Friday, January 29, 2010


These days, the Bean-girl and Legume get into the type of passionate quarrels that only a 5-year old and 2-year old can engage in.

Scene: Kids eating yogurt at the breakfast table.

Bean-girl: I’m eating berry yogurt.

Legume: I’m eating berry yogurt, too!

Bean-girl: You’re eating peach yogurt. Peach is not a berry.

Legume: Peach is a berry!

Bean-girl: Peach is not a berry!

Legume: Peach is a berry!

Bean-girl: Peach is not a berry!

Legume: Peach is a berry!

Bean-girl: A blackberry is a berry.

Legume: Blackberry is not a berry!

I think you get the idea.

I think of that famous quote from The Tempest, where Caliban tells Prospero: “You taught me language, and my profit on’t is/ I know how to curse.” I think it could be modified for our little Legume as “You taught me language, and my profit on’t is/ I know how to argue.”

Never mind, of course, that her arguments make no logical sense. “No,” “nope,” and “I don’t want to” can actually take you pretty far. A reflexive negation of whatever statement another person (usually the Bean-girl) has just said is also a pretty fun trick.

Bean-girl runs through the house. Legume is determinedly on her tail. Bean-girl snakes her way through the living room, twisting and turning, and her little sister is right behind; they form a two-person congo line. Mooommmm, Bean-girl wails, Legume is following me and I want her to stop!

Then later: Legume is in my room and I want her out!

And: Legume won’t leave me alone!

It’s on the tip of my tongue to reply, Now you know how I feel about you sometimes, my Bean-girl, but of course I don’t.

It’s a little heart-breaking, really, to see Legume clamoring for her big sister’s attention at times. Bean-girl, will you play with me? she says with the most winsome smile. Bean-girl ignores her, and Legume tries again. Bean-girl, will you play with me? She repeats herself in rapid fire like a demented robot Bean-girlwillyouplaywithmeBean-girlwillyouplaywithmeBean-girlwillyouplaywithme?

I’m the oldest of three sisters. I have a natural sympathy and identification with Bean-girl. But now, for the first time, I see things through the eyes of the younger sibling.

This morning I carried Legume up the stairs for the daily tooth-brushing/getting dressed routine. Bean-girl followed us, and Legume twisted in my arms to watch and laugh at her big sister. I put Legume down, and Bean-girl suddenly zoomed past us. Legume ran after, but Bean-girl raced ahead into her bedroom and slammed the door shut. I don’t want Legume in my room! Bean-girl said, muffled behind her door. Legume’s face was stunned, on the verge of tears. I scooped her up quickly, trying to forestall them. Bean-girl, come out of your room, Legume said softly, plaintively. Bean-girl, come out of your room.

I danced with Legume in my arms to try to distract her. Bean-girl will come out soon, I said.

I don’t want Bean-girl in my room, Legume told me.

And then a few minutes later Bean-girl was out of her room and the two were laughing and rolling on the floor of Legume's room, in shared hysterics over who-knows-what.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Goals for 2010 and uncertainty

This month I am on vacation.

Not on vacation traveling with the kids. Or on vacation at home with the kids. No, really on vacation sans children. Part-time anyway. (A slightly under-the-weather Legume is with me right now, snoring peacefully away in her bed).

I can’t remember the last time I had such luxury. Oh, right—that’s because I’ve never had it before! I’ve either been working, in school, or raising kids (or some combination)—but to have a little free time without employment and without kids?

Being a stay-at-home mom, I remarked to a friend at the gym the other day, is actually a lot of fun when you’re not really staying at home with the kids.

As I alluded to before, I am unemployed for at least the next few months. My husband and I are keeping the kids in daycare/schoolcare part-time for a number of reasons. We don’t want to take a chance on losing our daycare spots, of course. We don’t want to disrupt the children’s routines. Legume and Bean-girl truly love school now (they were both sooooo happy to be back after the long Christmas break; Legume just kept smiling and smiling when I dropped her off on the first day) and I think preschool is particularly good for little Legume now. But my reasons are also purely selfish. I like having a little free time to myself during the week; there are things I want to get done for myself; and being in charge of the children 24-7 frankly drives this momma bonkers.

So what do I want to get done for myself over the next few months?

This is time to play New Year’s Resolutions, of course. Folded into a 2-3 month time span. I have the usual pledge to exercise and get in shape. As well as other goals. I found last year that breaking up vague goals into concrete proposals helped enormously (especially helps when your aims are particularly modest!) I even mostly fulfilled last year’s very modest goals! (I did get that short story published, and I pitched an article–and was turned down—by Favorite Trade Journal. But at least I made the attempt).

So after the success of the “Goals for 2009” experiment (it did get me off my butt to at least work toward those goals), I now publically declare my overly ambitious Goals for 2010. To make it all the more grandiose, I divide the goals into several fields with pretentious titles.

Health (physical)

--Exercise at least 2-3 times a week.
--Take a pilates/yoga class (went to the first class last week—public humiliation).
--Eat more fruits, veggies and whole grains.

Creative writing (and emotional health)

--Finish second short story, send out to some trusted readers, eventually submit and hopefully publish somewhere.

--Start a new story.

--Revise and submit a very old story.

--Try daily journaling/writing.


--Master the literature of an entire new subfield of cell biology (ambitious much?)
*Sub-aim: Try to see if there is a way to link intriguing results from old postdoc to the direction of my (hopeful) new lab to create a coherent and intelligent research plan that brings it all together.

Home (domesticity)

--Sort and donate old clothing (done!)

--Sort, get rid of, organize the toys taking over our house.

--Organize the home office

--Print and organize backlog of family photos.

--Hang up some of those pictures we unpacked three years ago (which are still stacked up on the floor of our den)

Now how many of these goals can I actually accomplish over the next few months? We’ll see….


Although I enjoy this freedom now, I wonder if the lack of external structure will soon start wearing on me. And then I wonder if I’ll get too used to doing my own thing, living a freelance life (I have potential freelance editing contracts starting February). Then I wonder if the notice of funding and call to lab work might come early—as my potential PI thinks it will—and whether I’ll be ready for it, whether I’ll fall apart and my family fall apart and perhaps I’ll humiliate myself after all these years off the bench and disappoint the PI who took me on. . . And perhaps that call to work might not come at all, our grant application gets turned down, the PI’s other grant gets turned down, and despite his assurances he’ll have no money or way to take me in. . . .

It has all happened, as Jennifer Rohn so eloquently writes in her post. I envision all outcomes. I envision a future in which I leave science entirely—leave even the writing and editing of science. And I see another future where I’m back at the bench, happy as a clam. And I look backward and see all those junctures where things might have gone a different way—where the road forked and I took one path and not the other. The road keeps forking ahead; I look both backward and forward, and where does it all lead?

I love Jennifer Rohn’s blog. Go read it if you haven’t—I am in that same bubble of uncertainty.

(And the discussion comments following her post are, as usual, quite wonderful.)