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Stepping back

This week was one in which I ceded a lot of control. I like control. I like to micromanage. I like to be responsible, needed, necessary, and in a leadership position. I have always had a very hard time giving any of this up – just ask my poor vice-president when I was running my high school’s student council. He had many zany ideas. I firmly squelched all of them. I have regretting not letting him test his wings at least a few times for years now, but it also took me years to think I’d likely made a mistake in how I’d handled him.

Bygones, here’s what happened this week:

  • My lab did field work for a day. Post-field, we had to process some samples for a collaborator, while everything we will use got tossed in the -80 freezer. I had to leave, so I left my team to prep the samples. I felt guilty, mainly because it had been a long day for all of us already.
  • The following day, I set my team up to clean up our sampling equipment, which involves a lot of very tedious pumping of bleach solutions back and forth between carboys and through tubing, followed by endless rinses. I had back-to-back meetings all day, so left them to do it. I felt guilty, but also none of my supervisors would have been present for this – it is the right sort of thing to be delegating.
  • I sent a very rough draft of a paper to my student, as I have asked her to make a figure for it. I have never sent such an unpolished piece of work to anyone, let alone a mentee, and it was really hard for me to do it. But she needs to see the content, and, frankly, I need some help with this paper. So I sucked it up, explained the rationale of the various sections and notes to myself in italic, asked for her input and edits, and sent it.
  • I left on Wednesday night, drove to Quintessential College Town in Upstate Nearby State, spent a full day at Ivied University meeting with very interesting and preeminent scientists, gave a talk in the late afternoon, had a brief but interesting “meet the speaker” happy hour, and drove the ~5 hours back home, arriving at 11 pm on Thursday night. I was gone for 27 hours, the longest I have been away from Spud in his lifetime. It was my first overnight trip, and Pea’s first night with Spud on his own*. I did not feel guilty, but only because I was too stressed and worried, and because I had wedged this trip into as small a timeline as possible, to be home for at least one of the two bed times.

All this in a week feels like a lot of stepping back. I’ve been massively over-subscribed lately, so something had to give. I need to be able to let my students explore and test things, that is their job. Pea is a fully competent parent, and while I love the connection of nursing, I do also need to be able to be away from Spud periodically.

I’m writing this post to avoid writing this paper, so I’m going to wrap up and force some more hen-pecking in that file.


* It went ok, although an hour of hysterical screaming from 3-4 am is not ideal under any circumstances. Spud slept from 8 pm-2, and from 4-8, so it wasn’t a total write-off of a night. Pea didn’t go to bed until past 1 am, because he lives a charmed life of sleep, and did not realize how absolutely shitty it feels to be woken up one hour into your sleep cycle. He has a renewed appreciation for why I get panicky when Spud reintroduces an 11-12-1 ish wake-up, because they really are the most disruptive. Also, last night, Spud went down without a fuss with a sippy cup of milk after his bath, slept 8-6:15, and 6:30-8:40, making his unexpectedly-rested parents both late for work, as we had not set alarms (but dearly needed the sleep). It is possible a boob-less night has done wonders for our mild sleep training initiative this week! Spud was also gratifying pleased to see me this morning.


Microblog Mondays: fieldwork

 My lab goes into the field tomorrow, for our annual sampling expedition to our main field site. It is important that it go well, but I am significantly less stressed about it having already done it once.

Last year, I was putting hard hats together at midnight*, and feeling generally vomity. Had I my decade of training to revisit, I would have ensured the first time I did field work wasn’t also the first time I was in charge of field work, at a new site, with my research program riding on its success. We were successful, so that was good, if fraught. I am getting better and better at faking it til I make it (with all appropriate safety training and emergency contact forms in hand).

This year we have some new things in mind, but the basics at the site are the same. The weather promises to be fair. My students are excited. I am excited. Steel-toed boots, hard hats, and microbes galore, here we come!

* it turns out hard hats come in five pieces. Who knew? Certainly not me this time last year.

Have you had a chance to try something again, after being intimidated the first time? Did it go better or worse than you imagined?

Conversations with Pea* part the next

Me: ok, so tomorrow morning I will wake you up after Spud has been napping for 45 min, which will give us time to get ready and then we can toss him in the car when he wakes up.**

Pea: dubiously ok

Me: I will bring you coffee when I come to wake you up!

Pea: brightening ooooh! You are so great!

Me: well, yes. But also I have learned that if I do not bring coffee, you will spend 45 minutes rolling around in bed saying things like “I’m up!”, “I’m so ready!”, and “look at me, I’m already in the car I’m so ready”.

Pea: aggrieved tone I’m doing my best!

Me: amused I know. It is just sometimes you end up under more of the covers in your efforts.

Pea: well, that’s what happens when you explore.


Pea baked me an apple pie today. I haven’t had pie in a long time, with this dairy and soy restriction. He made a lard-based crust! Twice, as the first time something went catastrophically wrong. We’re not sure what, as the same recipe the second time was lovely, if hard to work with. Pea used apples we had picked a few weeks ago, so it really was as home-made as you can get.

Apple pie is my very favourite food. Pea is my very favourite person***. Today was a good day!

* fun fact, my phone’s suggestion for a word after “conversations” is “with Pea” 🙂
** ha ha ha ha ha OR Spud will refuse a nap for an hour straight, I will wake up Pea to consult, we will decide to get ready super fast and toss Spud in the car to nap, as that will mean we are only a little bit late rather than perilously late for our friends. Spud will nap for a cool 22 minutes, and will otherwise pretend this never happened. He’s on a pretty predictable schedule with two 1:45-2hr naps a day, right up until we plan something around that schedule. Best laid plans and babies are a rocky mix.

*** today was Pea’s morning with Spud, so he got up and I slept in. Pea baked bread for the week, harvested all of our green tomatoes in the high winds of an October storm, wrangled Spud while I was out, did a bajillion dishes, and made me a pie. I did the week’s laundry, bought groceries, made dinner, made granola, wrangled Spud when Pea was busy, and did Spud’s bath and bedtime. We both finished our various to-dos at about 10:30 pm. But to be fair, everyone was still in pajamas at noon, and both boys were asleep (I was writing a paper). 

Friday the 13th

I have been Friday the 13th’d. It is my only explanation for a day that has involved:

  • no fewer than eight last-minute requests to edit fellowship applications, all of which I had previously said I could look at if sent in reasonable time. They are all due Monday in final form, leaving not much time for revisions even if I get them back today (which I will have because my students are my priority, even if they infuriate me)
  • being deeply and comprehensively man-splained as to what the problem with my regulator on a gas tank was, despite me being very aware what the problem with my gas tank was, and that it had nothing at all to do with the regulator
    • Being mansplained AGAIN when we met the second time, after an email was sent that explained the issue to a technician who is going to come fix it as a “small leak”, to which I had to reply-all stating “the tank is stuck open, it is not a small leak, if the regulator is removed, the tank will explosively empty”. I did not bold the word explosively, but…
    • Being amplified by the second man at this second meeting about the tank, who understood the issue, and explained it to the first man, who then, I kid you not, explained it to me*
  • Forgetting cutlery for my lunch, which means I’ve been eating mashed potatoes using coffee stir sticks as chopsticks, ineffectively


Pea and I have wised up a bit around dinner prep, and at least tonight both a salad and BBQ burgers are already made, thanks to our new policy of making at least two meals worth of anything we prep. So tonight might be better. Also we have wine at home.

* both men had to ask me if I was the professor of the lab. My fault in part for not introducing myself, but also my fault for not being an older male.**

** I will say that the second man was eye-rolling about as hard as I was through that final explanation

Microblog Mondays: thankful 

 It is Canuckian Thanksgiving today. Pea and I stayed home this weekend, and we forgot to get groceries before the stores were closed, so we’re having leftover steak fried rice for dinner, which is itself a compilation of leftovers. Sooo fancy! We’ve had a weekend of mucking out the gardens for winter, hiking with friends, dinner with friends, and a bit of shopping with a girlfriend for me.

I have been reflecting on my thankfulness today. I’m so thankful for our current chaotic delightful life. I’m thankful for friends and family. I’m thankful that 2017 has thus far been substantially less of a garbage fire than 2016, from a personal perspective at least. I’m thankful for the steak fried rice, to be honest. It is tasty and filling and abundant, and I am looking forward to it tonight.
I’m not going to ask what you are thankful for, but take a minute and think of a few things! Research shows it leads to higher resilience and happier selves.

Recommendations welcome

I want to write a blog post, and I have had ten minutes free, but I am really tired and I’ve written three different disjointed and formless entries. I’m giving up, and instead crowdsourcing new entertainments.

On this, the Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend, please to share the best movie you’ve seen recently and the best book you’ve read.

Happy (Canuckian) Thanksgiving, all.


Deep breaths

I feel like I am spinning this week. Working on seventy things and completing none of them. Each new email is a new to do, some of them big.

Fall is always like this, it is grant season. Add to it that I’m trying to be  rigorous  with my pumping schedule – always 3x at work, regardless of how busy I am – and that Spud has started sleeping in 3-4 hour chunks again, and I’m more frazzled than I’d like to be.

I have to keep reminding myself that I am making progress. I’m submitting two grants this week. I’m a co-PI on two more, also due. I have field work next week that I’m prepping for, which will set the stage for the next era of research in my lab. Things are happening. The day to day admin is (mostly) getting done.

And, crucially, Thursday and Friday are my most open days, so salvaging some of the other 67 projects can still happen.