Saturday, June 8, 2013

Wrapping Up

Things have been ridiculously crazy around here, which is why I've pretty much stopped posting. Most of it is grad school-related. This past winter, my PI was talking about us traveling to Italy to do some field work, and based on that, we were anticipating me defending in the winter. However, his plans for the summer became too hectic, so we decided to nix that trip (it wasn't necessary for my research, so it made sense financially and time-wise for me not to go alone).

A month ago, he informed me that I should apply for summer graduation. Traditionally, UC has been on a quarter schedule, so Summer Quarter goes until the end of August/beginning of September. That was going to give me until mid- or late August to wrap up. Totally doable.

But UC switched to semesters this past year, and we didn't make the connection that since the summer session now ends at the beginning of August, summer graduates are required to have defended and submitted their theses by late July. Since I'd already applied, and I don't want to pay the application fee again, I'm going for it. That means I have 23 more days (give or take a day) to get my data analysis finished and my thesis drafted and sent out to my committee. I'll defend a couple of weeks after that.

So basically, I was thinking I'd have at least two months to finish a massive amount of data analysis and write a 60+ page paper (in our lab, masters' theses average 80-100 pages, for some perspective). Now, I've got half that time. That means that I'll continue to neglect this space until I finish up.

I know I will be happy I went for the M.S. when I'm finished, but right now, I'm so sick of it all that I am tempted to just walk away. The one upside is that since I have to finish a month sooner than I anticipated, but am already contracted to teach through the end of the summer (with an option to stay on as an adjunct professor if I choose), I will actually get a quasi-summer vacation after my defense is complete. Teaching two days a week, and the rest of the time I'll actually get to be home with my family. That's my motivation at this point.

I know my research is sound, so provided I get everything finished I don't anticipate problems with my defense. The problem with being an overachiever is that I did WAY more data collection than would typically be expected of a master's student. Which means I've got a ton of analyses and statistical work to do. NOT fun. Wish me luck.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

End of the (School) Year

As of yesterday, Josh officially finished for the 2012-2013 academic year. My students had finals the week before. So we're officially on "summer break," not that that means a damned thing when you're in grad school. I will still be teaching this summer as well as finishing my data analysis, writing my thesis, and defending, so I'll be busier than ever. But at least Josh gets a bit of a break.

I got my students' evaluations back today from this past semester. These things never fail to make me feel better about myself. My average score was 4.9/5, and I had some of the sweetest comments:

"Kimberly was probably the best TA I've had in my years at UC. In addition to being dedicated and actually excited about the material, she was able to explain the material in a way that made the material accessible and emphasized the practicality of it. I've had many TA's that are either highly interested in the material or good at teaching something, but none as well as Kimberly. Her grading was fair and she was very helpful both inside class and through email with understanding the material and what was required. I know some TA's can be nominated for awards in certain departments and if biology is one of them, then I nominate Kimberly. She was truly a superb instructor."

"This TA was by far one of the most helpful and caring TA's I have ever had. She had a very good understanding of the course expectations and was very approachable. She did every think in her power to make sure the students understood the objectives of each experiment as well as the material being taught. Definitely the best TA I've had."

My personal favorite? "Lab sucks, but great TA :)". I agree, anonymous student. This year's transition to semesters has not been what I would call pleasant, and a lot of the lab material felt like "filler." There's nothing I hate worse than being forced to drag students in to do something they won't benefit from. It's a waste of their time and mine. As it was, the doubled student loads meant that I was working an extra 15 hours a week for no extra pay. So yeah, the lab session and associated activities did sort of suck. But at least this kid liked me as an instructor.

This is why I go out of my way to participate in graduate clubs and seminars that will improve my teaching abilities. I may not go into teaching as a profession, but right now, 50+ undergrads count on me each semester to give them a foundation in biology, and I feel compelled to do right by them. It is also the reason I've been getting by on about 3 hours of sleep, and haven't been posting very much. But from the sound of it, it's been worth it.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Railroad Depot Park

A couple of weeks ago, while Trin was at a horseback riding lesson, we took the boys to the Railroad Depot Park. This is one of Gabe's favorite parks, because it's got a train theme, and is right next to the Erlanger Depot, which is one of the oldest wooden train depots in the eastern U.S. Basically, it's a great place for the kids to play and watch trains go by.

Note: I have no idea why a few of these pictures are turning out blurry. They are clear on both my camera and in my saved picture file. I'm hoping that when I post this, they'll show up clear, but right now, a couple of them look extremely pixelated.

He's always excited to see trains.

Not as excited about having his picture taken.

He is going to hate me for this picture when he is older. But it's too ridiculous not to share. He is terrified of swings, and it cracks me up.

I told Josh that if he was going to give a one-year-old a sip of a Slush Puppy, he would have to deal with the aftermath. Go figure, Simon just played hard then crashed. No sugar high for him.

In addition to the playground, the park has an old train car that you can climb on. It gives you a great view of the railroad tracks.

We ran into my chiropractor's secretary, Jen, and her boys. They are in the process of moving a couple of hours away, so it was great to see them one last time.

Definitely not the best quality picture, but they wouldn't hold still. All of the little boys at the park that day were wearing the same color shirts. So much for making it easy to spot Gabe!

Happy Monday, everyone.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Let's Go to the Zoo, Zoo, Zoo

Yesterday was Roger's funeral, but I am not handling his death well, so I'm just going to try to forget about that. And what better way to do so than to post pictures from one of my favorite places to go as a family?

I have written frequently about how much our family loves the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. I feel extremely fortunate that we live so close to such an amazing zoological park. I grew up going to the zoo on a very frequent basis, and I'm happy our kids have had the same opportunity.

Every year in April, the Cincy Zoo offers something called "Tunes and Blooms." Basically, it's a free event on Thursday evenings, featuring local musicians and offering the public a chance to check out some of the amazing flowers on display. Because of our schedules, we haven't been able to make it over there for one of these events. But since we have a membership, we can go whenever we want to enjoy the flowers.

I'm still trying to figure out my new telephoto lens, but I'm getting a bit more confident. This was taken through a metal fence from probably 100+ feet away.

Usually, emus look like they want to rip your face off. This one seemed atypically docile and almost friendly, but it may have been a trick.

Love this one, because I almost missed it. She wandered a few feet away from us while we were looking at the gorillas, and I turned to see her doing this. Makes you realize just how big gorillas' hands and feet are!

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Monday, April 22, 2013

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens...

This week has been a ridiculous emotional roller coaster for me. I'm so exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally, that I would love to just curl up in a ball and sleep for a day and a half. But I'm an insomniac, so instead of sleeping, I'm blogging. Sigh. At least I finished grading the 50 lab reports I had to read this weekend.

In the past few days, as I struggled to reconcile everything that I was seeing and experiencing, I kept thinking of one of my favorite passages from the Bible, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. I love this passage because it almost transcends religion. There is no mention of God, or faith, or denomination. There's nothing here to ignite anger, or to trigger verbal abuse on Facebook. It just is. And right now, I need that.

Some of this verse is more relevant than the rest right now. But I'm going with it, because I'm so drained that I need something to guide me.

1  There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2  a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot

I lost a long-time friend on Saturday (April 20th). He was a man who I looked up to as a child, and then grew to love as an adult. He taught me a lot of what I know about animals, and was a great role model, neighbor, and friend to both Josh and I. He was only in his early 40s, and he was killed by his second heart attack in two months. He left behind his pre-teen stepson, who is the one who found him and called 911, and 7- and 3-year-old sons. These kids were his world. I cannot even imagine what they're going through.


Roger lived down the street from us, so before Trinity was born, we used to walk down the street to his house in the evenings after his kids were in bed, where we'd hang out in the basement and play video games. Well, the guys played, and I'd watch. I just saw him a few days ago, and he told me he was feeling "completely better," and was so excited to be able to come back to work and do stuff with his kids. I'll always be grateful for the fact that I got to tell him how much I loved him and that I got one more hug. Too many people don't get that.

Chris, Josh, and Roger, circa 2007

We went to Jane's Saddlebag, a local tourist attraction, yesterday before we found out about Roger. It's a popular biker spot, but it's extremely family-friendly. The owners are old friends of Josh and his mom. The kids had a great time playing outside, picking dandelions, playing in their many outbuildings, checking out the petting zoo, and making new friends.

A time to uproot, indeed (they had a fight with weeds)

3  a time to kill and a time to heal
a time to tear down and a time to build

There has been so much devastation in the news this week. Boston, Texas, China, Iran... I've spent so many hours this week with the news on in the background as I worked, trying to understand why we can't just get along. I'm really pretty live-and-let-live, so this desire by others to hurt people is something I just don't understand. My thoughts are with everyone who has been affected by tragedy this week.

I have so much I want to say about the horrifying events in Boston, in particular. But nothing I can offer hasn't been said more eloquently by someone else already. So I just send love, gratitude for all of the people who stepped up and helped out during the hours and days following the blasts, and hope for healing.

Also on the healing front, Josh fell and got a concussion earlier this week. He's almost back to normal now, but it was just one more thing. I'm so thankful that he's okay. I'd be lost without him.

4  a time to weep and a time to laugh
a time to mourn and a time to dance

Terrible threes- we all have days when life seems totally unfair

Gabe is at that age where he wants to go without pants all the time. Josh took Trinity outside to play today, and Gabe wanted to go. I told him he had to go put pants on before he could go outside. We all got a much-needed laugh when this was the result:

Daddy's shorts count, right?

5  a time to cast away stones and a time to gather them
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing

Sometimes, a few stones are all you need

I always thought of "casting away stones" in a literal sense, given the time and context of the passage. But metaphorically, there is much I need to cast away from my life- little stresses and things that don't matter that I let weigh me down. And there are things I need to focus on. Within the past month I've lost two people who I loved deeply, and I've heard of or witnessed many other people going through similar things. I have friends who are facing terrible illnesses, or whose children are sick. It sucks. But it makes you reevaluate what is important in your life.

Simon likes being "cast away" as long as Daddy is there to catch him

Trinity has always been dramatic, but lately this is what she does when she is upset. There is no reasoning with her when she puts herself in the corner. She doesn't want to be spoken to or touched. Talk about refraining from embracing. But in five minutes, she'll be back to laughing and playing as if nothing had ever happened.

6  a time to search and a time to give up
a time to keep and a time to throw away

Spring cleaning is on hold indefinitely at our house. It's driving me crazy. We have entirely too much stuff in too little space, and I have so much that I want to get rid of, or donate. But I just have no time. Just like I have no time to blog anymore. Work is exhausting, every day I tell myself I cannot wait to be done with my master's program, so I can have a break. But there is a part of me that says, "If you just stay three more years, you'll have your Ph.D." Even as a child, I always assumed I would have a doctorate. It's something I've always wanted, whether it was by becoming a DVM or by getting my Ph.D. And I hear everyone around me saying I should go for it, which makes it harder. I'm torn. It's just one more thing to clutter up my brain until my head is spinning.

7  a time to tear and a time to mend
a time to be silent and a time to speak

I think this is what this post is about. I usually try to stay fairly optimistic and upbeat. But lately I'm just tired. Tired of all of the negative things I'm seeing in the world. Tired of dealing with a million things that by themselves wouldn't be so bad, but together are enough to weigh me down. I've been walked on by a few people I trusted lately, and being the non-confrontational person I am (passive aggressiveness aside), I let it happen. And now I've got to deal with my own frustrations with myself for letting these things happen. I need to learn to speak up, and to cut ties with people who take advantage of me.

8  a time to love and a time to hate
a time for war and a time for peace

Even the flamingos at the zoo were meaner this week than usual

I am really going to try to let go of the things that are weighing me down. I want to be able to live more in the moment, without a thousand worries always in the back of my mind. Last week was terrible, and I know that this week will be rough. I'm on the committee in charge of bringing together a large conference for Tuesday, so tomorrow is going to be crazy. Roger's funeral will be sometime this week, and since my students have finals, I know I'll be getting a million emails. Plus all of my usual work.

I'm really going to try to let it all go, and just focus on what matters. Love. Peace. Family. 

There may be a time for everything, but I think the world collectively has dealt with enough crap for a while. Bring on the joy.