Monday, April 28, 2008

Yes I Can!

I just had a wonderful meeting with my boss. He reassured me that my first committee meeting is about getting everyone's input and utilizing their knowledge, not proving that I know everything myself. He gave me specific tips to deal with each of the very large personalities that will be in the room and said some very nice things about my scientific skills and talents.

I know exactly where I get my "worst case senario" syndrome from (I do believe we were discussing this last night, Mom). But, just as she does, I need to realize that I am smart and hardworking and actually know things!

And now I need to go study and practice and polish this bad boy like crazy. But tonight T and I are going to an Obama rally at the Dean Dome (the big basketball complex at UNC). I am so excited to hear what he has to say.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Weekend Update

This weekend was pretty awesome and pretty tough at the same time. Lemme elaborate.

1. Friday: Worked a ton, got a ton done. Started to get VERY nervous about my upcoming committee meeting. But still having a good lucky streak. A good friend passed his orals, so there was a bit of a celebration. And I hung out with some friends at the first bluegrass show on the lawn of the Carolina Inn.. which means summer. Cute Southern folks in summer dresses and
khaki shorts. Good times. I putzed around the yard for a while, made some piles of branches to get picked up and looked at our new possible fruit trees. Here is a pic of what may be a peach? Not sure. Blurry picture too, sorry.

Was supposed to go to a going away party, but back decided to seize up painfully (probably too soon to be doing lifting) and I just stressed out about my meeting and whimpered about my back while poor Trent tried to sleep. Finally realized some Advil would solve everything.

2. Saturday: Met up with a friend from lab and his wife and adorable 4 year old daughter for breakfast at Weaver Street (where else!). They just found out that they are expecting baby number two, and he is trying to get his paper published and defend so he can start a post-doc he already has lined up at Emory. Oh, and they are trying to sell their house. Fun to see them, also makes us feel like weinies for being stressed out about our situation.

Headed to Lowes (where else!?) to get lots of drywall and quickset and grout for the kitchen. Progress! Man, drywall is crazy heavy!! My back was not so great from yesterday, so I wasn't terribly helpful, but we managed to get it all in the truck. Crazy crowded, unhelpful staff, starting to hate Lowe's. Unloaded at home and I helped for a bit before going to lab for several hours. Awesome. Seriously, this meeting is killing me.

But Trent got tons done without me. Check out the before and after on the drywall situation in the kitchen! He totally finished the new laundry closet and the internal wall. The external walls still need to be have their new insulation inspected and then we can do those. Then tiling! How talented is this boy??

After our long day, we got all showered and cute and rode our bikes downtown to meet up with friends at our new favorite bar, Milltown. It was just what I needed. Some of my favorite people were there, everyone was SO nice about the marathon, and got some reassurance from senior grad students that this meeting will be a breeze. It was a lovely warm spring night and we sprinted on the bikes back home, to catch the taco truck down the road just before they closed up. Perfection!!

Sunday: Up early to beat the mean crowds at Lowe's for more sheetrock and sheetrock paste. Trent works all day, cutting and doing beautiful instillation of the sheetrock while I battle with my presentation. I am going over it with my boss tomorrow, which I am almost more nervous about than my real committee meeting. It is starting to look pretty sweet though.

Finally take a break to go.. BACK TO LOWES!! No really. We live there. I don't even recall what we needed. Sheetrock screws or something. We should have a key to the place. Stopped by Whole Foods for some yummy groceries and Trent dumps me... BACK AT LAB on the way home. Pouring rain, I am feeling pretty sorry for myself. But SO motivated to show my committee I know what the heck is going on and prove I am a good scientist. Got a few experiments done, was going to lock myself in the tiny dark microscope room, but realized I would probably just fall asleep.

Trent came and picked me up after a couple hours, and I zoned out watching old Star Trek for a little break. Back at the presentation now, and Trent is still working away in the kitchen (it is 10:25pm as I type). We are getting it done! And while the work is hard, it is for things we really want and will benefit from tremendously, so it kind of feels good to be working so hard. Not that I am not SO excited about getting this meeting/kitchen done. It will be fantastic!

Hope you all had a great weekend! Check out my pretty flowers Trent got me! In a plastic cup, yes. Because who knows where my vases are...

Friday, April 25, 2008

A pathetic excuse for updating

How in the world does one possibly update the past few weeks that have been, by far, the most challenging/fun filled/relaxing/stressful? Quite shoddily, I presume. So forgive me, but let's update so I can stop feeling guilty and start posting more frequently.

When I last posted, Lesley had just arrived. Our first houseguest. She was a total trooper about living without a real kitchen and sharing the guest room with boxes. Too bad I was terribly sick for part of her visit, but we still managed to go to Trent crew race up in the mountains, outings with friends from lab, antiquing like crazy (Replacements, Emily!!), and lots of dinners out. Fun to have visitors to use as an excuse to do fun things. And we painted the hallway! A lovely visit from an old friend.

Meanwhile, I was frantically putting together tons of presentations and my poster for my big conference. But never mind that.

Lesley left, and Trent's parents arrived the same day. Trent took some time off work and they did a great job reclaiming the over grown yard. His mom is a wonderful horticulturalist and named nearly all our plants and diagnosed their various maladies. In addition to the hard work, there was a big crew race where Trent's boys did amazingly, and an alumni banquet for all the rowers which was a blast. Again, lots of meals out and lots of antiquing, including the purchase of an awesome drop leaf table. It was a great visit, both productive and hopefully relaxing for them!

I had a presentation Friday, and his parents left Monday, then I left Wednesday morning for San Diego. I am telling you, it was a crazy couple weeks.

The conference was a really interesting experience. It was in a super old hotel/conference center and an amazing number of people attended. All fly biologists. Doing every thing in biology you could think of. Obesity, cancer, behavioral studies, infections, it was amazing! Lab buddy Deirdre and I tried our best to attend as many talks as possible and I had some nice, but limited runs enjoying the nice weather. My poster was eagerly attended by friends/colleagues of my boss, as well as random passerbyers, since it was in the front row. It was great practice to present my data, and I got some great insights as well.

Escaped to Ocean Beach to watch the disappointing Final Four game with my Tri-Homie Professor from UNC, who happened to be in San Diego as well, with his sister and her friends. Fun evening, despite the sad game.

The conference ended Sunday, and I was exhausted. It went from 7:30am-11:30pm every day. That is too much science even for me! Luckily, dear friend April came and scooped me up. We had a long lunch at a yummy Mexican restaurant and caught up on lots of time. She is such a dear, and absolutely gorgeous. I am very excited to be a part of her wedding this summer. We did a bit of shopping, looking for perfect bridesmaid shoes (to no luck) and returned to her cute apartment and to meet up with her fiancee Vic. They met at UCD, where Trent and I met, and I recall our long walks discussing our new loves. Who knew they would work out so well for both of us?! We all went for a walk on the beach where he proposed, and then to a grocery store to make a great dinner. Then April and I stayed up WAY too late, being total geeks and looking up everyone we could think of from highschool on myspace and facebook. So bad, but SO fun!

The next day, April drove me to Coronado, where my parents had rented a fabulous little beach house. It was unbelievably perfect. Tons of lemon and orange trees blooming, a great front lawn, and an unpretentious size. Adorable. My mom, April and I had a nice walk on the beach to catch everyone up on gossip, and then April departed after lunch. So good to see her, such a dear friend.

Caught up with the rest of the family, my sister Margo and her amazingly sweet new fiancee Kenny, her youngest Nick, who isn't so young anymore. My brother Joe came a couple days later. It was a blur of delicious sleep, long walks on the beach, chucking the ball into the ocean for the dog, lots of good food, lots of walking the docks with my dad and learning amazing amounts about boats, and a heated round of Scattegories. The week flew by, but it was utterly fantastic and SO needed. I can't thank my parents enough for setting this up for us.

My parents dropped me off at the airport Saturday night and I arrived home Sunday. Trent was up at a crew race in New Jersey, but it was wonderful to see him when he got home that night.

I jumped right back in to lab work, re-inspired and invigorated. And so far, it has worked out. I am having a lucky streak right now, things are working great. Which is awesome. Some troubles with a collaborator, but I feel like I handled myself well. A BGSA meeting where I got lots of stuff arranged/done. Friday, a fellow scientist and I went to a rural high school to teach kids about DNA and human diseases in honor of DNA Day (which is actually today). It was fun, but exhausting, I tend to get REALLY excited about science when I teach which can be a bit draining. And we taught three 90 minute classes in a row. I enjoyed it and hopefully inspired a few of them.

Back to lab to work for a few hours. My boss reeeeeally wanted an experiment done, so I was working my tail off. Trent picked me up at 5:30 and we drove directly to Avis. See.. we had plane tickets to Boston, with SkyBus.. but then, they went out of business. Like two weeks before this. Awesome. So we decided to rent a car and drive up, in hopes of getting something very gas efficient and put less wear on my beloved Subaru. As we were signing paperwork, somehow it got out that we went to UCD. As did the Avis guy! And since we were probably the last customers on a Friday afternoon, he gave us a major upgrade. Any car we wanted. So we got a Prius! Talk about gas efficient!

Home to pack, and we left Chapel Hill around 7pm. Taking turns driving, we made it to Connecticut before finally having to stop and sleep. We always seem to sleep in the car in Connecticut. The Prius was great, very comfy and we averaged 50 miles/gallon. We arrived in Cambridge around 10:30-11 and met up with Trent's friend (from UCD!!) Brett and his girlfriend Ericca. Lunch on Harvard Square before going to the huge pre-race Expo. So many people run this race! The expo was fun, but way too crowded for me. Back to Brett's house to rest before venturing out to the Back Bay neighborhood, which is a Little Italy. But man, everyone and their uncle was trying to eat pasta that night. We finally scored a table and had a fun dinner. Home to crash and finally get a good night's sleep. Sunday was pretty laid back, I had to stay off my legs so we watched a lot of TLC home improvement shows and Trent cut Brett's hair. We went to Whole Foods (in the Prius, it felt very eco-yuppster) and Ericca and I made a yummy pre-race pasta dinner while the boys ran along the river. To bed early, after picking my final race outfit. I brought like 10 options, depending on the weather.

The race didn't start till 10, but we were up at 6:30 getting ready and starting to try to eat as much as possible. They drove me to the race start, or as close as they could get and wished me luck. I got into a school bus and was shuttled to the "Athlete's Village" where there was even more food, last minute first aid and thousands and thousands of people. Too much for me, so I grabbed a banana and bagel and found a quiet corner to calm my head. Made a few friends and got ready to go about 20 minutes before the start. It was foggy and cool, perfect running weather. I got shuffled into my corral (based on my mile time) about 15 minutes before the start and everyone was filled with nervous anticipation. Somewhere up at the start, Lance Armstrong was parading around (Trent and crew saw him) and then the race started! It took me about 7 minutes to finally get to the start line, but not as bad as I expected. The race was great. So many fans, so much excitement, all downhill to start. I completely ignored my race plan and zipped along at under 8 minute miles. I did manage to eat and drink during which was great, and I couldn't believe the amount of support and fans even 25 miles away from the finish. It is a real event for people in Boston. I got my runner's high really early, around mile 15, after the amazing Wellsely college mile (all the girls line the road, screaming.. you can hear it from half a mile away) and started high five-ing every child I could find. The sun was shining, I felt strong and alive and so so happy. And then it was about mile 18. And everything slowed down. The cheers of the crowd seemed less appealing, I had to choke down my suddenly terribly unappetizing Gu, even the Gatorade was too sweet. Heartbreak Hill wasn't as horrible as I had feared, but it definitely took a lot out of me. Suddenly I was running 8:30 miles, despite all my efforts. A lot of it was downhill, which you would think would be easier, but it actually just tears apart your quad muscles. By mile 23, I was read to finish. Which was good motivation. Just get it done. So I buckled down and had a re-invigoration. My last few miles were strong, simply with a driving desire to finish. The last mile was scary as people all around me were collapsing, including a scary fall a guy took in front of me that caused me to stop and help him before the medics arrived. Seeing the finish line seemed unbelievable, and I crossed at 3:37, qualifying me for next year's race. Not sure if I will want to run it again. It is an amazing experience, being with the fastest marathoner's from around the world and being a part of something so huge, but it was a bit too huge for me. I kept walking to prevent my whole body from cramping up and got my stylish emergency blanket to stay warm. I had to deal with my timing chip, and get my clothes I left at the race start from the volunteers before meeting up with Trent and Brett. We quickly got out of the congested area and walked across Boston Commons to catch the subway. Although hard and the last thing I wanted to do, I think all the walking really helped in my recovery.

Got back to Cambridge, said our goodbyes, and immediately got in the car. I was actually able to drive for a bit, but with lots of stops to stretch and get food. Trent drove most of the way however. He woke me up at 1am in Southern Virginia, and I managed to drive a couple more hours to get us home. Dropped off the car at 3am, asleep at home by 3:30, at work by 9:30!! People were surprised to see me, but it was cool to hear how all the labs had been watching my progress. I managed to stay until about 3pm, before going home and crashing. More sore on Wednesday, but I have actually been pretty surprised at how quickly I am healing. My feet were fine, no blisters or anything, and I am managing stairs and even riding my bike to work just fine. Maybe I am getting used to 26.2 miles? Is that possible?

Back to lots of science now, as well as a whole lot of house renovating. We have definitely taken a hiatus from that and I am re-inspired to get going on it. Hopefully my lucky science streak lasts a bit longer, as I have my first committee meeting next Thursday, and hopefully we will get the kitchen tiled this weekend as well. I have some good pictures from these past few weeks, and will post them soon, just wanted to get that update done with. My apologies for the terrible length, I promise I will be better about updating.

Hope all is well with you, thanks to everyone who sent encouragement for the race!