Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cleaning up, saying goodbye

There is a certain devil-may-care thrill in the clean-up that precedes leaving a lab. In my case, I am not pitching boxes of plasmids and spent reagents willy-nilly into the trash; instead, I am throwing papers--lots and lots of them--with abandon into the recycle bin. Pitching pdfs like this always carries a thrill of doubt--will I need these papers again? Will I ever want to look them up? But that old doubt is now assuaged somewhat by one of mankind's great developments: Mendelely. Thanks to Mendeley, my pdfs are all saved to the "cloud", stored on the Web and accessible from any computer at all. Progress is indeed great.

I am leaving the Institute for now, but I am hoping to be back. I'm counting on it, actually. After all, they just opened a fancy new cafeteria with a panini station (saving us the three-minute hike across the street to the hospital cafeteria).

A few weeks ago, I submitted a grant with a rising star of PI. Unlike the other grants I worked on this year, this grant application was for myself. If it gets funded, I will have up to three years of funding to work in the lab of this amazing PI. I think we have a good shot on this one--it's not a typical peer-reviewed grant, but an adminstratively reviewed career re-entry grant which suits my situation to a T. We should know of the official decision in April, although my (potential) PI hopes to get word of "intent to fund" before that time. If the application is not funded? I'll deal with that then. More I don't want to say right now--but I do really really want to work for this guy. I officially interviewed with his lab this past summer; since then, we've met multiple times to map out this grant application and plot out a research project which perfectly marries my past research experience with the current interests of his lab. It all meshes so beautifully--one would think that I'd planned my career steps to lead this way.

But it's goodbye for now--goodbye for at least a few months. Friday will be my last day. I wasn't kidding when I wrote once (a long year ago) that the camraderie of the scientific community is what I truly missed most during my time at home. And again, it will be what I miss most this time around, too.


I turn 35 on Saturday. 35 sounds so old. I take comfort that my husband will be forever older, and somehow age doesn't seem so old on him. But still. 35. Jeez.

I have white hairs at my temples. A body that betrays a slowing metabolism and the birth of two children. I am nowhere near where I dreamed I would be professionally back when I was a callow grad student--more than eight long years past.

But other dreams did come to pass--dreams I didn't even know I had. And as for the future? I am a cynic and pessimist at heart. And maybe still a dreamer, for all that.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Holiday photo FAIL

All I wanted was a nice photo of the girls in their holiday dresses, standing together before the Christmas tree. Something that we could perhaps use as a holiday photo card to send out to friends.

Turns out we could get a shot of one girl at a time in front of the tree, looking at the camera. But two girls in the same frame, with at least semi-normal expressions? A bit beyond my husband and me.

I don't think we'll be sending any of these out this year.

Friday, December 4, 2009

First Snow

The first snowfall of the season. It began last night, the white fluff piling up rapidly in between dinner and bath time. Bean-girl scooped up a cup of snow from the back deck, and she and Legume poked at it with their fingers and squealed. This morning we opened our eyes to a powdered sugar wonderland. “Look, Snow Forest came back!” I said to Bean-girl, pointing to the small stand of trees in our back yard which changes monikers with the season—from “Spring Forest” to plain “Forest” to “Fall Forest” and now “Snow Forest” again. (Bean-girl is responsible for these names). “Yeah, Snow Forest is back!” she cried.

Poor Husband took the snow blower out for a spin and it promptly died, a wire snapping before he could even clear two lengths of the driveway. He shoveled clear a path by hand and came back into the house huffing and puffing and soaked with sweat. I was scheduled to give lab journal club, and rushed out into snow, leaving him to deal with the two kids. The snow kept falling, and I realized it was nearly white-out conditions. Cars crawled. Halfway to work, I realized that the schools might well be canceled, and that lab meeting might well be canceled, too. I pulled into a suspiciously (near) empty parking garage. Sure enough, a quick check of e-mail on my computer told me that lab meeting had been pushed back until Monday. And the public schools were closed, too. It was still an official work day at the institute, but there was no work for me to do. I sent off a quick e-mail to my boss, tried and failed to get in touch with Husband, and drove slowly back home (more white-out! Cars on the side of the road!) By the time I finally got in touch with him, I learned that he’d brought Bean-girl into work with him and had dropped Legume off at her daycare (which had remained open). He had the afternoon off, and would bring Bean-girl back home for lunch.

What does a mother do with an unexpected morning off? Stand frozen with the shock of it all. Then grab a shovel and finish clearing out the driveway. I had just finished when Husband turned up with Bean-girl in tow. He, too, was taking off early from work. Obsessed with the broken snow blower, he went on the Internet to track down parts and then drove 14 miles (in terrible road conditions) to track down the replacement wire and belt. Indulgent and lazy mom that I am, I let Bean-girl watch “Polar Express” for the third time. Later, I bundled her up in snowpants and coat so that she looked like the Marshmallow Man. She plowed through drifts with her body like a little human snow plow, giggled, and fell on all fours to make her own bizarre versions of snow angels. Hot chocolate after and then more “Polar Express.” Bean-dad fixed his snow blower and fetched Legume early from daycare. Gnocchi with roasted squash and asiago cheese sauce for dinner. Family time on the couch in front of the tv (yes, I know, we watch—or rather, the kids watch—too much tv). Bath, bed.

The snow seems to have finally stopped for the night. The sky is lit with the pearled luminescence of a snow-lit evening. The kids are asleep; Husband has fallen asleep with them, and I have this time all to myself. Finally. Our Christmas tree is up, the stockings hung. Christmas is only a few weeks away.

The truth is that I hate the snow. All through the fall we Midwesterners start griping about the coming winter. “I hate snow!” Bean-girl told us a few days ago. But yesterday her eyes shone when she saw the first snowfall of the season. And today she loved it.

I felt that way, too.