Tag Archives: AFGO

P is for permission.

So I’m at the letter P and you’d think that by now it would be obvious to me when I’ve chosen the wrong word for a letter. I mean, how many times have I started a post with “X was for Y, but actually it’s for Z” or whatever? A lot.

Actually, maybe just once. But I’ve thought it a lot.

Along those same lines: P was for pants. And it was going to be pretty dang funny. I hate pants, almost as much as they hate me, and I had tons of hilariously self-deprecating pants-related anecdotes to share with you… except, if we are of the same generation, then we both no doubt owned our fair share of stirrup pants, wind suits with matching tops, sweat suits with contrast color turtle neck, green jeans, whatevs. Right?

And if we’re not, I’m sure you had your generation’s equivalent– huge bell bottoms, stripes, plaids, butt-crack-displaying-low-rise, or something like that. Who hasn’t owned bad pants?

(I can tell you who– those girls. But I’ve already told that story. And even they probably had those pants, just not in my memory.)

But this is not a post about pants. It is a post about permission. And I was telling you about how I know when I’ve chosen the wrong word. Except I can’t really put that into words, except to say that I spend inordinate amounts of time jotting things down, writing and re-writing sentences, telling people about the “awesome post” I’ve got “cooking up” (yes, I used those exact words today… for shame), and then suddenly the real word pops into my head and I sit down to write it and it just floooows.

Permission it is!

We all live our lives by at least some rules– rules imposed on us by the society in which we live, either written or unwritten. I think most of us (read: me) also live by a set of arbitrary rules self-crafted (self-inflicted, perhaps?) slowly over time. My rule book has always been HUGE. And I do mean ALWAYS.

You can’t will away a fever that’s preventing you from attending school (and making you fall behind!! nooooo!) any more than you can control a feeling. Yet, Chapter 2, “Rules about Feelings,” has always been the longest chapter in my book. (Chapter 1– Rules about Hair, in case you were wondering. And that one’s not arbitrary; it’s trial-by-error.)

As a baby, feelings come on strong when you’re tired. You cry it out, someone notices, you go down for a nap, and wake up feeling a thousand times better. It’s a good system, really. Tried and true. But what about in adulthood? It’s not quite so simple then… people will fault you for taking a nap at your desk or sawing logs in a meeting. Myself included.

In the absence of naps (not always, I’m not a huge napper, but on Sundays, all bets are off), I’ve had to create another set of rules… and that’s where the list gets long.

Sad? Immediately look for a silver lining and explain why it’s actually good. (Also, eat.)

Mad? Label it an AFGO and move on. (Also, eat.)

Hurt? Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry. (Also, eat.)

Flusterated? Call your mom and explain to her that the combination of flustered and frustrated really is  a word. (Also, eat.)

Happy? Just eat.

And so on and so forth.

See? A solution for every feeling!

Except… feeling it. What if the first rule of the feelings section of the rule book was simply this:

Feel the feeling. Give yourself a minute. You have my permission.


Feel the dang feeling, nerd! Give yourself a cotton picking minute. Geez.

Either way.

And if you’ve felt the feeling and you still feel like there’s a silver lining, it’s an AFGO, crying would feel kind of nice, your mom should hear about your flusteration, you’re actually kind of hungry… then you can do that too. But feeeeel first. It shouldn’t be that hard.

Of course, with all the “yous” and “yours” I am obviously just talking to myself out loud on the Internet, but you knew that already.

(Speaking of the internet, I actually laughed out loud during a meeting when someone said “The Google” the other day. It just came out of my throat and I couldn’t stop it! Politeness– that’s a rule. Oops.)

I use a purple pen for all of my corrections. As a science writer, I got through about 6 pens or so a year (not even kidding), but purple doesn’t seem so bad to me. It stands out, but doesn’t scream WRONG like red does. It’s kind of my thing. To honor the letter P, tonight, I pull out my metaphorical purple pen for the purpose of correcting my rule book. The first rule of feelings is now:

You have permission to just feel it. Feel the feeling. It’s ok.


When I was really little, I used to tell my mom and dad that my feelings were hurt and they’d ask me, “Which feelings?” To which I would respond with the color of the feelings that got hurt. I distinctly remember it being the blue ones most of the time. I don’t know what that means, but I feel like I may have intuitively at the age of 3 been doing the thing that it’s taken until 30 to finally give myself permission to do.

Feelings aren’t for rationalizing, explaining, pushing away… eating (ahem). They are for feeling. Permission granted to do so.


This blog was brought to you, in part, by my enthusiastic and snuggly co-author from my in-laws’ super comfy couch:

Curls the Co-author


PS: My mom seriously hates it when people say “flusterated” like it’s a real word. It’s ok, mom… I give you permission to feel that hate. Feeeeel it. That’s right….

Stew. For breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I had an AFGO the other day.  (Another eFfing Growth Opportunity, for those of you unfamiliar with my genius dad’s brilliant catch-phrase.)  And I have been stewing over it ever since.  And not just stewing… I’ve also ruminated on it, mulled it over, worked myself into a frenzy, wrote and deleted angry emails about it, and given it major lip service.

(I tend to have a very hard time just letting things go… like you don’t!)

Was all of that stewing, etc, worth my while?  Probably not.  And I need to get over it.  So I’m going to blog about.  Because that’s what I do.

It boils down to an issue of respect, and ultimately, sexism, I believe.

I offered up a genuine concern to a colleague.  I was told I was wrong.

Fine.  Difference of opinion.  That happens and it’s ok.

(No, Michele, I am not talking about you. You can relax now.)

But then I received a phone call about the issue.  A phone called that started with laughter (laughter!!) over my concern.  My legitimate and professionally raised concern.

And it was then that my blood boiled.  BOILED.

Don’t worry, I spoke up.  I said that the laughter was inappropriate, belittling, and disrespectful.  I was quickly taken off speaker phone.  (In-ter-es-an-te…)  Many patronizing efforts were made to placate me, but I was already done.  Checked out.

I had already been accused of “throwing a temper tantrum” by this person once.  And I play by NIH softball rules–  you start with one strike.  (For those keeping score at home, that makes three.  OUT!)

I was invited to sit at the metaphorical table and I stood my ground while I was there.  Unfortunately, I was not respected for doing so and, having witnessed civil discourse related to several disagreements with other male colleagues, I have every reason to believe that the lack of respect stems from the fact that I am a woman.  Hence the boiling, roiling blood.

Sexism in the twenty-fourth and a half cent-ur-y!!!

I started college in 2001, grad school in 2005, and entered the professional work force in 2011.  You would think that after year 2000, sexism on campus and in the work place would be a thing of the past.


I have experienced blatant and disturbing sexism in all three places.

In college, a professor told me that he didn’t know what I was getting so worked up about since I was only there for my M-R-S. (B-S, P-H-D in your face! Then the Mrs… thanks, MTU.)

In graduate school, I was told that I was doing female scientists a disservice by leaving the traditional academic structure.  (Still female… still engaged in biomedical research… still working toward the improvement of human health on a daily basis… but whatevs.)

And now, with over two years of professional experience and a track record of success under my belt, there are still certain members of the “old boy’s club” that take it upon themselves to remind me that I am somehow less.


With the exception of awkward conversations in the bathroom (because I’m the most awkward small-talk-maker ever), I think before I speak and rarely raise concerns unless I find them legitimately worthy of consideration.  I can understand why people might have been wary of me (fresh out of school and all that) at first, but I am good at my job and I have demonstrated that.  So I deserve to be treated as such.

(But then again, even if someone is new and fresh out of school with no proven track record, they are still a human being (even if it’s a lady!) and therefore deserve to be treated with a basic level of respect.)

I’m always going to have to work with some jerks, that’s a given.  And some of them are going to be men, also a given.

And so, I will continue to react like Jeffrey Tambor as Ed Singer in Muppets from Space:

DON’T… LAUGH… AT… MEEEE! (Start watching at about 0:46, or just recall the hilarity from your own mind.)

Perhaps you think I’m being overly sensitive, or that I’m some sort of “psycho” feminist, espousing the, as the bumper sticker says, radical notion that women are people too.  And that’s ok.  Might as well embrace it.

As my husband heard on Modern Family, and is now fond of saying to me, “harness that crazy into something positive.”

So my positive? Cathartic blog rant! Funny Muppet clip!  And another AFGO in my arsenal!


PS: Yes, “another AFGO” is, in fact, redundant.  Don’t care.