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Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Hell of a Trip

Well – we’re finally back home. It feels like we’ve been away for months, and I think we did enough traveling to be comparable!

Our flight from Ontario to BC was relatively smooth, although, at the time, we thought we go the short end of the stick! On a five-hour flight we were in the very last row, beside the bathrooms and just in front of the steward area. It was loud, the stewards wouldn’t stop bitching about everything and anything (mostly their co-workers), and the movie choices sucked. If we had known what was coming, we would have relished that time.

It had been snowing in BC – a relatively rare phenomenon where we were staying. We thought we were going to be lucky though, since it snowed the day before we were flying out, but not on the actual day. In fact, the sun was shining!

Then we got to the airport. The line to check in took one-and-a-half hours to get through, and when we got to the front our flight was canceled. The only option they could give us was standby on ONE flight (the rest were full already – even for standby), and we were told that there was not a good chance we would get on.

So, we had the bright idea of renting a car and driving from BC to Alberta (normally about a 10 hour drive). We ran to the rental car booths, but no one would do a one-way rental. We grabbed a cab and went to the bus/train depot to see what we could do there (at this point we felt very much like contestants on the Amazing Race). No dice – there were no trains to Calgary OR Edmonton the next two days. The buses were full.

We saw a Hertz counter, and ask if we can rent a car to go one-way to Alberta. Absolutely! For $600. BAH!!

After a few minutes of contemplation, we decided to go for it. We figured we wouldn’t get out of BC in at least a couple of days if we didn’t (thank goodness we were right – we probably would have been stuck there for 4-5 days). The drive wasn’t perfect, but we got to Alberta after 15 hours of driving and a pit-stop in Revelstoke for a $120 nap.

The weather was fine in Alberta and we had a wonderful Christmas. We managed to change our flight to a day later so we could make up for the lost time we took while driving. The day of our flight was beautiful – warm, partly cloudy skies – should be no problem for flying, right?

Nope. The flight was delayed coming in. Our gate changed three times. Once the plane DID arrive the gate couldn’t attach to the plane properly, delaying the flight even longer. We were getting antsy at this time because we had a two-hour lay-over before the last leg home, and at this point it was shaved down to 30 minutes. Short, but still enough time to make it.

Once we boarded the plane though, it took the baggage handlers 45 minutes to load the plane. 45 MINUTES!! We took off at 5:30pm MST, and the flight was supposed to arrive in 3 hours and 36 minutes – just after 11pm EST. Our connecting flight left at 11:10pm EST.

After running to the gate we managed to make it on the plane with about 30 seconds to spare. Our luggage, of course, did not make the trip. So, we are now without four bags, and are just praying our luck kicks back in and we actually receive it before the new year (or at all).

Next Christmas, we’re staying right here!!!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

It's Like Pulling Teeth

Literally! I had my wisdom teeth pulled on Friday, and I look and feel like a bull dog:



The pain hasn't been too bad, and I even managed to bake some cookies and go to a Christmas party last night. But, today, the pain and stiffness have increased and I can barely open my mouth far enough to get a spoon of mango smoothie in there. The stitches are also jabbing into my gums and cheeks - excellent early Christmas gift! The worst thing is not being able to eat solids. I was joking with DH yesterday about getting some baby food, but now I'm wondering if that's not such a bad idea! We leave on Thursday for "The West", so hopefully the pain and swelling will be mostly gone.

Work-wise, things are going well! I've had numerous chats with my supervisor to make sure my analysis for my second project is on the right track. I'm hoping that I'll have the analysis done before my intended deadline (end of January), but we'll see how it goes.

I'm starting to flip-flop on the stay-at-home thing too - I've realized lately that there are aspects of my job that I really enjoy, and if I could find a job that focuses more on those areas then I could see myself wanting to work. Plus, and this may sound petty, but I like telling people what I do because most people are very interested in astronomy and they find what I do fascinating (even if I don't all the time).

I think what I do will be really dependent on where we end up moving in just over a year. I hope that we can move somewhere so that I'll at least have options, even if I choose not to work in the end.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

First Paper Submitted!!

As the title suggests, I have submitted my first paper of my PhD! I have to say, it’s pretty exciting, and I really enjoyed the writing process. It also means that one of my three projects is pretty much done!…

…but now I have to start on the next one. This scares me!! My goal is to have my thesis done and ready to hand to my examination committee on July 1st. That means that I should have pretty much everything done by the beginning of May so I can write up a draft of my thesis and go through a round or two of revisions with my supervisor. Do I have enough time? That’s only five months away!

I’m going to work on one project at a time, starting with the smaller one. I’m hoping to get the analysis done by the end of January so I can get a paper written and submitted by the end of February. That way I’ll have two papers, which means two chapters of my thesis, done.

That will give me March/April to do the analysis on the third, larger, project. We have decided that we won’t push to submit a paper on it before I defend. Instead, we’ll put it in paper form, and then after the defense I’ll work on it and submit.

Gah – even then that’s not a lot of time for the third project! Especially since I have to redo the reductions because the images were all erased in the summer :P A bonus is that it is similar to the data I’m dealing with for the smaller project, so I won’t have to start from square one, and the analysis is less involved. So, it shouldn’t take nearly as long (fingers crossed!).

At least, if things don’t go as planned, I have about six months to play with. DH’s contract for his post-doc is up February 2010, so we will be here until then for sure. That gives me extra time if I really need it, but I’m still going to aim to be done next summer because I just want this damn thing done! LOL I don’t want it to drag on anymore than it has too. Then, I can start really researching career options and be ready once I start looking for jobs when we know where we are going to move.

Alright – it sure sounds good in theory, doesn’t it?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Winter Blues

Ever since it started getting cold and snowy I've been feeling really down. I haven't been able to motivate myself to do much of anything. Work, exercise, socializing, chores, even reading all take a lot of effort - that is, assuming I actually get around to doing it.

I'm fully convinced that it has to do with winter arriving. It's dark early and gets cold at night, so the last thing I want to do after eating dinner is to go back outside to do anything. The problem is the less I do, the more down I feel, then I want to do even less. It's just a big cycle.

I know the obvious fix is to force myself to do something - but why should I do something that I don't want too? Hmmm...I wonder what my therapist would have to say about all this?

And since I have no energy, I can't think of anything else to write...except "come on SPRING!"

PS: we made the decision to go back west for Christmas.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Christmas Conundrum

It's getting to the end of November and we still haven't decided whether we should go "home" for Christmas. I put "home" in quotes because it's not really our home anymore, but you know what I mean.

We've been flip flopping on whether we should go visit our families or stay here and have our first married Christmas together. The problem is there are so many pros and cons for both sides that we're just stuck and I honestly don't know how we're going to decide!

Pros of going "home"
- we get to see our families, which we will be doing less of in the years to come
- getting out of our city/apartment
- not having to cook dinner for a week! LOL

Cons of going "home":
- it's SO expensive, especially for only a week
- going to both our hometowns is stressful - we have to do a LOT of traveling and visiting in a short period of time and we'll feel like we need another vacation once we get back
- not being just us; having to be "on" all the time
- being away from the cats
- not starting our own traditions

We threw around the idea of just visiting one family this year, then doing the other next year, but neither of us really like that option and we'd have no idea how to choose.

We also thought about taking a vacation somewhere tropical instead and saying "screw it!" to the whole thing! Then we realized that we'd probably get bored, and that money is better spent elsewhere.

DH is giving us until Wednesday to decide - any suggestions?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Career Paths

During my first few therapy sessions we discussed my career, why I wasn’t happy with what I was doing, and what I might want to do down the road. In order to get a better idea of what I’m “suited” for, my therapist got me to do a few different tests.

Test #1: Self-Directed Search (SDS)

The SDS was created by John Holland, PhD, and is supposed to help to explore possible career paths based on likes and dislikes in the categories of activities, competencies, and occupations. There are 6 career types: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional. Here are my scores:

R = 15
I = 40
A = 15
S = 35
E = 31
C = 39

You’re supposed to take the three with the highest numbers that will be your summary code. Mine is ICS. Then, you can look up jobs by the summary code to see what might be good choices.

There are no jobs for ICS listed. None. Nada. Zilch.

Then, you’re supposed to look for jobs that have summary codes of the same letters but different orders (ISC, CSI, CIS, SIC, SCI). Two whole jobs came up: Research Assistant at a university and Accountant.

Test #2: Jackson Vocational Interest Survey (JVIS)

This test takes your areas of interest and compares them with those people in different occupations that share the same interests. It clearly states that interests are very different from abilities.

The results of this test are much more detailed than the SDS. The first part gives a score on each of the 34 basic areas of interest, and your dominant areas are those with a score of 80 or above. The second part gives a rating in 10 general occupational themes.

It then compares your interests to over 10,000 university students. The results rank the similarity between your interests to each of the 17 student clusters (i.e. major fields). My top 3 are Computer Science, Engineering and Mathematical Sciences.

They then do the same matching technique, but with job groups. My top 3 are: Accounting, Banking & Finance, Machining/Mechanical, and Engineering.

Test #3: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

This is more of a personality test, rather than on career/interests. There are 8 personality types, put into 4 groups: Extroverted/Introverted, Sensing/Intuitive, Thinking/Feeling and Judging/Perceiving. In general, people are primarily one or the other, and your personality type is given to you as four letters based on your scores. My scores were:

E/I = 0/100
S/N = 53/47
T/F = 55/45
J/P = 59/41

So, my personality type is ISTJ: the duty fulfiller. Reading the personality summary, I have to say that it agrees pretty well with what I am like. It suggests careers: Business executive/administrator/manager, accountant, police/detective, judges, lawyers, medical doctor/dentist, computer programmers, military leaders.

Now, as interesting as these tests are, the more interesting thing is the results I personally get out of them. In all three tests, the results are ambiguous. In the SDS, you could see I could have easily had an “E” in there instead of the “C” or S”. In the second, the top three job matches were only “neutral” matches. In order for it to be meaningful, the matches should be “moderately high” or “high”. In the Myers-Briggs test, you can see that the S/N, T/F and even the J/P ratios aren’t very far apart, and I could have easily gone the other way.

So, what does this mean? Well, according to my therapist this is a good thing because it shows I have a wide range of interests AND abilities – that I can go into many different careers and be successful.

To me though, it just makes things even more confusing! Should I stay in astronomy, or go into something related like geology or engineering? Or should I do something completely different like sociology, interior design, accounting or teaching?

There's an even a bigger problem…I’m interested in doing ALL of these!! I feel like I'm starting a square one and have no idea what direction to go. HELP!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

If I knew then...

...what I know now, I probably would have left my PhD a year ago.

Okay, okay. Let me back up a bit.

About a year ago I was having a really difficult time with my PhD. I absolutely hated it. I couldn't concentrate on anything, I couldn't stand going to the observatory to get more data that I didn't want to deal with in the first place, and I didn't see my project working out at all. I was so depressed about it that I was seriously considering dropping out. I took a week off to think about things and spent that time in the career center at the university and scouring the internet for something...ANYTHING...that I could do with the education I had at the time.

I talked to DH, other students and my supervisor. The reoccurring themes were "everyone hates their PhD" and "you'll regret it if you don't finish it." I believed them. Plus, DH had signed up for a post-doc position so that he could stay here while I finished. He did not want to stay here, but did because of me. How could I not finish with that hanging over my head? So, I forged ahead.

Now, a year later, I'm looking back on that decision and realize it was probably the wrong one. Yes, I'm sure everyone hates their PhD, and yes, I'm sure I'd look back and wonder what would have happened if I had finished - but I have been unhappy in my job for the last year. I'm sure I'll continue to be unhappy for the next year too.

What really hits home is what our life would be like if I left a year ago. DH could have declined the post-doc and found a job in industry (which he really wants) in a city other than here (which we both really want). I could have found another career path (a whole other post - stay tuned!) and we could have a family by now.

But, here I am, in my last year of my PhD. I actually don't mind the work now, mostly because I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I'm working on my first paper and will hopefully get another one done in the next couple of months. In spite of this, I feel that I have no motivation other than the fact that I just want to finish.

My mind constantly drifts off to things I'd rather be doing, like writing, teaching, doing outreach, or raising a family, and trying to figure out how and when I can do those things.

Less than a year...less than a year...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Our Monkey Kitty

When we got Isabella last year she did some weird things that I've never seen another cat do. She would unravel whole toilet paper rolls onto the bathroom floor, she'd chase water droplets down the shower curtain (and in the process rip huge holes in it), and this:



What a weirdo!

I have a Confession…(Part 2)

…there are others things not working out here besides not liking my work and wanting to have a family instead of a career. This city, I swear, is sucking the life right out of me. Let me give you a few examples of why I’m not enjoying myself here:

- it’s a college town (need I say more?)
- if you’re 18 or >35 with young kids, there is plenty to do – you’re screwed otherwise
- most people that live here were born here
- there are no decent ballroom dance clubs
- they refuse to build off-ramps or decent merge lanes because they want the city to feel like a small town
- you’re not allowed to park on the street from 3am-6am for absolutely no good reason
- making a left turn in this city is on the verge of the impossible that I actually plan my routes to make as many right turns as I can
- people constantly drive 10 km/hr under the speed limit

Okay, most of these have to do with driving, and maybe I’m a tad sensitive to things like that, but there’s more: this is the first city that I’ve really had trouble making close friends in. Sure, there are people I talk to at work, but after over 3 years here I still haven’t made any meaningful relationships (besides the one with DH, of course).

I wonder if it’s me. Have I fundamentally changed as a person since I moved here? I don’t think I have. When I travel to other cities I can actually make connections with people quite quickly, even if I’m only there for 1 week! I have made better friends at week-long conferences than I have here in 3 years.

After talking to many others here (natives, newcomers and visitors), I’ve come to the conclusion that this city is snobby, cliquey, rude and self-involved. Entitlement runs rabid here. Everyone thinks they are the most important person in the room, on the road, or even on the sidewalk.

I am continually in awe about how rude people are here. I couldn’t even count the number of times I’ve been forced to walk on the street because a group of 2 or 3 people must walk beside each other on the sidewalk. Or all the students that sit in the hallway with their legs straight out in front of them, pretty much blocking the whole hallway; or the girls who talk on their cell phones while going to the bathroom.

This is not to say that everyone in this city is like this, but sadly the majority are. All I can say is that we have 15 more months before we move out of here, and I’m counting down every single day.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Are You Kidding Me, Leeza?

It's Sunday morning, and as we eat breakfast we listen to a local radio station that plays Leeza Gibbon's radio show. Today she is featuring a guest that is talking about diet secrets of the stars. Here are a few examples I heard in the short interview:

- don't drink diet Coke - apparently you're 2 times more likely to gain weight if you drink it. No, there was no evidence given.
- put cinnamon on your cereal or in your coffee instead of sugar - they say it regulates your blood sugar better, so stops those pesky cravings for sweets.
- if you're hungry, just have a breath mint or use one of those breath strips - it numbs your taste buds and that will hopefully subside those cravings.

Okay, these seem kind of reasonable, but then it kind of occurs to me that all of the suggestions are basically saying "try not to eat" and especially "don't eat what you're craving" - because heaven forbid we have a good relationship with food instead of feeling guilty for wanting one cookie.

They go on to say that all the "stars" they interviewed for their book fully admitted that it's a struggle every single day to keep their figure so they can appear on their TV shows, movies, and on the red carpet.

Does anyone else see anything wrong with this? Why are women all over the world struggling day in and day out to obtain some unrealistic body type? I have even heard women admitting they're scared to get pregnant because they don't want to gain weight!! Or, even worse, obsessing about how much they do gain while pregnant!! What is the world coming too?

For the last year or so I've been really trying to be healthy, but not nutty about things. I enjoy food - I love eating things like macaroni and cheese, cupcakes and nachos. But I also love asparagus, yogurt and fruit. I try to be active and eat what I want when I want, and it's worked for me. And you know what? I'm happier than I ever was when I was constantly "watching" what I ate. There's no reason why we can't have our cake and eat it too.

I really hope that this obsession with food and our bodies is a phase and will pass eventually. Until then, sorry Leeza, I'm not listening to your show any more.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I Have a Confession... (Part 1)

...I have been seeing a therapist for a few months now. Not because I'm crazy or depressed, but because ever since I moved to London I have generally been unhappy and confused. Mostly it's about my work, but it's also about my environment: the people around me and the city in general.

My last session with my therapist we started to talk about my work. I hate talking about my work. It makes me feel uncomfortable. I'm embarrassed that I don't L-O-V-E it, or even really like it, mostly because of all the time I've put into it.

Therapist: Why don't you like it?
Me: Because I'm not doing what I thought I would for my PhD project.
Therapist: Why?
Me: Because I didn't have the guts or the knowledge to tell my supervisor I wanted to do something else when I started. And when I finally did have both the guts and the knowledge, I was 3 years into my project and didn't want to start all over again.

After further discussion, she tells me I fall into the subjugation life trap. It's true. She gave me a book about common life traps, one chapter being on subjugation, and it fits me perfectly. I basically do what others want so that I "please" them - so they'll like me. If I do something that I want to do, I feel guilty and I think everyone thinks I'm being a bitch.

Now that I know how to recognize it, I see myself doing it everywhere in my life: I do more outreach stuff than I should, I let other people choose the restaurant we go to, I do favors for people that are just using me, I let my DH choose the excursion in Alaska even though I really wanted to do something else. Was I always like this?

Since that session I've been aware of what decisions I'm making and trying my best to do what I want. After all, I'm the one that has to live with my decisions, right? This is how I decided to change my name to DH's - because that's what I wanted, and the opinion of others (or what I thought their opinions were) just didn't matter anymore.

So, I had another session with my therapist yesterday, and we start talking about my subjugation and in what situations it comes up. I immediately think of work. She starts talking about careers and what I can do to figure out what directions I should take, and I'm just sitting there thinking "I don't care about any of this". She's quite intuitive:

Therapist: Why do you look so sad when we start talking about careers?
Me: Because I don't care!

And then I continue to blubber on for about 5 minutes about how I don't want to think about careers, how none of it matters to me right now, and how I feel like I should do this or that. After some silence:

Therapist: What do you see your life like after you finish your PhD?
Me: (after some thought) You know, when I'm driving to work or something and I see women walking with their babies in a stroller and the family dog, I think to myself "that's what I want the next stage in my life to be".
Therapist: That's the first time today you used the words "I want" instead of "I should".

Bingo.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Goodbye Single Me

Today I started the long and seemingly complicated process of changing my name to my husband's.

Let me tell you, I did not take the decision to change my name lightly. My thoughts went back and forth between "I want to change it for tradition, to be a cohesive family and because it's important to him" and "but what if I lose myself? I've been that person for 29 years, why should I change it now?".

Even up until last week I wasn't really sure what I was going to do. I was pretty sure I was just going to tack his name at the end of mine so I would have four names (my maiden name becoming a second middle name). I wanted to keep my name around for "professional" reasons. In other words, I didn't want people thinking I was changing my name (and therefore myself) for a MAN. So, in essence I was going to keep my name for the sake of others and how they see me, and not for me.

It's funny - I'm sure women in my parent's generation who didn't change their name were looked upon as strange. Now though, at least in my experience, people seemed surprised when I tell them I'm changing my name --- like this means I'm giving up myself to my husband, or that he's forcing me to do it. That is so far from the truth. I want to do it, and I don't feel I need to explain why.

At the DPS conference I had "hislastname" ("mylastname") on my nametag so that people would put two and two together and figure out I'm still the same person. That was the first time I started going by "hislastname", and I liked it.

Sure, it was weird, and it'll be a while before I'm used to it, but I like the fact that I'm his wife and I (personally) think sharing his name is a big part of it. An extra bonus? It makes it harder for those pesky ex-boyfriends to find me!

I feel that this is an entirely new era in my life, so why not start it with a new name? So, at the DMV today I changed my name to his and only his - not because I have to, but because I want too. So, with that we bid adieu to single me!

Monday, October 13, 2008

DPS 2008

I'm currently at the DPS (Division of Planetary Science) meeting in Ithaca, NY, and am feeling a wide range of things - excitement and motivation, guilt, and "who AM I??", all in sequential order. Let me explain.

The first day or two of a conference are very exciting and motivating. Everyone seems so excited about their work, you get ideas for your own project that you can't wait to implement when you get home, and all is just hunky-dory.

Then it happens - people start asking me what I want to do after I'm done my PhD (which will, fingers crossed, be next summer). I start to flounder - not really sure what to say. I try to make it sound like I'm open for anything, but it ends up coming out like I don't really care about my career.

The real answer is that I don't know because we will be moving to where my husband can find a job he likes. We both want this since we'd like to start a family soon and I'll be the one staying home with the kids. Plus, he's going into industry and only has a few options in his field.

So, why do I feel so guilty about this? Why can't I just say "I'm going to wait until we move and then look for a position" and not be wishy-washy about it? I know exactly why

1) I don't want people think I'm making a decision based on a MAN (even if he is my husband)
2) I feel like if I get offered a position (or even the glimpse of an offer) I should jump at the chance because who knows if anyone else would want me to work for them
3) I don't want to admit to people that I really DON'T know what I want to do after I'm done even if I COULD go anywhere. It's embarrassing in this field where everyone seems to base their life soley on their career --- the end all and be all.

This brings me to my last point. At the DPS Women's lunch today we were talking about presentation styles and how men are a certain way and women are another. In our area, I find women have to basically act like men to get respect. They have to talk like a man, act like a man, and dress like a man. But today we were talking about how we shouldn't have to do that. Which makes sense, until you try it and you end up looking like a woman (whatever that means).

So, the question is, do we as women turn ourselves into men to demand respect, or should we just keep plugging away at being ourselves and hope that it all works out in the end?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

1st Post as a Mrs.

So, I got married on September 13th, and I'm officially a "Mrs" (although I'm still surprised when someone calls me that!). The wedding was truly amazing - definitely one of the most fun days of my life! Even though we had a small wedding (about 40 guests) I think everyone had a fantastic time and knew each other by the end of the night. I have never felt more love than that day, and I hope it continues!

For our honeymoon we went on an Alaskan cruise and then to San Francisco for 3 days. The cruise was so nice and relaxing - exactly what we needed after the emotional rollercoaster of the wedding. We ate, drank, slept...basically caught up on all the things we were missing out on in the weeks before! We even went on a kayaking excursion, which was awesome! We were supposed to do a helicopter tour and hike of a glacier, but it was too foggy :( That was the one big disappointment of our trip. A couple other fun facts about our cruise: we bought two paintings, there were WAY too many old people, and we spent way too much money!

San Francisco was absolutely amazing! I could definitely picture us living there - it's such a vibrant and exciting atmosphere, and didn't feel overly "American", which is always nice. We did a tour of Alcatraz and a bus tour of the city. We did a lot of walking as well, which was tough with all those hills and all that cruise food in our bellies.

After being away for 2.5 weeks, it was nice to get back home to the cats and our own bed. Unfortunately that means back to work too, but we won't talk about that! We went shopping today with the generous gifts our guests gave and bought most of what was left on our registery. I also bought a Mac today, since my awful Dell finally died, and I'm loving every minute of it!

So, with that, I will end my first "Mrs." post - keep visiting!