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Monday, January 30, 2012

Got me thinking

Cloud over at Wandering Scientist had a lot of really great links to share a few days ago. A couple of them have brought back some terrible memories and emotions from my early 20s. I have written about it, but not sure if I will post it. It's terribly personal, and I don't know if I want it all out there.

Now I feel like I'm stuck a bit in a cloud of darkness. I look at the girls around the university and wonder how many of them were taken advantage of over the weekend. I look at all the guys and wonder how many of them took advantage of a girl on the weekend, or how many of them called a girl a bitch for saying no to a drink or to a dance.

It makes me think of all the things everyone on this planet must have gone through, be going through, and I wonder how the weight of it all doesn't make the Earth implode on itself.

Like Alice, I'm just happy I'm old enough to be practically invisible. I can go for a walk, to the mall, or out for coffee without worrying about what might be said to me (positive or negative). In my late-20s, I mourned the loss of this, but now I relish in it. I am free.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sharing

We were at Evan's doctor earlier this week, and they have this awesome train set. He was the only kid playing with it, so of course he was playing with all the trains (there were 4 or 5 of them). Another kid about the same age came over a few minutes later. We gave the kid 2 of the trains, but of course Evan wanted to take them back. The other kid let him and didn't complain.

I know this is how kids this age play, but I couldn't help feeling bad about Evan taking the kid's trains away. So, I pulled out the "Evan, we should share" card, knowing damn well he doesn't know what this means. We kept giving the other kid a train or two, but Evan kept trying to take them back.

Eventually, we took him away from the table because I didn't want the other kid (and mom) to get upset. Unfortunately, but expectantly, Evan did get upset. Of course he did! He was happily playing and did not get why we were taking him away from the toys.

I know that we did this because we were embarrassed, even though we know it's normal. We didn't want to be the parents of the "bully" or the "selfish one" - that we had to show the other parents we're trying to mold Evan into a perfect child with perfect manners.

I hate doing that - just hate it. I mean, every parent knows (or should know) that kids this age don't get sharing, so why can't we just let them play the way they want to without trying to shove our ideals of how to play "properly" down their throats (as long as no one is getting really upset or physically hurt)?

Interestingly enough, about 10 minutes later a group of four older kids were playing with the train set (Evan was playing with it again at this time because the other kid left). They came, took trains from Evan, and it was all fine. Evan just played in his own corner, and so did the other kids.

The mom of those kids didn't say a thing about "sharing" or anything - she just let them play, so did we, and everyone was happy. Perhaps being a mother of 4, she knew there was no point saying anything, or perhaps she was just tired - either way, I think I have a thing or two to learn from someone like her!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Book Review: Secret Daughter

My first book of 2012, and also a book club pick, was Secret Daughter by Shipli Somaya Gowda. A woman in India gives birth to a daughter, and is forced to give her up for adoption. A couple from the United States (husband is from India, wife is an American) adopts the little girl. The book intertwines the story of the birth parents, the adoptive parents, and the daughter.

This story goes from heartbreaking, to moving, to frustrating, to heart-warming. There seems to be a "coming of age" theme to it, even though the characters have a wide age range. The importance of family is definitely central to the story, as are love and hope.

I really enjoyed this book as I was reading it, but for some reason I didn't have a problem putting it down for long stretches. Has anyone else read this book and felt the same way? I can't put my finger on it.

For that reason, I'm giving the book a 3.5/5.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Good

One of my 2012 resolutions is to be more thankful about our life. The year did not start out well in this regard, with me going through a mini-depression the first week of January. After my parents left, all I could think about was how far away we are from our families and how much that sucks.

But, after being back at work for a couple weeks and getting back to normal life, I'm feeling better about things. After all, there are a lot of great things about our life here:

- We both have really great jobs that we enjoy most of the time
- We both work in research groups that are renowned in their respective fields
- We can easily afford our four-bedroom house in a gorgeous, old neighborhood because the housing prices here are much lower than many other cities in Canada
- We absolutely adore Evan's daycare
- There aren't many places in Canada that have a shorter or more mild winter (BC obviously has better weather in this regard, though I don't know if I could deal with the constant rain)
- We're within driving distance of lots of cool places for weekend getaways or longer vacations

The two things that aren't great right now are: 1) absolutely no family nearby (both our families are small and everyone lives out west) and 2) not many close friends.

Most of the friends we made during graduate school have left the city. I suppose that's one of the perils of staying in the city where you did graduate school: most people end up leaving to get jobs elsewhere. This seems to be a common problem of people in our age group. It's just plain tough to make close friends as you get older. Maybe that's just how it goes: unless you stay in the same place for a long time where you already have a group of friends, you just don't have close friends at this age.

I'm not sure if we can change these two things, if we just have to accept things how they are, or if these two things will outweigh all the good things here. Time will tell, and we're always keeping our options open.

Friday, January 20, 2012

15 Months

Yesterday, Evan turned 15 months. Nothing too exciting or dramatic has happened over the last month.


- He can stand on his own from sitting, and can stand for long periods of time. No walking yet though**...he might be a late bloomer like his mom (I didn't walk until I was 17 months).

- He's cutting his eye teeth right now, so that will bring him to a total of eight (six on top, two on the bottom).

- Apparently him, another boy, and a girl in their room are all lovey for each other. They give each other kisses and feed each other.

- One of his favorite games is to play "Simon Says" - he'll try to get us to do things, like put our arms above our heads or clap.

- Speaking of clapping: I don't think this boy will have an issue with self-confidence or needing reassurance or praise...he claps for himself all the time!

**To prove me wrong, he took his first steps tonight!! (Jan. 20th)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Back Tracking

Evan has this weird thing where he'll achieve a milestone and then he won't do it for weeks or even a month or two. He's done this with rolling over, crawling, and more recently with talking and standing without support.

I'm not sure if this is an issue or anything - we haven't really asked Evan's doctor about it. We think it's mostly just a comfort thing. He tries things a few times, but then goes back to what he's comfortable with (this was definitely the case when he was transitioning from army crawling to crawling on all-fours).

Back at the end of November, we were so excited because he waved at us and said "hi" a number of times. He then added to his vocabulary with "no" and using "mama" and "dada" in context more and more. But, then he completely stopped a couple weeks later. Just this past weekend he's started saying real words again, and has added "bye" along with certain sounds for things ("ba" for ball, "key" for kitty, "mo" for more).

Is this weird, or did anyone else have a child that did this?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Slow Going

About a year ago, I started off on a journey...a knitting journey.

When I heard other knitters talk about how long afghans take, I just thought maybe they were choosing really difficult projects. I could find a pattern that looked really cool, but use simple knitting techniques, so it would go faster. Woolly Thoughts have a lot of patterns that are based on mathematics - so definitely look cool - but use basic knit and purl stitching. Perfect!

Here's how far I've gotten in a year:

Fig. 1: The pathetic amount of knitting I've done in the last 12 months.

Two full pieces (of eight) are complete and I'm working on the third. Not great, considering it's been 12 months and I've done no other knitting. Plus, the only reason those two pieces are fully complete is that my mom weaved in the ends for me over Christmas (thanks Mom!).

One of my resolutions this year is to finish this afghan. In order to do that, I'm going to put myself on a timeline. I'll even be incredibly reasonable about it. Here is the schedule I'd like to follow:

3rd piece: Feb. 15th
4th piece: Mar. 31st
5th piece: May 15th
6th piece: June 30th
7th piece: Aug. 15th
8th piece: Sept. 30
Put 8 pieces together: Dec. 31st

I'm even putting the deadlines in my calendar. That should be easily doable, right? RIGHT?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Grant Success!!

We got news yesterday that a grant that my supervisor and I applied for got funded!!

The money will be used for a new outreach initiative that we came up with last summer. It will include developing new workshops and creating a web-based activity for grade 6, 9, and 12 students (primarily, as those are the grades where space science is part of the curriculum).

I'm so excited! This is the first grant application that I've submitted that has been successful. Plus, the group had applied for this grant twice in the past, but hasn't been successful until now. That makes me feel like I've been making an important contribution to the program.

Question, though: only my supervisor's name is on the grant. Can I still put it on my CV?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Appointments: What's the Point?

The last four appointments we've made with Evan's doctor needed to be cancelled and rescheduled. We always try to make appointments either at the beginning of the day, so we don't miss too much work, but by the time we get the call that they have to be rescheduled, only mid-day times are available.

I don't get this...what's the point of making an appointment in advance if they're just going to be changed anyway? It reminds me of that scene in Seinfeld about the car reservations:


Monday, January 9, 2012

Why Doing a PhD Might be a Waste of Time

I've mentioned this before, but one of my few regrets in life was forcing myself to finish my PhD even though I knew 6 months in to it that I hated what I was doing and did not want to continue in academia. I often reflect upon my time as a PhD student as a waste of time, and that I could easily be doing what I'm doing now with "just" a master's degree.

I often get a terrible feeling in my stomach when I hear someone is entering into a PhD program...especially if they say they're doing it because they don't know what else to do with their life at the moment. I want to yell "DON'T DO IT!!!" at the top of my lungs, and go into the myriad of reasons why they should, at the very least, think twice about it.

The other day, DH was telling me about an article in The Economist about just that (Doctoral Degrees: The Disposable Academic (why doing a PhD is a waste of time)). This article does a wonderful job of explaining those reasons. DH and I agree that this side of the story is rarely written about, so I wanted to share some of the highlights:

- There is a HUGE oversupply of PhD students. Even if someone really, really, REALLY wants to be a tenured professor, there are so few of these jobs out there that the chances of finding one is ridiculously small.

- PhDs are trained for academia, not industry...so your skill set is shit if you "can't" (or don't want) an academic job.
- "PhD courses are so specialized that university careers offices struggle to assist graduates looking for jobs, and supervisors tend to have little interest in students who are leaving academia."

- "...the skills learned in the course of a PhD can be readily acquired through much shorter courses."

- "Writing lab reports, giving academic presentations and conducting six-month literature reviews can be surprisingly unhelpful in a world where technical knowledge has to be assimilated quickly and presented simply to a wide audience."
- "The fiercest critics compare research doctorates to Ponzi or pyramid schemes." Universities love cheap labour. Graduate students and post-docs are cheap, will work long hours, and are disposable. "In Canada 80% of postdocs earn $38,600 or less per year before tax—the average salary of a construction worker." (who, by the way, has not spent years and mucho $$ educating themselves for their job).

- "A PhD may offer no financial benefit over a master’s degree. It can even reduce earnings." An interesting example explains how, 30 years ago, physicists were being hired in the financial sector because of their training in advanced calculus, but that is no longer competitive when MBA students can take one such course AND have the requisite business and financial training. Though, the article does note that a PhD in medicine, the sciences, and business can be beneficial over having a masters...by 3%.

- As I stated above, a lot of students continue to the PhD because they don't know what else to do, or are doing it because "they love it". It's even easier to press the ol' snooze alarm on life when stipends are available (being paid to learn seems attractive, even though the going-rate is abysmal). " But there are penalties, as well as benefits, to staying at university. Workers with “surplus schooling”—more education than a job requires—are likely to be less satisfied, less productive and more likely to say they are going to leave their jobs."

- Yes, the pursuit of knowledge is important for society, but "doing a PhD may still be a bad choice for an individual." because "The interests of academics and universities on the one hand and PhD students on the other are not well aligned."

- Students enter graduate school with a naive and idealistic view that universities are dedicated to training the best and brightest, and actually care about the future of their graduate students.
Few realize that the system is fully designed to benefit others.

The article is definitely worth a read - it's nice to hear a more realistic (albeit, fairly negative) viewpoint of the academic world, rather than the one we all hear when being wooed by professors who want more graduate students.

Friday, January 6, 2012

2012 Resolutions

I didn't do too badly on my 2011 resolutions - 6 for 10 (that's about the going rate with my yearly goals). Here are my goals for 2012 - 12 of them this year:

1. 20 books + review
In 2011, I managed to read 15 books even when I was at home with Evan for the first 6 months. I figure I can bump this goal back up to 20. As per last year, I'll also rate and review each book on the blog.

2. Finish afghan
I was pretty disappointed with my level of commitment to my knitting in 2011. I really enjoy it, and I want to dedicate more time to it. So, my hope is I can at least finish my afghan (which is 1/4 complete) that I started a year ago.

3. Re-evaluate financial portfolio
We put a good portion of money in mutual funds and such a couple years ago, we have our rainy-day savings account, and we have started an education fund for Evan. Some things aren't growing as well as they could be. Now that we both have full-time jobs, we have an opportunity to move some things around and reassess our plan.

4. Be more thankful, stop complaining
We met with a friend of ours over Christmas and, during our conversation, I couldn't help noticing how negative DH and I are about our lives. It's a bit sad, considering we're actually doing very well. So, we need to shut up about it, appreciate the things we have, and not focus on what we don't have.

5. Work on "big plan"
I have an idea on how I can eventually make a living working for myself. This year, I'd like to do some research on the logistics and legalities of this plan to see if it's viable.

6. Try two new recipes per month, and take a baking or cooking class
I really enjoyed my cooking goal last year, so this year I'm upping the ante to try more recipes and to get some additional training.

7. Incorporate strength training
I always have fitness goals, and they always fall flat, but I refuse to let it go. This year, it's going to be more specific. I have issues with my neck and shoulders, and have for a few years. The only time the pain has subsided was when I was working with a personal trainer in the months before our wedding. I want to consistently do exercises for my neck and shoulders to help with this.

8. Monthly date nights
DH and I need to have time to ourselves. It's tough, since we don't have family in town who can help out with Evan. But, I think it's important for our relationship and our sanity to spend some one-on-one time together. We have our January date-night set up already!

9. Be more assertive/take-charge at work
This includes (yet again) getting better at confrontations. In general though, I need to remind myself that I get to make the final call on a lot of decisions, and I can't make everyone happy all the time (and that's okay). It might be good for me to take a class on personnel management.

10. Keep up with deep cleaning
We have cleaners come in every two weeks, which is a great way for us to buy time to do other things. They only do surface cleaning though, unless we want to pay extra. We have been awful at doing deeper cleaning. This year, I'd like to stay on top of it.

11. Fix up front patio and do landscaping in front yard
Our front patio looks pretty horrid. The paint is all faded and chipping, and the color of the deck (red) and ceiling (brown) is not great. There are bushes in front of the patio that aren't to our liking. DH will most likely take a week off in the spring and spruce up this area of our home.

12. Less TV and internet
Every year I put this down, and every year I fail. I don't care though, because I know how important it is to stop wasting my time! I have all these other things I want to do (see resolutions above), and I can't do them if I'm spending my time mindlessly watching TV or surfing the net.

You can read how I am doing on my resolutions page!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

2011 Resolution Recap

At the beginning of 2011, I made 10 resolutions - or goals as I like to call them. Throughout the year, I updated my resolutions page so I could keep track of how things were going. So, how did I do?

Reading: 12-15 books and doing a book review for each
I read 15 books, and wrote a review for each one. You can see what I read and check out the links to each review on my books page.

Knitting: make a sweater, an afghan, and these slippers
I didn't do too well on this one. I did start an afghan and am 1/4 of the way done...and that's all. I'm disappointed in this, because I really enjoy knitting but clearly I didn't carve out enough time for it. I'm going to work on this in 2012.

Activity: find ways to get off my butt, especially when home with Evan
Evan and I took swimming lessons in the spring...and that's about it. I did sign up for kayaking lessons, but they were cancelled. I also tried to start biking more, but that fell through. I'm really, really awful about incorporating exercise into my life, but I know this is something that I need desperately to work on. I need to be more healthy, and this is a big part of it.

Social Mom: join a mom's group or get together with other mothers
I think I did pretty well with this while I was at home with Evan. I didn't join any groups, but I got together with other moms at least 1-2 times per week.

Ask for what I want: at work and at home
✖+ This is an ongoing issue - I do expect people to read my mind, especially DH. I think I made a bit of progress this year, but not as much as I would have liked. These types of goals are also hard to quantify, since it's really something one works on over a life time.

Pumping: until at least 6 months, exclusively if possible
I pumped until Evan was almost 7 months old - for the last month or so, he was on both breast milk and formula as I weened myself. I think that was quite the accomplishment!

Internet/TV addiction: only watch TV shows I want to watch, and only go on the internet when I have something specific to do.
I did horribly on this one. I am a self-confessed TV and internet addict. It is not cool. I waste a lot of time, especially in the evenings, bumming around on the net. We are fairly good at only watching TV shows we like, but we apparently like a lot of shows.

Experiment with cooking/baking: try a new recipe at least once a month.
I tried 16 new recipes this year - some were great and are now part of our regular rotation (like the cream soups), some were a bust (like the turkey soup). I quite enjoyed this resolution!
- Jan. 9th: Banana bread
- Feb. 21st: Cream of broccoli soup
- Mar. 13th: Cheddar Gourgeres
- Apr. 13th: Fresh Pear and Curry Pasta
- Apr. 22nd: Crunchy Chicken
- Apr. 24th: Lemon Bars
- May 20th: Double-baked fries
- June 3rd: BBQ Ribs
- Aug. 7th: Neapolitan pizza
- Aug. 28th: Cedar Plank Salmon
- Aug. 30th: Spinach and Ricotta Mac & Cheese
- Oct. 5th: Turkey Soup
- Oct. 23rd: Potato and Leek Soup
- Oct. 27th: Mexican Style Shredded Pork
- Nov. 27th: Sugar Cookies
- Dec. 11th: Chocolate Chip Cookies

Get some style: reclaim my sense of style - at least before I start working again!
I had a wonderful experience with a personal stylist, and I wrote about it in a series of five posts back in May! I got a different haircut, which I still love, since I can style it in three different ways pretty easily. I love the feeling that I look put together - it still gives me a confidence boost, and I just find it fun!

Great-grandmother visit in May
Evan and I took a trip to Saskatchewan and Alberta to visit with both my grandmothers. They loved meeting him, and the trip was awesome!

So, the final tally is 6, 3 , and 1 ✖+ (I made an effort, but it's an ongoing change I need to work on). Not bad!

Stay tuned for my 2012 resolutions!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

Hi everyone!! I hope your Christmas/winter holidays were wonderful, and that you're enjoying 2012 so far!

Our time off was wonderful - it was so nice having my parents here, and Evan just loved being the centre of attention of four adults. We didn't do anything extraordinary during their visit, but perhaps that's exactly what family time is all about. We talked, played cards, ate, went out here and there, and were constantly entertained by Evan. He was really into the gift opening this year, so Christmas morning was amazingly fun.

Fig. 1: Ripping into one of his gifts!

He has even started walking with a walking toy, and we can tell he really wants to try walking on his own, so we'll see how long it takes before he's running around the house like a crazy person!

Fig. 2: Evan with his new truck, which he can either walk with or ride on. He loves it. Thanks, grandma and grandpa!

Is it just me, or do other people get post-Christmas blues? I find it sad to take down the decorations and lights, and to say goodbye to family and friends. It's like all the happiness and magic of the holidays transitions into weeks or months of bleary, grey, winter. Everyone goes back to life as normal, back to the grind, back to the same-old. It always puts me in a bit of a funk. This year seems to be particularly bad - I've just had this overwhelming sadness sweep over me from time to time over the past few days.

That being said, the time off was nice, but I think we're all ready to get back to our usual routine. Evan thrives on it, and we basically lost it during the past two weeks. I'm sure the daycare staff will be having to correct quite a few routine slips this week!

How were your holidays?