Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The list

Now that the big adrenalin rush of "Birth 1" (as I've been calling it, i.e. general exam) is over, I now am faced with the unusual prospect of f.r.e.e.t.i.m.e. before "Birth 2" (small human). That is until bedrest is ordered.

I had made several appointments (dentist, car stuff, etc) for this week thinking bedrest was imminent, but may not be. So, what's a girl to do?! I haven't had this kind of time-off since right before I went back to school in 2005. In essence, now is the time to do all that organizing and throwing out of stuff that we basically shoved into closets when we first moved in. And hopefully get rid of a lot of stuff.

- clean desk/office (why is this always at the top of the list?) (basically done)
- new phone (done)
- finish baby room (almost done)
- organize hall closet (done)
- organize upstairs hall closet (done)
- organize downstairs bathroom closet (done)
- take books to bookseller (done)
- organize pantry shelves
- clean out trunk (done)
- organize kitchen cupboards
- organize office closet
- organize journal article stash (ugh...don't even know where to begin on this as it'll require new file cabinet. Best leave this at the end of the list.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Academic marathon

Dear blog,

I'm sorry to neglect you. I don't mean to, but all my writing energy is being expended elsewhere right now. I'm taking a moment now to document this point in life so I won't forget it.

On Oct 20 I started my general exam. I'd been prepping for it since July. What this means is a grand synthesis of my subject area, boiled down as written responses to 3 questions. I cover about 70-80 papers and book chapters, and then some. The final document will be around 100 pages, which my committee of 4 will read. Then they'll ask me questions about it and the papers I've covered in an oral defense that's about a 2 hour process. This is the hardest part of a Ph.D. program. Once you're through generals, you're considered a doctoral candidate, and you just have a dissertation to go (which is rigorous, but not nearly as demanding as the exam). I don't know if that's how the exam is at every school, but I think so.

At the moment, I am more or less done with question 1, and yesterday I started question 2. I will work on question 2 for another 10 days or so, then I'll hopefully be ready for question 3. That's how my timeline is constructed anyway. I am trying to turn my exam in to my committee by Wed before Thanksgiving, and I'm hoping to defend it by Dec 6. Will I make this deadline? I'm cautiously optimistic.

What makes me nervous is that I'm really pushing to be done before I get to my 33rd week of pregnancy, as that's about the time when I went on bedrest last time. The deadline is very real. However, as I keep telling myself, if I don't make it by then, the world will not end. I can finish my exam after the baby arrives and I return to schoolwork. I am taking 6 months off, but will go nutso if I don't have something intellectually meaty to do. In any case, things like this work themselves out. But it would be really really good to be done before my leave.

Also, I don't want to rush things and not be ready for the defense. This is where people fail. I know 2 people who failed. It's not pretty, though both of them were able to address the committee's specific concerns and get through it. (Actually, I don't know if person 2 has had a chance to do this yet, but I assume she'll be okay. She's very smart.) It would just really suck to fail. It would take the wind out of my sails right before going on leave, when I'll naturally take a mental hiatus. Scary.

All I can do is keep plugging away, keep focused on the immediate part of my writing, and take chunks out of each response every day. I have about 40 pages written already. Easy does it. (Well, maybe not easy...slow and steady?)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Future Mountaineer?

Yesterday, August and I went on a hike up to Twin Falls in the Snoqualmie area. I'd read it's not a difficult hike, but there is some elevation gain (and loss, and gain again) after starting as a mostly flat trail. I figured we'd just go as far as she could take. Every time I asked her if she'd like to take a break, have some water, snack, etc, she simply said "no thanks" and we kept going. I worked up a pretty good sweat...I certainly didn't want to stop for a break if she didn't! She did the entire hike, up and down, rocky terrain, 3 miles round-trip overall.

Along the way, we saw lots of kids...some of them older than her being carried in backpacks, or stopping for a rest. Several adults were huffing and puffing up the switchbacks. A number of people on the trail remarked about her stamina.

It's hard for me to believe she's only 3. We are again reminded that she is very physically able + stong-willed/focused kid.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Pony, Montana

Saturday, August 21st
We arrived at the cabin in Pony later in the day than we expected. The drive from Spokane to Pony was abut 7 hours or so, including the hour for lunch and several stops for bathroom/drinks. Driving in to Pony was a surprise. I didn't know what to expect, but I guess I didn't expect the town to be nestled at the foot of some beautiful grassy hills -- but then again it is at the edge of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge Forest. It's easy to see how Richard Hugo, and later Frances, were both inspired to write here. Its stunning surroundings and fascinating ghosttown-iness are food for the imagination.

The cabin itself is quite big room, with two bedrooms, a bathroom and laundry room off of it. The hot tub reminds me of hillbillies -- a large wooden barrel with a stove attached. Just behind the cabin is the creek (I think it's the North Willow Creek), giving the cabin continuous background music of running water.

The cabin has stone-composite tiled floors and the thickest towels I've ever felt. August's room has a twin bed with a trundle underneath, and Ray and I's room has a saggy doublebed -- we roll toward the middle when we're both laying down.

Waiting for us were a loaf of fresh homebaked wheat bread and some wrapped packages of elk meat and deer sausage in the fridge.

Sunday, August 22nd
After a leisurely morning (deer sausage scramble for breakfast!) we head south to Ennis to find the "real" grocery store, since the one in nearest town Harrison is not much more than a convenience store. Most of the way there (26 miles) we wonder if it'll even be open, given it's Sunday. Thankfully it is, and we wander around filling our cart with cabin-meal staples.

In the afternoon, we walk through Pony. The old 2-story brick bank building (now abandoned) is at the end of our block, where it intersects with the main drag. We walk down the street, past the only really thriving business in Pony -- the Pony Bar. We see people! We continue on to the antique store (open Sun - Wed, 12-5) and pick up a couple curios. Then back to the cabin to play, make dinner, and possibly try out the hot tub barrel. Ooops, rain storm -- we'll attempt it some other night.

Monday, August 23rd

On today's agenda are the Lewis and Clark Caverns, and then the Museum of the Rockies at MSU in Bozeman.

Today's big learnin'...August can go HOURS without using a bathroom. We decided against the 2 hour hike through the caverns because of the lack of potty, and then she refused to use ANY potty until we were back at the cabin hours later. Seriously--6 hours sans toilet. That can't be healthy. Anyway, back at the Caverns we walked through the visitors' center, watched the movie about the Caverns, and did a micro-hike and picnic in the woods. Got some great pictures from way up in the hills looking down toward the Jefferson River.

About 30 miles east was Bozeman and the Museum of the Rockies. The dinosaurs were pretty darn cool, though we were a bit confused about the Triceratops...both Ray and I had vague recollections about reading/hearing something recently "debunking" it in some way. Hmmm...oh, Wikipedia--. Anyway, August liked the museum okay, but was more interested in things like the "furry ropes" and standing on platforms than any of the exhibits. We also watched the "Dinosaur Chronicles" movie, which ranked "scawy" in her book.

Tuesday, August 24th
Stayed "close to home" today by driving down to Virginia City...which I had vague recollections of visiting as a child. On the way there, we had some excitement (according to small person) by witnessing an overturned cement truck. The town itself is a pretty cute Western-style town, with lots of stores preserved from the 1800s heydays, and some horse-drawn carriages to boot. We had lunch and walked around, and then let August pick out a few pieces of candy at the candy store. Thrills!

After driving back to the cabin for a nap, August and I drove up to the trail behind Pony. On our drive up, a small black bear ran out in front of the car…and since I was driving slow he ran way ahead of us for a bit, then ducked into the forest. Cool. We walked a little ways up the trail, which paralleled the creek for a bit, and took us up through grassy and rocky terrain with some brush a trees here and there. August tuckered out pretty quickly.

After dinner, we finally tried out the hillbilly hot tub...which took eons to heat up. August and Ray loved it. Me, the cold water lover, was too cold (must be a first/pregnancy thing).

Wednesday, August 25th
Big day today -- we drove down to Yellowstone, about 1.5 hours south of us. We first stopped in at the Wolf and Grizzly Discovery Center in West Yellowstone (not sure it was worth the $10.50 each), then drove into the park. Had a picnic and a wade in the Madison River, then drove to see the geysers...impressive blues and oranges. Then to Old Faithful, the visitors' center, watched the Yellowstone movie, snack, and back to see Old Faithful blow again. We picked up a little wolf for August, which was quickly adopted as a near-equal to Teddybear (!), and a little black bear for baby bro. On our drive back, we got several nice views of roaming bison, and some distant elk. Long, hot day, but absolutely worth it.

Thursday, August 26th

After our long Yellowstone day, we stayed close to home again…spent the morning up at the trail at the edge of the Forest, and came across some cowboys packing up to head into the forest to repair a dam. There was one guy on a horse, leading 3 other pack horses, and then two other guys on dirt bikes. Real deal cowboys, and surely infamous Pony bar regulars. Rugged. Then we drove around Pony a bit, back to the cabin for lunch, nap. Walked to the little picnic park in Pony, took more pictures and back before dinner and packing. Nice easy day before big drive out of Montana.

Friday, August 27th
Loaded up the car and left by 10 am. Drove all day, and once again (like several other days) August refused to use any bathroom, demonstrating impressive bladder skills (again, like 6 hours!). Arrived in Spokane and at hotel, and had a much appreciated swim. Dinner at Perkins...interesting. Our waitress seemed to be running the whole place, with a smile on her face. Big tip.

Saturday, August 28th
One more swim, breakfast, and on the road...we're ready to come home.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mid-_____ crisis

Today it hit me...I'm having a mid-general exam/grad school/what should I do with my life crisis. It's left me feeling unmotivated and tired. I just want to lay on the couch and watch Top Chef.

But I can't. Niggling at the back of my mind is the reality that I have about 70 papers to get through in the next two months. The reading schedule is tight and there's not a lot of room to dilly-dally. What's made it so hard is that I'm reading very broadly initially and then more narrowly later. I planned my reading this way because I hadn't yet decided how I wanted to focus my exam. Now I'm realizing that I'm making the entire exam prep much more difficult as I have to read much more (and much more thoroughly) than I would if I knew exactly where this process is taking me.

I've decided to take the next day or so and read ahead to the more narrow papers I've selected. What I'm looking for is an idea or set of ideas that will trigger the "that's it! that's where I want to go for my dissertation!" The problem is, I've set up some criteria that makes this not so easy: 1) I must be enthusiastic about it, 2) it must lead to a greater goal that will impact rehabilitation in some way, rather than just some esoteric line of research that's light years away from clinical application and 3) it must be feasible, i.e. I don't want to explore an impossible question that's difficult to test.

Here's what I know so far: I want to explore cognitive aspects of aphasia. I'm especially interested in non-linguistic cognitive functions which support language production. I think attention is interesting, but it's hard to test (does not meet #3). Working memory is a more concrete cognitive function that incorporates attention, but I don't know what about it I'd want to test (not sure about #1). There's also short-term memory, which relates to the processing aspects of smaller components of language, but that literature gets a bit tedious (in my experience so far). However, it would tie into my mentor's work beautifully, and the models of short-term memory are very highly regarded. It would be a solid foundation. I'm also interested in visuospatial aspects, but it's too far removed from anything clinical (#2), as well as inhibition and decay during cognitive processing, but that gets into the priming literature that I'm not that fond of (#1).

What I want to happen is to read some specific aphasia/cog function papers in the next day or so, and remind myself what I find really exciting. There is not much worse than forcing yourself to read reams on a topic that's no fun. In my book, if the study isn't fun most of the time, then it's not worth it to do a PhD. And there are so many topics I find interesting...I just need to land on one of them. Once I find my focus, it'll be much easier to drink from the proverbial firehose.

Okay, here goes.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Save for posterity

Not many things come to mind when I think of what I'd hate to lose (inanimate object-wise) in a fire or disaster. I have this wood airplane propeller that I'd like to keep around, and some artwork, and photos that aren't uploaded to Snapfish. But what I really want to preserve for all time...the music from our wedding. Specifically, the mix that we played right after our ceremony.

We had a small wedding, only about 50 people or so, and it really was more like a cocktail party on Lake Union with a ceremony in the middle of it. The only live music performed was my brother singing Ave Maria before the vows-n-stuff. Now that I wish I had a recording of...but maybe I can ask him to sing it for me some other time. Anyway, we (mostly me) put together a mix of songs for after the ceremony that is still my favorite "mixed tape" to this day, partly because it's a good mixture of Ray and me. I've often worried about the cd going missing, or of my computer getting stolen and poof! the mix is gone. I know there are more sophisticated ways of preserving this mix, but for now, it's gonna be in list form.

Maui -- Iz (Israel Kamakawiwo'oe)
Heroes -- David Bowie
Guantanamera -- unknown (borrowed from Brad & Enrique's wedding mix)
More Than This -- Bryan Ferry
Love is All -- Jimmy Cliff
In Your Eyes -- Peter Gabriel
He'eia -- Hapa
Portland, Oregon -- Loretta Lynn & Jack White
Etoile -- Alicia Dara
Island of Wonders -- Nelly Furtado
Selma -- 3 Mustaphas 3
Alone Again -- Love
I Gotta Woman -- Ray Charles
Sweet Sensation -- UB40
I'm in Love with a Girl -- Big Star
The Floating Bed -- Elliot Goldenthal (Frida Soundtrack)
Happy Together (in French) -- Turtles cover
Wild Horses -- Sundays
Time Tough -- Toots and the Maytals

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Sahara of creativity

In the last several months, I've thought often about how little I've posted to my blog...and how little I have to say here. It's not that I don't want to post, but I am creatively barren for the time being. It's seems all my energy is going into keeping my head above water while navigating the school and toddler-rearing rivers. And let me tell you, these are some strong currents and white water. Exhausting.

So...I guess I'll continue to do my most creative writing in my manuscript (now in hack-and-edit mode, as I've got to trim 7 pages for journal submission) and in organizing my calendar. Lame, but necessary.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Photo of the day

Monday, May 31, 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

Better than counting sheep

I can't tell you how many nights I've put myself to sleep imagining these schematics!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter and Zoo

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Break project

It's spring break this week. I've put my manuscript to bed (let's call it a long nap) for 5 days so I can tackle something entirely different: the house. Actually, the basement is the primary focus of my attention. By the end of the day on Friday I would like to have done the following:

1. Clear out the junk in the rec room, or at least sort it into an orderly-ish pile in the middle of the room.
2. Purchase paint and other supplies.
3. Buy dining room table.

4. Prep room for painting, i.e. tape off
5. Prime and paint the basement

6. Paint the basement

7. Install shelving
8. Buy cabinet for basement
9. Organize stuff on shelves, in cabinet

Here's what I have to work with...trying to not hyperventilate...


Mission: complete

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

New house, same problem

Yesterday marked the four-month anniversary of us moving into our new house. Almost every day I say to Ray, "I can't believe this is our house!" and with good reason. It was a durn lucky find (no, make that ridiculously lucky find) in our price range, and luckier still that the legal mess surrounding the house dissipated through the course of closing. Miraculous really.

So last November we moved in to this beautifully preserved 1920s brick Tudor, more than 3 times the size of our former home. Lucky ducks! Yet, four months later, why does the house feel like we're still living in 1000 sq feet? I noticed last night that many surfaces of our main living space, the main floor, is piled with books, art projects, toys. There is always an item or two of toddler sized clothing on the living room floor, and toddler sized pajamas crammed next to pillows on the couch. Package of diaper wipes on the coffee table. The dining room does not yet have a dining table, but instead is the parking garage for the ride-on-top firetruck, the tricycle, the trains, and the doll stroller. Our kitchen table, where we eat most of our meals, seems to permanently keep glasses and napkins from the previous meal.

Since we're not in a position to give our child away, and we are (mostly) responsible adults, this has got to stop. We have closets now, cupboards, a basement for godsake! We have places to put all this stuff if we just took the time to do it. Granted, weekdays are a flurry of activity from dawn to dusk and beyond, but if I could just carve out a few minutes to get a grip on our house, it would make a difference. Neither Ray nor I like clutter, but somehow we're overtaken by the idea that we're too exhausted to pick up. To be honest, Ray does more than his share, but as for me...I cry foul! Suck it up, you slacker!

This morning, I sort of had a some time when I didn't have to study, so I've been picking up, reorganizing cupboards that we hastily loaded when we first moved in, and trying to make sense of the mess. Now if I could just stop writing about the problem, and get back to it...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010


This has been an interesting week. Very interesting. I say this gratefully, as this week should have been dreadful. "Devastating" even. But it wasn't, and that's what's made it interesting.

A week ago I was 10 weeks pregnant and suspicious that things weren't all well. I laid low per doctor's orders on Monday, and had an ultrasound on Tuesday. It confirmed our suspicions--the pregnancy was a no go. It seems embryonic development stopped at about 6 weeks, even though I continued to feel pregnant through last week.

Since then, I've been thinking a lot, as one does when one goes through a traumatic physical and emotional event, but my thinking has been more about my reaction to the event rather than the event itself. Curious. I even worked out an equation, as geeky as that sounds, to try to figure out my reaction. Here's why:

Aside from the physical symptoms, I feel emotionally as if I've just spent several days crying. I feel emotionally spent. However, I have not cried, nor do I think I will. It's as if I'm having all the biological responses of grief, but few of the actual feelings of grief. I think it's because I was very aware of the high rate of miscarriage, and maybe knew on some deeper level that this pregnancy wasn't going to happen. And I think it also has to do with my inherent perspective on reproduction.

I think grief after a miscarriage has two components: one is hormonal and the other is cognitive/emotional. While I'm experiencing all the hormonal responses, I guess I had a relatively small percentage of cognitive/emotional investment in the pregnancy. My body is doing some kind of biological grieving (a mid-brain response?), my conscious mind is a little disappointed, but otherwise okay.

A lot of this probably has to do with my decision to have children in the first place. A co-worker and I used to laugh about our differences: when she saw a baby she'd have an immediate tug-tug of the heart. I'd have a similar response to dogs, but not babies. My decision to have a child was maybe more cognitive and less biologically driven than other people. I've never felt a yearning for a baby, and I can't say I've ever felt the biological clock ticking.

I love my child (and will love any subsequent child, if it's meant to be) as much as the next parent. But I can also envision my life very differently, without children, a faster-track career, lots and lots of travel, more writing. It's not that the other life is more or less appealing, it's just another life, one that I chose against. And if we do not have another child, elements of that other life might be part of my life as it unfolds in the next few years as my child grows and becomes more independent. We'll see.

Ultimately, I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity for a life that fits me so well, to have choices about the experiences I'm interested in, even if some of those experiences aren't as biologically hardwired as the next mom or mom-to-be. And I'm betting that lots of other women feel like me, though it doesn't really fit into the stereotype of our gender.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

School lunch

Ray and I were reminiscing about school lunches over dinner this evening. Actually, reminiscing might not be the right word, as some of the lunch selections from elementary school were suspect at best. For example, Ray described "taco burgers" where the school was too cheap to buy taco shells or tortillas, so instead slapped some ground taco meat, cheese and lettuce on a bun. ("Oh, we had was called Sloppy Joe's." "No, not Sloppy Joe's...we had that too, but the taco burger was different.") He also described a cubed-turkey curry dish that sounded worse.

I'm thankful we had neither of these selections in our school. I often longed to buy school lunches since I brought my lunch most days. However, when it was chili and cinnamon roll day ("Huh?! Chili and cinnamon rolls? I don't get it.") I would sometimes persuade my mom to give me the .75 or whatever to buy lunch. Chili and cinnamon roll day was the be-all end-all of tasty school lunchtime.

Anyway, all this reminded me of lunchtime during middle school. After eating in the cafeteria, which doubled as the stage in the auditorium, we would walk around the 1st floor halls in one big circuit. We'd pass by this tiny school store. Out of this little sliding window you could buy maybe 3 kinds of candy, pepperoni sticks, and I think pens, pencils and peechees, but that's it. Classmate John R. worked at the store at lunchtime, and it was a well-known fact that he'd hand out pepperoni sticks to his friends. I think he had a lot of friends at lunchtime.

Anyway, at the end of the year, whichever teacher was in charge of the store figured out that the pepperoni supplies just didn't match up with pepperoni sales. John reportedly had to pay back more than a thousand dollars in lost pepperoni profits.

I wonder if John R. is still embarrassed by this middle-school misstep, or if this was the beginning of a career of white-collar crime.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A rare opportunity

It's mid-quarter, which means I should be in the thick of it. Today is a rare exception: I've finished my take-home midterm for stats (due tomorrow), and I'm waiting to talk to my study's originator before moving forward on my manuscript. Sure there are journal articles to be read and writing to be done, but I haven't had a break since before we moved 3 months ago. Christmas was a break in a way, but when there's a toddler about, it's not actually a break.

(Did you hear all that rationalizing going on? I'm feeling guilty...but I will persevere!)

So here I am, Monday morning, with a "personal day" plot in my head:

1. Leisurely get ready for the day. Write blog post. Make bed--maybe lay in it a bit first.

2. Take bus downtown. Go to Le Panier. Drink coffee. Read 1 journal article. (Ooops--how'd that get in there!)

3. Wander around. Buy 1 or 2 cheap interesting things. Eat something somewhere.

4. Go see The Young Victoria at 1:25 pm. Possibly eat movie popcorn (gasp!).

5. Bus home. Pick up toddler.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

There are worse jobs

That title makes it sound like I'm making a comparison to my job, which isn't the case. I love my job--it's the best job I've ever had. But today I really felt for a woman who really has a crappy job.

I was taking the bus home from school today, which always involves a transfer downtown. I had about 3 blocks to walk, which I did quickly as it was raining cats and dogs, as it had been all day. A woman was standing on the corner at 1st (no, not that kind of woman!), adorned in gortex and big rubber boots. "Hi, how are you today!" she basically yelled at me cheerily.

"Wet," I said. Then I saw she was holding a water-proof clipboard type contraption.

Thankfully she saw I was sans-umbrella and practically running to the bus stop, so she didn't proceed with her survey, petition, fundraising request, or whatever it is someone pays her to do standing on the street with a waterproof clipboard.

But can you imagine? She'd probably been in that exact location for hours, in the rain, having to maintain a cheerful attitude, and identify the few (if any) pedestrians who might be inclined to stop and talk in the pouring rain. Ugh. I sure hope this wasn't a commission-only job.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy 2004!

I'm having a hard time grasping the beginning of a new decade. What the heck? What happened to the Aughts (is this how it's spelled?). I seriously feel like it should be about 2004, my real age is 28, and I'm planning a fabulous vacation to Sienna.

But in real life, we're a day away from starting winter quarter, I'm 28+10, and I've got a few things I'd like to accomplish in 2010. In one word (each), my new year's resolutions are:

I'm planning on eating more vegetables, and enjoying it. Ray started us off by making some amazing "mac-i-roni" (as August calls it) with butternut squash. It was delicioso.

I'm planning on letting go of both the petty worries and things I cannot change. I have already experienced some success with this and it's only day 2 of the new year.

I'm planning on going back to my old morning routine. Not having an 8 am class this quarter will help.

That's all I think. It's what I want to do. Let it all be done.