Friday, January 29, 2010

A Couple Days to Go

So, only a couple more days until I start my new post-doc! I met with my new supervisor this morning to sign the necessary papers and such. She talked a little more about what I'll be working on (a more extensive project, now that I'll be working four days a week), and it sounds really cool. Although, I'll be honest, I don't know much about what she was talking about! LOL I guess that will be one of my first tasks: reading, reading and more reading. She also introduced me to a couple people I'll be talking to on Monday, and showed me where my office will be. I really like her so far, and think we'll get along pretty well.

She will be away for most of the week next week, but she gave me a small project to work on. She has a small outreach budget from one of her grants, and she wants me to do a bit of research on what we can do with that money. I'm thinking we can get some sort of hands-on earthquake science kit that grad students can take into classes (or do as a workshop at the university). There is also a day-long event for high school students coming up in May, and she wants me to come up with ideas for a 1-2 hour workshop we could do.

I will also be working on some data analysis from my PhD/1st post-doc work, since we want to get a paper out on that work soon(ish). I'm giving a talk to my new research group too, which should be interesting.

As much as I love (and I mean L-O-V-E) having this time off, I'm excited to start something new and, honestly, to get out of the house!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Extraneous Crap

One of my new year's resolutions was to get rid of extraneous crap in my life. When I made this resolution, I had a couple things in mind and it may be time to make some decisions.

The first is all about Facebook. I've already deleted a lot of the things I had on my page, such as notes, links, even a few photo albums. Not that I had anything really incriminating up there, but I just wanted to streamline things a bit. What I really want to do is...um..."edit" my friends list. There are some people that I'm "friends" with that I really am not. I don't enjoy reading their (sometimes very offensive) status updates or seeing photos of their drunken escapades. I have gone through the list a couple of times and deleted a few people, but I feel like I need to be more realistic/ruthless.

The second one is about my blog on the Nature Network. I started this blog only a few months ago, but I always feel at a loss for what to post about. All the other NN bloggers are so intelligent, witty, and seem to be on there all the time. By the time I read the blogs, there are 30+ comments and I'm just out of the loop and feel like an outsider. And, even when I put in the effort to put together (what I think is) a really great post, I don't get a lot of comments. Right now, the NN blog just feels like a chore. I need to decide whether to come up with a better game plan for my posts, or to just throw in the towel.

These are two examples of extraneous crap in my life that is causing me unnecessary stress. Now I just need to get the cojones (or the female version) to actually do something about them.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Last Week of Freedom

It's just one more week until I start my new post-doc, and I'm a bit nervous about the new position.

I'm not really familiar with the research area, so it will be a steep learning curve. I hope that I am smart and capable enough to hold my own, and don't end up looking like a complete idiot. I also worry that I might end up hating this too, just like my PhD research.

I'm also nervous about working for a new PI and with new grad students & post-docs. My PhD experience in that regard was not a particularly good one, so I am hoping it will be better in this case.

Another thing I'm worried about is keeping up my exercise routine. I've been working out four times a week, and I really love it now. I would be very disappointed in myself if I let it slip. It will be harder to schedule it in, obviously, since I will only be able to do so in the evenings. But, I really need to do this for myself, because I feel so much better lately.

The good thing is I'll only be working four days a week. So that means I can hit the gym, catch up on my reading or knitting, or work on outreach stuff on my day off.

But, for now I should stop thinking about all of this and try to enjoy my last week off!

Friday, January 22, 2010

It's in My Hands

Well, the big meeting today went relatively well. Really well, actually. There was a lot of good discussion, and in the end it was decided to go for it. Better yet? That I should go for it. That, if I raise the money, this program will be mine (all mine!! Mwahahaha!!).


Of course, that puts the whole thing on my shoulders, but I'm willing to put in the effort to try and get this program off the ground. Education and outreach are my passions, so to be able to do that for a living is something that I at least want to take a shot at.

The first thing to do is to start finding sources of funding, and start applying like mad. Another idea I have is to get a private donor to buy the name of the observatory. Any takers?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Big Meeting

Tomorrow afternoon I am meeting with a few key professors in the Physics & Astronomy department. I will be outlining my ideas for an outreach program centered around the university's telescope (which is scheduled to be shut down this Fall). Then, as a group (hopefully), we will decide whether this program is worth pursuing.

I'm nervous, and for a few reasons:

1. There hasn't been a ton of support to keep the observatory open. During a departmental meeting, when the faculty was asked if they cared about the observatory being shut down (in order to save money, of course), most people didn't even flinch. The good news is the people that do care are younger, bring in a ton of money, and seem to have quite a bit of power in the department.

2. Two of the people that will be at the meeting have been using the observatory almost exclusively. Therefore, they pretty much have the reign over the thing, and it might be hard to convince them to convert the observatory from a research facility to an education & outreach one. The good news is one will be retiring this summer, and the other probably will in the next few years. So, it's hard to justify keeping it as research-only just for them.

3. I seem to be the last line of defense for the observatory. If this program doesn't go ahead, then the observatory will surely shut down. However, if the program does go ahead, I want to be in charge, and I have a feeling that will be met with some resistance (even though no one else is willing to step up to the plate). Not sure what the good news is here.

It will be interesting to see how this meeting goes. I have met with each of these people individually to discuss this project, but am getting conflicting messages: what they say to me and what they (apparently) say to others has been different. I figure if I get them all in one room, then there will be no mistake on who says what.

I will post an update tomorrow - keep your fingers crossed for me!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Becoming Adults

Last night, DH and I took another step to becoming real adults: we now have tax-free savings accounts and RRSPs (Registered Retirement Savings Plan for my non-Canadian readers). DH is very happy about this, while my head just ached for hours afterward.

I had no idea how complicated all of this was. I seriously thought you just "bought" RRSPs and that was that. I didn't know that you had to buy different things (mutual funds, GICs, etc.) with them, and there are hundreds of choices with a zillion variations.

It was so overwhelming, but we got through it and now are planning for the future (gasp!). Of course, we both have so many years of unused RRSPs that it will take us a while to max it out. But, we're on our way!

One thing we both keep worrying about is putting too much away into savings and then not having money available to us now for vacations or other large purchases. This will definitely be a factor once we buy a house because our monthly expenses will increase. Hopefully though, after a couple of months of paying those bills, we'll have a good idea of how much we can save and we'll just split that up into different accounts.

Sigh. I remember being 15 and just could not wait to be an "adult". What the hell was I thinking?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


I finally heard back about the funding proposal for the outreach job I was hoping to get. It was turned down (perhaps not surprisingly, given the title of this post). Apparently, there was only a 25% success rate. I guess a lot of people are getting on board the outreach & education train.

I'm disappointed, of course. It would have been a great job, since it would have been part-time (fitting perfectly with my part-time research position that I'm starting in February), and right up my alley outreach-wise. However, I'm still hopeful that this position will come available in the future, since other funding applications have been submitted for the program.

I'm also glad that I'll be able to work part-time for a while, and not be flung into full-time work right off the bat. I think the learning curve will be quite high with my new research area, so it will be nice to focus on that for a while. My new supervisor is also interested in outreach, so I may be able to fill some niche that way.

It will also give me time to seek out funding for my own outreach program for the observatory. In fact, I have set up a meeting for the end of this week with some of the professors in physics & astronomy to discuss the possibilities of that program.

All in all, I'm disappointed, but I know there will be other opportunities - either with the same program, creating my own, or within my new research group. So, I haven't yet reached my 2010 resolution of having a full-time job in education & outreach, but I am (albeit slowly) making progress.

Monday, January 18, 2010

My Get-Fit Hump

For the past two weeks I've been working out regularly (four times a week) and eating healthier. I felt great the first few days, but now that feeling is lost.

This is what I call my get-fit hump: I'm still being healthy, but I don't see any instantaneous results, so I start feeling like crap about myself. Since I'm feeling crappy and nothing good is coming from all the work, I want to stop going to the gym and start eating as much junk food as humanly possible.

So far I've managed to (mostly) hold off these cravings (I broke down one day last week and ate a bunch of chocolate chips right out of the bag, and proceeded to have a huge stomach ache). I want to get over the hump this time, if only to see what will happen if I make it. I'm 30, damnit, it's time to care about my physical health.

Any tips for keeping the motivation up even though there are no obvious results?

Friday, January 15, 2010

(Would Have Been) 13 Weeks

Today I would have been 13 weeks pregnant. The 2nd trimester (2T). The "safe zone", where the chances of a miscarriage go down drastically.

I've been having problems dealing with the loss this week for some reason. This week has been harder than every other week except the first one. I've been crying to DH pretty much every night about my confusion and my fears.

I wonder if it's because the 2T milestone was looming?

This was the last week that I had written on my calendar (each Friday started a new week, so I had weeks 6-13 marked down already). I tried to scratch the writing out but, of course, the scratches reminded me of what I was trying to cover up.

When I woke up this morning, realizing the date, I made the conscious decision that now is the time to try to make strides to move on. It's been a month, and I have felt grief like I never have. It's time to let go of that pain. I don't mean that I want to forget, because I never will. What I want to do is stop trying to figure out why it happened, what it means, and stop blaming myself.

I need to get my head back into a positive space now, especially since we will be starting to try again soon. I have been avoiding my therapist since the miscarriage occurred, and I think it's time to go back. I think it's time to let go of all the pain and negativity, and start focusing on what's to come.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

You Want Me to Do What?

I've been asked to give the keynote address at a local research conference!!

The conference is for all graduate students at my university. It's a one-day thing, where students from all disciplines share their research in either a talk or a poster. They always have a keynote speaker at the end of the conference, just before dinner.

A couple months ago, I received an email from one of the organizers, saying that he'd like to nominate me to give my talk about the Impostor Syndrome (I put together a workshop on this last summer, and gave it to the physics department in the Fall). Apparently, someone at the Teaching Support Centre (where I took the course which I created the workshop in), recommended me.

I told the guy I was interested, but didn't think anything much about it. Then, today, I get an email from the committee saying they have chosen my talk to be the keynote address!!

I don't know how many people will be there - maybe 100 or so? I'm so excited, and a bit nervous too! I mean last year, they had Jorge Cham (of PhD Comics fame)!! How am I going to live up to that?? (oh, hello impostor syndrome....old friend)

It's definitely a great opportunity though, and I'm sure it will open a lot of doors for me around the university. YAY!!!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Swimming: The Verdict

It's frickin' AWESOME!!!

Seriously. I sometimes feel like I might cry from happiness when I think about it. I was actually smiling while I was swimming.

Yesterday was the first time I've been swimming since...I don't even know when. I mean, I've been in pools/lakes/oceans/etc., but not specifically for swimming.

Armed with the advice of my amazing readers, I sauntered over to the pool in my apartment complex. After some confusion about how to get in to the building (I didn't realize I needed a swipe card, and then mine didn't work so I had to get our extra one), I found that I was the only one in there. So, I took off my sweatpants and sweater, and walked down the steps into the water.

I immediately felt at home. I had completely forgotten how much I love to just be in the water. I did a couple of laps using my not-so-professional version of the front crawl, and had to rest because I was so tired! I tried a bunch of different strokes, and decided my favorite is the backstroke (while keeping my arms underwater).

I swam around, did some running, and just puttered around enjoying myself. By the time I looked at the clock, 45 minutes had gone by, and I had no inclination to get out of the pool. This is definitely something I can see myself doing on a regular basis.

Hmm...do you think I could convince DH that we require a pool when we buy a house?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Back on the TTC Horse

I had another blood test last Monday, and the results show that my Beta levels are down where they should be. My cycle seems to be back on track already as well, so we'll probably be TTC again in the next month or so.

Half the time I'm excited about it - I'm excited to be PG again, and to bring our Baby G back. But the other half of the time I'm so scared. What if there is another miscarriage? And another and another? What if we have to endure multiple miscarriages? I know that it would be worth it if we could have a happy, healthy baby one day, but it's just so scary to think about going through.

I guess, though, that's the risk we have to be willing to take. Being parents is something we both want so badly, that we're willing to go through the pain and agony all over again. I guess the good thing is we know we can get through it, and come out stronger than before.

Anyway, that's where my head has been at recently. Going back and forth between the two. Most days are good now. I can even think and talk about the miscarriage, and be okay. But sometimes I just get overwhelmed and cry and think about what could have been (and what's to come), especially at milestone markers (this Friday, for example, I would be 13 weeks along - just entering the second trimester). Mostly though, I'm excited to get back in the game, moving toward having a family of our own.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Resolution Roadblock

One of my resolutions this year was to find some (fun, enjoyable) activities that I can do to get fit. For the last couple years I have wanted to start swimming.

I took swimming lessons when I was a kid, and got all the way up to maroon level. Which I failed. Twice, I believe. I stopped there because, apparently, that's what I do (what do you mean I didn't pass without practicing? Screw this!)

I haven't really done any swimming since then, but when I do get in a pool I enjoy doing laps. So, I figure this could be one activity I could at least try out this year.

The first step was to get a proper swimming suit. You know, to actually swim in, not to lie-on-a-beach in, or float-around-on-an-air-filled-mattress in. I bought one this week. I think it was the only thing at The Bay that wasn't on sale.

The second step is to, well, swim. The tricky part isn't finding a pool to use. Our apartment complex has a nice indoor pool, and the gym that I apparently have a membership with also has one (with lanes and everything).

The problem is getting over my anxiety of...sucking. I don't want to be the lame woman at the pool that has to resort to using the doggy-paddle, or one of those flutter boards, because I haven't been swimming in so long.

I also don't have goggles. Do many people use these? Will I look like a moron if I don't use them? What about a nose plug? And all that shaving...(was that TMI?)

Are you reading what I'm reading? Clearly these are all lame excuses. I need to just force myself to go, and hope that no one really gives a crap about what I'm doing or how I'm doing it.

So, Monday morning, about an hour after I have breakfast, I'm going to head to the gym and do this thing. I'm even going to put it in my day planner.

Hopefully I don't drown...

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Nothing makes me happier than this:

Figure 1: Alyssa kicks butt in the last week of the
blogger NFL pool (and comes in 4th overall).

Except maybe this:

I also have a part-time gig set up for February. I ended up chatting with the PI who offered me a post-doc (which I turned down), and she offered to have me work part-time for her. Since this would allow me to keep my finger in the research-pot and give me a chance to delve into another area of science, all while giving me the opportunity to still pursue my career in outreach and education (which she fully supports and is willing to help where she can), I jumped at the chance!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

2009 Books

One of my 2009 resolutions was to read one book per month. I managed to meet and even surpass this goal, and read 17 books. Here is the list from the most recent:

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
The Thirteenth Tale by Dianne Setterfield
Motherhood: The Elephant in the Laboratory by Emily Monosson
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
The Graduate by Charles Web
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Harvesting the Heart by Jodi Picoult
The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs
The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney
Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult
The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult
The Pact by Jodi Picoult

Apparently I read a lot of books by Jodi Picoult, but only one (The Pact) was really good. The others were interesting, but not nearly as good as My Sister's Keeper, for example, which I read in 2008.

I read three non-fiction books, all were informative. I especially enjoyed The Introvert Advantage, and recommend it to anyone who's an introvert or is in a relationship with one.

Books to skip from this list: The Graduate and The Handmaid's Tale.

The top three for me: The Cellist of Sarajevo, The Book of Negroes, and The Glass Castle.

I have a huge pile of books beside the bed and hope to get through 20-25 this year! What were your favorite and least favorite books of 2009?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2010 Resolutions

Last time I gave a summary of my 2009 resolutions. I did well on six out of ten, and three are long-term goals, so I figure I did pretty well! How will 2010 go? Here are my goals for the year:

1. Life Purge
I want to get rid of all the extraneous crap in my life. This means clearing out my closets, desk drawers, computer folders, Facebook friends, etc.. It also means not spending my time on things that are useless to me (watching TV shows that I don't even like, surfing the net because I'm bored, etc.).

2. Activity
Last year I did really crappy on my "be active" resolution. This year my goal will be a bit different. I want to find an activity (or a few) I really enjoy doing, that I can keep up during the year. I'm going to start with swimming and see how I like it. I might also try an adult jazz dance class.

3. Reading
I read 17 books in 2009, and also joined a book club. Let's see if I can hit the 20-25 mark this year!

4. Career
I want to further my career in education and outreach. Ideally, I'd like to have a full-time position in this area this year, but I also want to make contacts with others in the field, try my hand at fundraising, and give more talks/workshops/etc.

5. Home
Let's buy a house this year! To add to that: let's host Christmas in our new house too.

6. Confidence
I know this was on my list last year, but it's something that I so want (and need) to work on. This can also encompass being better at confrontations and not taking things personally, two other resolutions from last year. I think if I gain confidence, the others will follow.

7. Anger
This is something new that I've been working on with my therapist, and something that I know needs to change. It bugs me when I get angry at the dumbest things, mostly beyond my control. It hurts me, and it hurts my relationship with DH. Another work in progress, but I hope to make big strides with this in 2010.

8. Social life
We need to have more fun! I'd like DH and I to find some fun things to do together, and for us to get out and enjoy life more. We're young, damnit - now is the time to do it!

9. Knitting
I'd like to graduate from a beginner level. I'd like to learn some new techniques, do a non-trivial project (purse or sweater - or both!) and maybe even take a class or join a group.

10. Family
Although this is mostly out of my control, I hope we can get pregnant again very soon and have a baby by the end of the year (or shortly thereafter). It sounds kind of strange to have it as a resolution, but this one is more of a dream than anything. It's what I want most in the world right now.

So, there we have it! I'll post them in the right hand column for the year, and update along the way. Here's to big changes in 2010!

Monday, January 4, 2010

2009 Resolution Summary

At the beginning of last year I decided to make a list of 10 resolutions/goals for the year. That way, if I only did 7 of them, it's a 70% success rate! Plus, I made them of different degrees of difficulty: some were for-sure things (going on a trip), while others will be years in the making (be better at confrontations). Here is the list, and how I have done:

1. Find a hobby
I took up knitting! So far I have finished a scarf and a toque. I've also been working on a baby blanket, but it's taking me forever. I hope to finish it up in the next month or so though. I'm also working on a scarf to match my toque. I find this to be a satisfying hobby, since it takes a decent amount of time, but I get something cool at the end that I can actually use.

I also decided that reading (see #3) is also a hobby. I will keep both of these up in 2010.

2. Be more active
This never goes as well as I hope. I tend to be active in waves: sometimes I'm doing a ton of stuff, other times I'm sitting on my ass watching way too much TV. This year, I plan on making more specific resolutions regarding this, in hopes that it will help.

3. Keep reading (1 book/month)
I kicked this resolution's ass! I ended up meeting and surpassing this goal, and read 17 books this year. I also joined a book club with three other ladies. Stay tuned for a summary of the books I read in 2009. This year, I'll be upping the ante.

4. Better at confrontations
This is one of those goals that is hard to measure. I know I have gotten better in the sense that I don't feel as guilty if I get into an argument or confrontation with someone. However, I still avoid these situations way more than I should (and then get pissed off later). A work in progress for sure.

5. Research career options
I have definitely done well on this one. Early on in the year I decided that my career path will be education and outreach. Since finishing my PhD, I have been researching these options a bit more and have made many contacts the past few months at the university. Hopefully something will pan out from all of it.

6. Journal more
I wasn't doing well at the beginning of the year, but I wrote in my journal almost every day on our trip to South America. Since then I've been writing more - perhaps once a week or so. It's tough because I tend to use this blog as a journal, but it would be nice to write more often.

7. Try not to take things so personally
Like #4, this is a work in progress. I don't think I did as well with this as I did with the confrontations one. I tend to take things personally even when I know they weren't meant that way. This also plays in to #8 - the worse I feel about myself, the more I take things personally.

8. Confidence and self-esteem
Another hard-to-measure goal, but it's coming along. I would really like to stop hating my body so much (especially after the recent miscarriage), but I have a feeling that #2 up there has a lot to do with that.

9. Finish and defend my PhD
Done and done! Thank God that's over!

10. Travel to Chicago.
Well, I didn't do this, but we ended up going to South America, so I figure that counts!

So, that's six that I definitely did well on. Since three are more long-term goals, I figure that's pretty good. That whole "getting active" thing is really screwing up my record! Stay tuned for a list of my 2010 resolutions.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2009 in Review

DH and I got back from our Christmas vacation last night. It was nice to visit with family and friends, and it gave us some much needed time away from home. But, it's definitely great to be back!

2009 has been one exciting year for us! There has been a number of big changes, with still more to come. Here is a review of the past year:

The Big 3-0: I turned 30 in March, and instead of being a scary or sad time, it was actually quite liberating!

Career direction: I (finally) decided what I want to do when I grow up. Education and outreach is my passion! Now I just need to find a job...

The PhD thesis: I spent much time worrying about my thesis defense (hence why it was the second most popular subject I blogged about in 2009), but got it done on July 20th!

Dream vacation: two weeks after finishing my PhD, DH and I went on a dream vacation to Brazil and Peru in August.

Comin' out: after a year of blogging pseudonymously, I "came out" and now blog under my real name.

Published author: two papers from my PhD thesis were accepted and published in 2009.

Paper anniversary: DH and I celebrated our first year of marriage on September 13th.

Settling down: after much anguish and waiting, DH took a permanent position right here in London at the end of September. He got his first ever car too!

Comet: to commemorate my PhD, I got another tattoo in October.

Try, try again: DH and I started "trying" in the fall, and found out we were pregnant in mid-November. Unfortunately, we lost the pregnancy about 8.5 weeks in. Not a great way to end the year, but we hope 2010 will bring us more luck in this department.

Well, I think those were the major happenings in our lives over the past 12 months! It has been an amazingly crazy year, with many ups and downs, but we made it through and are excited to see what 2010 holds for us: a house? a job that I love? perhaps a baby? what else?

Happy 2010!!!