Happy Blogaversary to ME!

Pink Cosmos

Pink Cosmos

I’ve been blogging since 2005, so my blog is now 4 years old.

And I still mean to write more science posts one day!


Home and Health Up Date

I got home from hospital Wednesday afternoon and slept for three hours.  I slept, read and knitted pretty much through yesterday’s downpour.  This morning I woke up feeling like I was one big bruise from the waist down, but a hot water bottle and pain medicine seemed to clear that up.

Meanwhile, I noticed this:

Blog Stats June 19 2009

Woo hoo, so many visitors!

Thanks for visiting and reading. I will get back into blogging soon.

What’s Next?

My first year at the new job is over!  I’ve quite enjoyed it [this is English speak “for loved nearly every minute of it”].  Teaching introductory and general chemistry was definitely a learning experience but I got the hang off it in the end.  The thing is to be tough.  Tell the students up front that chemistry is hard (even if it never was for me) and that they will have to work their butts off to succeed.  I am grateful that I do not feel as emotionally exhausted now as I did after my first semester in the fall, so I have learned to protect that side of me a little more. Mentally drained, yeah, but I can live with that.

So what’s next?

Scientiae wants to know how we are moving forward.  I hope my route is a little different than for other people as I am having a hysterectomy in a few weeks.

Last December it was found that I had three huge uterine fibroids which kinda explained why I was bleeding to death each month. Until the fibroids were identified, I felt that my recovery from the colon-resection I had in 2005 had stalled and that I would never be able to do as much as I saw colleagues and friends doing.  It couldn’t be age as I am too young really for me to blame age on slowing me down.

Unfortunately, the fibroids, and my uterus, are too big for any other treatment than a complete removal of my womb.  We, myself and my gynecologist, hope to save at least an ovary as I have a few years before natural menopause would set in. My Gyn also permitted me to wait until the summer because of the new job and lack of sick days etc.  But then set up the op for the first day I told her I was free, so I guess she thinks it important I get this done.

This is moving forward for me, as I don’t know how I will feel after the operation.  Immediately after wards, and probably for about six months, I will feel sore and exhausted and tired and cranky.   But hey, what’s new?

In a year, as I won’t be losing so much iron each month, will I have my stamina back?  Will I have more energy to do more and better at both work and pleasure?  Will I start wanting to ride my bicycle and hiking again, which I loved doing four years ago?  I hope so.

On the plus side, I am also told I will lose 15 lbs when the fibroids are removed.  That means I’ll only be about 5 – 10 lbs over my ideal weight.

I cannot leave you with another garden photo:

Rhododendron Flower Close Up

Rhododendron Flower Close Up

New Love

I went to New Hampshire two weekends ago and fell in love.  Meet Q:



He is a pug/beagle mix and so excited about life.  JnR are in the process of adopting him.  I hope the adoption goes ahead because Q has fallen in love with R and would go through hell and more for him.

I Should Write a Blog Post.

But I am really enjoying gardening and knitting.  The garden is beginining to look very cool, as it does in the spring.  Pictures are over at flickr.  Murphy wants attention NOW! and I want to knit. Both go together actually as He catnaps on my lap while I knit.  At this rate I might even finish a whole cushion cover for my visit to New Hampshire next week.  Sssh, I don’t want to jinx it.  [Looks round for gremlins.]


Spring break was nice, but I spent a lot of it getting over a bad cold from the week before.  Mind you, I never get as much done as I plan.  I suppose this is just the problem with being an over confident optimist. So  I am still writing lectures for my chemistry courses just before giving them, which is very stressful.

Before Spring break I was worried about covering all the material by the end of the semester because I spent longer than scheduled on earlier information.  My thinking being that if my intro chemistry students cannot do basic algebra or my general chemistry students cannot do chemistry stoichiometry they are going to get totally lost when we move onwards and upwards into the wonders of chemistry.  Yesterday, I checked the timetable and, while we are behind the original timetable, it is  only by a lecture or so.   Next semester I change the timetable!

Finally, I thought I had graded everything that was submitted before  Spring break. Even the cat was being graded.  [He gets an A in attention seeking and an F in being really annoying while demanding attention. So he passes with a C.]  In the shower yesterday,  I realized that I had forgotten about my food science students’ essays.  Oops,  I must grade these by Wednesday afternoon.

My Hero: Marie Curie

Conveniently the topic for the next Scientiae Carnival, Role Models of Women Making History, dovetailed nicely with the next exercise for the Total Leadership process.  I found the examples in the book about Total Leadership hard to follow on from as they were both about family members that had overcome adversity and personal challenges. These stories are very interesting, but while I admire my family greatly and I know they have undertaken personal challenges, to me a hero is someone who has done something beyond every day living.  So I chose Marie Curie.

Teaching chemistry to freshmen undergraduates makes me realize how white male dominated it was especially at the beginning of the twentieth century.  A few women stand out in my mind as having been successes despite the system – Dorothy Hodgkin and Rosalind Franklin are two from the mid to late twentieth century that come to mind.  Marie Curie (1867 – 1934) succeeded as a chemist and physicist at an earlier time than these two and from within the system.  I admire her because she dedicated her life to science to such an extent that she left her home country, Poland, to do research at a better institution in Paris.  This was definitely unusual for women at that time.  When she found her scientific niche, she carried out her research at the highest level winning two Nobel prizes.  Every scientist dreams of winning one, but two is outstanding.

The first Nobel prize was the prize for Physics awarded in 1903 to Marie Curie, Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel

“in recognition of the extraordinary services they have rendered by their joint researches on the radiation phenomena discovered by Professor Henri Becquerel.”

The second, the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, was awarded

“in recognition of her services to the advancement of chemistry by the discovery of the elements radium and polonium, by the isolation of radium and the study of the nature and compounds of this remarkable element.”

Marie Curie with her daughters

Marie Curie with her daughters

In addition to being a brilliant hardworking scientist she was also a wife and a mother.  Imagine Marie Curie, who discovered radiation, worrying about Pierre having holes in is socks or Irene getting enough fruit to eat*.

I connect to Marie Curie and see her as a role model because she gave her all to science despite the conventions and expectations of women at her time.

*I am sure she had governesses and housekeepers and was probably quite bourgeois, but still she did it.  She could have just stayed at home and done what every other middle class woman of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was doing.


Wikipedia on Marie Curie

Susan Quinn (1995) Marie Curie – A Life, Heinemann, London

Total Leadership: Critical Events in My Life

At the age of 16 or 17, I realized that I wanted to “me” and not to follow a crowd or to be what people expected or wanted me to be if it was not what I was.   It is a really odd story as this self-revelation happened after an all night party when I was jumping off a gate in the local park.  We went there to see sunrise or something; probably just for the thrill of being in the park when we shouldn’t have been there.  When I jumped off that gate, my best friend asked if I was all right. Something about her question, or the way she asked, triggered the idea that I would be myself and not what anyone else thought I should be.

I have written before about how I fell into my PhD program and landed on my feet.  I cannot possibly explain the joy that lab research* gives me.  The lab was one of the places that I feel at home and do not worry about people judging me and probably find me wanting.  There were only a few of those when I was in my mid-twenties.  As I remember, another one was when I was dancing to folk-rock bands, such as the Barely Works or Davy Spillane.

Just over thirteen years ago, I moved to the US.  I originally came for a two year postdoc.  I did not realize what a big step I was taking.  Luckily, probably, otherwise I would not have come.  While my first postdoc was frustrating, it was at this same time I started voice lessons. I had the thought that since I was away from home I could do anything I wanted for about six months, at which time I would have caught up with myself**.   I can still remember the amazement and pleasure of knowing that I was singing in tune for the first time.  My creative side also grew when I roomed with Karen Searle in St Paul, MN.  Nothing like a fiber artist to teach you how to take your creative knitting to a new, higher, level.

Fortunately, in Minnesota, my professional life found a new leash of life and I grew as scientist there too.  That lead to my first tenure track position at a research university that was very supportive of undergraduate education.  I was delighted to find out that teaching did not have to me standing in the front of a big lecture hall and talking at my students.  This way, using student centered learning and group work, I discovered that I had a natural ability to help, teach, and inspire students.

Not getting tenure at the aforementioned research university was another kind of life event!  One that I am still dealing with today.  I found that I had an inner strength.  Even at the beginning, I picture a room where even though one door was shut there were other doors and windows to try.  Shortly after my tenure fiasco, I was diagnosed with a growth on my colon. Since, health is far more important than any career, I decided having both a research and teaching career was too much for me.  So I changed my career emphasis to teaching.

*After writing the above post, I wondered when did science come into my life?  Has it always been there or was my PhD the real trigger?  I don’t know the answer.

** I also took up beer drinking – in England I drank [hard] cider.  This did not turn out so well.

Total Leadership: Why I am Reading this Book

The first recommended exercise is “why I am reading the book on Total Leadership and what I hope to get out of it”.

As I said in my Total Leadership introduction I bought this book just as it came out because I heard an interview with Dr Friedman on NPR that struck a chord with me.  I am always interested in finding ways to be more successful.  Despite that, it turned out that I was not willing to carry out the exercises recommended in the book to become a Total Leader. Suddenly, this week I am eager to get started.

I am just restarting an academic career that was derailed by my being denied tenure at a research university.  This time I want to succeed while still having a personal life outside of work.  Fortunately, I work at a community college where I concentrate on teaching which I love.  However, giving up research means that I am concerned that I am not going to reach my full potential as a scientist.  I have lots to offer my profession but since I struggle to present my work successfully I have failed to convince many of my colleagues of my value as a scientist as well as a teacher.

I am hoping that this book will allow me to me to articulate my goals so that my colleagues, and I, recognize my successes and that they help my profession.

Total Leadership Introduction

About six months ago I heard a radio interview on NPR with Stewart Friedman about his new book “Total Leadership”.  I was so impressed with some of his ideas of linking all areas of life together that I immediately ordered the book from Amazon.  However, as it turned out at that time I was not ready to read through this book and undertake the introspection required for me to move forward as a leader. So I put the book aside and carried on with my life.

It seems that the time has come for me to pick up this book again and work through the exercises that are required for me to grow into a total leader.  I hope to share some of these exercises on my blog.  Not all, as I am cautious about being too personal and revealing in a public area so more personal questions will not be written about here.

If you want to find out more the book is available from Amazon and there is a website and a blog.