Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sunday, August 26, 2012

2 years (at least) more.

I am committed to my institution for this year (Kids ages: Boy 4, Girl, 2). My colleagues have loaded up release time for me, and this year promises to be better, work-load-wise. I go on sabbatical for a year (Boy 5, Girl 3). We will all live together and I will have research bliss. The year after, I am obligated to return for- at minimum- a year of teaching (Boy 6, Girl 4). I cannot go on any Plan B for at least three years.

Hub and I went out on a date, and we talked about the future. Hub can't leave this year: they are very close to his BIG publication. There will be a string of smaller follow up pubs that will follow, probably my sabbatical year. The year after my sabbatical, he could potentially come home. But then again, he has to find something here (or telecommute, GMP). It would be at least ANOTHER year before we could go somewhere else together.

So, I'm going to focus on getting through this year. The kids are older, easier, and I'll have a lighter load at work. We haven't solved the problem, but at least we know when the next break point could be.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Help? How can I fund myself for a sabbatical in an R01?

I'm welcome in a lab in Hub's institution- hallelujah, we can live together and I can get great training, too! But there's no money from the institution. Can anyone tell me about funding sources to come from a PUI to an R01? What is this F33? If you need more details about my subfield, please e-mail.
Note bene: My institution, like many, will pay my full salary for a semester or half my salary for a full year. I'm going for a year. Full stop. I'd like to have additional salary and supplies, if possible.

Sabbatical Interview

Today I had an "interview" with a potential sabbatical host at Hub's Institution. She's one of two in the entire place that I could have worked with, based on research interests.

I was pretty intimidated at first, since I gave a talk here several years ago, and she very aggressive with excellent, in-depth questions. Here's that post part 1 and part 2. Here I am prepping for it and terrified freaking out and wondering how to be convincing while sporting an inferiority complex.

Their lab is up a level of organization from my training (think:  tissue from cell). They also study complex signaling stuff, with multiple players and multiple pathways and multiple drugs to block them. I felt a bit like a low-pass filter while the PI was talking: she would introduce an idea and while I was cogitating on it, she had moved on, but I would catch up for a second, then I would process, etc.

The grad students were quite senior and really, REALLY bright.

I loosened up a bit and began hearing myself making suggestions that the PI hadn't thought of before. I realized that I really have something unique to offer this lab besides free labor. Moreover, there were a couple of times when I made a statement and the PI said, no, no its the opposite, and I stood my ground correctly. I came up with ideas for some experiments, too.

This went better than expected for several reasons: teaching several courses regarding the basics of cell and Sub-field biology has made me FAR more informed about things outside of my own research.  I read all the recent papers from the lab and had questions ready. When I asked the first one, they giggled and said, "The reviewers asked us that, too". The teaching at a liberal arts institution has done something to my brain- I can synthesize many sources much better now. I was able to cite papers by author and date that I hadn't looked at in years, and bring in ideas and comparisons that I would not have been able to do 8 years ago, when I *thought* I was at the top of my research game.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Out of the closet with Plan B

At faculty staff conference, I was pleased to see one of my health care providers had joined the faculty. The CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife) who delivered Girl and who gives me my yearly, you know, exams has decided that she likes teaching better than being on call. So she's come over to the dark side. Ironically, she was the first I decided to share my new plan B with.

I told her that if my Two Body Problem showed no signs of improving that I was going to 1. get my EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) certificate and volunteer with the rescue squad for a while to gain "clinical hours" then I would 2. Go back to school and get a PA (Physician's Assistant). Then I could double my salary, live wherever I wanted (um, WITH my husband), and I could even specialize in the clinical aspect of my current field.

The irony I mentioned before is that if I were to go through with this (and I don't really want to!), my friend the CNM and I would literally change places. She moved from a mid-level health care provider to teaching and I would do the opposite. 

If you are an international reader, A Physician's Assistant is a two-year degree and many PAs have a lot of autonomy, while still working under a physician. Some PAs are responsible for all the general practice in rural or underserved communities. For example, my Dad is eligible for Veteran's Admin. Benefits, and at the VA hospital he is treated solely by a PA. The last time Hub went in for a stress test it was a cardiac PA that read his ECG and not a cardiologist. There are even neurosurgery PAs.

At mid-life, I do not want to get an MD (plus potential problems trying to get residency where Hub worked). Nor do I want the debt. It seems like the PA would offer the most flexibility balanced with a high level of professional autonomy. Your thoughts?

I'm not ready to move on this yet. As a matter of fact, I decided NOT to take an EMT course offered this Fall because it would be too much to handle with family and work, even though my workload is much less this semester (only one course).

Maritally, there's a bit of tension developing since I have a plan B and am starting to follow through with it, and Hub hasn't even considered a plan B. I would start all over at 40-some odd, gain debt, give up tenure, lose a job I feel "called" to do, all for a 5-year contract senior post-doc job of his. Hub feels guilty, and I know I would have to work hard to make sure I didn't resent such a move. Any thoughts on this part?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Game on!

It's here! The school year has officially started with preparations. The last two days we have had Faculty/Staff conference. A very good one, this year with the usual worship, president's address, and breakout sessions. A local actor/ comedian was the keynote, and believe-you-me it made for some of the least dreadful meetings of the year.

I feel good. I feel renewed, mind, body, etc. My kids are regularly letting me sleep 8 hours and nowadays if I'm sleep-deprived its usually my own damn fault. One of the women in my "Mommy Lunch"- a group of women with small kids that meet regularly for lunch, was left by her husband this spring. This has certainly curtailed my whining about Semi-single Motherhood.

Moerover, I have discovered that my sensitivity to caffeine is real. If I have a cup of coffee in the morning, and likely to be anxious and angry. Tea? Pleasant and energized. I LOVE coffee, but I love peace, too. So I gotta cut the coffee out. 

I have a light load this semester, too- something I'm really looking forward to.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Not going at all! (and some Theology)

I wrote last post how Hub, kiddos and I made a speedy trip to my home state to be with the family and support them as my Stepmother ended her long battle with cancer. We arrived on Thursday, and she was extremely weak. On Friday, a new experimental drug (for breast cancer at least) arrived. This drug had given the family some hope when it was prescribed by her Dr. two weeks ago. A coding error had prevented the arrival of the drug, and you can imagine the family's frustration as my Stepmom began a precipitous decline.

Friday she took her first dose, and has had a steady improvement since. She could hardly speak on Thursday. On Friday she was only awake for 3 hours. On Saturday, she was able to stand without help, on Sunday, take herself to the bathroom. By the time we decided to book tickets back home, she was telling her caregivers to leave her alone. It was clear that we were "underfoot". Dad reports that they went shopping (in a wheelchair) this weekend. So an emergency trip that promised to be very difficult had a happy ending: we were able to squeeze in a nice visit with all of our family, and it did not result in a funeral.

My Stepmom is a stubbornly faithful woman, and called this whole thing a "temporary setback" because she has faith that God will heal her. She and her church attribute this "recovery" to their prayers. I may be skeptical as to how often God intervenes to produce "miracles" that can't be explained biomedically, in part because of the implications of why a certain person, who has prayed faithfully, gets a miracle, and another faithful pray-er does not. However, I have come to the realization this week that if
  • God is the creator (I believe this) and
  • God created Humans and imbued them with a sense of wonder and curiosity (I believe this), and
  • God is also Good and created people in his image (I believe the "image" part mostly, "good" part completely), 
  • THEN medical advances that are brought about by Humanity's desire to learn and help other humans are the creations of God. 
Therefore I have no problem telling my parents that I believe that God is healing my Stepmother. Besides, God (through genetics) gave her those receptors and that mutation (through randomness) which would respond to the drug.

My Stepmom will probably die of liver failure caused by her breast cancer metastases. I don't know how long it will take. But her precipitous decline has been halted, and all involved are amazed and treating it as something spectacular. My headline implies that she has been cured... but only time will tell. What I know is that she is stable right now, and I am very happy and thank God directly for it.

Friday, August 3, 2012

not going gracefully

had to travel to the ancestral home unexpectedly. step-mom has been battling cancer for  about 5 years, and things have taken a turn for the worse. she's an unreasonably headstrong woman, refusing  to accept hospice care and denying overtly her very near fate. she's been very demanding and demeaning to my dad. i'm surprisingly at peace and doing my best to be helpful and unobtrusive at the same time. we have the classic step-relationship in which she favors heavily and obviously her own children and grands over us and my brother's family, but i feel prepared to handle it now (ask tomorrow, i might feel differently). for instance, she was only awake for three hours today, and cannot standup without someone to lift her, but her family still plans to have a realitively large birthday party for one of her grandchildren here tomorrow. when my dad was trying (gently) to get her to agree to leave the party and go to her room if she felt tired, she told him to butt out. we went throughthe death ofmy mother 12 years ago, but she was far more accepting of her fate and gracious to her helpers and loved ones. its ok,though as iunderstand someofthepsychology behind it,and besides, in my mind she gets a free pass to be as nasty or a gracious as she wants tobe, right? any helpul thoughts or experiences?
pardon the lack of basic writing etiquette...