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.