Saturday, January 31, 2009

Disease and Death - With Tables and Graphs!

I subscribed a while back to something called the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. It is the most fun thing that lands in my Google Reader every week. Especially fun for graph geeks and hypochondriacs. Did you know that we're having a really light flu year so far? Everything's down. Even chlamydia. I blame the economy.

This week's best bit of news was that lead toxicity in children in NY state is down considerably, and apparently it's all down to hapless homeowners scraping paint around toddlers. Everybody else appears to have got the message.

Check out QuickStats: Percentage of Adults Aged >18 Years Who Had Ever Been Tested for HIV, by Age Group and Sex. It's happy stuff!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Banner Week

This has been a fabulous week.

Annie passed her driver's permit test today, meaning that she gets to learn how to drive. YAY. I can't even express how great that is for ME.

The internships we can apply for got posted this week, and despite dire warnings that the pickin's would be slim due to the economy, there is a bushel's worth of ones that I'm really excited about. I'm back to thinking I want to be an epidemiologist when I grow up, and I have at least 7 epi internships looking for people like me. At this point, since they haven't called, I don't think the Government Accountability Office is going to pan out. But that's OK.

I rediscovered how much I like statistics. I was, truth be told, pretty demoralized by last semester's Intro to Biostatistics class. I struggled to understand what on earth the teacher was talking about, and the GSIs made me want to kill myself in labs. Then I completely bombed the final, which made me feel like I should pack up my calculator and go home (I still got out with a B+, thank god for the other grades in the class and good ol' grade inflation). But I am adoring both my stats professors this semester, and feeling excited about the topic again. Also? Projects instead of tests. Life is good.

A paper which I wrote some of at work (and did most of the groundwork for) was picked for a presentation at a conference in FL in February. Sweetly, the grown ups at work had given me first author credit. I probably won't present (I'd have to miss four days of school, and when I did that last semester, I never really caught up), but having first author on a current paper in my current field is huge. Big plus at job search time.

I was asked to write a manual of operations for a multi-center project. This is just about as huge as the paper, in terms of handy things to have on your resume. That'll be the last project I do before I leave in May for an internship, and since I love to write and hate to recruit patients for studies (I'm relieved of those duties, now), I'm a happy camper.

Rob was at least loosely offered another job, albeit a 1 hour commute away and we don't know about the pay yet. Still exciting.

My mom would want me to mention that she bought a new place to live and sold her old one, and that's true, too (although she and Rob *ought* to get their own blogs! :-)). The sun is shining down upon us all.

All things considered, it's been a spiffy seven days.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Some Things I've (re)Learned Lately

There's no story here, nothing to deduce. I've just been learning a lot of little lessons lately, and thought I'd collect them:

  • It's nice to have friends. I have had moments where I've thought that it's so hard for me to be a decent friend I should just give up. But lately some kind people have encouraged me to keep on trying. And I'm glad.
  • It's really wonderful to have people at work listen to you and act on what you say, especially if you have to work very hard to convince them. Especially especially if you're low on the totem pole and the people you're trying to convince are doctors and administrators. Maybe "leading from where you are" is possible, after all.
  • It's not a parent's job to make sure her children are happy. In fact, sometimes, the only right thing she can do is to create a situation in which her children are unhappy. The ultimate goal is to set conditions for them in which they can make themselves happy.
  • My thighs get bigger when I run more.
  • Shoes smell BAD when you run in them too many days in a row. Alarmingly bad.
  • The moon is most beautiful in the winter.
  • Money actually can solve some problems. Not the most important problems, but a good chunk of your garden variety problems.
  • There is nothing fair or reasonable about a gravely ill child, and we mortals are never in a position to judge the parents of same.
  • Poetry isn't as bad as I used to think it was.
  • I really do like math. It just has to be taught well, and applied interestingly.
  • My husband is a saint.
  • Children like to know where the boundaries are. In fact, I think all of us like that.
  • There is a lot of merit to organized sports for children. I've swung like a wild pendulum on this. I'm back to my original opinion. There's a lot of abuse of the ideas behind organized sports, but in their purest form, with good coaches and supportive parents, they're the greatest thing since sliced bread.
  • I miss traveling when I'm home and miss home when I'm traveling.
  • I still don't feel sorry for chickens, but I'm pretty convinced about mammals, and don't eat 'em anymore. Except for that bit of Joe's hamburger the other day. But it was going in the trash, so it didn't really count.

Now that I've looked that over, it reads like the 16/25 Random Things meme...I didn't mean for that to happen.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


...things seemed to get better around here just as soon as I started to act like the third teen/toddler in the family. Last night had all of us either in tears or on the verge, and I decided, yes, I set my chin, they needed to be sent to boarding school. And not a moment to waste.

By midday today, we'd all said our apologies, and we could be regular again. Not perfect (we're seldom perfect, anyway), but regular: human, and forgiving and kind and grumpy and funny and tired and generous.

. . . . .

Those who know me on Facebook will think I've gone around the bend with Dylan Thomas this week. But one of Annie's erudite friends, Ryan, needed to be tutored on the difference between the mis-use of Thomas in a movie script and the real thing, and the poem tied in so well with what I've been feeling about my own growing up lately, it's just stuck. Repeating bits over and over in the back of my mind.

It's a short poem, easy to read, and great for those middle aged days when you can't find your glasses and you notice that your left eyelid is drooping a bit more than last week and there are gray hairs sprouting from your CHIN, for God's sake. [As silly as that last sentence was, this poem actually makes me cry about every third time I read it.]

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

On Growth

My children are giving me a run for my money right now. I am, truth be told, tired of being the mom at least once or twice a day, and not in a little way. In that big, weight of the world on your shoulders, how the hell did THIS happen way that almost any parent is familiar with. Those moments usually comes in waves, and right now it's sort of like there's an offshore storm that's making the waves faster, higher and more intense.

The good thing about having been at this business for nearly 17 (!) years is that I can start to see some patterns, and I think they'll hold even at my children's advanced ages. With these times of aggravation and strife come a few things: I get better at parenting (as does Rob). The kids grow (sometimes intellectually, sometimes emotionally, sometimes physically, sometimes a combination). I grow as a person, if I'm paying attention and remembering to consciously meet the challenge. And best of all, we all feel so much better when it's over.

So I need to just focus on the When It's Over part. Because it will be over.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Going Public

We've pussy footed around it long enough. I want to be able to refer to this person in my blog. Here are the facts:
  • My 16.75 y daughter is dating an almost 19 y college freshman.
  • Yes, I am OK with that.
  • She was friends with him for several years before they started dating in November.
  • He goes to a school on the Central Coast, so only comes back to Alameda for breaks, although she got to see him at the Santa Barbara tournament. That is, in fact, his gross knee in the photo.
  • So he IMs.
  • He IMs me, too. I like IMing with him so much (he's taking a lot of classes similar to mine, is a Giants fan, and knows a lot about what goes on inside pre-teen boys' heads, all of which are useful and fun to talk about) that I would have added him to my list of great new people of 2008, except it just felt weird to add my daughter's new boyfriend, and except that I've already known him for a couple of years.
So now you know.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Reality Sets In

Boy, oh boy, yesterday was great. Best day I've had in years. I was giddy with delight all day, after watching the ceremony and speech in the cafeteria at work with about 200 of my closest friends.

Today? First day of Spring semester. And tonight? Yep, I already have homework due tomorrow.

I'm really going to appreciate this degree when I'm done. (Note to self: repeat phrase as necessary.)

Monday, January 19, 2009

How Excited Am I?

So excited that I cried like a baby hearing John Mellencamp sing Ain't That America.

So excited that I'm dreaming about it.

So excited that if I could, as much as I hate crowds, I would be there.

So excited that we already ate our Boniere Bakery Obama cookies.

I'm that excited.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Many years ago, before I had lived through even one pre-teen, I attended a parenting workshop about pre-teens. One of the things that stuck with me from that workshop was that pre-teens really like to feel competent. They like meeting challenges, knowing how to do things.

I could, here, go into how I think that's true and give some examples from my experience parenting pre-teens. But this blog is about ME, remember?

Yesterday was my first day back at campus since finals in mid-December. In one and a half hours I: met with my internship advisor, bought a reader for a class, picked up a pre-ordered book for another class (all the other books were bought via Amazon, for less than the campus bookstore prices...'cause I have caught a clue), picked up my Spring '09 campus card sticker (a vital part of every Cal student's life), joined the gym (I have two hour breaks on Wednesdays and Fridays - yay!) and had my first froyo of the semester.

I drove, moved my car three times with no hassles, stood in exactly zero lines, and had time left over before my next gig to go buy the cutest trench coat EVER at Target.

In other words, I exhibited extreme competence. It was such a huge contrast over the start of the fall semester, and I was so delighted by that contrast, it made me think I really haven't evolved much beyond the pre-teen stage.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Ultimate: Santa Barbara Qualifiers 2009

This batch of silly high schoolers placed far ahead of most of the other (collegiate) teams at the tourney this weekend. I've never seen the teams more "gelled" and happier to be together. It was hard NOT to be happy, with the weather in the 70's and the sun on full strength, surrounded by lovely young people passionate about a great sport.

They get to play AGAIN this weekend, but locally, in Berkeley. How cool is that? No scheduled games for months, and then two weekends in a row.

The Science Fair projects are DONE (pictures after the fair on Wednesday), the recital is over, the various crises are winding down (except for the phantom accident, which turned out to be real and very very complicated, but potentially resolvable). School starts a week from Wednesday for me, and I finally have my schedule in hand.

The weather has turned, and although the September-like weather in January is a little bizarre, I can't complain too much. Things are looking up.
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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

In Which The Unexpected Happens. Again. And Again.

This, my friends, was to be the week that I took it totally easy. This week I am working only 20 hours, and am not in school, and my family has all gone back to work and school. Yeah, this week I was going to run when I damn well felt like it, start painting the living room, sew a bit. Take a few bubble baths, catch a flick with friends. Life was going to be alllllll right.

In the end, I'm grateful that all the crap that happened this week happened THIS week and not a week that was already overloaded, but as of this moment, not feelin' that so much. Here are some things I had to deal with (some of them started before this week, but came to a head since Monday morning, and only the Science Fair and tournament were expected):

  • Multiple plumbing crises, necessitating a day of plumber time today.

  • A phantom car accident that we keep getting information from our insurance company about - but they will not return calls to explain this accident to us.

  • The DMV has completely lost the registration for one of our cars - they don't even have a record of our license plates...they are convinced that this is both our fault and our problem, causing me to spend much time at both the DMV and at the Toyota dealership.

  • A collection agency began going after us for a debt we do not owe (I *swear*! I always pay all of our debts on time - I know who originated this and why, but convincing the collection people of that requires some doing).

  • A crazy week at work, filled with unexpected deadlines and crises.

  • Both Rob and I were asked to apply for jobs, requiring pulling together references and revised resumes and scheduling interviews.

  • It's freakin' Science Fair week at school, which means Oh. My. God. we have to go to the office supply store/hardware store/Cameron's house/Chuy's house/Walgreen's to pick up photos/back to the office supply store...

  • There's a flippin' frisbee tournament stuck onto the end of the week starting Friday. Six hours away, in Santa Barbara.

  • Not enough for you? There's a RECITAL for both kids on Sunday afternoon (yes, the child who will be in Santa Barbara will be driven home by yours truly).

  • Don't forget! Science Fair projects are due Monday morning!

Ack. I don't know why I'm not on medication.

I leave you with this photo, which kind of says it all.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Rez

Last year, I put some resolutions down on cyber paper. Let's see how they played out, shall we?

2008 resolutions:

I have, since early November, lost 8 pounds and gotten to the point where I can run (heh, "trundle" is a better word) aaaaaaaaalmost three miles on the street and a bit over three on the treadmill. So the first resolution is to keep up the good work on my health.

Covered that one. I went on to lose a total of 20 pounds and begin running in earnest.

Get in to a master's program ranks second.

Check. Got in to two programs, actually, and began one.

Then there's "try not to be a shrew to my family, friends and co-workers when I'm suffering from perimenopausal meltdowns". The exercise is helping some. I think. If not, well, sorry...I really am trying.

This year was better than last with regard to mood fluctuations and general bitchiness. I think losing weight has helped, running has helped, getting acupuncture religiously once a month has helped. I've also done a lot to be true to myself this year, more than ever in years past. I get better and better about listening to myself first, rather than just jumping in to make sure everyone else is happy, whether I am or not. Finally growing up at 47.

Make, oh...five quilts this year? Is that reasonable? Maybe if I have someone else longarm them. I want to make one for our bed, and a one for the new family room sofa that we get. My sister is lobbying for one. I can do that.

Turns out that, no, it was not reasonable. I have almost finished one quilt, and must put the top together during this break from school, then send it off to the long-arm lady for quilting. I did take up embroidery, and that was fun. I did knit a sweater which I do sometimes wear. But my quilting days may either be over or may just go dormant until school is done. I don't miss it, much. Even when I was searching for home dec fabrics for throw pillows earlier this week, I wasn't tempted to wander the quilting cottons aisles. It just doesn't sing for me, in the words of Jet.

OK. Onward. 2009. No implied order. And yes, I do know that they're not concrete like they're supposed to be.

Live through Semesters 2 and 3 of school, and thrive in my 12 week internship. This is just a one foot in front of the other sort of thing. I don't really have a choice.

Become more mindful in my parenting. The fall semester put the kibosh on any good parenting I am capable of doing. I think the next two semesters won't be as bad, for a variety of reasons. Although it's been great for the kids to become more self-sufficient and for Rob to carry more of the parenting load, I'm not quite ready to quit altogether. Both kids are going through really interesting times right now, and I want to be there for it, if only to watch.

Spend at least 5 minutes a day living in the present. Over the last week, because I've spent a lot of time in "now," I've found myself only a little worried about the economy, the future of the nation/world, my grades, my children's futures, all the other nebulous floaty things that keep me up at night. I'd like to stay there, to the extent possible.

Running goals are posted at my running blog, if you're interested.