Monday, March 30, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Going Rogue

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

Since receiving the news about my dream postdoc and the pending move, I've been thinking a lot about my career path. Despite the fact that this training will be academically focused, I'm still hell bent on leaving academia or finding a less traditional path. To accomplish this, I've been doing a lot of networking and research into options. But, I've also been entertaining options that most would not consider.

I've written about how we're going broke over daycare. Literally. As much as Grey and I love the school the Beats attend, the cost is more than what I make annually as an adjunct professor (and I could easily write another post about the slave labor that is adjunct faculty). About two weeks before I received the news from E, I made a bold move. I called a meeting with our daycare's director and asked about employment options. And was floored when she asked "when can you start?"

There's a lot of data emerging about early childhood education and the positive impact it has on life-long learning. What didn't dawn on me until I started training at the center was the mindful curriculum development that is underway with some of these centers, focusing on providing kids from a very young age opportunities to explore and learn. Even more surprising was the realization that a lot of the techniques and tools the centers are using mirror what is being used in STEM education at the post-secondary level. 

Throw in the fact that we get a 50% discount and added income and we are no longer bleeding financially.

This week I settle into a new quarter and work schedule. It's definitely going to be chaotic for me. But, at least the chaos is reduced down to me and me alone. That and the fact that doors are opening and ideas are flowing for future prospects.

Wish me luck.

Monday, March 23, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: The lies we tell

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

Change is in the air. Since Grey's return from his conference back East, our time has been filled with planning, organizing and figuring out logistics. Slowly, we been sharing the news of the upcoming move. There's been many moments of excitement and joy. But there have also been moments of sadness.

In those moments, promises are always made. That even though change is on the horizon, that we'll do everything we can to maintain contact and continue on as before. In many cases, these promises are very true. These relationships are important to our family and we fully intend on fostering them through all means possible. But in some cases, we both know its the final nail in the coffin for this relationship. That these false promises are simply made to ease the transition and the loss.

It's always strange how some times the lies are necessary. Though we preach honesty, there are times where the fallacy is actually kinder. It always leaves a pit in my stomach, telling things to others I think they want to hear while leaving some things left unsaid. All out of fear of fallout, causing more pain or harm and even seeming apathetic. 

And yet, it's always a sign of distance and closure. Something that brings its own sadness for what was and could have been.

Monday, March 16, 2015


It's a two-fer today, as I finally have some downtime. Such a rare luxury....

On Sunday, Grey and I woke the Beats at the very early hour of 3:30 am to make the trek to the airport. It's his first time away from the family for more than 8 hrs and he's already missing the Beats immensely. As he opened the back doors to say good-bye, He-Beat threw up his arms to indicate he was ready to get out. The sad sob was certainly heartbreaking, rectified later only with some snuggles and a sippy cup of warm milk. Even this morning, both Beats were scanning the house, looking for him. Though their days are filled with activity and fun, I'm pretty sure they miss him too.

Tonight will mark the midway point of me solo-parenting. I've been very fortunate to have family and friends check-in with me and offer assistance. So far things have been going well so I haven't needed anything, but I'm fairly sure that by Wednesday we'll all be ready for Grey to be home and for life to be back to normal.

Wish me luck.

#MicroblogMondays: Sakura

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

Anniversaries of loss are marked in different ways. Some mark them as dates on the calendar. Others by places or events. For me, I mark them with the cherry blossoms. The blooms that bring a sweetness to the air and a promise of spring. The blooms that last for too short a period of time.

Since the Beats have arrived, there's been a difference for how I recognize those we lost. Though there is still an underlying feeling of sadness for losing those much wanted babies, there's also a moment of reflection on the trauma from that period and how much it has shaped my current reality. It's a time I allow myself to analyze the scars and find the beauty in the scar tissue that has healed over the wounds.

Last year, Grey and I took the Beats to the University Quad to spend some time with the blossoms. As I watched these two tiny infants roll on the grass and excitedly call out to the other children who were playing, I couldn't help but envision their siblings also running around in the same carefree manner. Calling the Beats to come play with them. The weather over the weekend has prevented a similar outing this past weekend, but I'm planning on taking them tomorrow for a family picnic. Allowing them to sit under the trees and absorb the beauty that is all too fleeting.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Three years ago, I began a conversation with E, a professor who heads a lab working on a some fascinating flowers. I had known of E for a number of years, given her reputation, but it was my first time reaching out to her to discuss postdoctoral training and potentially working with her.

Over the next few years, E would become my mentor. Following an interview with her prior to Grey's cousin's wedding, we began working on proposals for fellowships for me. Despite continual rejection, E continued to support me, remaining in contact and supporting me as I drafted more proposals for jobs and additional funding. All the while, despite continual bleak results, she encouraged me. She's become a trusted mentor.

Today, after driving into the city to pick Grey up from work and successfully finding a lone parking spot, I took a moment to check my email before dragging the Beats to a local coffee shop. The whole family has been sick for the past month, but with both Beats cutting molars sleep has basically been nonexistent for both Grey and me. So sitting in the car in an already dazed state, I did a double-take when a saw an email from E titled "Award Recommendation." Curious, I opened it to see what was happening.

"AWESOME NEWS!!!" she wrote. "Just heard from NSF that they have found the $ to fully fund our award."

Then she asked me the question I never thought I would hear: "So what do you think? I know you're pretty settled out there and I imagine your husband hasn't been looking in Boston but is there still a chance you could come?"

There are moments you get life-changing bad news. It hits you like a ton of bricks, leaving you numb from the shock while the grief begins to brew in your stomach. It's funny how life-changing good news can initially start out the same, but usually result in a response most would interpret as bad.

It took me closed to 5 minutes to control the sobs that over came me. Sitting in the shadow of Amazon, I'm sure those that past by would have thought something horrible had just happened instead of the dream I had worked so hard for finally materializing.

Grey and I are talking tonight. There's a lot to think about with all of this and how we will make any of this happen. But his response as well as the response from others have all started out with "HOLY." And he's been all smiles since then, telling me without a second thought that we are going to make this happen. This is the news we've been waiting for to push this transition. Can I tell you how much I love this man?

Monday, March 9, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Swim

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too

I've had a love affair with water since I was a child. Growing up in the "Land of 10,000 lakes" meant learning to swim was a given and many a summer was spent either in a lake or next to a pool. When I was older, I became a lifeguard (one of my chosen careers as a child) and later went on to teach swimming lessons through high school and college. I loved being in the water and getting paid to spend time in it splashing around with small children seemed like a dream job.

Since moving to Seattle, though, I haven't been in a pool outside of a couple of times. Part of this is due to lack of pools, but the other is that the bodies of water here are cold and never warm up. So while playing in the snow is very easy (another love), submerging into the water is much harder.

Still, it's important to me that the Beats learn to swim. As others talk about "mom and tot" swim classes, I've felt guilty about not introducing them to the water sooner. But it's near impossible given that both Grey and I need to be in the pool with them (one downfall with twins) while also juggling work schedules.

That changed on Saturday. The local multiples group we are part of hosted a pool party and I informed Grey that we were going. Armed with swim diapers and towels, we introduced the Beats to a pool for the first time. They were obviously overwhelmed by the new sounds, all the people, the tepid water and the fact that both their parents would disappear under the water, but they both started to warm up to the idea with lots of splashing and learning it's okay to pour water over our heads.

The goal is to try doing open swim at least once a month, getting them use to the water and the environment. All to help them transition into swim lessons. Though I don't expect them to go on to be Olympic athletes, I do hope that they will at least learn how to float and survive if they ever find themselves in a large body of water. But I also hope that one day they also have their own love affair.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Defying walls

Walls will always find us in this life,
walls and fences and so many reasons
to give up, to give in. 
It is up to us, us and only us, 
to climb them, to cling to them
like leaves and grow anyway.

Let the light shine through,
for there will always be cracks.
Grow, grow defiant against the walls
that tower around you,
the fences that lock you in.

~ Tyler Knott Gregson

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Finding Cristy

How would you define yourself and your role?
I define myself as ‘Pamela.’  I don’t want to be categorized. I feel very strongly that there is a ‘new normal’ for all of us — not all of us fit in this very neat and tidy labeling and banding.
~Bitter Infertiles Podcast, Episode 20: Living Childfree
In 2010, Grey and I entered into marriage counseling. Having come up on almost the year mark of TTC without success and with me on the verge of finishing graduate school, our fights were becoming increasingly bitter. I remember feeling so stuck because I wanted so many things in life. I wanted a family and a home, but I also wanted a career. And that career path I was striving for was threatening to separate us with others around me dropping the idea of us living apart for awhile so I could start a postdoc. I remember Grey being so angry about me trying to obtain all the labels while seemingly discounting his feelings. Through counseling we began talking and finding solutions to all that faced us. Still, it was a hard time.
Fast forward 5 years. Though the Beats are here, the career that I always envisioned has failed to manifest itself and I'm rapidly facing burn-out from trying to jump through all the right hoops. About 2 months ago I applied for a position that I knew would be a bit of a long-shot, so I wasn't too surprised when I haven't heard back. But then an email landed in my inbox announcing interviews for potential candidates for this position. The top four. And it was when I read through their qualifications, saw what they had to offered as part of their packages and how disappointingly boring and benign their career paths were that it hit me that I was done with this road. Utterly and completely done.
Our society is one that is obsessed with labels. When you meet someone, it's the labels that help us quickly determine if this person is someone we want to associate with further. Either they are a (enter job of choice) or they are a (enter hobby/activity/sport of choice) or what ever else one might use to categorize themselves. Since the Beats have arrived, I find myself encountering a new group labeled "parent" where topics revolve around childcare, child-related equipment, parenting-related woes and other topics that I know would have sent a younger-version of myself screaming for the hills. Still, it's the labels that help us find familiarity; help us take those first steps to commonality.
The thing is, I am more than the labels attached to me. And increasingly I've been feeling more and more boxed in because of them. Instead of finding commonality, many of these labels are acting as barriers, limiting the interactions I want to have. A lot of this has to do with the programing in my head, engrained from such a young age, but it's hard too to do anything when you're feeling judged.
The big area for this has been with my career. For too long, I've believed that the career path I wanted was one working at a small college, setting up a research lab to use to educate my students. But with the current funding environment, the competition has gotten completely unreasonable and many of these institutions are now hiring people who clearly were trained for research institutions. In addition, I'm watching many go on to do postdocs which are averaging 8-10 years; a transition step that was originally meant to be for no more than 2-3 yrs max. All the while, as I watch many work more and more for less and less, there still exists the stigma for anyone who leaves academia. That by doing anything else those people automatically earn the badge of "quitter."
One major gift from infertility was learning that many times you need to shed the labels or redefine them in order to get what you want. Sure, it would have been wonderful to get pregnant the way most others do and surprise Grey with the news. Instead what I hold on to is the imagine of him lovingly carry the dewar containing the Beats when they were frozen embryos, transferring them from one clinic to another. Yes, there are days I wish we didn't have the debt we do from IVF nor that we had to lose the others along the way. But Grey has reminded me that part of what makes our family so special is how hard we had to fight to get here. And that the angels that we lost are far from gone; they now are watching over their brother and sister. 
But one final gift infertility gave me is knowing that the fear of failure and the worst case scenario is always worse than the reality. That someone else's "I can't imagine" can actually be the beginning of something so unique and special. Yes, those roads are often bumpy and hard, but a lot of the time they are also the most rewarding. The most freeing. And the one's where you are most likely to find yourself. 
So, I'm officially shedding a label. I have obligations I need to fulfill, but I'm now job hunting in a new way with a new outlook. I've already begun networking and looking into opportunities that I never would have considered before. Getting advise from others who I hadn't considered to ask. All the while, gauging myself and checking to see "is this possibility something I can see a future in."
All of this scares the crap out of me. The chance for failure is certainly high and I'm sure I'll look like a fool. But I no longer care. Because I know that at the end of the day, I'm more than a mother, a wife, a scientist, a rock-climber, an educator, a swimmer and a knitter. I'm more than the labels that have been assigned to me. Just as I am more than my infertility. At the end of today and every day to come, I am Cristy.
And that label certainly doesn't fit into any neat and tidy package.

Monday, March 2, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: What I've been up to

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

If you haven't noticed, I've been absent from this space. Part of it has to do with things I've been processing, which are still amorphous. But the other thing is my attention has been focused on wrapping up this quarter; finalizing projects.

Specifically an experiment I've been trying. In lieu of a final exam, I assigned my students a final project of writing mini-reviews based on one of the topics we covered this quarter. These have been turned into blog posts and this blog has been advertised to the scientific community.

So far the response has been amazingly impressive . . . but limited to my inbox. So, if you have time, stop by and drop my students a friendly comment. Even if you have zero clue/interest in what they are talking about, the encouragement would be greatly appreciated.

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