Monday, February 19, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: vorfreude

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

It snowed on Saturday. And as beautiful as that snowfall was, the demand of snow clean-up so my landlord could show our unit left me officially done with our current situation. 

But instead of hating on my landlord and everyone else who has abused us, I'm choosing to be filled with vorfreude for this pending move. Daydreaming about seeing daffodils and tulips again very soon.

Saturday, February 17, 2018


I'm officially in limbo with a timeline. On Wednesday, following a lot of encouragement from BnB and Grey (including Grey editing a draft of an email), I reached out to the CEO of the company I interviewed with. I didn't expect any follow up, so I was pleased when I received a response that evening:
We should be wrapping up this stage around the end of next week and will be in touch then with next steps.
We really enjoyed meeting you and hearing about your work to date!
Feel free to interrupt as you will.

Since calming down (read no longer obsessive checking my email) and on the heels of getting some responses to the Pain Letters I've sent out (FYI: Those work!) as well as arranging informational/informal interviews with a couple of companies that has resulted in an offer for a freelancing opportunity, I've been thinking more about the power of wins, even the smallest ones, in helping motive people. In the business world this is referred to as "Reward Power" but we see this mindset in our daily lives too.

Yet despite this knowledge, we live in an era where there's a mentally of using the stick more than the carrot to motivate people. Just open the newspaper to get the latest examples of this form of motivation, with stress-inducing tactics being used daily to promote the wants of those arguing. And yet, there's so much data about how these tactics rarely work without the coupling of some form of positive reenforcement. That without the wins, the consequences will simply backfire.

On Thursday I had a phone conference with an assessor who observed He-Beat. One of the major concerns the Beats's old daycare brought up was ADHD and an inability to follow basic directions. I came to the meeting armed with information and questions. So imagine my complete shock when I learned that the assessor did not have these concerns but also that neither did He-Beat's current teacher. That not only has separating the Beats been a wonderful thing for both of them, but also that his current teacher is skill at positive reenforcement and he is thriving with her. That giving him a chance to succeed is what has been making all the difference and was something that the Beats's former teachers failed to do over and over again.

Failure is a lot more draining then most people understand. And its failure I've been thinking about this past week following the news of this past week. Seeing the portrait of an individual who seemed to fail in all aspects in life and lacked some of the basic privileges most of us take for granted, I cannot help but wonder if a root of so much unhappiness is never feeling like there are any meaningful wins. I understand that most situations are extremely complex and seemingly impossible to tackle, but if infertility taught me one thing it's that those wins in the face of trauma can make the difference between getting out of bed in the morning vs losing one's mind.

So today, I'm back at it. Reaching out to total strangers and introducing myself as someone who thinks their company sounds pretty amazing (not hard to do). All on the heels of rewarding He-Beat for his good behavior this morning, watching his face light up with the knowledge of a job well done. All the while me knowing I can do this as I've gotten a recent boost of confidence and positive feedback as otherwise I would be kicking myself for being so bold.

These wins are making the difference.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Up to 30

My newsfeed came alive last night as I was making my way to pick up the Beats from school. Sitting in the car, I scrolled through the updates: 17 dead, suspect is known. All this morning, the newspapers are picking apart every detail about the 30th school shooting in 2018. The 10th deadliest mass murder in US history.

I wish shock and horror were emotions I could feel over such news that has become normal. That I didn't have to have discussions with my kids about lock-down protocols.

Like Juilette Kayyem, I'm tired of all of this. I'm tired of the fact that nothing is being done by our leaders to address a glaring problem.

But then again, our current leadership has made it clear they are only interested in themselves and their wallets. A generation of sociopaths at the helm who aren't able to turn the tide as it's completely against how they've lived their lives.

That's the thing with change: those that resist it tend to lose when the pain of not doing so becomes unbearable. Holding back the tidal wave becomes impossible. My hope is that tidal wave is coming, growing in strength and fierceness with each incident, lie and exposure. A hope that people will decide they've had enough, wanting to rebuild the bridges that were destroyed.

For now, all I can muster is sadness and numbness with the knowledge that we are now up to 30. And the empty words from those who are suppose to be doing something are falling on deaf ears.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Wooing humans

I knew I was in trouble after the second text message.
"Good morning! Just checking in on your beautiful kitties. They are absolute sweethearts and are doing great! And Jaxson is such a flirt. ;)"

Sitting waiting for my interview, I couldn't help but laugh given I knew exactly what was happening. And I wondered if I would be returning to Boston only to find that I was now missing two cats.

Jaxson has a long history of being a Don Juan. When I first adopted him, I was living with 4 other women and he was constantly failing to win their approval. What cemented a change in his approach in wooing was when we adopted Daisy, with him enduring 3 solids days of getting the crap kicked out of him by a female who was half his weight. It was while Daisy was on Valium (prescribed to calm her down and give Jaxson a fighting chance), that he modified his approach for interacting with the opposite sex. He became more cuddly, perfecting his glances and friendly approaches. Most of all, he learned that giving affection would result in gaining in.

And with that, not only did Daisy decide he was okay (and they have been inseparable since), but he became quite a force to be contended with for every single one of my girlfriends regardless of whether they were attached or not.

Over the past decade, Grey and I both have received comments about how unusually friendly Jaxson and Daisy are. While most cats tend to hide or pretend to be uninterested when there are visitors, these two are always front and center, greeting people at the door and making sure they have an opportunity to inspect everyone that enters their home. Jaxson usually brings an additional level to this interaction, following all of this introductions with putting on a display of affection. From flopping over and rolling around while purring, to giving paw taps and nuzzling and topping it all off with slow blinks combined with making sure just to touch you, I've seen him win over individuals who proclaim they are only dog people.

Where the problems come in, though, are when he claims someone. Especially when that someone (who is usually female) has a partner. The worst incident was during a dinner party, where the couple visiting was clearly still in the middle of a disagreement. Within minutes, Jaxson was in her lap, giving her all his love and attention while occasionally farting in her significant other's general direction.

Pets are funny this way, given the intimate interactions they have with another species on a daily basis. There's a lot of things I've learned over the years from not only Jaxson and Daisy, but most of the animals I've interacted with. From Jaxson, though, I've had a constant reminder on how love not war can win the day time and time again. From calming a severely stressed Cristy to milking hours of pets out of people, he's truly impressive to watch.

Plus Grey has learned adapted a few of his moves too, which sadly can be quite successful. Demonstrating that there is an art to wooing humans.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Working through the waiting pain

It's been 7 days since my interview. The emotional roller coaster that comes with waiting reminds me of how much I loathed dating in my younger years. Between moments of despair where I'm kicking myself from not making a better impression to high moments where I'm feeling optimistic to moments where I just don't care anymore, it's been an interesting few days.

This morning, I made the decision to get back on the job application horse, specifically in the form of drafting my first pain letter. After spending the past couple of days researching and determining who the hiring managers are, I'm been ignoring every bit of worry and anxiety and reaching out to complete strangers with the idea of simply getting on their radar. So far, I haven't died from hitting the "Send" button. But my reward tonight is to crawl under a blanket with these two.

I hate waiting. Uncertainty is nothing short of the 9th circle of hell for me, especially when so much is riding on decisions that I no longer have control over. So I'm learning to work through the waiting pain, giving myself plenty of distractions while also being mindful that something will pan out in the end. Despite the fact that my anxiety is trying to convince me otherwise.

Monday, February 12, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: In the aftermath

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

This last week was filled with a lot of firsts. The first time I've flown alone with the Beats, the first extended trip for Grey (he began his new position this week, which is 10 days of him out on the West Coast), first purchases and uses of new electronics to keep the Beats occupied, the first time we've ever hired a pet sitter (and another post to come given that Jaxson has a new girlfriend). And the first time I've spent more than 8 hours away from the Beats.

I'll spare you the details of how traveling with two 4 years solo for the first time went, but the whole situation went better than expected even though its clear everyone involved was stressed out. Still we're all recovering from two 3 hour time changes and another weekend to recover is direly needed.

In addition to this, I survived my interview. I went in feeling prepared and excited, walking out feeling confident that all had gone well. I even managed to catch the earlier flight back to Seattle and got a free glass of Prosecco, which I took to be a good omen.

By Friday all of that had worn off, with me second-guessing the interview (was just shy of 2 hours even though they told me to expect 2-3) and me realizing I accidentally called one of the founders by the wrong name. Cue lots of kicking myself.

The truth is, there was a lot that could have gone better all around. From navigating the airport to entertaining the kids to working on my interviewing skills (hence all the beating myself up). But I learned a lot, particularly with what we can do this. All the things that were seemingly impossible before, like flying solo with 2 small children, spending the night away and me even going on an interview for an position in industry, is now possible.

The past few days there's been a lot of conflicting emotions, fueled by the fact I'm in limbo with waiting on a decision combined with knowing that I have to move on with job hunting and the rest of my day-to-day. There's so much uncertainty on the horizon with preparing for this cross-country move, enough of which that my grey hairs are increasing in number almost daily. But there's so much excitement too. Grey is loving his new position and the company is treating him incredibly well.

So we're living in the aftermath of this first leg of the journey. Attempting to get back into the swing of things for a chapter that is coming to an end. All with me trying to find a way to end it on a positive note, setting the stage for what is to come.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Traffic delay due to turkey

It's 4 pm and traffic is at a dead stop. Occasionally there's a slow crawl forward, but it's clear by the sea of red tail-lights no one is going anywhere fast. In an attempt to determine what is going on, I roll down my window, allowing me to crane my neck. And that's when I hear swearing and shouting, with phrases like "stupid bird" and "begging to be dinner" littering the air. Suddenly traffic begins to crawl forward and that is when a 4 ft winged brown figure comes into view, clearly agitated and making body motions that warn every human of the consequences of getting too close. The swearing and threats continue as people drive by, but it's also clear no one is willing to risk getting too close to this singular wild turkey that is roaming the streets of Cambridge.

All I can do in the moment is laugh, thinking of the reaction I will get once I give my explanation for why I'm running late.

The whole week has been an exercise in navigating turkeys. I'm currently two days into a workshop training 20 university-level students from China that requires 7 hours of teaching each day, not including prep. They are doing amazingly well, but given the language barrier we are all suffering from severe exhaustion (yesterday they were visibly relieved to have a guest speaker who spoke Mandarin).  In addition to this, Grey and I have been finalizing travel plans as I officially have an interview a week from Wednesday. On top of preparing a talk on material I haven't touched in over a year, I will also be flying solo with the Beats to Seattle as they will be staying with my amazing aunt and uncle while I'm doing said interview. Both kids are extremely excited about the upcoming trip. Grey is doing enough worrying for all adults involved. All of this on top of me teaching my other course, making arrangements for students to access training to do Illumina sequencing, learn Unix and figure out a weekly meeting to discuss research progress.

The odd part about all of this is even though I know I'm stressed from all that is happening and upcoming, I'm actually in a weird state of rolling with it. Part of it is I'm too tired from being stressed out to thinking of anything else, but like encountering the turkey in traffic I also know the only way to resolve any inconvenience or stress involves not pissing off the agitated bird.
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