Saturday, December 10, 2011

Never By Halves

This last month, I did something crazy.

I wrote a book.

November is National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo for those in the know) and people all around the world aspire to get a draft of their novel done, starting November 1st and finishing by November 30th. All you have to do is write 50,000 words in 30 days. That's 1,667 words a day. That's hard.

Someone I kinda-sorta knew told me she was doing it for the second year, and couldn't wait to start her novel tomorrow (she told me about it on Halloween.) I thought back to a brief vision I had a long time ago in High School. I had always dreamed of writing something that would inspire people, but never seemed to find the motivation to actually do it. So I went ahead and signed up, thinking it might be a fun "whatever" project.

It turned out to be an amazing experience.

Writing almost two thousand words a day when you're in college is really difficult. Especially when you also hold two and a half jobs as well, and are part of two clubs on top of that. Yikes! But I made sure that I did it; every moment of free time was spent cranking something out. It didn't have to have a particular place in the novel, it just had to be something. After about five thousand words I ran out of the few scenes that were begging to be written in my head. But somehow I managed to keep going!

The girl I barely knew is now one of my best friends; she and I would spend at least two days a week in my room writing furiously with Law&Order streaming from Netflix in the background. I would make cider, or milkshakes, or fruit smoothies, or whatever, and we would barely say a word to each other for four hours at a time.

Amazingly, when the end of November started rolling around, I found that I had already reached the goal of NaNoWriMo! I had writted 50,000 words in 23 days. Ye Gods and little fishes.


And there's my proof!

I have a lot of editing to do, but I actually have something I can hold up and say "I did this! I wrote a book!"

I heard a lot as a kid "If you don't have time to do it right the first time, when do you have time to do it over again?" This usually applied to cleaning something, but I also think it applies to life goals. If you don't make the time in your life for those little niggling life goals, how long will they bother you? Will it be something you regret when you're forty? Fifty? Eighty?

Well now I can scratch off one life goal. I wrote a book. Now I just have to edit it and make enough money from it to live happily ever after.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Hard of Hearing

There is something about finally understanding something unpleasant about yourself because you see it reflected in the ones close to you among you. This is one of the times when I am most happy I don't tell too many people that I write a blog, because I wouldn't want anyone to recognize themselves, hem hem.

I live with two very strong-willed women in a small apartment dorm on campus. One thing I must say about living with people; if you haven't found something you don't like about them before you move in together, you certainly will before you move out.

Having come from a household that was generally quite tidy on a regular basis I am appalled to enter the kitchen and find food bits on the floor, lingering in the sink, dirty dishes on every counter surface available, and clean dishes lounging in the draining rack for days on end. Not to mention the lack of soap used while washing dishes. Growing up I was, shall we say, a passive-aggressive person. To be fair to those who know me well, I must say that in some respects I still am; though I do try to be lighter on the passive part. I wanted to take a few moments this evening to shed a little light on how obnoxious some of my traits must have been for those around me, and how I came to realize how annoying it is.

Here we go.

Garbage: Have you ever read the poem "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout"? No? Go read it. Because it described me as a child, and my roommates currently. The garbage piles completely out of the gigantic trashcan and stinks something awful while we walk past it every day on our way to classes. My roommates wish to be told every time I want them to take it out - as I asked in my childhood. Now, I understand that having to ask someone every time you want to ask a boon that they please help to keep a shared space clean is extremely frustrating.

Dishes: I brought a lot of pots and pans to the apartment when I moved in. Nice forks and knives, too. I offered to share them with my roommates, but asked them if they were going to use them, please put them back where they were when they were finished. Three days later is not "when they were finished. It was three days later. Nor is a drying rack storage space for dishes. It is unsightly and messy. After a few weeks of asking them to help clean, and where is my fork, I now hide the things I don't want them to use. I'm tired of hunting for them.

Cleaning: Please see "garbage" entry. A messy space is no fun. There, end of story, go eat a sandwich! If something is dirty, clean it up when you see it. Walking by something you know is dirty is rude and it doesn't make me want to clean it any more than you do.

Apologies: This is probably my favorite. As a teenager apologies were my big way of getting away with saying things I probably should never have uttered in the first place. Saying something mean, apologizing for it minute later, then going about your business without a care is a very disturbing way to have a conversation. If you're sorry about what you said, then you would not have said it in that tone four times in the last month. I'll believe you're sorry when you don't do it again. Ever.

Information: Something I have had the misfortune of suffering from a good deal of my life is the certainty that whatever information is jangling around in my head is always correct. Except maybe grammar (less versus fewer). Telling a person "no, you can't do that because (insert scientific fact/other source here)" is very unfriendly, and succeeds only in making the other person think you're a buggering idiot. If I'm telling you I'm going to pre-cook my garlic and spices in butter I don't need you telling me why chemically that isn't favorable. Just let me try it, please, and go back to cooking your own dinner. Thanks.


It's incredibly hard to hear how annoying you are as a child. It's even harder to hear them as an adult, because everyone's trying to be polite all the time. Yeech. As many times as I've heard how unpleasant my flaws are from my parents, sibling, and boyfriend, it's really hard to experience my flaws in other people and realize "Yep, that's really annoying. I don't think I'm ever going to do that again. Excuse me while I smile and nod vaguely."

Blech. I hate good manners.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Brief Thoughts: I Am the One-Hundred Percent

All of this "Occupy (location)" business has really given me the opportunity for some thought. The concerns of the self-claimed 99% are valid, but the approach is confusing. Signs and a large sit-in (or sit-on) and large amounts of media attention bring light to their concerns, but I fail to see how it will move them towards being resolved. I have heard accounts where police are arresting people by the hundreds, and the process is streamlined for convenience of the officers.

I think this movement, where people are placing themselves on one end or another, is missing the point. Or rather, The Point. Capitals t and p. The movement is protesting inequality, and yet we divide ourselves across economic lines and point fingers. Those who have worker hard and suffer are on one end, and those who have easier economic burdens are on another.

I like to think that I'm part of the 100%. I live as a human being within our agreed society. I pay taxes. I have a job. I have dreams.

So where do you want to be? The one, ninety-nine, or one-hundred percent?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Instantly Adult

I feel old.

This summer I turned twenty while doing an internship with a government organization. I know, twenty isn't that old. However, the number itself isn't what is making the impact.

Firstly, I drove myself back to school this semester. For the last two years I have never had my own car on campus, and I honestly believed I would not be able to make the nine hour drive from home to school. It's boring, but apparently more than doable.

After spending the summer doing a 9-5 (or longer, depending on the day), working a very limited number of hours a week (15) at school seems like a bit of a joke. In order to feel a bit more normal, I accepted a paid tutoring position with the math department. Working as a group tutor and an individual tutor, that adds at least another 5 hours a week to my workload. Slightly more normal.

One thing that constantly amazes me now is the amount of complaining I hear. I had heard it before, but now I actually listened. For a lot of very privileged people, we sure managed to complain about a lot of insignificant things. And an awful lot of them turned out to be very first-world problems. Huh. On a typical day, I tend to hear at least one complaint about all of the following:
  • Homework
  • Exams
  • Professor's teaching style
  • That green thing in the pasta
  • Lack of free time (see first two complaints)
  • The significant other (there are too many variations on this theme to list)
  • Lack of _________________ (Eg. sleep, food, money, etc...)
There are way too many. I should start carrying cheese cubes to hand out with the whine. Listening to all of this with a sort of  mildly-interested smile, I can't help thinking that we really have an excellent life here.

I get asked for advice a lot. People seem to think I know what I'm doing  - trust me, I really don't. I am just really good at faking competence. I get asked about things in which I truly have no competency - I think it's a family curse, actually. I hope I can live up to the challenge, and perhaps help some of my cohorts to feel a little older than twelve.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Complex Summer

I have had the most advantageous summer. And - conveniently - it was fun.

I have spent the last three months at a research center with the Smithsonian. Already sounds great, right? I have thought for the longest time that I wanted to be a scientist, but now I know that I want to endorse science, not do the nitty-gritty lab work.

I got to work on some of the most beautiful coastline in the state, spending time in the sun and water and laughing to my hearts content.

I spent time working with meaningful projects, and had the opportunity to do my own research that will also double as my senior research for college, allowing me to graduate early.

I made some great friends, and enjoyed a great companionship with my colleagues and supervisors.

I had the chance to respond like an adult to difficult situations, and was given a lot of responsibilities and independent power.

I enjoyed a "trial run" of independent living, cooking all of my own meals and managing a small budget.

Best of all, I finally honed in on what I want to work on when I graduate, and the areas of my life that need to be changed. I know how I want to become a better person, a better worker, and a better student. I want to thank everyone I worked with and lived with on the campus of the research center.

Right now I'm not sure how I'm going to be able to go back to being a student - responsibilities downplayed, meals mostly in a cafeteria, only working for maybe two hours a day, instead of a 9-5. I just hope I never choose a job in which I ever utter the words "I don't really like my job"


Happy Summer!
On my very last day of field work, we caught four Cownose stingrays. It was a great day.

Monday, July 4, 2011

How to: Spot a Miracle.

Sometimes you just have to make your own luck.

My boyfriend of three years and I have been attempting to see each other (and failing miserably) for the last six months. He is in the military and stationed nowhere near me or his family. Being in school, it's been difficult to find time to see him. A few weeks ago we realized something amazing - the fourth of July was on a Monday, and it being a federal holiday we both would have the day off of work.

Following this epiphany came a sudden frenzy of planning. Did I want to drive down or fly? definitely fly, it would take half the time overall, including time spent waiting in airports. When was I leaving? I would have to leave in the middle of the workday to avoid the holiday rush, but a few talks with my supervisor and a few late nights to make up helped it happen.

We were determined to plan and pay for the weekend without any assistance from outside forces (i.e. parental units), but the short-notice nature of the military base meant that by the time we were certain about when we could meet, it was almost too late to buy tickets. Some poor luck with a travel agency on base meant that I had to beg my family for assistance. It was humiliating, and not an experience I plan to repeat.

However, one call of shame later I had tickets in hand! Or rather, on laptop. Save paper and all that jazz. I could hardly believe any of this was actually happening until I stepped off of the last flight and saw my boyfriend for the first time in six months. We got to spend the quality time together that we desperately needed to hold the remnants of our sanity together - to laugh, to cry, to cuddle, and to watch silly movies.

So, how to spot a miracle? Things don't always come easily. There will be brick walls thrown up, but somehow you will get past them if you want it badly enough. Things will be wonderful. Things will be sad. And - as the song goes - although you may not get exactly what you wanted, you'll get what you need.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Stuff My Dad Taught Me

I give a lot of props to moms on my blog, but sometimes the credit just has to go to dads. This is specifically on Father's Day, but that's not why I'm writing this; I think it's important to give credit where credit is due.

My job is very challenging, both physically and mentally. My dad spent a good deal of time in my childhood grooming me to be a good daughter, a hard worker, and just overall a good person. I like to think I'm a good person, anyway.

A hard lesson for a kid to learn is silence. The importance of silence in the social world is vastly underrated. Not only this, but also attentiveness. When I was young my parents brought me to a lot of social events where I was the only person in the room under thirty. I was told to basically not speak unless spoken to, and generally answer questions succinctly. This wasn't because my parents didn't want to listen to me talk (they already listened a lot as it was), but they were teaching me that the best way to be remembered as a good listener was to let other people do most of the talking. Keep your stories short, your smiles large, and your fidgety tendencies under control and you will go far.

My dad did this weird thing with my brother and I when we were both very small. He brought us outdoors into the summer heat (several summers' worth of heat, actually) and built a playhouse with us. We didn't just sit in the shade and watch him - oh no - we participated! We got our own tiny sets of steel-toed boots (complete with demonstration of the power of a nail-gun) and work gloves. We hammered, sawed, and constructed with the best of them. At the time it was such a pain to go outside - too hot, too much work, all the other kids got to stay inside, why not us? - but most of my memories of those summers is of working with my dad, and working so hard to earn his respect.

At my job I do a lot of strange things. The other day I was helping someone construct a ballast-water sampler, bolting a fiber-glass bathtub to some weird wooden frame, and putting big bolts through tiny holes. I thanked my dad in my head for all the times he summoned me outside to watch him work. I also now find it hysterically awful if people won't "lower themselves to constructing something by hand. Pff.

During my rebellious teen years my Dad was amazingly supportive. I was the angsty teenager, he was the silent giant. My dad was a rock; he made time to talk to me when I couldn't articulate my feelings, he talked with me until the right words came. My dad was there.

Dear dads: drag your children outside. Yank the cords on the television while they still have some imagination left. Drag them to the kitchen and show them how to cook. Listen when they cry, especially girls. Girls look up to their fathers. You don't have to talk much, just enough to show them you mean business. Take your kids outside into the sunshine and show them how to work with their hands; how to create and grow and build higher. Anything is better than nothing. They may roll their eyes now, but in five or ten years they will thank you. Really.

Thanks, Dad.

Happy Father's Day.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Evolution of a Bad Deal

As women, when we grow up we start to realize what a bad deal we get in life. It goes something like this.

As a young kid we are basically androgynous, and can do anything boys can do (the more politically correct among us will say that this doesn't change. I disagree). As we approach puberty, these strange fleshy things start growing out of our chest, and it hurts a lot when a soccer ball or something slams into them.

What?? Are you kidding me? This is a bad deal! Is it too late to switch to the other gender?

Just when you think "okay, I think I can live with these strange things", your mom tells you at some point in the next few years you will start to bleed out of a very personal area for a week out of every month. No kidding.

What?? Are you kidding me? This is a horrible deal! Is it too late to switch??

So you learn to deal with the bleeding thing (no choice, actually), but then in high school you learn that the strange bleeding occurrence means you can get pregnant. Yup, you get stuck with carrying this huge parasite around, and after nine months it will messily and painfully squirm out of your birth canal. What a fabulous deal, I'm so glad I'm a woman.

You must be pulling my leg. No deal is as bad as this one. Is it too late to switch?

Finally, after the boobs, the bleeding, the birth, doctors tell you about menopause. Just when you've learned to deal with all of this nonsense, someone tells you it is all going to go in reverse.

I give up. Someone pass the hormones and botox.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The "S" is for "Spa"

Somehow I have managed to land a job that pays me to play around in paradise.

For my internship there are field days and lab days. On lab days we transfer samples from one solution to another, take measurements, and all other sorts of cool sciency things. During field days (especially in June, I’m learning) we go out into the field (our sampling sites) and wade walk around in warm, ankle-to-waist-deep warm water while the sun is shining, a breeze tousles our hair, and the green trees above us sway exotically.

I kid you not.

I felt like I was on the set of Swiss Family Robinson. Although I’m fairly certain they didn’t come out of the water with nets and proceed to measure and count grass shrimp, trying to avoid being stabbed (they’re pointy and vicious!) Several times I stopped what I was doing, and tried to wrap my head around the glorious scenery. I asked my supervisor how it was possible we were paid to do this!

Because we also have to do it in mid-August, she replied.

I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. For now, I’ll just enjoy the complimentary tanning (under bright sun), hair coloration (salt water + sunlight), mud masks (from when you trip in a transect), and skin exfoliation  (sand that gets in your shoes and clothes).

Enjoy your cubicle, and I'll enjoy my tropical vacation- I mean ... Internship.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Life On the Fritz

So the great adventure begins! Today was orientation, and the ten other interns in my group and I got to sit through a long (and somewhat terrifying) orientation. Over about two hours we heard about all the ways we could hurt ourselves through accident or negligence (ticks, bacteria in the rivers, crab pinch, cuts, chemicals) and glowing with pride at being called “the best and brightest” in our respective fields.

After a long orientation, a very brief lunch, and an even longer lab orientation (fun, but still enough information to curdle dairy) I was left with no dinner! How are conquering heroes supposed to survive on popcorn and hot sauce?

Whip out the GPS and head for a grocery store! I felt fairly confident about where I was going… until my GPS told me I was in front of a Safeway, and there wasn’t a Safeway in sight! Uhh… I had no co-pilot to direct me, and there were a number of cars behind me that were not comfortable with the uncertain moves I was making with my car. I pulled over at a gas station and punched in the address again. More strange looks and me swearing at my GPS later, I gave up and headed for the Giant I saw down the street.

Groceries attained, albeit at a rather unpleasant price, I told my GPS to take me “home."

Nothing.

I cancelled the search for the address, and tried it again.

Still nothing. Oh goodness, my GPS was having a seizure and I had no idea where I was in relation to where I needed to be. OH HELL.

I did a full shut-down of the GPS, and pulled out into the street in the general direction of the research center. I tried to remember street names as I pushed the “Take Me Home” button frantically on the home screen. I made a turn, and realized that if my GPS didn’t kick in within five minutes I was going to be completely lost. It worked after I uttered a few choice swear words, and I made it home without further incident.

I cooked dinner for two friends who appreciated a fresh cooked tasty meal. Thank goodness that went without a hitch. Tomorrow starts with transferring samples into 70% ethanol from 95% ethanol, then spending an afternoon in a field. And somewhere in there I have to get technical training and have fingerprints taken for my ID badge. Hoo boy!

Monday, May 30, 2011

All Hail the Mighty GPS!

One of my great terrors in life is driving. I can't really explain it, but I'm truly terrified of going down the wrong road and getting lost.

Just today I left home by myself for a fantastic summer internship. I have left home before for things like college, but I've never been driving to these new experiences in a car by myself! I packed the car with most of what I wanted to have at the internship, hugged my parents goodbye, and drove off into the sunset.

Well... it was around two in the afternoon, so there was no sunset. And I had to pull off the road and wait for the GPS to figure out where I was before I even left the neighborhood. The drive itself was relatively uneventful, except for the few times that my GPS and road signgs didnt agree on what the streets and highways were named. For some strange reason, other cars on the highway just don't appreciate you merging back and forth in the highway because your GPS is playing games with you.

Somehow my GPS managed to get me more than an hour from home, and I didn't swerve off the road or take the wrong exit. And somehow I found the security office on the first time, got my dorm key without incident, unpacked, and cooked a mild dinner.

Now I shall retire for the evening, sheltering inside from the sweltering heat, and I hope to tell more tales soon! Wish me luck!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

When Life Gives You Lemons


Break out the super-fine artist's pens!

This year one of my professors decided to throw us (her students) a life preserver. For our final exam, we were going to be allowed to bring in a "cheat sheet" on a 3x5 index card. We could write whatever we wanted on it beforehand, and use it for the two-day exam. Needless to say, there was a collective cheer from the entire class. We might actually get a good grade on the final exam!

A long time ago when I dabbled with the idea of becoming a professional artist (never again) I invested in a set of fine-line pens that can draw a line as thin as 0.1 mm. I hadn't used them in about three years, and was thinking about giving them away when this project came along. Thank goodness I didn't! 0.1 mm is both tiny and legible!

I spent the better part of a weekend flipping through my notes and finding the facts I just never seemed to be able to remember, finding interesting ways to fit them on an already crowded index card. I wrote so small and so compact that I ran out of things to write long before I ran out of room on the card. It was rather impressive. My professor even said that it was on "the high end" of information crammed onto one card compared to the many she had seen before.

However, the super-sneaky award has to go to my professor. The whole time I was scribbling frantically, I was actually doing a very large amount of studying. Overall I probably studied three times as hard for the final exam than any other. And overall, it was worth it.

By the way, I passed.

The front of the card