Thursday, December 29, 2005

I have arrived!

Well, as you can by the pics below, it was a loooong drive. The bunnies did very well. I was exhausted. Jason did most of the driving. We left St. Louis on 12-23-05, drove 8 hours and stayed over in Oklahoma City the first night, 9 hours the 2nd day and stayed in Grants, NM the 2nd night, and 12 hours on the 3rd day and got to our final destination on Christmas day. Yup 1800-some miles. Ugh.

Babs got into Oscar's territory as we slept in the hotel room on the 1st night and picked a fight. We scrambled to separate them but not before he took 4 chunks out of her shoulder. Since it was Christmas Eve, and I didn't know the area, and the wounds didn't look too deep, I dressed them with Neosporin and kept an eye on them. They are not too serious, luckily, although Zena, my warrior princess, seems to have a death wish. Her wounds are healing very nicely. She stood perfectly still as I cleaned her wounds as if to say, "Mommy, I got beat up again." Ugh.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. I felt really naseous and sick by the time we stopped for lunch on the third day somewhere in AZ. I couldn't figure it out. I felt like such crap for the rest of the drive; I didn't know what had hit me. My stomach ached and cramped the whole way. My back was killing me, and I couldn't get comfortable. When we finally got to San Diego, I was also dizzy and weak and so achy, I could barely walk. Jason helped me to bed, unpacked the car, and helped me set up the bunnies, who stayed in the bedroom with me until I could feel better. Turns out, I had come down with the flu. I remained in bed for another day and a half with a fever and chills---sleeping, drinking 7-Up, and eating saltines.

I feel 100% better now. The apartment is totally unpacked, organized, cleaned, and de-bachelorized. The bunnies are settling in nicely, although Babs still doesn't get along with Oscar. She stays in the kitchen while Taz and Oscar get the rest of the apartment. When Oscar goes to rest in the bedroom, I let Babs out of the kitchen, and she and Taz roam around. I am continuing bonding sessions but Babs' jealousy of Oscar is relentless. It's hot here! 80s during the day with a light breeze and low 60s at night. It's weird. I don't start my postdoc until 1/23 so I'm getting ready to start my exercise program back up and explore San Diego. It's overwhelming and exciting. Most of all, it's wonderful to have my whole family (the buns and Jason) together again. Phew.

Say goodbye to AZ and hello to CA

We arrived in San Diego by 8 p.m. on the 3rd day, 12/25/05, after about 30 hours of driving. Ugh. I suffered from the flu for a few day afterwards. Posted by Picasa

Sunset on 3rd day in southern AZ

I was exhausted, naseous, and feverish as we drove west towards CA. The Mexican border was on our left. We had to even pass through 2 border patrols. That was fun. Posted by Picasa


Everywhere! Cacti! This made me very exicted. They were growing like trees! I knew we were going south! It got really hot too! In the 80s. I guess that's because we were in the desert. We soon passed through Phoenix and continuted south. Posted by Picasa

AZ is pretty.

although the road made me really naseous. (Jason didn't have to go 80 the whole way). He kept worrying about deer jumping out at him. See the sign? I thought that was cute. I've been teasing him mercilessly about the killer deer. Posted by Picasa

buns, sick of riding in the back seat, on the 3rd day.

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more AZ trees...

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northern AZ had lots of trees.

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really cool painted desert bluff in AZ

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Nearing the painted desert.

Here are a clump of mesas with cool, red-and-white streaks in them as we neared the border of AZ. We passed through many Indian reservations and the Painted Desert. This is the beginning of the 3rd day. 12-24-05 Posted by Picasa

NM mesas are cool.

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Sunset on the 2nd day in NM

We made it almost through NM at the end of the 2nd day. This state was more entertaining to drive through because of the numerous mesas in the background. Phew! We were tired. Posted by Picasa

gas station in the middle of nowhere in Texas.

Hope we don't break down! Posted by Picasa

Indigenous species of TX

We did see frequent cattle on expansive ranches on our drive through TX. Although these look like Angus to me, most were of the small, sturdy stock--like Longhorns, I think. Posted by Picasa

Most of TX looked like this.

Northern TX (the panhandle) was even more boring than OK. We did see an occaissional tumbleweed. Posted by Picasa

Train Station in Amarillo, TX

We saw lots of trains along the trip. Here, we're passing through Amarillo, TX on our 2nd day. Posted by Picasa

Texas = "Bushland"

We had to drive through "Bushland", which is in Texas, surpise, surprise! 12-24-05. Posted by Picasa

Really cool windmills

One of the most exciting parts of our trip. Seriously. Posted by Picasa

Some of Oklahoma looked like this...

really cool windmills. 12-24-05. Posted by Picasa

Most of Oklahoma looked like this.

Day 2. 12-24-05. Not too much to see. Posted by Picasa

blurry, but spectacular sunset

at end of first day (12-23-05) in southwest MO. Posted by Picasa

Southwest Missouri

Interesting cloud cover above a farm in southwest Mo at the end of the first day (12-23-05). Near the Ozarks where the dirt becomes red gravel and the grass that grows is even red. Posted by Picasa

Can you believe they gave me a Ph.D.?

Unbelievable. I still don't think it's hit me. So much has happened. I feel dazed. Jason came back from visiting his folks in Wisconsin just in time for me to get a few nights of well-deserved rest. My parents and sister flew in the day before the big day. I was starting to get a little nervous. I practiced and practiced....and practiced my talk the more nervous I got to calm myself down. We went out to dinner and had champagne. All I could think about was how nervous I was.

The next day came. The day I had been waiting for to arrive for months was finally here. How did that happen? My defense wasn't until 2 p.m....lots of time to get ancy. I woke up and tidied up the apartment (I had been doing a lot of organizing--my way of defusing stress), practiced my talk, and tried to eat. I showered, beautified and put on my suit (I love my suit--it's awesome) after much deliberation about which blouse to wear. I was so nervous at this point, I couldn't breathe. I decided to go to presentation room at school...NOW.

It was about 1:15 when I arrived. I was all nerves and butterflies. I hooked up my computer, closed the shades, checked the thermostats, my slides, the lights, the lazer pointer, attachments to the computer, made sure my coat was neatly folded; then I checked everything again. Went to the bathroom. Made sure I had a water bottle on the podium within easy access.

My parents arrived first. They kept taking pictures and asking questions. I could barely talk. People started arriving. I selected a chair to sit in and practiced deep breathing exercises. My P.I. sat next to me and gave me an encouraging smile. She asked if I was ready. I nodded and said, "Yes," faking confidence.

The fake confidence thing helped. All of a sudden, all my nervousness disappeared. It was time to deliver, to do my job. I could do this. I would get through it. She introduced me but I don't remember what she said. I know it was very flattering. Then, I got up, walked up to the podium in an eerily calm manner, dimmed the lights...and began.

It went very smoothly. I don't even think I was in my body. I made eye contact with everyone. I didn't feel like myself. I was this calm, collected person in total control of everything going on in the room. Afterwards, everyone clapped very warmly. Some people asked a few questions...nothing too difficult, and then everyone left so the private defense could begin.

By this point, I was tired, relaxed and ready to be done. The questions my committee asked were hard. Mostly because they were vague, abstract, speculative questions that I had a hard time with because I didn't understand what they were asking. I did the best I could although I do feel it could have gone a little bit more smoothly. But, in retrospect, their questions were sometimes a bit ridiculous; I think I actually did a pretty good job. The whole time, I was a bit frustrated. I kept thinking, "Are we done yet?" Silly, I know. After only 30 minutes, they let me go, closed the door, signed the form that said I had graduated, and opened it 5 minutes later to shake my hand and congratulate me.

All my friends and family congratulated me and there was quite a bit of champagne, dining, and celebrating afterwards. It was so nice to feel so supported. That was the best part. People keep asking how it feels now that it's over. How does it feel to have a Ph.D.? I have to say, it's not very different. I guess it was sort of anti-climatic afterwards and I'm not really sure why. I think I'm still a bit numb. Maybe it hasn't hit me. I know I'm tired and still recouperating. I think it's nice because it gave me a little bit of confidence so when something gets tough, I use a problem-solving approach and think, "Hey. I have a Ph.D. I can figure this out. It's kind of like having a "magic feather." Remember Dumbo? Honestly, though, I think the best part was looking into my mom and dad's faces and seeing their proud, wide smiling faces. I didn't prepare myself for that. They were SO proud, and that was the highlight of the whole defense. There's nothing in comparison to making your parents proud.

Monday, December 19, 2005

closing a chapter

Well, tomorrow is the big day. I present and hopefully don't trip and fall on my face, throw up, or pee my pants. If I can avoid those things, I think I'll do alright. Jason is home, and I feel 100% better. I'm sleeping SO much better, going to bed earlier, and waking up earlier too. Thank, God! We're pretty much packed, I've cleared out the lab, and we're ready for San Diego. We leave Thursday for the long, 3-day drive with the bunnies 1800 miles across country. Next time I blog, I will be in San Diego, and I will be a doctor. Isn't that funny? It's a whirlwind right now. I can't believe this is happening.

Friday, December 16, 2005

the evil of sleeping pills

So I told my doctor about my insomnia and she insisted on an Rx for sleeping pills--Ambien. I have to say, it f*cked me up and left me feeling worse than a couple of nights of no sleep. I was pretty wound up when I popped one at 11:30. I laid down on the couch (because my bed sucks) and began flipping through magazines, petting the buns, and watching t.v. Very relaxing. I got up to turn some lights off and realized I was having a hard time balancing. I felt like I was falling with every step I took. Having had a lot of prior experience feeling kind of messed up (another story, another time), I made my way back to the sofa and laid down. The magazines were too heavy to flip through anymore. I petted Babs for a little while longer, but I was worried my hand was to heavy on her head because I couldn't really sense it. My limbs felt like dead weight. I realized everything on the t.v. was multiplying--no matter how I focused--everything was in double. And there was a haze in front of everything. I felt more relaxed then anything but I moved to the bed and then fell into a deep coma until 11 this morning when I was awakend by a screaming headache that required 3 ibuprofens and 20 minutes of meditation before I could even think of getting up without my head spinning. I still feel really out of it, and I have to give my practice talk in half-an-hour. Moral of the story---don't take sleeping pills for insomnia; take them for a fun time. If you have lots of free time.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


I'm making up a new word--Nocturnalia--people who can't sleep at night, even though they want to. That's me. It's getting serious. I didn't fall asleep until 6 a.m. this morning. I slept until 1 p.m. Like a zombie. I dreamt about my postdoc. I guess, in my mind, I've already graduated. I even set up a start-date with my new P.I. January 23rd. That way, I get enough free time, without too much free time.
Last night, after a hectic day at lab (my 2nd, 1st-author paper has just been accepted! Yipee!), I walked home, exhausted, the long night before starting to catch up with me. Feeling the effects of sleep deprivation, I knew I needed to just get in the car and run my errands or I would fall asleep on the couch and take a nap. I jumped in the car and drove to the grocery store--Trader Joe's for me, and then Dierberg's for fresh greens for the bunnies (they are very spoiled). I got some very nice frames for a photo I'm giving to my P.I. as a gift. Then, I went to PetsMart, got the last batch of bunny litter that I will ever need in St. Louis, purchased the biggest 2-door dog crate that would fit in the back-seat of my little Corolla (36" x 24") for the bunnies on the drive to San Diego, and found some awesome chewable toys for the buns in the bird section (they have been fighting over them since I gave them to them). The bunnies get gifts too!
After running around, I was exhausted. I got ready for bed and fell asleep around 10 p.m. Then, I woke up at midnight and couldn't fall back asleep! Apparently, my body thought it was a nap! Unfortunately, I was too tired to exercise at that point, which is probably what I should have done. Instead, I practiced my presentation, which wound me up even more. Then, I wrapped presents with awesome, home-made wrapping paper (from artsy magazine pages), and sketched and finished all my drawings for the calendar I'm putting together for holiday gifts.
At 5, I went back to bed, very exhausted at this point. I still couldn't fall asleep, even though I was physically very tired. Finally, I drifted off into a coma at 6 and was dead to the world until after 1. Jason needs to come back from Wisconsin so I can get some sleep!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Going crazy

I think I'm going crazy. I went through all my lab stuff and organized and threw stuff out. I was all wound up so I hopped on the treadmill, had an awesome, energetic run, lifted weights, changed bunny litterboxes, vacuumed, did 5 loads of laundry, and then went through the apartment and threw out stuff I can't take with me (8 big black garbage bags). I also made a huge pile of stuff for give-away or Goodwill. I made wrapping paper out of colorful magazine pages and wrapped presents for my family until I ran out of tape. I tried to sleep but couldn't so I got out of bed at 4:30 and practiced my thesis presentation before finally falling asleep around 6. What is wrong with me?!

Friday, December 09, 2005

In transition

I finally got some sleep yesterday. I was exhausted from another long night of no sleep. You know it's bad when you end up watching the 5:00 a.m. news because you can't sleep. I still couldn't fall asleep until 2 a.m., but once I did, I slept like a zombie. I didn't wake up until 2 p.m. the next day. I decided to skip lab for the day and get caught up with everything at home and get rested. I ended up taking another nap from 6:30 to 8:30 and then, of course, not being able to fall asleep until around 3 a.m. I slept pretty well after that. I had to wake up early to take Babs to the vet (she's fine--just a precautionary visit) so that kind of sucked but at least I'll probably sleep well tonight. My mind has been a little more at ease lately.
I finally went for a run and lifted weights last night, which definitely helped me sleep. It made me feel SO much better. However, when you're exhausted, you feel sick and don't want to work out, which is why I've been skipping my workouts lately. :( I'm hoping to get back into a routine...finally.
I've felt more at ease about lab lately. A tech has been helping me with experiments , and i've just been getting ready for my defense on the 20th. I'm feeling pretty good about it. I'm just thinking of it as another presentation. As far as experiments go, since my thesis is turned in, I kind of feel like I'm in a lame duck session. I've been working my ass off so I deserve to give myself a break, especially with all the stress. It'll feel soooo good to be done with it all! I get excited and pretty wound up about moving to San Diego...and being with Jason again.
I'm getting ready to move. I'm not too worried about. Everything is already out there. I'm just winding things up here. I had my last hair appointment, my last dentist appointment, my last massage, last doctor's appointment, last vet appointment, last bunny cleaning volunteering session, etc., etc. My friend remarked that it sounded like I was on death I was having my last meal and last everything. It is the last everything though...for the St. Louis chapter in my life. I'm closing this segement of my life down and getting ready to be San a postdoc. So it is kind of like a death, in a way. A good way.

Question of the Day:
What event in your life has made you go through a major transition?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Question of the Day

What's your favorite workout song?

I love anything with a good beat. Right now, my favorites are:

1. let's get it started
Black Eyed Peas
2. Jerk It Out
The Caesars
3. Name of the Game
The Crystal Method
4. One More Time
Daft Punk
5. Personal Jesus
Depeche Mode
6. Survivor
Destiny's Child
7. Blue
Eiffel 65
8. Lose Yourself
9. Right Here, Right Now
Rockafeller Skank
10. Clint Eastwood

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Stress and Insomnia

I can't believe how crazy my life has been. I turned my thesis in yesterday! All 100 pages of it. To all 6 of my committee members. It felt good. Now, I'm working on my presentation. Exactly two weeks from today. I can't believe it. I'm excited and terrified.

I finally slept without the aid of Benadryl for the first time in weeks. I have had the WORST insomnia lately. It sucks. Some scientists are studying the link between sleep deprivation and weight gain. Duh! You're too tired to work out! There's no mystery!

Jason will be coming back soon. It was sooooo nice to see him over Thanksgiving. I slept like a baby. It's weird how bonded you get to someone you're married to--on a subconscious level. We'll have been together 9 years this February. I can't believe that. It seems like we just met yesterday!

I'm hoping now that my thesis has been turned in and I feel more on track that I will be able to get my life in order--mainly sleeping and waking like a normal person and exercising on a daily basis. I feel like such a fat pig! I'm also a complete night owl. When I'm stressed, I don't fall asleep until 4 a.m., and I wake up at 2 p.m.! What the hell?! If I'm really stressed, I don't sleep at all. Then, it's easy to wake up early. I guess that's the only upside to not being able to sleep. It's easy to get out of bed in the morning. I'm still getting hives too. I can't wait for this to all be over, and for Jason to be back by my side so I can get some zzzz's!

Question of the Day:
What's your favorite cure for insomnia?