Of hopes, dreams, and women.


Here on this election day, I find myself thinking nearly constantly of my Aunt Marie*.

Aunt Marie was a woman with flaws. Our relationship was at times wonderful, difficult, and eventually, non-existent.

Aunt Marie was staunchly feminist. She offered no apologies. She was abrasive and impenetrable. She pushed people away with her harsh, unveiled opinions. She was judgemental.

She also cared deeply. For people of all colors and backgrounds. To her, that a child should be hungry was simply unacceptable. She fought against injustices that left children without clothing, shelter, and education.

She lived her life true to herself, even when it was impolite. Even when it was offensive.

Aunt Marie supported Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primaries. I supported Barack Obama. She did not try to hide her frustration with me. To her, it was time for a woman. It seemed to me that she was voting on that one issue – gender. I was 27. One of those young people who came out in force, inspired by the man who could be our Nation’s first black President.

I proudly voted for Obama in that primary and general election and have proudly supported him since. Aunt Marie proudly voted for Hillary Clinton in that primary and when her candidate did not win, she graciously put country before person and voted her conscience – for Obama.

Aunt Marie died unexpectedly in June of 2014. She was 66.

When Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders announced their candidacy what seems like a million years ago, I was adamantly against Clinton. I did not want to continue the Clinton/Bush oligarchy we’ve seen for so long. I was inspired by Sanders and his far left policies that spoke – and still speak – to me.

The eternal election season went on and over time I learned about Hillary Clinton – and Bernie Sanders. I learned, or maybe finally allowed myself to see, that Hillary Clinton truly is the most qualified candidate we have ever seen. Finally, at 35, I read more and thought more about the suffragist movement. I watched my daughter learn and grow and mimic things she has clearly learned from me. I watched her take in the world around her.

I listened. To Donald Trump and his supporters. To Hillary Clinton and her supporters. To Bernie Sanders and his supporters. I wrestled. When my state’s caucus finally rolled around, I cast my (absentee) vote for Hillary Clinton.

And I thought of my Aunt Marie.

I can’t stop thinking of Aunt Marie. I can’t stop thinking of my little girl. I can’t stop thinking of the little girl I used to be and the older woman I will be before long.

My feminism has grown with me. It is stronger now than it was when I was 27, though thinking back I know that it has always been a part of me. My parents raised me a feminist. My Aunt Marie, from 500 miles away, raised me a feminist. I am raising my daughter a feminist.

I feel my feminism so deeply now. It is visceral.

Make no mistake – I voted for Hillary Clinton because she is a woman. Proudly. I also voted for Hillary Clinton because she stands for every single one of us. Like my Aunt Marie, she will not accept a hungry child. A child whose basic needs are not met. It matters not to her whether that child was born in the United States. She doesn’t care about the color of the child’s skin or the choices the parents did or did not make. She fights for women. She feels her feminism deeply.

She is the President we need. One who will fight for all of us. Even if we didn’t support her. She will come back stronger and more powerful every single time she is knocked down, as she has always done.

She is the kind of person I want to be. The role model I want to be for my daughter.

And in her strength, her unwavering care and concern for others, her willingness to continually fight and not to blame, she is the role model my Aunt Marie wasn’t for me.

What would Aunt Marie say today, I wonder? Would Hillary Clinton and our feminism unite us again?

Today I voted for the women who couldn’t, the children who can’t, and for all of us. And I voted for my Aunt Marie.


*not her real name



Alternatives to Pinkwashing: 7 Ways to Show Support

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is upon us once again. This is the month to turn product packaging pink, to share “what color is your bra?” memes on Facebook, and to pay lip service to awareness.

October used to be my favorite month. The air turns cool, jeans and hoodies are in season again, and the leaves are colorful and crunchy underfoot.  Since being diagnosed with breast cancer at 28, though, I’m over Pinktober.

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 232,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2015. Of these, approximately 70,000 women and men are between the ages of 15 and 39 (Young Survival Coalition). Each of these women and men who are going through cancer treatment have family and friends – cosurvivors – who are going through it with them. So what can you do instead of pinkwashing? Some suggestions for helping the survivor, the cosurvivor, and the larger community:

  1. Just spend time with them: show up with a silly movie, a bottle of gatorade, and an easy-to-stomach dinner (or whatever they can keep down).
  2. Offer to do the practical things: shop for groceries, do the laundry, mow the lawn. These simple things can be a big burden to someone who doesn’t feel well, or the cosurvivors who find themselves having to keep up with all the household chores.
  3. Understand if they want to be alone, or don’t want to talk about it.
  4. Give the cosurvivor(s) a break. Many feel that they need to be with their loved one at all times, and don’t get the time they need to recharge. Show up and send them out for some alone time, or just give them a chance to sleep
  5. Offer rides to chemo and radiation.
  6. Donate to one of the many organizations providing practical support to families dealing with cancer treatment. Organizations like the Pink Daisy Project accept donations that are used for things like gas cards and grocery gift cards, helping families suffering from the financial burden associated with cancer treatment, exactly when they need it.
  7. Support organizations like the Young Survival Coalition that support individuals before, during, and after treatment and also advocate to the political and medical communities. The YSC is one of my personal favorites, since breast cancer in young women is often diagnosed later and may be more aggressive, but there are many wonderful organizations out there that put most of their funds directly into helping the people who need it.

As someone who has been there, remember that your loved one probably needs help with the practical things, but might also want things to be as normal as possible. Listen to her cry if she needs it, but don’t push if she doesn’t. Offering concrete suggestions, rather than just “what can I do” might be more helpful. She probably doesn’t want to be a burden – let her know she isn’t.

A Day in the Life

After some Twitter discussion the last few days over some less-than-glamorous aspects of life as a newish PI, The New PI suggested blogging about a day in the life. I’m at the start of year 4 and feel like I’m hitting my stride for the most part, though it’s taken a very long time to get to that point. I still have days (sometimes most days) that are nothing but what I call busy work – paperwork, red tape, meetings, struggle. Today wasn’t like that and it was nice!

So, although I forgot about it until reminded this evening, here’s a shot at my day.

6:00 – Alarm goes off. I prefer to start the day with a quiet cup of coffee before everyone wakes up, but today it was not to be. Hit snooze repeatedly.

6:30ish – Alarm still buzzing every few minutes, still happy snoozing. Until I hear the toddler’s doorknob. So much for quiet coffee. Get up and get toddler, head downstairs. Toddler wants to read a book so we do – three times (awesome book, btw). Then she’s ready for breakfast (“Igut? Igut? – yogurt) and I can make coffee.

7:15ish – 8:00 – Husband is up and showered, so I can do the same. Get myself ready, chase toddler around the house trying to get her ready. Go outside to look at rainbow. Go back inside to pour travel mug of coffee, grab toddler backpack, work bag, and jackets, and rush out the door.

We’re at daycare by 8:10 or so and getting the toddler into the classroom is a process. It goes well, but takes a long time.

8:20something – In the office, working through emails & morning news stuff. Put off working on IRB revisions as long as possible.

(sorry, you’re going to get lots of -somethings and -ishes since I didn’t actually keep track of time intervals today, what with forgetting about the blogging thing)

9:00ish – 10:20 – Finally dealt with IRB revisions. This involved mostly tweaking language to be exactly what they wanted (aka, hoop-jumping) and trying to reduce the reading level of the consent form. Also had to write an assent script for children too young to give written assent. Emailed off to the IRB and on to the next thing. Somewhere in here I also briefly chatted with a TA about grading stuff.

10:20 – 11:45 – Final touch-ups on a manuscript, which mostly include going back through reviewer comments from the last rejection (sadly, there have been a couple for this one) and making sure they’ve all been addressed well. Spent quite a lot of time looking for a journal to submit to, since it’s one of those papers that doesn’t obviously fit anywhere. During that stretch I was interrupted by a colleague who wanted to talk research design. A good 15 minutes or so of refreshing change. Finished up the revisions, picked a journal, and emailed the manuscript to coauthors.

11:45 – 1:30 – A rare break! Grabbed lunch, got a haircut, visited the husband at work, saw world’s cutest cross country ski boots and brought them home for toddler.

1:30 – 2:55 – Time split between a brief lit review for an upcoming proposal (for which I have a conference call tomorrow) and organizing myself for the week’s lab meeting.

3:00-4:15 – lab meeting. Discussed updates on current projects, upcoming conferences and seminars, and thesis ideas. Spent the second half of the meeting fleshing out details for one thesis with the whole group.

4:15 – 5:00 – A new results section landed in my inbox! Spent the rest of the day commenting on that and jotting down points for the discussion section.

5:00 – now (8:15) – Daycare pick up, played at the playground, home for dinner, played with and read to toddler, bedtime. Texted with collaborator over IRB  & data-sharing details – for a different project.

Usually this would be the end of my day. I don’t have much energy or desire to work in the evenings most days. But, I’m feeling underprepared for that conference call tomorrow morning, and it’s an early call, so I’ve got to spend some more time on that this evening.

A day like today, when big things get crossed off my to do list, feels really productive. It feels great to get a manuscript – especially that one – off my desk, even though the bulk of the work happened some time ago. Most days aren’t so writing-heavy, though I probably should make that happen more often. If I’d written this tomorrow instead the whole day would have been something like: meeting, teach, meeting, meeting, teach, meeting, crash.

So with that, I’m out. To get ready for the meetings and teaching to come tomorrow.

Year 4

Well hello, readers. Are any of you left?

Here we are in week 2 of my fourth year on the tenure track. If I had to sum up year 3 in one phrase, it would be “barely afloat.” Looking back on how hectic last year was, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I could do things better this time around. PsycGrrl recently posted two excellent pieces on her semester plan. I’m not sure I’m quite ready for that yet, but her posts did get me thinking about how I can approach this year differently than before. I’ll discuss the first of them here:

To Do Lists

Really, I’ve never been a list keeper. I used to joke to my students that there were two ways to know I was feeling overwhelmed. The first was a messy desk, and the second an actual, written to do list. The last time I said that my second-year grad student chuckled and said “your desk is always a mess.”

He just hadn’t spied the lists.

The truth is, overwhelmed seems to be a permanent state these days. Maybe it’s because I didn’t allow myself to adjust to parenting and the tenure track separately, jumping into both at the same time instead. Maybe it’s just faculty life, or life in general.

To do lists have always worked well for me at work (when I’ve used them), but I never really use them at home. Unfortunately, this overwhelmed state isn’t isolated to work anymore – it extends to home now, too. Parenting is exhausting. Sometimes after dealing with people at work all day (hello, teaching) it’s very hard for me to summon the energy to be a good parent in the evening. That leaves me exhausted by bedtime. Not my bedtime, the toddler’s bedtime. The last thing I want to do is the dishes, or the laundry, or vacuum, or pay bills, or….you get the idea. All I really want to do at 8 PM is get in bed. Every single night.

So, on Labor Day, I sat in my office trying to get things in order. The toddler has been sick for a week, which means my spouse and I both needed to find a way to spend a few days at home. I had actually planned to take Labor Day off but wound up working so I could take part of the day on Tuesday, instead. Taking a break from grant writing, I sat at my desk looking at the post-it notes with a million tasks, the pile of mail that needed to be opened, and the jeans I forgot my toddler had smeared yogurt on. What I really need/want, I decided, is a personal assistant. Since my budget isn’t likely to allow that…ever…I hit the internet to find an app that would do it for me.

I settled on Remember the Milk. One account is accessible from all of my devices, and will allow me to take advantage of those times when my brain is firing off random tasks without having to carry around a notepad. That means no more lists on my desk, my nightstand, my kitchen table, in my car, or wherever else. At least now they’re all in one place. Step 1 complete.

“Life” Tasks

Those home- and life-related tasks that I’ve had so much trouble motivating myself to do are popping up on my RTM lists, too. The app contains built-in categories for personal, study, and work tasks, and the ability to tag tasks for further organization. I set up a few recurring things – like opening mail and paying bills on Fridays – so that they can pop up on that day and I can focus on other things during the rest of the week. At home, I can let myself look at the personal category and ignore the rest.

At least now the dread associated with opening yet another medical bill can be isolated to one day a week.

Laundry, grocery shopping, and other tasks I tend to put off in favor of sleeping aren’t on there yet, but may make it eventually. For now I’ll stick to the essentials and see how it goes.

Staying Sane

A related thing I’m hoping RTM will help with is getting my brain off work things when I’m not at work. Hopefully, getting tasks written down in such an organized and accessible way will help me do that. Step 2, I discovered, is not allowing myself to look at the work category when I’m not actually working (unless it’s to record a task that just popped into my head).

Initial Thoughts

Yesterday (Tuesday) was my first day of actually managing my daily task list this way. I had only a half day at the office and a lot of stuff to get done in that time – much of which, like recommendation letters, I might have put off to another day. Having the list organized in this way, and watching the tasks disappear from the list when I marked them complete, did help the volume seem less overwhelming.

It remains to be seen whether this method will be better than my previously-preferred paper method, or better than the reminders app on my iPhone. So far it seems more functional than Reminders and, obviously, infinitely more functional than paper.

There is a full version of RTM for $25/year. I haven’t signed up for that yet, but might if I find that the free version has significantly improved my life and think the paid version would be worth the cash. I’ll report back (and set a reminder to do it!) with more thoughts as the semester goes on.

Another Post on Work/Life Balance

It’s the last night of spring break. Two weeks before the break my therapist strongly suggested I take the week entirely off work. Between ramped up research (with intensive data collection requiring my presence), a faculty search, increased service expectations in my third year, and…oh yeah…teaching, I haven’t taken much time for myself this semester and the stress has really been wearing on me. Usually I like having the break to catch up on writing with shorter days in the office, I decided to try taking the whole thing off.

I’m not sure it helped.

Today I spent some time weeding in the front yard while my toddler napped. My thoughts wandered to this concept of work/life balance again. Since starting my TT job I’ve prided myself on leaving work at the office – and leaving the office at a reasonable hour. I don’t go in on weekends unless I absolutely cannot avoid it. It helps that I was experiencing first trimester exhaustion when I started the job and couldn’t work at home in the evenings even if I wanted to.

Having a young child at home means I’m very focused on her in the evenings. It’s distressing to me if I miss dinner too often (let’s say, more than once a week) or if I have to miss bedtime. Some of this comes from my childhood – I remember my dad missing dinner a lot, or having dinner at 9 PM so that he would be home for it. He was always gone when I woke up in the morning and often had just arrived home when I went to bed. He didn’t make sporting events. He was department chair from my middle school years until after I started college, and worked extremely long hours during that time. When he was home, he was grouchy. That isn’t what I want for my child.

So, I don’t bring work home. I’m home by dinner (almost) all of the time. I try not to leave before she wakes up. More often than not, I do the daycare drop off and pick up. I’m home on weekends (while my husband works).

But today while I was weeding I wondered if my insistence on leaving work at work is helping – making me more efficient – or hurting. Would I feel the pressure less if I went back to the office after my toddler went to bed, or worked from home in the evenings?

Realistically, I don’t think so. First and foremost, I think my marriage would suffer. Evenings are the only time we get together, just the two of us. Second…damn I’m tired. I don’t really think the work I did at home in the evenings would be as good as what I do during the day.

Should I get up at 4:30 and work? I don’t know. Maybe.

Clearly I’m still on the steep part of the TT learning curve. Any tips for keeping work within “business hours” but being sufficiently productive and not losing your mind? I’m all ears over here.

Let’s Talk Anxiety Dreams

Last night I had a real doozy of an anxiety dream and it made me think of some others I’ve had in recent years.

In last night’s dream, I was teaching the core majors class I teach every semester. This semester is the 6th time I’ve taught it so it’s getting pretty dialed in. But in this dream, the chairs had been removed from the lecture hall and replaced with couches, so my students were all lounging while I was standing at the front teaching, and the stadium-style seating was gone so the people in the back couldn’t really see. Then, half way through the class/dream, my science class morphed into a swimming class. I started the class off with some really terrible jokes that were not even remotely funny, and then heard people coming in the door behind me (a different, new door that apparently lead out from the locker room). I’d forgotten I was being observed. And the observer was….my 92 year-old grandmother.

My grandmother settled herself down on a bench and I realized that if I was going to teach the day’s lesson well I was going to have to get in the pool and demonstrate, and I hadn’t shaved my armpits in like a month.

Mercilessly, I woke up before actually having to get in the pool.

Whenever I think about anxiety dreams I wind up thinking back to pregnancy. The strangest dreams of my life occurred during that first trimester.

(Possible trigger warning for fears of pregnancy loss)

I was so worried about miscarriage through most of my pregnancy, but especially during the first trimester. One of the clearest pregnancy symptoms I had was crazy dreams, and the other was extreme fatigue, which lead to lots of dreams. Throughout that whole trimester I had a recurring dream that I lost the pregnancy and would find a creepy little plastic baby randomly in different places. Just dreadful.

I’m not sure what exactly is causing this latest string of anxiety dreams, maybe it’s just the new semester. Whatever it is, I hope it stops soon.