Friday, August 29, 2014


I'm an up and down kind of person. The highs are high, the lows are low. It's not DSM worthy highs, not clinically depressed lows, but I don't seem to just have "bad" days and "good" days. Days are REALLY REALLY GREAT or really really horrible. Like last week I heard that I won another fellowship, and then this week I spilled coffee over everything in my car, so I just threw everything out on my driveway and cried in the front seat while Lena waited patiently and confused on the front porch for me to open the door.

Lab work is kind of the same. I never have run of the mill productive days, I just get these waves of malaise and unproductivity, and then suddenly everything clicks and I am incredibly productive.

I talk to my dad a lot about all of this; the good and bad days, and the productivity thing. His response is always the same, "you just need to work on being even-keeled." Last night, he brought L back to our house at 7 because I was having a VERY PRODUCTIVE as well as GREAT day and needed to ride the wave, and I articulated this to him, again. Then, for the first time he says to me, "Well, that's just the way you are, and you should just go with it."

It's that self-acceptance theme. The stop-giving-yourself-a-hard-time theme. The gotta-be-me theme. I can't express how thankful I am that I am in a place that forgives me the time of figuring this all out.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

touching the tree

My favoritest english teacher turned mentor turned friend turned ex-boyfriend's friend turned my friend still, thankfully, recited this poem on the first day of class and I was amazed by it. (Was constantly amazed by this teacher.) He recites it to all his classes, the first day of school, and I used to text him my favorite line (the walls are painted white to be better?) as a way of wishing him a happy first day of school.

I dropped off a little bit, grad school wears on the more tenuous friendships, but then also makes them stronger.

I got a text this morning (the second day of school!) saying "I have dug a cave for a lion...remember me?"

How could I forget.

Touching the tree

W.S. Merwin

Faces are bending over me asking why

they do not live here they do not know anything
there is a black river beyond the buildings
watching everything from one side
it is moving while I touch the tree

the black river says no my father says no
my mother says no in the streets they say nothing
they walk past one at a time in hats
with their heads down
it is wrong to answer them through the green fence
the street cars go by singing to themselves I am iron
the broom seller goes past in the sound of grass
by the tree touching the tree I hear the tree
I walk with the tree
we talk without anything

come late echoes of ferries chains whistles
tires on the avenue wires humming among windows
words flying out of rooms
the stones of the wall are painted white to be better
but at the foot of the tree in the fluttering light
I have dug a cave for a lion
a lion cave so that the cave will be there
among the roots waiting
when the lion comes to the tree

Friday, August 22, 2014

back to school

Last night was meet the teacher night at L's new school. Her teacher let them choose their seats. L chose the seat the farthest away from the front. I don't think it's because she understands the connotations of seat choice, it's only first grade after all; instead, she wanted to be near the fish tank. 


My PI has two kids, and one is almost one year old. I ask to hold her all the time, and I always thought people are so dumb when they say "kids they grow up so fast" but I look at Lena and see these legs and arms and thoughts and choices and ideas and how did she grow up so fast?

Thursday, August 21, 2014


the director of my program's name is doug, and every time i type it out i add an 'h' so it's 'dough' (like literally i did it just then.)

so then every time i type it i say to myself in a will shortz voice (from the weekend puzzler on npr) "what common name, when you add an extra consonant changes the name to a common noun, and silences the final syllable?"


i lose like 5 minutes whenever i have to email this person. also i am incredibly entertained by myself.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

comfort during a storm

Last night we had another wave of storms come through. This was a big, slow moving doozy. There wasn't that much rain, there wasn't that much wind, but it just seemed like there was thunder and lightning for hours.

Lena was scared. Like, really scared. It was annoying and frustrating. She gets this super whiny voice and does this really pathetic screechy-yelp thing whenever there was a thunder clap that just bugs the crap out of me. I tried to brush off her fear; we started playing the game "thunder" or "neighbors taking in their garbage cans over a gravel driveway." That helped because one time I really think it was the neighbor, but the rest of the time it was thunder.

Around 7, thankfully after dinner and dishes, the power flickered, then went out. Lena lost it completely. I tried to leave her in bed to go find flashlights and things, and despite the fact that the diameter of my house is literally like 10 feet (It's not literally like 10 feet, it's literally like 50 feet but you know what I mean) she couldn't be anywhere but by my side. I rushed us into pajamas, forced my shivering whining kid to go to the bathroom, and got us snuggled into bed. It was dark, she was scared, and she fell asleep within minutes.

I stayed up longer, until after the storm. I turned off all the already-off-lights, I tried flipping the circuit breakers (one neighbor had power), and I read by the window for a while. I tried to sleep, but instead watched the flickering headlamps of the power people outside my bedroom window. (A branch fell on a transformer, and knocked the power out for four houses on our street.) I love the silence of the house when the power is out, but thankfully around 11, the power came back on, and I was able to fall asleep with sweet sweet cool air coming into my room, with the hum of the air conditioning unit outside of my window.

L woke up early (she went to bed at 7:30, after all) and when I finally dragged myself out of bed, I found this note on the table next to me.

This kid. I mean seriously. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

August. School starts in a week and that means it's fellowship season!

Last year was my second year applying for the NSF GRFP (I applied the year before I started grad school), and I received the award. I think I spent more time scouring the internet for advice re: doing the application than you know, actually doing it, but I found it really helpful. A really great compilation of advice and essays can be found here.

Quick background on me: Biology major with a shitty GPA (3.2), acceptable GRE scores, and at time of receiving the award, in the University Program for Genetics and Genomics at Duke University. I worked for three years as a technician before starting grad school, with one first author pub and a couple other mid author pubs, annnnnnd I am a single parent. So I might be what you call an "unconventional" grad student.  

Here is my personal statement (relevant background, future goals), here is my research proposal, and here is my reviewer feedback.

The only piece of uniformly useful advice I can add is start early and get a ton of feedback from as many people as possible. Work on a narrative in your essays. I think so much of this process is random luck. I think it's important to remember that this is a fellowship, not a grant proposal.

That's all I have! (That's a total lie. I have so much more unsolicited advice. If you're feeling solicitous (or am I using that the wrong way?) you can feel free to find me on twitter, or some similar method of communication.) Hope it helps!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

the luckiests.

I was on vacation for two weeks, and I had a ton of blog posts I planned to catch up on--finding my home lab, Lena losing her first tooth. Instead, the Internet here has been so intermittent, frustratingly slow and ghostly, so I've been forced to be present. Which of course, is exactly what I needed.