Friday, October 30, 2009

Gal Pals

I made the most delicious gluten free carrot cake last night. I am taking it to the pot luck lunch we are having for one of the women I eat lunch with. One of the other girls was going to bake a gluten free cake so that I could eat some too, but I told her that was ridiculous because she didn't have the ingredients, doesn't need the ingredients, and getting the basic ingredients is a little expensive when you are first getting set up to cook gluten free. It took some arguing and I finally persuaded her. All of those women take care of me. They give me dating advice and cooking advice and how to look hot advice and they tell me when its time to buy new pants so that people will be able to see that my butt looks good.

Most of them are single and in the dating scene again after nasty divorces. Except for me, the entire group is menopausal. I have learned more knowledge than I ever fathomed existed about hot flashes. They sound really terrible. I have learned which drugs work to reduce the occurrence of hot flashes and their side effects. That knowledge is proving to be valuable.

My friends who I walk with and sit by at church and eat dinner with also turn out to be menopausal women. I never realized this until they started talking about hot flashes and I have all of this useful information. They snap up the info about good drugs readily because hot flashes are really, really bad. The favorite drug turns out to be the one that prevents hot flashes and promotes weight loss.

Sometimes I think that it should seem strange to me that I hang out with a lot of women who are significantly older than me, but as I consider each one of them, I find nothing strange at all in our friendships. They are comfortable and happy and the aspect of living in Merced that keeps me going.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Subtle Creepiness

Matt Meyer says I have a subtle creepy side, but what does he know? He also says I'm soulless. (Of course these comments come after he invites me to his Oktoberfest, debates whether he should get alcohol free beer for me and I tell him not to bother because a) yuck! and b) it isn't gluten free anyway)

Maybe it's subtle creepiness, or just a slightly evil streak, but there are horrible things I would love to blog about but don't for various reasons. Even though I won't really blog about them, there are enough that I just have to make a list of them. I am sure after reading the list that you will be happy I have chosen not to blog about them.

1) Online dating -I could people rolling with laughter for hours, but I'd have to name names and obviously I would incriminate myself as well. I don't mind that thought now, but I am almost certain I'd regret it in the future.

2)Colonoscopy -Obviously not a choice topic, but many funny stories about it.

3)Pap smears -I'm almost ready to blog about these, but I am mostly certain I'd regret it. Still the facial expressions of doctors just talking about them makes me glad I opted out of the medical field. If I had pictures of doctors faces either giving them or talking about them, I don't think I could resist. Too funny.

4)Job politics -See #1, but I could also lose my job as well.

5) The nightmare I had in which I woke up after weeks of unconsciousness from a dune-buggy accident to find that I was convicted of murder and due to be executed in a week. I was sure I was innocent, but how to clear the charges? People I know in Merced (If you are reading this you aren't one of them) were featured as the bad guys. Marie was the hero. (That part was accurate. Marie is always the hero.)

6)Various people (if you are reading this, I absolutely guarantee you aren't one of them) who inspired #5 and their antics. (Ridiculous, juvenile and funny....See # 1 again).

7)Gay men hitting on women....I am sure it is not PC to mention, but it happens a lot and I don't quite get it.

8)A million and one different ways of doing push ups.. It would get boring really fast, but it seems so inventive while actually doing it.

And finally

9)Organizing my cupboards... See #8.

If you want to hear any of the funny stories just call me. If they aren't in print I can always deny I told them later....


Once, when I stepped on a piece of glass and a stream of blood started shooting about 3" out from my foot, Tom took of his shirt, tied up my foot and carried me into the house. Later, when he skinned himself badly in a motorcycle accident, I helped clean up his raw hip and checked to make sure there was no gravel permanently lodged in it.

When he was a mechanic, I brought him sandwiches wrapped in napkins so that he could eat without taking a lot of time to clean his greasy hands. In college, he brought me pizza or snickers if he knew I hadn't eaten all day and especially when I had no money.

I wanted to go camping with him and so he took me camping in the desert and taught me to rock climb without ropes and we both survived. I cooked breakfast and built the fire while he chopped wood.

When I started my postdoc, he gave me $100 because he knew I was flat broke after moving to Georgia. He was pretty much flat broke as a med student with one child and one on the way, but he came up with the money anyway. I sent the money back to him when he was broke and that $100 passed between us a lot of times after. I don't remember who ended up with it.

Tom called me from the distant location of his deployment after Dad's heart attack to make sure I was okay. We talked about how it's terrible when you are away from loved ones and something bad happens. He was tired after working all night. Maybe it helped him to talk to me.

So I shouldn't have wondered much when I came home and found a box of gluten free baking mixes on my porch last night, but I never fathomed that Tom would think of my mundane dietary needs when he is so far away.

I miss you Tom. I'd fly half way around the world to see you right now if dear old uncle Sam would let me.

Monday, October 26, 2009


I'm stronger than most girls. It isn't bragging to say so, simply an aspect of being Miriam. I hate this when it's difficult to find clothes that fit but love it when I watch other women struggle to carry a twenty pound sack of rice or flour out of the grocery store. For a while I decided to focus on weight loss rather than exercise in an effort to get more feminine proportions. That only worked until I needed to move a cupboard from my garage into my house. It was a heavy cupboard, but still, I was shocked that my shoulders got noticeably broader after that one move. It was probably good they did, because I just gave up on trying to mold my body a specific way. I decided to work with what I've got and just focus on being healthy. It's a lot more fun this way.

I take step aerobics on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Ofelia, the instructor, thinks it's great that I'm so strong. After taking two months off from working out this summer, I was stronger than ever in about three weeks. She was surprised and impressed. Ofelia is in her fifties, has been a personal trainer her whole life and knows exactly what a person is capable of. She teaches about four classes a day at different locations and often runs or bikes in between the classes. She is solid muscle but cute and feminine at the same time. She knows I show up to her class to work out and she does her best to accommodate that desire.....sometimes a little more than I really want. She has no sympathy for me when sweat is dripping from my face to the floor, or when I am so tired that I come close to tripping over the step.

A few weeks ago, a freshman named Crystal started working out next to me. It was the week that Ofelia moved me up to a 12" step. Crystal was watching me and halfway through the workout, she took her step apart, reassembled it in the 12" configuration and then made a point of kicking higher than me, lifting her legs higher than me and then lifting weights heavier than me. She outdid me, but she had only done half the workout at the maximum height so it didn't count as far as I was concerned. The next time, we both did the whole workout at the same step height. She had heavier weights than me, but had to pause more often than I did. After that, Ofelia decided to push us a little harder and she had us doing kickboxing. Crystal crouches lower than me, but I can kick higher. We are an even match when it comes to lunges across the gym.

As much as Ofelia loves pushing me and Crystal, there is the rest of the class to consider. So to some extent, she leaves me and Crystal to improvise our own ways of pushing ourselves. I add kicks where there are normally just steps and Crystal does the same. I started doing the entire workout, jumping-jacks and all with 2lb weights in my hands, so of course, Crystal grabbed the 3lb weights and did the same, but couldn't quite handle getting her arms in the air during the jumping-jacks and then did push-ups off of her knees instead of her toes. Today, she was looking at my sweaty face and gritted teeth during the workout and I wondered if she has started comparing the relative amounts of our sweat.... maybe she was just wondering if I was struggling as much as she was. The answer was clearly yes.

In that moment, when her competitive nature was entirely visible, I started wondering what I am in for if she ever takes my genetics class. I find myself really glad that I have taught genetics so many times, and hoping just a little bit that she is a social sciences or humanities major.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The slow trickle of money

Money has slowly started trickling into my lab. (Slow and trickle being more noticeable than money...believe me.) I have secured 1 year of funding for a grad student to work on health care disparities and I get paid for one blessed month next summer. (I think I'll either insulate my attic or go to Vegas....both will pay back right?) Also, an undergrad got a fellowship for $1000 dollars which is about enough to buy half of the supplies his little project will need.

More important than the actual money is the fact that the influx of a little money gives me a little bit of hope that things may be getting better. I just re-submitted a grant. The only major criticism of the proposal was that the resistance genes I am working on make secreted proteins and secreted proteins could change the environment of the experimental cells. Matt Meyer (being brilliant and my friend) came up with this cute way of removing the secreted proteins without touching the cells. (I now love organic chemistry ant THAT is saying something). Maybe I will get that grant, It is a small one, but infinitely more than zero.

Certain collaborators who wish to remain nameless in the blogosphere are meeting with someone from DARPA who likes their work well enough that he occasionally visits to see if they are doing anything cool enough for DARPA to fund. A 10 minute discussion that goes well means lots of money for research. They are choosing to spend that 10 minutes presenting my research to the DARPA guy....(Yes, I feel cool...not as cool as if they wanted me to present my own research, but I guess I feel safer too).

And finally, Pilar Francino asked me to be on one of her grants. The positive aspect of this is that money follows her. The negative aspect is that she collects all of her bacteria from poop. I do not like to work with poop, but at this point I am willing. (Besides which, Leigh ann and I already make jokes about poopcicles. It will only get better if both of us work on them.) The data we get will also be really, really cool.

If my funding situation could move from that of a nearly dry rainspout to one more like a river (and it doesn't have to be the Mississippi, just something a little bigger than an irrigation ditch), I think I could launch the little life-raft I am bobbing around in and maybe set sail from here and head to sunnier shores.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Anyone up for Anarchy?

I am! One more very onerous rule about submitting grants to our deans who then send them to the grant officers, who then send them to the funding institutions was implemented today. One week before an application of mine that had very positive reviews is to be resubmitted. My last grant application got removed from the review process because the maximum length for biosketches was quietly reduced to half of its previous length (2 pages instead of 4). I might feel guilty about not reading the instructions through cover to cover every time I submit a grant except that they are 200 pages long. 200 pages of rules!!!!! Way too many. Anarchy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!