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. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

radio silence

I listen to the news in the morning, while I'm making breakfast and lunches and getting ready for the day. My house is small, the sound from my kitchen radio reaches the entire house. This morning was sad. Israel and Gaza and I can't turn it off, because this my connection to the world. The tagline of my local NPR station especially caught my ear today: Bringing the world home to you.

I listen in the morning, in the car on the way to work, and I listen when I get home. It's on when I'm cooking dinner, it's on but lower when Lena and I eat together, and it's on when I do the dishes. (Why oh why are there always dishes to do?) I always learn something, I'm always connected.

But tonight, I can't hear any more of this. Bodies on beaches. Aircrafts shot down. I'm leaving the dishes in the sink. I will treat L and myself to dinner. We'll walk, because it is gorgeous outside.

It's confusing to think about having the luxury to turn off the radio. Because things are so far away, that that's all it takes. This feels like it's getting closer though, and I'm not sure how to deal with it. Turn off the news, and go outside? But how lucky I am to be able to do that. Ugh. I'm just so confused. So much beauty, so much ugliness.

Friday, July 11, 2014


I’d forgotten how much I appreciate Max, until he walks (saunters? flounces? bounds? leaps?) back into my life. He talks about our kids’ summer camp as if it were a prison. 

“I keep telling David to look for Lena,” he says. “But I’m not sure if they’re let out into the yard at the same time.”

A new good friend is turning 40, and I’m going out with her to celebrate. Our kids are a month apart, and good friends. I am immeasurably lucky in that I love Jenny as a person. Despite over a decade in age difference, we are some of the same. Figuring out how to be parents, how to deal with daughters. We recommend each other books, meet at the pool.

But Max. Max flops down on my bed without asking. Opens drawers and cabinets and my fridge. Stops by my house with pie and comic books. Max calls, keeps calling, and forgives. Max is twenty-something. He doesn't know what he wants to do, really. He’s still a dreamer. He's lost, but he doesn't care. He's in limbo. He doesn't have a mortgage. He’s just Max. 

Max and I have never been in love with each other at the same time. Sometimes I wish this wasn't the case. But most of the time I don’t. I don’t want to have to give up another best friend. 

High school, when pops taught max and me to ride motorcycles.