Monthly Archives: September 2013

The day I forgot my light.

I forgot my light today.  Literally and metaphorically.

Literally:  I deal with persistent depression and as the days get rapidly shorter, my symptoms tend to worsen as a result of seasonal affective disorder (SAD– such an appropriate name).  As we head toward fall and the weather cools, the days quickly get shorter here in central Wisconsin.  And with every early nightfall, I can feel myself becoming more and more down.  Down in the dumps.

(Whew… I wrote that.  Depression.  I told you.  Sigh of relief.)

Last year, the brilliant nurse prescriber that I see to manage my symptoms (seriously love her– and I don’t mind paying for friends, whether they teach me pilates or prescribe me drugs) suggested that I get a light box to bring some sunshine into my life from October through April.  (Mexico helps too, but insurance doesn’t seem to get it.)  It makes a surprising difference!  Surprisingly gradual, yes… but that seems to be the nature of all things depression.

I intended to bring my light box to work with me this morning.  But I forgot.  Which presents issues for my metaphorical loss of light…

Metaphorically:  The down-in-the-dumps feeling pretty much feels just like that to me… like I came to work without my light.  My inner light (cheesy, I know)– the glow that fuels my smile and my general drive to a be a friendly, positive person; the person you want to read blog posts from.  That light… it’s dim.  Instead I want to sleep.  I want to hide.  I want to crawl back into my hole and shut out the world.

Depression is a silly thing like that.  (And don’t get upset– I know depression is not in fact silly, it is a serious issue, perhaps what I mean is more some combination of silly, weird, strange, abstract, I-don’t-know-what…)  I think it’s probably different to everyone who experiences it and for me, it’s totally a dampening of the light– never as quick as an an on/off switch or burnt out bulb.  More like a slow dimmer, the changing of the seasons and creep toward winter, the gradual graying of the bright orange charcoals in a fire pit.  So subtle that I have a hard time noticing at first… and it feels like all of the sudden, the tears come easy and the motivation to do even the things I love seems to have disappeared.

I love to read, but I don’t feel like picking out a new book.

My stomach is finally ready to run, but it seems like a lot of work to change my clothes and lace up my shoes. (But seriously, putting on a sports bra takes an annoying amount of work, don’t you think?)

There’s a new Parks and Rec on the DVR, but I’m afraid that I  won’t be able to laugh.

I have a Mexican vacation coming up in a week, but all I can think of are the stressors between then and now.  (Come on, brain!  Pina-freaking-coladas!!)

So many reasons to be happy (30 minutes of Leslie Knope on the DVR and 5 days of Melissa in Cabo!!), but my brain chemicals tell me NO.  And as much as I want the normalcy, the happy feelings, they allude me at the moment.

The light also keeps my second track in the shadows and lets me see past it, around it.  Without the light, the negative thoughts creep into my brain and around my heart and it takes so much work to remember that they are untrue.  The insidious black threads of negativity color my thoughts and my feelings… and even though they are superficial and meaningless, they are pervasive.

Too fat.  Too frizzy.  Too boring.  Not good enough.  Just give up.  Be sad.

But this time, I say NO.  Rationally, I know that I will get back to normal, I will be happy, and my light will be restored.  I just need to fan the flames by taking the steps I know help– bringing my light box to work, for example.

And this time, I’m also going to try sharing this with you.  Because it’s true that misery loves company, and as sad as I feel for other people who struggle with depression, I find it encouraging to know that I am not alone.

So maybe you struggle.  And maybe I can be the miserable company encouraging you.  Crazy encouraging.  Crazy.


Crazy I can do 😉


Big Relief for Sister Doctor

Relief can be a powerful thing, can’t it?  In this moment, I find the physical symptoms of relief particularly interesting– that huge exhalation, the relaxing of the shoulders, the open mouth and release of laughter, or sometimes even tears.  Today was kind of like that, but not for me…

When I married my husband, I gained two additional little sisters, bringing me to a total of three.  Score!!  What a good deal!  (And I married into a seriously big, and seriously awesome family– double the family, double the fun!!)

All three of my little sisters, including the one by birth and two by marriage, are A-MAZ-ING.  They are bright, talented, brilliant, and passionate people.  All three of them put heart and soul into the things that they do, and today, I’d love nothing more than to embarrass the pants off one of them.

The oldest of my three little sisters (who is in reality only 3 months younger than me) is going to be a doctor.  A surgeon, even.  I’m pretty sure that she decided on that as a career when she was about five.  Follow-through is certainly one of her strong suits.

Seven weeks ago, after completing her third year of medical school, Sister Doctor (yes, let’s do this like they name the maunts in the Oz books, shall we? Sister Doctor, Sister Athletic Trainer, and Sister Engineer…) took the second big, big, big, future-determining test of her medical career.  Yikes.  Doctor-dom… stressful stuff.

Like I mentioned previously, Sister Doctor is brilliant and passionate and very good at what she does.  I was never worried about her doing well on this test.  But dang.  She was.  And I know that the last seven weeks have been torture for her as she thought and rethought and obsessed about every potential answer she may have gotten wrong to the point that she made herself frequently physically ill.

Imagine my concern when I got a phone call today, she was in tears, and she mentioned her test score.  When she gave me the number I was confused because it seemed really high to me, and that didn’t quite jive with the tears I was hearing.

But then again, God made us like teapots, and crying is a really good way to release the steam… and those tears were tears of extreme relief.  The release of seven weeks worth of incredible anxiety and stress.

Turns out, Sister Doctor didn’t just ace the test, she blew it out of the dang water.  She wrote her own ticket.  She will be a surgeon, and she will have her pick of programs.  And I can only imagine how big that relief must feel.  Big enough to result in tears, and for Sister Doctor, that is exceptionally uncommon, suggesting to me that this relief must have been truly BIG.  Monumental even.

So tonight, we celebrate!  And someday, when Sister Doctor is using her vast and impressive talents to cut, sew, and ultimately heal, the world will celebrate with all of us!

Thank goodness for that relief!!

Give me a volleyball– it’s going to be an awkward time.

My sister-in-law (not the one I discuss below, the other one) suggested the idea for this post… and I’ve been saving it for a special Tuesday, since Tuesdays are volleyball days.  Clearly, I love that girl because only for her would I share the story of the picnic table.

My husband, his sister, and I play volleyball once a week at the local Belvedere Supper Club.  They’ve got a great outdoor sand volleyball court, complete with lights for these rapidly shortening days (sigh… northern Wisconsin…).  We were originally promised a league, but no other teams ever showed up so we just come every week and play against ourselves, splitting up however we see fit.  It’s awesome because the winning team gets a prize every week– usually a free drink or free fish fry.  YES!  Winning is the best!  Except went you don’t.  And then at least playing is pretty dang fun.

I’m no Misty May, but I enjoy volleyball and I’m reasonably tall, so I’ve got that going for me.  BUT, I’m also very awkward and, unfortunately, that really shines on the volleyball court.

Last Tuesday, I called everyone else off on a high volley and THUMP.  The ball dropped to my chest, made a terrible thud sound, and just stopped.  Sigh.

In grad school, I joined an indoor volleyball league in Rockville with a friend and even bought knee pads with the intent of diving.  The only time I ever did was when I tripped on my way to the ball, missing it completely.  (Good thing I had knee pads.)

But the volleyball incident in college, that was the really spectacular one.

The summer before my sophomore year started, I played with a bunch of other RAs out at McClain State Park (it’s right on Lake Superior and it’s beautiful– I highly recommend a visit if you’re ever in the UP).  To appropriately set this story up, I should tell you that I was not yet dating my now husband, but very much wanted to… and he witnessed everything.

First, I got pulled over on the way there, but my ID was in the trunk and I had to awkwardly get out of the car while all of my other friends (including that dreamy dude I wanted to date!) drove by.  Ugh.

I slowly got over that humiliation as I got into the game and was feeling pretty awesome until BOOM… picnic table.  Because what else?  And I didn’t just run into the picnic table, I ran so into the picnic table that I ended up on the picnic table.  Oy.

Let me draw you a diagram:

Yes, my head really is that square.

Yes, my head really is that square. {Background Image Credit}

Now.  Let me describe to you my level of mortification, starting with the earliest incident. In college, I pretty much wanted to die.  The guy I liked saw everything (what a good guy to marry me anyway– although this may help explain why it took almost 10 years) and I pretty much felt like my life was over.  Also, I was pretty bruised up, and that was a constant reminder of the humiliation.  Not to mention the warning I got for failing to slow down.  I lived in constant fear of getting re-pulled over with an upgrade from warning to full-blow ticket for the next three years.  (The unnecessary stress I put myself under, I swear…)

In grad school, I was embarrassed and it really fueled my insecurity.  I didn’t feel like my life was over, but I pretty much backed off after that.  I wanted desperately to be good at volleyball and to play more so that I could get there, but instead, I hung back, let others play, and stayed on the sideline or in the background.  I did not enjoy it as much after that.  (But I did manage to enjoy the trophy our team won that first season, not going to lie…)

But last week?  It wasn’t like that.

Last week, there was the deadening thump of the ball smacking me in the chest and coming to a complete stop.  My husband said, “what the heck was that?!” and then… there was laughter!  From me and everyone else.  It was pretty dang funny.  But to be perfectly honest, so was running into the picnic table at McLain and tripping over my own feet to test out my knee pads in Maryland.  But I had a hard time laughing at “embarrassing” things then because I was so concerned about my “image.”

Here’s the image I would prefer, and the one I aim to cultivate these days: to be the girl whose not afraid to make a mistake while trying her best, and to be able to laugh with things go embarrassingly wrong.  I’m so glad you’re laughing with me!  Because my special ability to turn any situation into an awkward situation really makes for some excellent blog fodder.


Speaking of awkward… had a follow-up appointment with my personal gastroenterologist / professional client today.  (That’s the guy I said I would never be able to look in the eye again.)  Turns out, anesthesia is a good thing, and I don’t remember enough to even bother being embarrassed.  Yes!!

I get by with a little help from my friends.

What would you do if I sang out of tune?  Would you stand up and walk out on me?

Lend me your ear and I’ll sing you a song, and I’ll try not to sing out of key.

Good song, better message:

I get by with a little help from my friends.

(Are you thinking of The Wonder Years right now?)

Because don’t we all get by with a little help from our friends?  That support system?  I posit that the answer is yes.

I tend to think of my life in terms of distinct phases, defined primarily by where I was in school… because until recently, I was always enrolled in one kind of school or another.  So the way I think of my life is a lot like the way we (you know, we, like me and all the real paleontologists) classify dinosaurs based on when they existed.

Everything through the end of high school was essentially precambrian… early, unformed, and frizzy.  I wasn’t really sure how to have curly hair yet and many pictures exist to remind me of that.  (Many… frizzy… photos…  Want to see one?  Too bad!  It’s far too awful and I’m not that secure.)

College was my jurassic period, and I think that’s fitting considering that hearing the word jurassic tends to conjure dinosaurs.  I learned a lot, but when I think back on it, I feel like a lot of the time I was more or less stomping through the jungle trying to learn how to open door handles.  (And if anyone points out that velociraptors actually lived during the cretaceous period, not the jurassic period, I’m going to tell you to get over it– it’s my metaphor and the visual of a stegosaurus trying to use a door knob is just absurd.)

Grad school was the start of my cretaceous period, mammals were just starting to evolve, but they were angry and confused… certainly not human yet.

Fast forward just a couple years to life as I know it now and it’s amazing how quickly this person has evolved.  Fully Homo sapiens at this point.  Good deal.

In each of those time periods, there was one constant– amazing friends.  Friends that were there for me in the toughest of times (remember, what feels like a tough time is relative to the toughness of the times you have experienced to date, so no judgement for what someone else considers “tough”).  Now that I’m living what I finally consider real life, I can truly appreciate how important the support of those friends was then and is now.

When I skipped a grade and life was kind of hard (because things feel tough when you’re 8!), Emily was such a constant.

Emily, the precambrian princess…

When I was dumped and heartbroken my freshman year of college, Aimee lived next door and held me up through all of that (and 17– that’s another time in your life when things feel really big).

Aimee, the jurassic giant…

When slogging through grad school took it’s ugly toll, Jess ran mile after mile after mile with me (and she didn’t even like running then! ha! now she’s about to run a marathon! hard core!) and talked me through the tough stuff.

Jess, the triassic talent…

In my current job, my co-workers are like that– more than just people I work with, but friends who offer support and encouragement on a daily basis.  (Also gems like this video of poo pourri… too awesome).

My coworkers, queens of the quaternary…

Now, every single time I need to get away, Melissa is waiting for me in a safe, supportive, and happy place (seriously, I can’t even tell you how many different cities we’ve had pedicures in).

Melissa, the angel of all ages…

And finally, the friends that I thought may be friends of the past, but have surfaced since I began this blog to add so much more to my life than I could ever have hoped.

Dawn, Lara, Nicole, Laura, and on and on, to you, dear reader, the not-as-extinct-as-I-thought coelacanths

For a long time, I’ve been ok with being an introvert, a person who needs some alone-time, some quiet-time, and who has trouble with new social situations.  But when I really think back on my life– starting with that precambrian period– I can see how insanely important a social network and meaningful friendships have been.  With few exceptions (the exceptions being those impressive homesteaders living “off the grid” that you see on tv… dang, good for them, but I’d be pretty darn lonely with nothing but trees for friends), none of us can go it alone.

And someone out there can’t do it without you or me.  Kind of a neat thought.  And I hope I can be… that I am… the friend for someone else that so many people have been to me.


(How’s that for dinosaur references?  Not all Jurassic Park this time– had to consult Wiki for this one!)

Love, actually.

I am super lactose-intolerant… my diagnosis was empirical until recently, but I now have legit medical evidence to suggest a “strong” intolerance to lactose.  Validation!  Yes!

So, that’s lactose-intolerant in the medical sense.  If you are lactose-intolerant in the metaphorical sense, you may want to stop reading because this is about to get chee-sy!!

This weekend, my world was bursting at the seams with love.  Our house was full of friends and family, a baby and two dogs, and it was won-der-ful.  Our friends from Green Bay spent the weekend with us and brought their beautiful little girl and their sweet dog.  On Saturday, my sister-in-law and her friends came into town for a mud run and my mother- and father-in-law came over to watch.  I made a big breakfast and we all went out to cheer the runners on.  We cheered and laughed, we ate breakfast and homemade apple pie, we watched a movie with (in-ceiling, in-wall– good job, babe) surround sound and watched our dogs play and play and play…


Have you ever seen the movie Love Actually?  It’s absolutely, hands down, my favorite movie of all time.  To me, that movie is about love in every form– family, friendship, romantic.  (And it’s funny– British-style funny– too!)  I love that movie, primarily because I love love!  And sometimes, like this weekend, I feel all that love coalescing in my own life, from my friends, my family, my husband, my pup, and it’s a beautiful thing.

If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.

Friends, family, pets, co-workers… the kindness of strangers.  So much love, and in completely unlimited supply.  Why not share a little of your own this week?


Sunbeams (Roald Dahl)


Roald Dahl was one of my favorite authors as a child– you’ve probably heard of Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryJames and the Giant Peach, and Matilda.  But he wrote a lot of other really great books, too– I highly recommend The Twits, which is where the quotation above comes from, and The BFG.  I’m a big, friendly giant too.  So I find that one particularly enjoyable 😉

Have a beautiful weekend, beautiful friends!!

Paralyzed by Indecision

Have you ever felt like you had so many things to do that you all you could do was nothing?

Of course you have.  Who hasn’t?

I kind of feel like that right now, except not about things to do (well, kind of about that too, but that’s not the point ), but about things to say…

I am BURSTING right now with things to tell you! Bursting to the point that none of the words want to wait their turn! And those impatient words are trying so desperately to get all over my screen that it’s turning into the crab in the bucket phenomenon and I am paralyzed.

Since nothing else is working, I’m going to let the words come and see where we go. (Out of the bucket, you crabs!!)

First, not posting yesterday nearly destroyed me. I worked late (unnecessarily so, more on that another day), did lots of stuffs around the house and yard, made some phone calls and emailed some friends, canned 5 quarts of homemade enchilada sauce (you should seriously invite yourself over to my very homely home for enchiladas sometime– it’s good stuff!), and then finally sat down with my computer (at something ridiculous like 11:30 pm– I am nearing 30, this is WAY past my bedtime) with the intent to pound out a crappy post and put it out there just so that I didn’t break my own arbitrary rules about posting Monday through Thursday.

Let me say that again: I planned to pound out a crappy post just to say that I posted, because it was Wednesday.  And I told you I would post on Wednesdays.  Lame.

Are you offended? You should be, dear reader! You deserve much better from me! My (almost) apologies for the crappy thing that (almost) happened.

Anyway, some of the many, many things I am dying to discuss with you…

After posting about the 23 Things, I keep seeing examples of these ideas at play in my life– over and over and over again– and I’m pretty excited to tell you about them.  Nothing more satisfying than supporting evidence!  (Except chocolate.  I would gladly accept chocolate in lieu of evidence.)  I’m also excited to tell you a story about stories and to share with you some of the information from my “Personal Interest” folder…

That’s pages and pages of notes on things I find absolutely fascinating. So excited to delve into it!

Finally, I am super excited to announce a little series I am going to call “Profiles in Awesome.” I know a lot of really, really awesome people (not to be sexist, but women especially) that have eaten too much humble pie and I think I need to tell you about them. But most importantly, I want them to tell you (and the whole world!!) about themselves, so I’m going to do interviews! I can’t wait!!  (Of course, I am making a lot of assumptions here… and really just hoping that people will answer my interview questions.  I think they will.  I can be persuasive.  And I will guilt trip you (MS) if you try to tell me no.  Guilt always works.  Guilt and jalapeno poppers.  And maybe a promise of relative-anonymity.  Anyway, I’m determined to make this work!)


And while you’re here– please throw a Happy Birthday shout out into the universe for my SASsy friend!!

How to Win Friends and Influence People– with a pink, plastic, inflatable bunny.

I made some pretty stellar friends in college. Three ladies in particular stand out because the are brilliant, hilarious, kind, thoughtful, and brave… and because they picked me to be their friend too. I love them. And I loved our days living in Good Intentions. (West Wads!)

But being an introvert at a school full of other introverts (I’m looking at you, MTU!) can be tough, especially when it comes to making social connections. Fortunately, my next door neighbor in the dorms was the most hilarious of all…

… and she had a pink, plastic, inflatable bunny.

I don’t know why she had the bunny, but I’m so glad she did. And if you’re an introvert living in a dorm full of introverts looking for a good way to make some connections, you may need one too.

There is nothing funnier than bunnying someone. Nothing.

Step 1: Acquire and inflate your pink, plastic bunny. Something about 3 ft tall does well.

Step 2: Find a dorm room with a door closed (not always easy) and set up your bunny in front of the door.

Step 3: Knock…

Step 4: RUN!

Step 5: Observe from a distance as hilarity ensues.

We bunnied lots and lots of people (true story: my husband got bunnied while he was in a mutual friend’s room before I even knew him!) and except for the times when our bunny was stolen (it’s cool– my friend acquired other bunnies in blue and yellow) everyone always laughed and laughed. And even when they did get stolen, we got a pretty great ransom note from the “Protectores del Conejo…”

We had so much fun in those halls, bunnying people, laughing, making new friends, and cementing our own friendships. And I think it was good for everyone– all of us engineers and introverts, scientists and responsible RAs. Who doesn’t love a good laugh, after all?

I’m still really into pink bunnies. I have glass one in my office and I bought a soft plush one for my niece before she was even born. I also just found a little bunny cookie cutter and used it to make these awesome little ladies:


As much as I just love the memories, pink bunnies also serve as a good reminder of the weird ways in which we can make lasting connections with the people around us. That pink bunny let us relax and let go, to have fun and make friends without the worry, laughter drowning out the second track.

Maybe you need a pink bunny, too?

Dr. Money Machine hurts my feelings.

This is a post I’ve been working on for quite… a… while…  I had this idea about what I wanted to say, but every time I finished, the whole thing sounded so angry, even though angry wasn’t really my intent.

Not my intent, but through the writing and re-writing process, I realized that I actually was still pretty angry.  And I had to find not only the right words, but also a new frame of reference.  I think I finally found both– you can let me know if you agree.

Once upon a time, in a land much like Hogwarts (when Dolores Umbridge was in charge), I defended my dissertation (that’s like getting your N.E.W.T.s).  (Which do you prefer– references to Harry Potter or Jurassic Park?  I can do either quite well…)  After 6 long years, I was finally given the green light to write… and I wrote my heart out.  Two weeks before my defense, I turned in my dissertation and I was proud of what I wrote.  I poured my heart and soul into that treatise on gonorrhea and chlamydia in mouse vaginas (sounds like it might be a joke, but it’s not) and I was actually kind of excited to hand it in.

Two weeks later, my mom, dad, grandma, sister, and brother-in-law flew into town and my fiance, now husband, brought them onto the base for my big day.  (The Uniformed Services University is on a naval base in Maryland.)  First was my public defense.  The room was packed, my family and friends were all there, I was wearing an awesome dress and killer heels, and I rocked it.  (I love making PowerPoints, because there is something seriously wrong with me, and I think it was the best I’ve ever, ever made.  It even had jokes!!  JOKES!)  It was awesome and I felt great.

Thirty minutes later, my family was safely tucked away with my labmates and friends and I was headed to my private defense.  I was nervous, of course, but not nearly as nervous as I had been for my public.  Everyone who had already been through this process had told me what it was like– “This is the point where they finally respect you and treat you like a peer…”  “It’s really just like a conversation, they won’t grill you like they did in quals…”  “You know more about your project than anyone else, it’ll be a piece of cake…”

Except that for me, it really wasn’t like that.  This is the point where I usually get super angry, so I’ll spare you the details, but one of my committee members went totally off the rails and got mean.  It was not constructive and I am undoubtedly biased, but I really don’t think it was warranted.

And it hurt.  Many, many tears were shed.  Even more angry words were hurled in his general direction.  And I have spent much of the last two years feeling like the whole dang thing was unforgivably unfair.

Oy.  The power of words to hurt!

But, then again, they were just words.  And as much as words can hurt, I can choose how much power I give them to hurt me.  So, let’s evaluate…

Was my thesis well-written?  YES.

Am I proud of what I wrote?  YES.

Am I proud of what I accomplished during those 6 years?  YES.

Am I now employed as a professional scientific research writer with a successful track record of publications and funded grant applications?  YES again.

know these things about myself.  And I know that those ugly words came from a hateful man going through a rough time in his unpleasant life.  And I am sorry for him.

I am sorry that he is incapable of engaging the students that he agrees to teach and mentor in a productive way.  I am sorry that he doesn’t know the pleasure of a positive approach to discourse.  I am sorry that he is so angry.

It was unfortunate that he chose to take his anger out on me on my big day.  But I forgive him, because ultimately, it has absolutely no bearing on the presentation I gave, the dissertation I wrote, or my ability to function as a scientist in the real world… and maybe he needed that outlet.  I don’t know.  My hope for him is that he can find a better way.

My hope for those who are, like me, unlucky enough to have to deal with this man at pivotal points in their scientific career is that they don’t internalize his words.  And that if they accidentally do, they get over it quickly.  (More quickly than I did anyway.)



…My hope for those who have already had the distinct displeasure of dealing with this man is that you will recognize the insanely clever title of this post and it will make you laugh.  And if that still doesn’t make it better, just remember that he never had the chance to catch your tears in a Dixie cup to sip on later.  (Thanks to DW for that visual– love it still!)