When I lived in Colorado I was fond of saying that “April is one of the snowiest months”. And I loved that it was true.
Normally here, April is a beautiful month as the cherry trees bloom and the sun shines without baking us. But so far? April has been a horrid month weather-wise. I am beyond sick of the wind. I lived in Casper, Wyoming until I was 13, I get rights to complain about the wind. It has been like February here. Dreary, grey and windy. Blah. I can’t even seem to wrap my head around the fact that it is April and not February yet.
I suppose the advantage to it being April with crummy weather is that we have been inside more and my spring cleaning/organization goals have yielded great results.
For the month of April my goals were to organize the hall/entry closet. Done. Check. Finished. I bought fabric bins, one for each of us, and put them in the top of the closet and sorted the laundry basket that used to hold outdoor gear into the four baskets. I bought more hangers, cleaned out the bottom of the closet and hung coats up. It looks fabulous – if a coat closet has fabulous-ness to it.
My second goal was to clean out and organize the laundry room. Given the size of the house, I have a teeny, tiny laundry room. The washer and dryer fit in and I can stand in there holding a basket. I squish over to one side and wedge myself in between the utility sink and the washer to open the dryer and pull stuff out of the washer and into the dryer. Oh yeah, the cat fits too. He likes to help with laundry. Given the lack of floor space I somehow have a ton of storage space in there. The prior owners did a good job of utilizing the wall space for racks of shelves and cupboards above the washer and dryer.
Before tackling the laundry room I looked online for ideas for organization. Martha Stewart was timely in posting a laundry room redo that made me drool. But my biggest problem with all the neat things that they showed in the inspiration gallery was that I don’t use my laundry room, except for, well laundry. Ok, so I feed the cat there.
Anyways, the laundry room has been cleaned out, cleaning and laundry supplies separated. My fabric bins cleaned out (I ditched all the cables I was saving… coax cables, gone, phone cords, gond, power cords, gone, old cell phone chargers, gone. Yes, for some reason I save all that crap. I even do at work, I have a drawer of cords in my office AND in my lab. You just never know when you are going to need a random cord. Ok, well at home at least, I got over it. I don’t need random cords at home. Like ever.
After cleaning out and organizing I discovered a fair amount of storage space. Empty shelves and half empty cupboards. I have batteries, light bulbs, cleaning supplies, laundry supplies, cat food, a bin of extra odds and ends (rubber gloves, trash bags, etc) in there now. I have this need to fill the space… but I am trying to convince myself to simply embrace empty shelves for now.
The last thing on my April goal list is the quilt. I have everything I need to finish it, now I just need a good block of time to get everything laid out. It seems like lately I have had 1-2 hour blocks of time and I can’t justify laying everything out to just have to pick it all up. My coming weekend is blissfully empty and I am hoping to hit that third check mark with finishing off the quilt.
Next month… I really want something fun. A cool goal. A pretty painting goal… or something like that.
Alas, the garage really needs a thorough clean and organize. I love my husband, but cleaning and organizing is not his thing. He has started on the garage a few times this spring. But what really needs to happen is that we both get out there and clean. And then I go nuts with the organization.
And yes, this WILL take an entire month it is that bad.
I have a list of blog topics from the past few weeks. I just have had no time to sit down and blog. Let's see how many I can knock out here before the kids need something...
Starbuck's April Fools
Way back on April Fools Day we went to Starbucks. I am not a fan of April Fool's Day at all. What with being named April, I heard one too many times growing up, "It's April's Day, April is a fool!" Honestly I have never been a fan of the month in general starting way back in kindergarten when I would bring home stacks upon stacks of papers from school that weren't mine. We were required to put the date on papers and the kids always just gave me all the ones that said April. My mom would sort them out and send the majority back to school with me.
Anyways, we don't do April Fool's Day in this house. I suck at jokes and just can never get pranks right.
We got up like any normal day and I needed coffee that morning. At the window the girl offered us some samples of breads. I saw that they had chocolate chips in them and grabbed two, one for each kid. I handed them back and not surprisingly, Skadi took a bite and declared it icky. She declares most everything icky. Not surprising.
Then Leif pipes up:
"Hey, Starbucks played an April Fool's Joke on us. This bread is icky!" he declared.
"What? What is wrong with it?" I knew if Leif was declaring anything with chocolate chips icky, then there was a problem.
"It's banana with chocolate chips," he started.
"You like that?" I asked perplexed.
"But these chocolate chips are MINT!" he cried.
I tasted it. He was right. Nasty. Banana chocolate chips would have flown, but yeah, there was a reason they were giving away hunks of that bread. Ick.
Every once in awhile when I am running behind on a Wednesday night getting things picked up for the housecleaner, I admit it, I will pay Leif to do some extra things. Believe me, $1 to pick up Skadi's bedroom, is seriously a bargain for me. He does a decent job, Skadi doesn't end up in tears and time out for not helping, and Leif earns a dollar to put in his bank.
The other day though I went up and found Skadi's piggy bank open on the floor. Raided.
Skadi kind of doesn't care about money, so I was confused. Not like her brother who is ALL about the money.
"Skadi, what is your piggy bank doing on the floor?" I asked.
"Leif wanted some money," she told me.
"What did he want money for?" I asked her getting a bit confused.
"I wanted him to play with me and he didn't want to, so I offered him money," she said.
One day Skadi was in the bath singing "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes". I could tell that was the song only from the tune. She was getting all the words wrong.
"No Skadi," I corrected her, "HEAD, SHOULDERS, KNEES, TOES."
She looks at me like I am an idiot and goes on singing her mumbo jumbo.
Then I found out the next day at school she was singing it in Japanese.
Stupid American move #2? We went out for Japanese food and the kids decided they wanted to sing to the waitress.
They sang the song in Japanese to the waitress.
"Oh neat," she said carefully in her thick accent, "the only thing I know in Japanese is how to say hi since I am Chinese."
And there it is, the whining for mom! Three topics off my list.
Or somewhere... not quite sure where... last I heard it was at "the North Pole and 12 miles west".
About 6 months ago Skadi first told us about her castle. (Coincidentally this was about the same time she was requesting "Castle on a Cloud" from AB each night as her bedtime song.)
"I want to take you there sometime mommy," she told me.
Some kids have imaginary friends, Skadi has her imaginary place. Her stories of her castle haven't ceased, they continue and they sometime become quite elaborate.
"At my castle the princesses were dancing inside yesterday and the princes waited outside in the yard till they quit dancing so they could go inside and then have chicken nuggets with the princesses," she told us.
The other day we had Chinese food and Skadi declared, "I have chicken with Chinese ketchup at my castle all the time." (Chinese ketchup = sweet and sour sauce)
"At my castle I have pictures on the wall of Spring, Summer and Fall, but not Winter," she declared the other day.
AB built the kids an elevated playhouse hoping that would satisfy Skadi's need for a castle and that it could be in our backyard. Naw, it's just the tree house now, it isn't a castle, or so Skadi tells us.
"We are going to plant flowers at my castle this weekend," she explained when I asked what we should do this weekend.
We used to giggle and marvel about her imagination when the castle first came up. Now the castle is just a multiple times a day conversation pieces. I wish I could see in her brain what her castle looks like!
I think I tend to get quiet on my blog when things are bothering me. Specifically, work stuff. I have gone in phases over the past 6.5 years with blogging about work. From venting about all the crazy stuff early on, to overflowing with love for what I do, to not saying anything out of a paranoid fear of "who's reading?" Still I try to give glimpses on occasion of what is going on there, what life is like as a Ph.D. mid-career chemist and as a working mom.
Work can be challenging at times and I am presently trying to negotiate a difficult path. Walking the line between management and science without fully committing to or rejecting either. Each has its own challenges.
Things were going along swimmingly as a scientist until this funding cycle when I appear to be left out standing on the porch with one of the clients. As I have stated before, when one door closes another creeps open and surprisingly one of the other clients gave us the go ahead to write a lifecycle plan, which in this funding climate was a surprise.
On the last project, things have been flying around doing wonderfully, except interactions with one person. I have been all over the map with my feelings about this. From questioning every single move I make out of fear of stepping on toes, to being ticked off, to trying to be nice, to being ticked off. Back and forth, forth and back.
It has expended so much of my energy these last few months and has been incredibly frustrating. What should be a fabulous project is causing me heartache.
I have known this person since I was a post-doc. We have worked together on a few other projects. And now our friendship has been reduced to shreds. There will be no saving this friendship when all is said and done I fear.
And it breaks my heart.
But at the same time it ticks me off to be stepped on, walked all over and disrespected. I know for a fact, in my heart, that this person would not treat a male coworker in this manner. But this is not what I have documentation for. No gender card here.
I worried that I was blowing things out of proportion and just PMS'y... it has happened before... but I brought a few close confidents into the fold who have hit the ceiling.
I have lost sleep, I have wallowed, I have been self absorbed and not terribly attentive to what else is going on, thanks to all this. And wet drops inexplicable came out of my eyes at work... not sure what happened there or how my rhino work skin was penetrated, but it happened. Thankfully I have those couple of people to pick me up and stand behind me. Thank you guys.
But there it is in obscure, vague terms. The certain end of a friendship, the potential end of a work relationship in so much as I will never ever ever work another project with this person again. Ever. I am sure the feeling is mutual there.
I love reading stories about women in science and the unique hurdles they had to overcome to get to where they are today. The American Chemical Society posted a link to these articles from a Fairbanks, Alaska newspaper for Women in Science month.
I am now – amazingly – in that “mid-career” category. Not a newbie by any amount. I have been around the block once or twice. I am still young enough that I went into science in college thinking equality was in. Men had grown up or moved on. I was a professional product of the 90’s. YES, the 90’s. But still my stories aren’t too far off from the women who shared in these articles who have more experience than me.
Do I think things are changing? YES. I hosted a student last year who was a chemical engineer from Yale and one of my most memorable conversations with her was after one of our big team meetings for the Navy project. We left and I can’t remember how she put it, but she was surprised. “They are all guys,” she exclaimed. And went on to tell me that all her classes were at least 50-50.
My hallway at work is estrogen lane. There are 13 offices in my hallway and all but two are occupied by women.
My team lead? A woman. My manager? A woman. I love it!
Because in my daily activities? The projects I work on daily and the people I work with?
And that is how it has been since I started here. No joke. Now I am a physical scientist with a little more engineering and physics to my chemistry life, but that shouldn’t be an excuse. Where are the women?
I liked the questions posed to these women scientists in Alaska and figured I would take it upon myself to answer them. If you are a woman in science, answer them in the comments, e-mail your answers to me and I will post them here in my blog or post the answers on your blog and provide me the link, okay?
“Were there more hurdles for you to clear in science because you were a woman?” (Ok, poorly written question, “are” they ARE women, they aren’t men now…)
I don’t believe there were more hurdles to clear education-wise because I am a woman. I believe that I had every opportunity presented to me as an undergrad and grad student in the 90’s based on the path I chose. Now I did reject one school after I had a very disheartening visit. I visited on the same day as another male potential graduate student at Colorado State and professors took him out to lunch – at the same place that the female graduate student assigned to take me out, took me. Later when I asked the department head if I would have an opportunity to teach upper division chemistry, he told me that female TA’s were not well received by the student body. I ran the other way. Once I was settled in a great program I experienced little gender disconnect. In my first year, I was teaching an upper division lab class. I should note that I went to a school with a very young faculty and with (gasp) three female faculty members.
I believe that I had a few more hurdles in the workplace than I had in education as a women. When I signed on as a post-doc, my mentor made sure to get me a p-card immediately, so I could place the teams' orders and I worked editing their reports and pulling their presentations together. I was a glorified admin. When I was in the lab and the guys walked in they would say, “hi honey, I am home” and the like. The team I was hired into was very unfriendly to women and when I started asking around the other women nodded and one even said that the whole group was shocked when this team brought a woman post-doc on. In order to advance I had to pick myself up, meet others, prove myself to others and make a name for myself. The guys who came in the same time as me were being paraded around like princes while I was struggling to get someone to give me the time of day.
“Has public perception changed about women scientists?”
Yes, I had the student last summer who as a senior had never encountered anything less than 50% female student body. I never had anything close to 50% women in my classes at a very liberal college. But this is college, in the workplace I think there is a ways to go.
Today, I am working in project management and I recently had an incident with a coworker that was not happy with me. Some of the things he said, and the analogies he made to our managers lead me to sit and wonder if he would have said these things of a man sitting across the table from him. I am quite positive not. I think (large stereotype here) "older" men are not afraid to challenge a woman in the workplace more on her knowledge or leadership abilities. There seems to be a perception that you have to be a ball breaker to move up, act like a man, don’t bring your femininity, but these are the same things that are frowned upon when we look up to women who have made it. I work quite well with men in the same general age group as myself. My Gen-X counterparts get it. They are the ones pulling double duty with their wives in child rearing and who have heard their wives come home with tales like mine. I tend to think that they would never treat a woman in a way they wouldn’t want their wives treated. Older generations (complete generalization here) their wives didn’t work in technical fields and many never worked at all. They don't have that same thought process or female professors or mentors to draw upon that the Gen X'ers did.
“Have there been hurdles you have faced that a man would not have faced?”
Getting exposure. When I first started as a post-doc so often it was assumed I was an admin assistant. I will claim that it is all about who you know. There are men here that are afraid to know a woman. Many deals are brokered over lunch, but many men are afraid to go have lunch with a female colleague – at least outside of a group. It presents a Catch-22. I work with a woman who told me about asking a manager to have dinner with her one night. She was married, he was married. She had some technical questions she wanted to pose and suggested they grab a bite to eat. He was so taken aback that he actually mentioned to her “sexual harassment”. Would this happen with two guys? No, they would go grab a beer at the local sports bar.
Another aspect, I went through a spell there working for a manager whose wife had never worked out of the home. The realities I faced with being a working mom with a newborn were foreign to him and he pretty much chalked me up as a whiner and told me there was no reason I couldn’t pump in the bathroom. When I pointed out there were no outlets he told me to get a battery pack. While I was out on my first maternity leave I had my first proposal funded. He handed it off to a man in my group citing he, “didn’t know what I wanted to do when I came back from leave”. He also never asked.
“What would you tell a girl who is contemplating a career in science?”
To find a good mentor at every stage. And by mentor I don’t mean manager – they have their own interests at heart in what they want you to do. Find someone you can talk freely to about what you want to do with your career. I wish I would have had more mentors in my career. Bachelors and then Masters or PhD so often is the given in science, but a mentor will be able to make suggestions based off experience, what do you really need to get where you want? What is the reality of academic positions? What if you love science, but wonder if there are other opportunities than standing in the lab? I have learned in the last few years that I have a propensity for management and business development. There are times when, despite the fact that this is what I want to be doing, I wonder if I am wasting my Ph.D. as I interact with managers sporting MBAs? The closest thing I have to a mentor right now (I am getting a new one in May) has told me no way, that in his product line he values highly technical managers. But just maybe, had I had someone early on in deciding what my career was going to be like and what life I wanted, maybe someone would have pointed me another way?
When I declared way back when what my goals were for the month of April, I had blinders on. I admit it. They are really, really big blinders and when I held my head exactly straight, they worked. They worked so that I could totally ignore my daughter's bedroom.
She has serious, serious bedroom issues. Mostly in that she has too much stuff. Then she has less organizational storage and third she is a little tornado. By the time pick up night comes on Wednesday, all her stuff tends to get stuffed in big plastic bins and shoved off to the side.
Then AB vigorously and ruthlessly whipped my blinders off when I happily announced I was going to orgnize the coat closet and laundry room.
"What really needs to be done is Skadi's room," he mumbled.
"But I was going to wait until an Ikea trip so that I could organize at the same time!" I argued truthfully. I had actually been browsing the Ikea website to get ahead of the game for the yet to be planned trip to an Ikea.
He then pointed out that a ton of stuff in her room could be thrown away, pulled out and donated or whatever. She doesn't need it, he said while referring mostly to the stacks upon stacks of books.
"But she likes the board books," I argued.
"She likes EVERY book. If the board books aren't there she will happily choose some of the others here that actually tell a story," he argued.
I sighed. Apparent that an Ikea trip was not in my immediate future and that my blinders were now broken. AB knows me well, once he breaks my blinders, I can no longer tell myself there is no problem.
So this weekend AFTER I took care of the coat closet, I started in one corner of Skadi's bedroom and worked through her room systematically through it and even tackled portions of her closet. We moved the big soft rocker out of her room, that we use to rock her to sleep in (before Skadi, it was Leif's, sigh... ). Well then it just served as the time out chair. Then it housed a mountain of stuffed animals. Not that the time outs went by the wayside of course...
We did it. I pulled out a huge stack of board books. I hauled off a full garbage bag full of c.r.a.p. We now have a plastic bucket overflowing with stuffed animals, a new small toybox from Target that will double as a bench and a treasure chest of dress up clothes.
Phew! Two for one weekend. My house is well on its way to an organized bliss!