"I Live to think for myself. I refuse to be a mindless sheep following the crowd into cookie-cutter oblivion. Otherwise I'd just be a zombie with no heart or passion in life" - Hervey Taylor IV

Rain Man

Friday, October 18, 2013

| | | 0 Witty Remarks
I learned something today that blew my mind: My parents are probably the smartest people I've ever met.

Now lets just hold on there mother. I know you're about 2.5 seconds away from hitting the send button on that text addressed to me. You know the text I'm talking about, the one that goes something along the lines of: I now have this confession in writing to hang above your head for the rest of my life. And I shall use it as I see fit.

Which you most certainly do have now. You should think about framing it because it's never going to occur again. Actually, I should think about framing it and giving it to you... Christmas present solved.

Anyway, back to the previous claim I made. Sorry to burst your bubble mama but this is more in particular about Dad today (though you're pretty freaking awesome too).

In case you were wondering, I probably have the best Dad ever and no I'm not over exaggerating here. He's smart, funny, battled cancer twice and won and he rocks a sweet stache. He's the one who taught me how to shoot a gun, clean a Dove after hunting and appreciate Pink Floyd. He taught me that real gentleman open doors for women and help out around the house equally and can cook a meal like nobody's business. He taught me how to change a flat tire... not once... not twice... but three times. None of which actually stuck and I should probably get him to show me again next time I'm home. He taught me a whole bunch of things but what I didn't know is that he was teaching me even when he wasn't actively teaching me.

Which is why this post exists.

I grew up in a household where we watched the Indy and Daytona 500 but no other racing. We watched golf because, well, I actually don't know why we watched golf but we did it. But most importantly we watched the weather. And now many years later and thousands of miles away from my parents I find myself doing those exact same things and not even knowing why. But I know I can't help it... and I'm not going to stop.

But the key to this statement is we didn't just watch the weather... we actively tracked the weather. I remember growing up with my father recording the temperature every day in a notebook and then when computers came in to existence I remember my dad spending countless hours imputing those temperatures in to a handy excel spreadsheet. You can't even imagine how excited he was to be able to analyze the ridiculous amount of weather data he had collected. Give me a minute and I could probably tell you the temperature outside of our house 8 years ago on April 25. I can actually tell you if that was the perfect date. If it was indeed not too hot and not too cold and all you really needed was a light jacket. Though, I doubt this is the case in April in southern New Mexico. And if you didn't get the Miss Congeniality reference... I feel for you.

I think the best thing we ever got him as a present (translation: my mom got him as a present and my sister and I signed our names on the card) was a weather-thing-a-ma-jig. Yes, that's its technical name and it was awesome (is awesome because he still uses it). It stood in our backyard and actively tracked the wind, the rain the lack of rain, the temperature, the humidity... you name it, it did it. And within the 10 minutes of getting home from work, my dad had to check the updates on it.

So how does this translate to me at all? Well, I didn't think it ever did. I just had a Dad who was a little strange and I thought should have been a meteorologist instead of an X-Ray technologist. But it didn't ever really affect me. Except I was always prepared for any weather. This part was actually my mother's doing. Though my father tracked the weather, my mother implemented the clothing to be worn in it.

And then it hit me yesterday, right smack dab in the middle of a full blown rain storm. I was sitting at my desk starring out the window at the ugliness that is rain and realized I'd forgotten my rain jacket and my umbrella. Rookie mistake. It wasn't because I didn't know the rain was coming. Trust me, if there's rain about to hit... I know about it. Why you ask? Well, when my alarm blares out at 5:30 in the morning, after promptly hitting snooze 4 times, I check the weather. Not on my one app on my iPhone but on my FOUR weather apps. And I compare their results. And figure how to dress accordingly for my day.

Which is exactly why I set out my rain coat and umbrella. It's my forgetfulness and flightiness that led me to not actually bringing them with me (which I probably also inherited from the parental units). But initially I was prepared.

As I was sitting starring out at the ugliness and realizing my lack of rain gear, all I could think of was how disappointed in me father would have been (though he's so awesome... and therefore I'm so awesome... I never actually disappoint him). None the less, I needed to rectify the situation.

Which is how I pulled up the weather channel on my computer. You know, the best website ever. More highly visited on my computer over Twitter, blogger, the news, and just about everything else besides Facebook and Gmail. Yeah that website. It's pretty much my favorite thing.

I pulled it up and went straight to the radar page and clicked future forecast. Which is probably the coolest thing ever. It predicts the rain movement for the next 3 hrs in to the future. It is a lifesaver. I zoomed in on my walk home and realized I had exactly 30 minutes between 4:15 and 4:45 where there was a break in the weather, otherwise I was going to get trapped, and therefore soaked, in the torrential down pour.

I scooted out of lab and down the street when 2 rain drops hit my forehead. People were shuffling around the streets with their rain coats and oversized umbrellas. I wasn't worried though. I looked at the forecast and I knew I still had 20-25 minutes before the flood was going to hit.

As I stepped in the front door of my apartment, I looked out the window and it began. The rain was hard and swift and it looked rather cold to me. But I wouldn't really know, because there I was sitting, dry, in the living room munching on my candy corn pumpkin (which by the way are WAY better than regular candy corn).

Thinking to myself: take that rain, you obviously haven't met my father.



Side note... after I posted this the first time, my mother promptly told me she was indeed going to hang this over my head and then she said I made her cry. I don't know what I would do without my parents.

Crashing

Thursday, October 3, 2013

| | | 0 Witty Remarks
So I know what you're thinking, after the last post, I must be a bike riding pro by now. Well, if that's what you're thinking... you'd definitely be wrong.

I started out ok. Going a couple of blocks at a time before I would slightly lose control. The trick, I found, was to stay away from moving vehicles and people and most likely I would be ok. I mean sure, my calves were highly bruised from the peddles and not breaking correctly with the back peddle break. But bruises no longer phase me. With kickboxing, running, jiu jitsu, and all around clumsiness I find I often have at least 3 or 4 relatively large bruises. I think I've been desensitized to them at this point. The dark purple color appears, along with swelling, but I never really seem to feel the pain of them anymore. They're kind of like battle wounds. I'm pretty proud when I get a new bruise. It means I must have been working hard and failed and then kept on going.

Anyway, I found myself going out biking a couple times and just doing what I could. Hills. hills are tricky. Hills that I run everyday are like 80 times worse on a bike. It takes a ton of effort to push myself and a very heavy retro bike up a hill and I often have trouble with, balancing, steering, and effort all at once. And that's just going up the hill. Coming down the hill is MUCH more scary as my speed increases exponentially along with my level of fear. I'm always afraid I won't be able to stop and will come crashing in to something that I would have rather not crashed in to, because really who likes to crash in to anything.

Well, one beautiful September day with the weather in the high 60s and the sun shining brightly, I decided it was the perfect time for a bike a ride. I was off of work early and I still had about an hour before I had to head out to my kickboxing class so I hopped on my bike. And I was indeed cruisin!

I'm lucky to live in a beautiful, residential area that has nice side streets where traffic isn't really a thing. The streets are mainly used by the residents who live on them as they come and go from their households.  It is common to not see a car for an hour or so. So, I took off on these back residential streets, my helmet secure to my head and my cardigan flapping in the breeze. It was glorious.

I went for over a mile... maybe even two... without stopping. I was feeling more secure in my turns and hill work but I was by no means a pro. Bike riding was something where I needed all my focus. At one point, my sunglasses were slipping down my nose and as I was riding I picked up my left hand to correct them. Big mistake. My bike went swerving and sliding all across the rode. Had there have been traffic, I definitely would have been road kill. To my surprise, I managed to stay afloat and keep on peddling. At that point, I was pretty sure I could tackle anything. The gravel roads were no problem. I could steer around pot holes. I was officially a bike rider. No one ever said I was a graceful bike rider but I was indeed staying up. And I was happy.

I must have looked like a little school girl as I flew through the neighborhood with my bike, my bell, and my basket, smiling like there was nothing that could stop me. Because that is what I thought... at this moment, nothing can stop me.

That was until I ran headfirst in to the back of a parked car. Let me tell you... that definitely stopped me.  I'm not even sure how it happened. I was going down a street I had looped 3 times already. But on this 4th loop, something happened. What? I'm not sure. But next thing I know this park car was attacking me!! And my front wheel hit the car with quite a bit of force and I jerked forward and to the side. I fell hitting my head (good thing I'm never too cool for a helmet), falling to the side and my bike landing with breathe steeling force on top of me.

I whirled around like a caged monkey nearly throwing my bike off of me, scraping my side on the pavement, and looking around frantically to see if anyone had witnessed this 23 year old girl flying head first in to a parked car. To my surprise, and satisfaction, I did not see a single soul watching the ridiculous scene that just unfolded.

At this point the pain set in. I felt like I had been hit by a car... which technically I had. And my scrapes were slightly bleeding. Sad and defeated, I picked up my bike and went to inspect the car. After a good 10 minute inspection, I found no damage, thankfully, due to the fact I ran in to the bumper and not the side of the car. Whoever invented the bumper must have been thinking about accidents like this, surely. I thank them for this generous service to man kind.

So with slouched shoulders I turned to start the mile trek back to my house, because you're delusional if you think I was getting back on my bike that day.

And at that exact moment a little girl, no older than six or seven, on a bike came flying by me, riding with both arms out and open to the wind relying on her balance and momentum to keep her up and moving forward. As she approached me she turned her head, waved, and smiled as if there were no cares in the world

... and I'm pretty sure at that moment in time, I wanted to push that little girl and her smile right off that bike.

Cruisin...

Thursday, September 19, 2013

| | | 3 Witty Remarks
They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. I beg to differ. You most definitely can teach an old dog new tricks... but you just probably shouldn't.

In this case, the new trick is riding a bike. And the old dog... well, that's me. Flattering, I know. Somehow I managed to make it 23 long years without learning how to ride a bike. I remember being young and carefree and riding my tricycle down the street with my sister and friends. And somehow that did not transition to riding a bicycle.

The real story of why I didn't learn how to ride a bike, I'm not actually sure. I have a very vivid story in my mind of what happened and why I didn't transition from 3 wheels to the infamous 2 wheeled version that everyone else in the world has learned but me. However, I've been informed by my mother that my version is not really what happened. Though, she can't quite recall the true story either. I think it's because my sister is her favorite and my story only slightly paints my sister in a bad light. Sometimes my sister gets a bad rep in the memory of my childhood (like the time she broke my finger during high school softball tryouts, leaving me to never play softball again). It's only because I was a devil of a child and instead of blaming myself for tragic life events, my mind has painted stories that may or may not be true of historical events in my life. It's a survival/coping mechanism I'm told. In all truthfulness, my sister is probably one of the best people I know. And I'm, well, not one of the best people I know. So I can see how the facts may have been messed up in 23 years. But nobody has the real story so we'll go with mine.

It started like this... the epic day I was going to learn how to ride a bike. I was a wee little thing with no fears or cares and that was the day my training wheels were coming off. I felt good. Everything was going to be great and I was going to be riding my big girl bike all around the neighborhood showing off.

I remember my dad behind me holding the bike steady and pushing me down a slight incline to get me started. It's all about momentum he told me. Once you start going, the bike holds you up, even for somebody who has as little balance as me (which hasn't changed in the passing years). And then there are some gaps (I think from the concussion I probably received). But I remember my sister being there behind me excited to help her little sister learn to ride plotting her master plan against me, evilly. She was pushing me along keeping me upright. As I gained momentum she let go pushed me hard down the small GIGANTIC hill and I flew. Not knowing really how to break, I crashed and probably just fell over went flying through the air, skidding across the gravel, and hitting my head vigorously on the pavement. And that is the exact moment I decided I was never going to get on that metal death trap again, and I didn't until about two months ago.

There were moments in my life where I was like, hey, you should probably know how to ride a bike. But it wasn't necessary. Not in a city like Las Cruces which is a spread out hot desert. If you're going to have a bicycle as your main/only mode of transportation around the city, you're probably going to die. And besides, who wants to be the 13 year old out in the neighborhood with her Dad pushing her and her bicycle down the street teaching her to ride. Please. I had already skipped a grade (aka nerd central), was a chubby little kid, and was in the marching band. Add that little bike scene and there's no telling the kind of trauma I would have experienced. Kids are cruel.

So really, it wasn't a big deal I didn't know how to ride a bike. Until I got to the very green (hippie) city of Ann Arbor where everybody rides bikes... everywhere. It's like what they do. That's when I told myself, you know what, woman up. If a 6 year old can ride a bike, you damn well can too.

That's when I went in search of the perfect bike. I had conditions of course. If I was going to ride a bike, it had to be cute. No road bikes. A simple bike. And preferably a basket attached. Everyone around me seemed to be excited for my bike riding experience and set off finding me a bike. I was sent several emails containing craigs list bikes that fit my bill... and that's when this beauty appeared. And I had to have it.


So I drove an hour away...  and shoved it in the back of my tiny versa. And drove an hour back to Ann Arbor.


And then I waited for months... until finally three of my guy friends took me to the park behind our house. And attempted to teach me to ride. It was tragic, and quite frankly a little pathetic. And there are videos... of which I am never going to show anybody. Ever. Turns out I still have no balance and I could barely keep the bike going for more than 30 seconds. After I almost ran straight into the guys and a picnic table (steering is hard work) I decided to call it a day and confirmed I'd go out later and try it. My matter of fact roommate told me he guessed my bike would end up in the basement never to be seen by me again and I would go along my jolly way of not knowing how to ride a bike. He was probably right actually... but because he said that, I had the instant need to prove him wrong.

A couple of weeks later, I took my bike out (now equipped with a cute pink bell... because duh, everyone needs a bell). I went to a secluded road behind our apartment that doesn't get a lot of foot or vehicle traffic and has a slight incline to it. And I tried to teach myself to learn how to ride a bike. For two straight hours I tried. And the people that did pass by looked at me like, who is this grown woman who doesn't know how to ride a bike? Is that even possible for somebody to not know how to ride a bike. And I was starting to get annoyed, and bruised up from the wheels hitting my legs when I would try to break because I still couldn't quite figure out the back peddling breaks. I was sweaty and the people kept giving me strange looks and I kind of thought I was going to cry. And that's when I finally cracked. A big black truck filled with four 20 something year old guys, turned the corner on to this dirt road. They very slowly started to approach me, and then slow down even more, and blatantly, open mouth stared at me and pointed and laughed... yeah I full on cracked.

So I starred straight at them. Jumped on my bike and furiously started ringing my bell like a straight up crazy person. It scared them. They rolled up their window. That'll teach them, I thought. Will Smith taught me how to fight bullies: full scale psychological warfare. Act crazy enough and everyone will leave you alone.


And as I was acting a crazy fool, it occurred to me that I was riding my bike... I was flying past the truck laughing like a maniac because I did it. After 23 years, I learned to ride a bike.

But man what I would have given to have somebody video tape the way those boys jumped as I started ringing my pink little bell, roll up the window, and then hit the gas peddle to get as far away from the crazy girl riding her bike.

Back Up! Back Up! Mind your business that's all. Just mind your business.

The Undergrads.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

| | | 1 Witty Remarks
This first week and a half of the semester has been a whirlwind of crazy and getting used to new schedules. There are so many children everywhere. And by children, I mean undergraduates. The bane of my existence as a grad student. They take over all of my local watering holes (aka bars... even though half of them are technically not even 21 but ID's don't lie), restaurants, parking, busses... they're all flooding with undergrads.  Even my peaceful 6AM running time has been kidnapped. I used to see not a single soul out and yesterday I saw 4. What is that? Aren't you sleeping undergrads? Do you not have class till noon? I think you're doing college wrong.

The little town of Ann Arbor literally doubles when school is back in session and since I am officially old, I naturally hate all things that I wish I was: young, care free, and with soooo much free time.

A good chunk of the country (75% actually) went back to school weeks ago but Michigan is behind in the times and doesn't go to school until after labor day. It is apparently a law that started because child labor was invaluable. I mean, why hire farm hands to harvest your land when you can get your 10 children to do it. After all, that is why you had 10 children, right?

What I can tell you is that times are changing... though at a much slower progression than I would have originally thought and starting this late is stupid. The later you start, the later you get out. I miss being done the first week of December and not thinking about anything educational for a month (NMSU was so generous in their breaks). Instead, school roughly gets out the week right before Christmas and goes back the week after New Years... slashing my break time drastically in half. Not to mention our complete lack of Thanksgiving break which is essentially just Thanksgiving day instead of the whole week.

Not that this actually matters much for me anymore because science/grad school hates breaks, and holidays, and anything that actually makes one happy. This is a scientifically proven fact.

This also doesn't matter much because I'm not actually taking any classes. Unless you can count a weekly seminar in which I listen to people talk about their research.

Anyway, even though I'm not actually taking a class, I am teaching one. I know what you're thinking: is this girl qualified to teach a group of 360 undergraduate students? No probably not. Except, I actually think I might be good at it. I didn't think it was possible.


I'm historically bad at a lot of things and my aversion to public speaking made me question why I was doing this. And then I remembered I am required to teach. So I sucked it up and went to the absolute sorriest excuse of a GSI orientation in which I wasted 2 work days and learned the exact opposite of anything useful.

And then the real class time started. And I have to say, I really like it. I'm teaching Genetics which is one of my favorite subjects to begin with.  I have 3 discussions and about 75 students total. Because this is more of group talking and discussion based class than a lecturing style, I really got in to the swing of it. All I had to do was remember

1) I actually am smarter than them.

2)  2 years ago wasn't that long... I can relate, right? 

So besides the one kid who answered his phone in the middle of the professor lecturing... while he was sitting directly behind me... and then had a full blown conversation and then I nearly decapitated him in the middle of class. Yeah, besides that it's been going well. Granted, I've only taught one class so it could all fall apart by Friday judging by how things in my life go.

Side note, I got my very own pre-med undergraduate to mentor in lab which I thought was kind of cool, that my PI trusted me enough. And then after the fact I found out everyone else in lab said they didn't want one or will be "graduating" (supposedly) in the next few months. Therefore I was the last and only option. You know me, always trying to impress.

The Grad School Struggle

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

| | | 1 Witty Remarks
Well, I'm back. But this time I think it's for real. No really, I've had some time to mull it over.  So, after nearly 10 months off from the blogging game I'll start this as a kind of re-introduction post to me. For those of you who don't know, I'm a 23 year old, native New Mexican, struggling pre-PhD candidate at the University of Michigan.

It's currently just after midnight (nearly two hours after my normal bedtime) and I've been inspired by my lovely friend Stacy to start up this blog again. I've been told many times by various friends how much they missed my shenanigans and awkward life moments as I document them on this blog.

I can come up with every reason in the book as to why I stopped writing... my life got less interesting as I got to grad school, I'm too busy, I'm not the same person as I was before. To some extent this is all true. But the real reason, is when I got to grad school, I kind of lost myself. Or maybe I had never even had myself to begin with. I'm not quite sure yet. What I am sure of is I still haven't found myself. And I'm also quite certain I was afraid to let you in on the very large fact that I don't have anything 'together.'

I guess I could say I was once a big fish in a small pond. I was good at what I did, which was school. My whole life school is what I did. I did other things on the side mind you, my sorority, Panhellenic, marching band (because I was that cool kid!), horseback riding, volunteering etc. but what I did best was school and yeah, I was pretty good at it.

And then the pond changed in to a lake and then an ocean and before I knew it I was chugging water just trying to stay alive. And I was failing miserably. Not only was I failing, but I hated every second of it. Not because I was failing but because of what it was. This is not the science I wanted to do and this was most certainly not the life I envisioned for myself. And I found myself in Nashville at my Aunt's kitchen island, wine in hand crying and trying to figure out how to tell my parents I was indeed dropping out of grad school right after the Christmas break.

Fast forward 8ish months and here I am still in graduate school. Actually, yesterday I just started my second year and I have to say I am quite content with where I am. I love my lab. I love my friends. I love my new roommates. And at least 75% of the time I love my life.

So how exactly did I jump from a complete breakdown and almost quitting to being satisfied with where I am today? Well, I learned and accepted a few facts about myself.

  1. Academia is not for me. Once I decided I wanted to go in to research, I knew I was going to be a professor. But as I  actually started to see the reality of professorship: too competitive, struggling for money, tons of grant writing, lots of hours for quite frankly not a justified amount of pay... I realized this life was not going to be for me and I had to accept that.
  2. I do not live to work. I work to live. I do quite enjoy my work otherwise I wouldn't be doing it. But guess what, I love me more. Not saying I don't work hard, because I do, but I won't work 80 hr weeks every single week like I used to. I can't do it. My body and my mind cannot handle it. And I enjoy my outside life way too much to be cooped up inside all day every day. Finding a balance between work and play was key.
  3. I need a stress reliever. I need something I can do several times a week to completely take my mind off of work and life and get out some of my pent up aggression/anger. For me, this is running and kickboxing. And hey, I get a great workout to boot. Which really means I can eat more food and drink more beer. 
  4. Science hates me. This was probably the most important thing I learned. Science does, in fact, hate me. With a passion. 80% of my stuff doesn't work out the first time, or the second time, and sometimes not even the third time. The more I expect this, the less stressed I get when it happens. And I can happily trouble shoot and continue on my slow... very very slow... uphill battle towards ever getting a PhD. 
  5. I'm not going to cure cancer and I'll probably never be published in a journal like Science and I'm ok with that. First off, I don't even work on cancer so I'm probably definitely not going to cure that or any other disease or do anything to get me a Noble Prize. I do basic science research on yeast genetics and I find it pretty interesting. Which doesn't mean you (or frankly most people) do  but that's ok. I'm going to be successful in my own way, but I don't need to be famous to do it.
I'm sure I learned plenty of other things too. Like, I learned how to ride a bike (story coming soon). I learned how to parallel park. And I learned Japan was an island... mind completely blown. I obviously lack all geography skills. 

And I know I still have a long way to go. Like how to not freak out each time I have to give a public presentation. Or how not to procrastinate everything. All good things to probably put on my check list of life lessons. 

But all in all, I'm still pretty much me. I'm still awkward. I still have horrible grammar. My friends still love to make fun of me. I still love wine (though I've drastically cut back on my drinking to the much happiness of my parental units). 

Don't worry, I promise to keep in touch. 


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