Weekend mornings with Monkey, techie edition

Monday through Friday is insane in our house. Having a toddler means I have get two people out the door, generally in a pretty short amount of time. Most weekday mornings have the following schedule: I wake up a little after 6 am, get myself ready, get the car packed up, wake up Monkey a little after 7am, get him dressed while he eats cereal from his little toddler snack cup, brush his teeth, and fight him into his car seat. If all goes well, we leave the house by 7:30, which allows me time to get him to daycare and myself to work by 8:30. Some mornings I spend a few extra minutes reading a book or playing with a favorite toy with Monkey, but most mornings are a rushed whirlwind.

Weekend mornings look very different, and provide a nice break from the hectic week. Hubby and I wake up around 7:30 to the sound of Monkey playing in his room. We grab our coffee then start looking at email/news on our phones in bed. Monkey eventually makes his way to our room (he’s opening doors on his own now), and crawls into bed with us. He steals my iPhone to watch Sesame Street podcasts, and I switch to my iPad. This morning, with the time change, I even had enough time to blog.

It’s an odd sort of peace to me and a true sign of the techie times we live in. All of us lie here together, but each in our own electrical, connected world. It certainly isn’t a picture that I would have understood 5 years ago, but I’m guessing its fairly common these days. I, for one, absolutely love that we can cuddle together and each relax in our own, personalized way.

What do your weekend mornings look like? Totally tech’ed out? Or more 2001?

Saying No

I just played my first “no” card as a tenure-track prof, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. The particular request was for something that may have had some actual benefit to me, AND it may have even been enjoyable. Hell, I really wanted to say yes to this request!

But it was also a last minute request, and I have a ton of deadlines looming, out-of-town visitors knocking on my door, and a date to pick up my son tonight at daycare. After considering the request for a couple of minutes, talking to Hubby about trading off daycare pick-up nights, I decided it was just too much. I had to say no.

And now, well, I feel a little bad about it. I worry this was an amazing opportunity that I just passed up. And I worry that I let someone down. Truth be told, neither of these concerns is probably founded. But I don’t know if that’s true, and I hate the idea of the unknown. I’m working on getting over it, which involves reminding myself that this would have been a very irresponsible “yes”.

A GOOD day

It’s easy in this job to feel out of your league. It’s easy to get down on yourself and wonder what the fuck you’re doing. Its easy for imposter syndrome to take over. It’s easy to get scared shitless that you won’t get funded, get tenure, whatever. I share a good deal of these frustrations here, partly as a sort of therapy, partly because of the kinship I feel and advice I receive from other bloggers.

But I thought it might be nice, for a change, to share the other side of my adventure, the GOOD side. Today was a GOOD day:

    I finished writing a grant a week before the deadline. I received lots of positive feedback from mentors and other folks, and I feel good about it. It was time to finally let it go, and I’m sort of
    proud of myself.

    The lab is producing data, and my students are getting excited about their projects. If that doesn’t get a PI crazy happy, I don’t know what will.

    I’m writing an invited review for my sub-sub-field, which is fairly nerve-wracking, but also quite fun. And besides the fact that my brain is jello from the grant-writing, I think I have a shot at writing a fairly decent review.

    A new scientific relationship is developing between myself and another junior faculty in my field, and our increasingly frequent conversations are helping me feel less, well, alone. It’s a great thing to not feel alone in this job.

    I’ve given my first couple of lectures at TTU, and they went pretty damn well, if I do say so myself.

    Unlike the past several months, I don’t feel quite as much like a loser parent (one of the reasons I haven’t been blogging about that side of “the tightrope” lately). And with the realization that I’m not permanently damaging my young son, comes less fear over being at work, as well as coming home from work.

Tonight, I’m celebrating my GOOD day with a GOOD glass of wine.

Two things n00b (and not-so-n00b) grad students should remember

1. You should no longer be aiming to be the best student in class. In fact, you probably won’t be the best student in class. You won’t be good at everything you do, in the lab or in the classroom. Work hard. Read. Ask questions. Be curious. Think outside the box. Don’t freak out if you don’t understand everything. Grad school is hard. Your classes are meant to provide a scaffold on which to grow as a researcher. They are NOT the most important things you will do as a grad student – your transcripts won’t be included in your postdoc or tenure-track job application.

2. Don’t compare yourself to others. I don’t care if Joe Blow in the lab next door had 5 Nature papers when he graduated. Having one or two good papers in high-profile journals is enough* to impress and find a good postdoc, even a great postdoc. The most important thing you need to do as a student is learn how to think, write, and talk about your science. Papers are important, but they shouldn’t be used as a comparison of how well you’re doing compared to your peers (even if YOU happen to be Joe Blow with 5 Nature papers). Your journey** as a grad student will be different than every one of your peers. You will struggle at things others find easy, and you’ll fly over hurdles that your peers can’t seem to crawl around. Keep your eye on the goal – your own goal. Don’t worry so much about everybody else.

*At least in my field; this is completely field and sub-field, even sub-sub-field specific, which is kind of the point here.

**Maybe the word “journey” is a little cheesy here, but I don’t really give a shit.

Sunday mornings

Nothing better than watching my son, sitting in his Dad’s lab, looking at pictures of Elmo and monster trucks on the laptop. How Elmo and monster trucks converged, I have no idea. But my boys couldn’t look happier right now.

Maybe I’ll find some motivation to blog again. For now, I want to devote every non-grant-writing, non-lecture-preparing, non-mentoring moment to my Elmo and monster truck-loving boys.

Hubby and Monkey are now singing “Elmo’s Song” together. I love Sunday mornings.

Pre-dinner conversation

Conversation while Hubby was cooking dinner.

Hubby: What are you doing?

Me: Trying out Instagram.

Hubby: Taking pictures?

Me: Yes.

Hubby: Please don’t.

Me: Why?

Hubby: Cuz I don’t take pictures of you naked.

Me: Huh?

Hubby: I thought a man cooking was chick porn.

Me: Whatever.

Hubby: Well at least blur my face or something.

Me: I’ll just focus on the food.

So for your Instagram food porn enjoyment..

Veggie and black bean sauté

Mushroom sour cream sauce smothered flautas

The finished meal!

Rejections, colds, and lonely travel

It’s been an action-packed summer for yours truly, and I’ve barely had time to breathe. Apparently aware of this time crunch, Monkey was kind enough to bring home the latest daycare plague and pass it on to me –>> initiating the worst sinus infection I think I’ve ever experienced. No time to breathe? No problem! Just shove a fuckton of viral and inflammatory nasty waaaaay up your nasal passages! Seriously, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve awaken at night this past week due to nearly asphyxiating in my sleep.

Oh, and I’ve officially received my first funding rejection at my new job. Not a bad score, but an outright rejection. Seriously, those words were written in red print in my notification email. What a way to kick a girl while she’s down. It wasn’t money I was counting on, but it was something I thought I legitimately had a shot at. BUT, because of my confidence, I kind of mailed it in, and got a brisk wake-up call while traveling. I’m playing with the big kids now, and I can assure you my next submission, just right around the corner, will be much tighter.

Speaking of travel, I never knew I could dislike it so much. But multiple meetings a summer, including a trip overseas without your family, dealing with jetlag while trying to prepare for a talk, falling asleep with your iPad on your lap and missing the first opportunity of the week to Skype with your son – it kind of sucks. Don’t get me wrong – the science was great, and the short break from motherhood was kind of nice. But I can definitely see how doing this multiple times a year is going to get old, real fast. Except for overseas travel, I probably need to start cutting meetings a little shorter than I’m used to.

In spite of the exhaustion and shortness of breath, science is moving forward in the lab, and I’m finding I really do love this job. There’s a metric ton of BS to wade through, but watching lablings get excited about the science, pick up where you left off and push your project forward – that’s absolutely priceless. A few of those moments just might get me through this first year.