. We usually have a blast and today was no exception.

Tea, Emma Bridgewater cup, biscuits for dunking, blogging and the boy playing happily - what more could I want?

Tea, Emma Bridgewater cup, biscuits for dunking, blogging and the boy playing happily – what more could I want?

 

We finished up with snuggles in the hammock – occasionally Sam will take his sippy cup and drink it like he would drink from a bottle as an infant, seeking out things to play with with his hands, his eyes going heavy and going into the ultimate snuggle mode – it’s BLISS.

Snuggles beats all else

Snuggles beats all else

Now the little one is in bed, I am finishing my blog post while eating delicious pecan toffee, and somewhere in there I even managed a face and a hair masque.

So – why was this such a blissful weekend? What made it feel perfect? It wasn’t tantrum free (you try telling a hungry 2-year old that is 1.5 hours past his nap time that he has to leave the swimming pool of awesomeness). I bought a new nail polish and don’t like it (damn you Essie). I didn’t get time to blow dry my hair and it looks a mess. I did, however, have time to really play with and engage with Sam – both at home and out and about. There was time for my hobbies, and some friend time. But what is most surprising, is that there was no work. Not a single email, nor a review. I didn’t open anything I am working on to poke at it, and yes, I let a few overdue things just sit in my inbox (I am certainly not luxuriating for time at work right now).

It’s odd. It’s uncomfortable if I think about it, and yet it seems like the most natural thing in the world. I realize that even 2.5 years in, I am definitely struggling to adapt to (working) motherhood. When I became a mum, I tried to carry on just like before – keeping work the same and fitting the kiddo in around that. When I couldn’t fit everything in, I dropped the ‘me’ things – make-up, skin care, crafting, blogging. I squeezed Sam in when I could (after a whopping great 3 weeks of maternity leave), and I did whatever it took to keep work going.

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My world

It’s not working for me anymore (sorry for the pun). Academia is hard – the way funding is (pretty nonexistent) it seems like a lot of input for not a lot of payback. At the end of the road, when I have focussed so much mental energy on work, and I have nothing to show for it it is hard to look at my beautiful son and think “I am glad I put you second” and “I’m glad I don’t know you as well as I could” and “Sure, I read you stories, and tuck you in, and I’m the one you run to when hurt – but I don’t mind having missed out on those little interactions that are your whole world right now”. It’s hard to look in the mirror at an uncared for reflection and say “I am glad I look a mess”. It’s hard to look around the house and say “I don’t mind that this doesn’t reflect my personality”.

I don’t have the answer. Academia seems to get harder and harder, and survival seems to depend on more and more publications and collaborations and grant submissions. And truly, I love what I do! When I can focus on my real work (not work I have foolishly agreed to do for others, so I am working on reducing that), I truly am fascinated by behavioral genetic questions and I love answering them and writing on them. But kiddos don’t wait, and papers don’t hold me at night. It feels like the wonder in Science is getting less and less, while the wonder in my son grows daily.

Yet, I still hugely look up to so many great Scientists. I cannot let the dream of being like them go. It’s clear that I need to reduce work. I also need to streamline what I do (focussing on behavior almost exclusively) and be much more efficient when I am working (less Facebook, more papers…). Yet, I am scared I cannot be successful like that. It’s hard to let go of the 24/7 work mindset. But I am also scared that I won’t be be successful continuing like I am, and I will have sacrificed everything anyway and be left with nothing. Perhaps these are the ramblings of the third trimester, but  I am scared of not having more papers than most people at my stage, of not having more grant submissions, of not having funding. I am terrified of saying no. Yet, I feel I have to take the plunge. I need to turn work off sometimes, and reprioritize when I am at work. I’ve never been like this! I have always been able to do anything and take on any task. I could work my way out of mediocrity. Perhaps this was the fearless I needed to be when I wrote back in January 2014. Anyway, I have to give it go. I have to make some changes.

Hammock snuggles are the best!! If not the most flattering angle ;-)

Hammock snuggles are the best!! If not the most flattering angle 😉

I have no idea if anyone else struggles like this – I see so many people having careers and personal lives seamlessly, but I am happy to go out on a limb for a minute and say: I am struggling. I am not getting it right. I am changing. I don’t recognize myself and I am worried that the ‘old me’ would have negatively judged the ‘new me’ (what a bloody awful confession).

I am optimistic, I am scared, I am excited, I am terrified. I have no idea how this will play out.

 

On the brink of change

New horizons for the Frazier-Woods

New horizons for the Frazier-Woods

I never wrote part 3 of my letter to my pediatrician… It was hard; parts 1 and 2 involved accusation and anger and explaining the thoughts I had worked through with friends. Part 3, the aftermath, was something that until last Friday I was still working through in my mind. So maybe now I can write it, but in  the meantime, the aftermath of my idiot pediatrician is that tomorrow, Wes goes back to work after 31 months at home, and  Sam will start daycare at our local YMCA.

Doing his job for the last 31 months - looking after us (in this case, repaiting my fish tank)

Doing his job for the last 31 months – looking after us (in this case, repairing my fish tank)

I have so many thoughts rattling around my head about this, and even some that are probably conflicting. I can’t seem to find a coherent answer for how I am feeling about this (which doesn’t really matter as it is happening anyway) but here are my thoughts, in no particular order:

(1) Wow. Maybe we won’t be broke. Maybe we will be able to buy actual furniture, and get rid of our freeniture (that’s furniture found at the side of the road, folks). That will be glorious.

(2) Maybe, just maybe, I will also be able to afford decent-ish wine. My one true love: wine. Also potentially glorious.

(3) This is going to be a big change. I loathe, fear and detest change. I deal with it by smiling and being energetic and super positive… but then I have some huge meltdown after a few months. Not looking forward to that.

(4) I so also thrive on challenges, which usually involve change. When life has got too stagnant I tend to do stuff life totally change my career, or train for bodybuilding competitions. I hate change, but in 2009 I moved continent; 2010 met my hubby on line, and got 2 cats; 2011 got engaged, got married, moved in with hubby; decided to change jobs and acquired 3 turtles, a dog and 14 fish; 2012 I got pregnant, changed jobs, bought a house, moved State and become a mum; 2013 was quiet! I As was 2014, in fact, it’s been dead since 2013 (aside of changing job again)! I’ve stagnated and I think that is part of my unhappiness. Maybe I hate change, but I need it. Yes, for me this might be a good thing.

(5) I’m sad Wes can’t spend all that time with Sam. It is such a rare and beautiful gift to have time with your children, and it breaks my heart to take that away from him.

wesandsam

(6) But Sam so needs interaction with other children – and he needs to get out. And he needs to be stretched (cognitively, not physically – he’s still crazily tall). I can’t forget that I was unhappy with his day-to-day life: very rare park trips, no play dates, no crafts, very little structure, no sense of time, few life skills (no chores, no cooking). When I was around Sam LOVED to be engaged in sensory activities… his life needs more than that.  His days were fine, but they weren’t exceptional and I admit, it bothered me (I am a terrible person. Look at this cute picture of Sam engaging in an activity and forget about how terrible I am:

Toddler baking

Toddler baking

)

(7) But he was so happy. Rarely would you meet a happier toddler than Sam. And he follows rules, rarely tantrums, is loving, sweet and still just a bundle of joy. Is it worth to risk that happiness so that he can eat at set times, and sit in a circle? Is it the humdrum of every day life, and the impersonality of this crazy capitalist world that sucks the joy out of us? Ultimately, all I have ever wanted is for Sam to be happy. Will he lose that innocent happy that comes with only ever being around people who love you more than anything in the world? Who think you are the best thing since sliced bread and delight in everything you do? Why does he have to learn that now, at 2? He has years to be a face in the crowd, and to fitted in to someone else’s goals, and to be taught he is a problem…. why can’t he just have these extra few years of innocence?

Happy monkey

Happy monkey

(8) Oh my God when he is hungry who will feed him, and when he cries who will hold him???

(9) Holy crap.  Families with two working parents work hard. So hard!! Today I made dinner, prepped for the week, packed Sam’s school bag, packed the car with my work stuff, made our lunches and did a little bit of tidying (Wes did most of the cleaning) – all the while of course being Thomas / chasing a scary monster / singing ‘heads shoulders knees and toes – and I am EXHAUSTED. Like, feet fizzing, brain melting, eye droppingly exhausted. At 9 pm Wes went to bed… how do families do this??

(10) Mind you, Wes and I have actually started to appreciate each other (maybe even life each other? No… no  too far) now that we don’t have time to actually see each other…

(11) My career is going to suffer even more. I don’t even know how I am going to get tenure and have my husband at work. It will probably never happen. I’ll lose my job. I’ll never find another job in America. This is a disaster.

(12) I’ve had it so easy. I like it easy!! Why can’t it be easy??

(13) Families all over the Western world do this all the time. They are fine. Their kids are fine. Their kids are HAPPY. Their kids are well-adjusted. Sam will be happy. Wes will be happy. We’ll find a new normal and we’ll make it work.

(14) Dang, you are going to sleep so well now. Speaking of which….

splash

Making time for something fun

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In the comments section of my last post, B wrote “I love that you incorporate fun stuff into your days despite how busy you are. I think it’s so important…”. It was interesting that was commented on , as it is something I have been very conscious of recently. My ultimate downtime activities are sewing, crafting, blogging and baking, but they have had a tendency to fall by the wayside recently.

We all have barriers to finding time to ourselves, and it’s not so much a matter of whose are bigger, less surmountable, or more noble. Rather it is figuring out what yours are, and whether and how you want to overcome them. In a post that started me thinking about seeking creative time, J wrote about her disability hindered her feeling that she deserved time to be crafty (crafts also being J’s “me time”). Its different for all of us, but guilt and tiredness are my barriers.

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I get relatively little time with my son. If I get home at 6 and we have dinner until 6.30, it is just an hour to his bedtime. I realized that I experienced a certain amount of guilt every time I had non-work time and did not spend it with him. One evening I was sewing something on a deadline and I asked Wes to watch Sam. When I heard them giggling together I immediately felt like I had lost a bonding opportunity with my son and nearly stopped what I was doing. But something – perhaps J’s post – stopped me and I finished my project. My son still loved me, we still got quality time together, and I had done something fun.

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Me asleep at my desk at 11 pm – picture snapped by a bemused husband

Work guilt also holds me back – there is an ever growing to-do list in an ever harder funding climate as I become more and more senior with less and less funding (that’s the short and somewhat dramatic version). That’s not going to change, and I know I have to fight it. But I have learned that there is a limit of what I can give outside of 9-5; 3 evenings a week and one good weekend day stint, and I’m probably spent. Realizing this has helped me enjoy my non work time.

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Major tiredness contributor.

The other thing was tiredness – either physical (from my new fitness regime) or mental (see above picture for my working hours!). I used to think that I was only capable of zoning out into Facebook or TV. I’ve realized that a small craft project is just as relaxing, and that I feel much better afterwards. So, despite my Saturday morning gym routine, all Saturday afternoon and evening at work, and a 3-h drive to a rained out water park on Sunday, I still found time for the following ‘me’ activities this weekend:

Making Halloween packages to be posted to friends in Alabama:

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Making pumpkin spice cupcakes to celebrate my MS student submitting her first (first-author!) paper:

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And making a Thanksgiving onesie for Sam’s friend Hadley:

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Oh, and time for a blog post written in the bath with a glass of wine 😉

How about you? I loved all the feedback on my Facebook break-up and health kick. What are your ‘me time’ activities? Do you find it easy to find time for them? What are your barriers if not? Share your ‘me projects’ with me!

What I was up to while M.I.A.

This has helped my recovery

This has helped my mental recovery

I’m back. You may not have noticed that I had gone… but it has been a relatively long time since I posted. I blame busy-ness. I would like to blame time business (too much stuff to do), but I know me, if I want to do something, I make time for it. Really, I have not been in a good emotional place for a while and that lead to a combination of (1) needing to sit on the sofa watching mind numbing TV at night and (2) feeling too raw to write my thoughts down. It is all past (passed? I never know which one to use) me now, so I feel OK to write about it. In a nutshell:

First, I did not cope very well with my MRSA surgery

Actually, that is an understatement. I turned into a giant baby about it. I still don’t know why, but I utterly fell apart over the surgery. It wasn’t even that painful. I will say that it was deeply shocking to me to go to the Doctor’s for some anti biotics, and to leave being told I needed surgery under a general anesthetic. It bought back a lot of the feelings I had going to the OR after birth, and the thoughts I had when I came around in ICU and was told I was not out of the woods, but they were doing their best. Of laying there, with my son watching me, discussing with Wes about who we would call to warn about possible impending bad news, rather than the great news of Sam. About lying there thinking of the people he was telling while he made the ‘phone calls, feeling bad I was wrecking their night (I remember telling Wes not to call Clio becaue it was 4 am in England, and him saying ‘she will want to be woken up Lekki!’) and all the time wondering how the hell we had gotten to this place so quickly.

Anyhoo, the surgery went fine, was a piece of cake, and I came around only slightly sore (I mean geez, a med student with a fish knife could have done it). So, really I should have been fine. I should have bounced back. Bouncing back is what I do. It’s my thing. Like when I weightlifted with a fractured elbow. Or negotiated the gym on crutches. Or finished my training plan with stress fractures. Or fell down a waterfall and climbed back up. Instead I let Wes do Sam’s night feed that night, and on Saturday took Sam to bed with me and refused to move, for the whole day. Wes was pleased, I think, but very shocked. He came and bought me lunch in bed, and seeing all my stuff around me said “Wow, you really are planning to stay here then?”.

Recovery Day!

Recovery Day!

Yes. Yes I was.

That was only the beginning of me starting to lose it. I went to the surgeon two days later to have my dressings changed. I expected to see a cut. A skin wound. I did not expect to see an inch long, and 3/4 in deep hole into my flesh. I did not expect to stare down into my flesh and see all the white and yellow and red and so on. In fact, I was so shocked I handed Sam to the surgeon and promptly lost my lunch.

The surgeon told me I had to pack the hole with gauze twice a day. I had to pull the old stuffing out, and stuff it with new stuff. I had hydrocodone to deal with the physical pain, but mentally, I couldn’t hack having a hole in body. I cried for 40 minutes when Wes told me that I absolutely had to change my dressing. I hid from him. I sobbed. I begged him to leave it. I ranted that no one should have to deal with this (while fully aware that people deal with far worse every day). I shrieked at him “You don’t get it! No one should have a hole in their abdomen! Not an every day person! I know you were an EMT and saw car crashes and dead children and far worse, but that is a whole different spectrum. That is a different scale! On the everyday scale no one should have to deal with seeing their flesh! It’s not at the acceptable part of the everyday scale! This shouldn’t have happened to me!”

A somewhat confused Wes dryly remarked “At least I didn’t marry someone really dramatic or anything”.

To this day, I have no idea why I flipped my lid so utterly. Wes thinks I have not processed everything from Sam’s birth, and that this was a reminder. That burying all my emotions about the hemorrage caused them to surface with this little surgery.

I don’t know… there may be some truth in that… I don’t know. I do know that having hardly spoken about it (heck, I didn’t even really blog about it), I have the urge to grab people by the lapels and go “Do you know what I went through? Do you know they told my husband that they didn’t think I would make it? Do you know they told me that? Do you know what it is like to lie in bed, with your baby watching you from a friggin plastic box, while doctors just look sorry and worried, and use vague phrases like ‘you are not out of the woods’ and lie there dealing with the guilt that your nearest and dearest are hearing about this because you can’t make yourself better? What it is like to hear about a difficult birth and want to be sympathetic, but want also want to yell “you were carrying your sweet kid home, in your arms, with your partner so proud, before I was allowed to be in a room alone with my son, and while my body had failed and I had let everyone down and was just lying there in that stupid state?”. But then I remember that from everyone’s super kind emails to me.. yeah… they do know that, and it is only me who doesn’t 🙂

All that is left from surgery

All that is left from surgery – super recoverer!

On the upside though, (1) I am processing all that as best I can; (2) all the self pity has ended, and (3) the MRSA is totally gone and I am all healed. My surgeon (who is 75! – 75 – !) was so shocked at how quickly I healed, he did a double take. I have no pain, and just a little scabby scab. Sure, my lucrative bikini modelling career is prematurely halted, but I can deal with that.

Me before my MRSA surgery. No, really.

Me before my MRSA surgery. No, really. It was that bad.

So, I dealt with it by sitting on the sofa watching Grey’s Anatomy.

Second, work has been stressing me out. I set myself a number of goals for my first year as faculty: submit an NIH grant every cycle, and apply for one other grant each cycle. There have been 2 cycles, I have submitted 5 grants – boom. I also wanted to submit three first-author papers – done, collaborate with the ARIC group – done and get my student through her exams – done. So I did everything in 9 months not 12, but instead of making me feel good, it made me freak out.

I had my annual review. I understand that when you go for these things, you are supposed to pain a picture of ‘yes, I am awesome. See? I am a wonderful member of your community, worth far more than you ever have realized, and I have identified this tiny, surmountable weakness which when I conquer will make me even more invaluable to you’. Me? When my Chair said “So – how do you think you are doing?’ I had a meltdown and said that I had lost all my time management skills, that I was not only not working to full capacity but barely putting in 9-5, that my motivation had changed and I no longer cared about papers and prestige and that nothing I was doing was sustainable long term and I had been busy but not useful. Then I said ‘it is lucky my annual review was not last week, because I was crying about all this back then. Now I am just stressed about it’.

Ha. Luckily for me I have an awesome Chair. He said that my changing priorities (less about papers, more about advancing Science) was just a sign of maturity and made me a more welcome person in his Department. He said that time management after a family was incredibly hard – that he has struggled with it, but solved it. That he could not solve it for me, but was sure I would solve it on my own, if I just gave myself time and space and patience. We talked about ways of making my research more sustainable.

I also received an email from a dear friend / mentor / surrogate sister who pointed out that I had undertaken marriage, new job, new city, new baby, serious health problems.. all within 16 months. It was OK to lose focus a bit at work. To not have the energy to feel passionate about it. To feel like work and success are the not most important things. To feel that Sam, and our home, and my family are more pressing, and need to be clung onto more dearly.

And my mentor at UT put it most succinctly when she said “I told you not to give yourself a hard time until a year after Sam’s birth! In 9 months, you can give yourself a hard time. Until then: NO.”

So, I chilled and yes, I was very busy getting 3 grants in in Feb, but I was also very busy drinking Chocolate Stout on the sofa. Good times.

(3) I was not quite as chilled about giving up breastfeeding as I had thought. In fact, I didn’t want to give up, so I have kept on pumping, only to the following rules: no more than 3.5 hours a day & no stressing when my supply is weirdly low (think 1.5 oz after 45 mins). I just focus on getting Sam some of the antibodies and microbiota and stick at what I can give. However, it was a hard adjustment. And when I had to go from pumping 8-10 and feeding at night to 100% pumping & dumping and 100% bottle feeds, Sam decided he was not going to take the breast at all anymore. He still prefers the taste of breastmilk to formula, but even when he is super sleepy at night, he won’t drink from me, or even suckle. Little rat (lovable rat). It broke my heart.

But… it is all good now. I pump a reasonable amount and just supplement. I offer Sam my breast, he spits it out. I hug him a little tighter while I bottle feed him. It’s all good, but that also contributed to me need to sit on the sofa and eat Whole Food’s Pear and Almond Dark Chocolate. Yum.

Why wouldn't you do this anymore Sammy-Sam? Rat bag.

Why wouldn’t you do this anymore Sammy-Sam? Rat bag.

So, sofa + Grey’s Anatomy + Chocolate Stout + Pear and Almond Dark chocolate, with my puppy, has been pretty sweet. And very restorative. But, I have not done nothing…

I finalized and submitted a paper, which is now under review at Atherosclerosis. I got 3 grants in, and made a clear plan to my R01 submission (in 1.5 – TWO years – long term). I got my student a good plan to make sure she is productive and successful (that worries me a lot) and I wriggled in some quality time with my son – even bringing him into work if I had been working late and so missing his playtime all week.

Sam with Shine Chang - a very eminent Professor at MD Anderson. He doesn't know how lucky he is!

Sam at work with me, with Shine Chang – a very eminent Professor at MD Anderson. He doesn’t know how lucky he is!

I have also been doing paper crafting (fancy word for making cards!):

Birthday card for Wes

Birthday card for Wes

Baby shower card

Baby shower card for Bing

Good bye card for my OB practice

Good bye card for my OB practice

Thank you card for me WONDERFUL OB who is sadly moving :(

Thank you card for me WONDERFUL OB who is sadly moving 😦

(including some not pictured things on their way to friends in the UK – yes!)

AND, because the other thing making me sit on the sofa and sniggle Walter is my OB leaving (yes, the lovely Dr. Boswell – of to do community work! Sob), I mad some cookie monster cupcakes to say goodbye to her:

P1010675

I also hung out with friends, and ate excellent Dim Sum (which I have not found since I left the UK!):

Mmmmm.... Dim Sum...

Mmmmm…. Dim Sum…

So… it has been a time of just processing and chilling, and looking after my son and myself. In that time, little Samuel has turned 4 months! So, I will write a post on that next.

Sorry for the brain dump. Feels good though.

Blog help please!

So, work have given me a work blog, which they want me to write. Fair enough. I will say that UT’s blog set up is pretty crummy at the moment – although it is wordpress, it is hard to see archived posts and not very user friendly. I will only use UT’s blog if they fix all this.

If I go ahead, I am not sure how to proceed with having two blogs. I had thought about having two blogs before, but it seemed messy and annoying. So, I just mixed my personal and professional posts together in one blog, under different categories, but always wondered whether a real mixing of the two was not ideal – I wondered if I was turning non academics off with my rumblings about papers, and academics off with my ramblings about Firework.

So, the work blog could be quite good, as a lot of my friends are not academic and I imagined their eyes glazing over at talk of genes and tenure promotion. And some of my readers are academic and my recipe for cookies perhaps not their cup of tea (although said cookies should absolutely be enjoyed with such). But, I have got some really nice comments (emails… Facebook comments) on my work-related posts. And actually, the nature of the posts does not correlate with how i know the person. So, I clearly got it wrong, and the mixed blog was working well.

So now, I am wondering about how to manage the two blogs – especially as the work blog does not have a subscribe button. Should I:

1. Keep the two separate. Only personal posts here, and academia-related posts in the UT blog, and ne’er the twain shall meet.

2. Keep the two separate but post links to the UT blog entries here on the personal blog, as an entry.

3. Write the work blog, and copy and paste the posts as their own post here. So essentially this blog will remain the same, but parts of it will be duplicated on my UT blog.

What do y’all think? What would work best? Or do you have any other suggestions?

Help appreciated 🙂

P.S. This reminds me to thank you all indeed for the comments you make – I love getting them 🙂

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary…

How does your garden grow? Well, as this post will tell you, very well. It will also chart, in far too much detail, my weekend, before segueing off into some random thoughts about where I want my career to go.

My little garden

I am amazed, and excited: my watermelon seeds have actually sprouted. I spent today thinning them out and hoping the seedlings I left will survive (I probably should have let the plants grow for more than a week before doing that, but hey – I was excited).

Little watermelon seedlings

In the corner of the top picture you can see my banana pepper, which is a bit of cheat as it is not grown from seed. Inside things are not too shabby, either. My roquette and tomato seeds are doing well, and there are three tiny purple tomatillo shoots coming up. I have got to decide how on Earth to thin these out… The tomatoes I am thinking just pull 1/2 out and plant the plot, the roquette I am thinking divide in half and repot all into 2 much bigger pots?As well, just for funzies, as my favourite cut-flowers are gladioli, I planted those and they are winning the growth war by a long way.

Roquette spelled wrong harking back to a joke between my first ever boyfriend and I

Hidden in there is the tomatillo sprout

Woah gladioli, you’ve only been in there a week.

Not doing so well is my herb garden 😦 Except for sweet basil:

Nothing… yet

Mmmmm…. basil…. I spy caprese salad on the horizon.

Next up, we have cantaloupe planted today, some green bean seeds (well… beans…) soaking and some cherry seeds ready for their 90-day chill. And an experimental attempt to grow seedlings outdoor in the punishing Texas heat, not in my little indoor greenhouse.

See you in three months little stones

Leaving this outside and seeing what survives.

This weekend has been fun 🙂 And, importantly, relaxing. Saturday involved saying goodbye to Wes’ car and picking up a new, family-friendly one. Wes’ cars are the epitome of his Lekki-orientated sacrifices. He gave up his beloved Jeep Cherokee to be able to get me a truck, while he rode around in his terribly beat-up BMW (that often smoked on the road). Then he traded that in not for a cool car, but some 4-door Nissan with hatch back (dog / grocery room), good mileage and an excellent safety record. Poor lad. I however kept my fun, but child-Unfriendly purple truck.

Bye bye Beamer-Beater

Then we had lunch while we were out, and found an awesome Mediterranean buffet (link included for other Houston peeps). Buffet food is always going to be mass produced, but here there were stacks of salads (pasta, fatoush, tabbouleh), different grilled veg and meat, and then LAMB SHANKS all for $12. We were most pleased. Stuffedm we wended our way back home, I dyed my hair one or two shades closer to its natural colour now (baby steps… baby steps…)

By the time Firework gets here, I aim to be free of the chore of hair dying 🙂

and out to see Moonrise Kingdom – one of the funniest films Wes & I have seen for a while. The characters pulled of their quirkiness in away that was utterly bizarre, yet completely hilarious. Murray was a gem, and Bruce Willis impressively understated. But, I think the kids stole the show. Think: Napolean Dynamite meets Amelie. (Although I hate Amelie).

Sunday we went back to Life Pointe church, to hear a sermon about treating those you love with kindness and respecting their God-given uniqueness to help build them up, not break them down. It was another great message from a church Wes & I are so far very happy at. Grocery shopping (boo), work (double boo – I always save my boring tasks for the weekend) and then Sunday is chef’s (Wes’) day off, so I made meringues and spag bol for for dinner. For the first time in America, my meringues turned out perfectly: gooey and light, chewing down to a sticky gooey ball, and holding their shape in the oven to a perfect ‘nest’. Whoop.

Nests of perfection

Tonight I have one review to do (boo) and then it is settling down with my new book. They didn’t have the third in the ‘Dragon Tattoo’ series (just finished the second one) so I took a chance on:

Didn’t like the TV series (but that may be because I kept falling asleep – chicken and egg problem) so we’ll see how this goes.

Then an early night before off to UT 🙂 The first week went well. It was frustrating to be finishing up UAB work that I thought was done, but good to be shifting that into the realm of ‘submitted’. I spent the week talking to people, learning the structure of the institution, the things people were working on, the available data. I feel I am at a cross roads, and have to decide whether to (1) do my own, utterly independent thing or (2) fit into the workings (and data and analysis) of the very successful groups already at UT. Tough call. I was brought in to do 1… but that is much riskier than 2 when one thinks of tenure and promotion and not getting kicked out, grantless in 3 years. I’ll write more soon on how much I decide to burn the boats, follow my heart and my passion, and how much I play it safe.

Hmmm…. sounds like the answer is pretty obvious there 😉 But for this week ahead, I am just looking forward to meetings with both my mentors, and to continuing to count opportunities at UT, and to feeling blessed.

I, as yet, have only one tip for new faculty. Walk up to everyone (even if you have to go into their office), hand outstretched, and just say “Hi, I am so-and-so and I am new faculty in the department of X’. I have met so may people this way, and learned so much. I think changing institutions challenges you in a ways you both could and could not imagine – but then again, from the greatest challenges come the greatest growth 🙂 You are, I guess, playing off ‘papers and grants’ progress against ‘developing as a Scientist’ progress; and I know I am glad I picked the latter – it was right for me. More papers would have been wonderful (man, would it have been wonderful), but I think I personally would feel less fulfilled. I guess that is why I was glad I made such a radical departure for my postdoc, and and why I am glad I have done it again for my first faculty position. It is scary though: to be alone, to trust in your ideas, to follow your (Scientific)-heart. None of the relative safety of incremental Science (I found X to be associated with gene Y, so I am going to deeper sequence Y / sequence another region of Y, or look in different populations, or switch drug X for drug Y in my analysis). Incremental Science has the highest chance of success – we need it for sure. It is just not for me. I’d rather fail at my hypothesis than support the current one.

But again, ask me in 3 years when I am failing to feed my family. Speaking of which, got to go and finish my ‘Daddy’s night off duties’…

 

Daddy’s night off