Monday, April 30, 2012

On my nightstand

I love to read, always have. I could spend hours as a kid reading alone in my room. I think I get this from my Mom- I remember how she liked to retreat with a book on a quiet Sunday afternoon, and to this day we still trade books. I will always have an affection for the old school hard copy book. I mean, just look at them - they are so visually appealing. I read books on my ipad on occasion, but it's just not the same. It's convenient for travel, but I'm not giving up my paper books any time soon.

I usually read several books at a time, one is almost always a novel, so this list isn't 100% typical. But here is what is on my nightstand right now:

1. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I haven't started this one yet but I've heard good things. I'm not usually into self-help books, but recognizing happiness in my every day is something I know I can improve upon. And I like to have at least one book that I can pick up and put down in short stretches - I don't get whole afternoons to read anymore.

2. On Writing by Stephen King. I've read this book by Stephen King before and recently wanted to go through it again. I look at this blog as an exercise in writing (in addition to chronicling big and small moments with the kids) and I know I can always improve my writing. This is one of the best books for aspiring writers.

3. Before you suffocate your own fool self  by Danielle Evans. A collection of short stories is always a good choice when you only have finite amounts of time to read. This collection is written by an African-American woman and I find her perspective on modern day, non-white America eye-opening. I've read all but one or two of the stories.

4. Bringing up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman. I finished this book a few weeks ago and mentioned it previously here. It seems like I almost always have a parenting book on my nightstand these days - and need to find time to read more of them. This book was an easy read and some of the parenting ideas were ones I'd like to emulate, others not so much. But if you are tired of the hyper-parenting so frequently advocated right now, this book is a refreshing change.

5. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. I like a good biography when there is a person or a story that I find particularly fascinating. I am not very far into this one yet, but I find Steve Jobs very unlikable and can only read about him in small doses. Good thing I have several other choices when I've had my fill of him.

What about you - reading anything good right now? I'm always looking for new suggestions!

Friday, April 27, 2012


I'm always inspired by this one.
This week went by fast. I have lots of catching up to do both at home and work this weekend. But I enjoyed the trip, both the conference and seeing my friends. My talk went well and in spite of the early start time on Tuesday morning, the room was full. I met up with some colleagues I hadn't seen in years and had fun catching up. Coming to these meetings makes me realize just how many connections I've made over the years and how important they have been to my career success. It is a wonderful reminder of the positive side of this profession and just what I needed.

This week I was inspired on two separate occasions.

I listened to a lecture in San Diego by a woman from Harvard. Her data was exciting and extensive and she was given an award by our research society -  only the second time a woman has won this annual award. There are very few women at the top of my field and the fact that she made it to full professor at Harvard is impressive. She ended the talk by thanking her family and showed a picture of her three young children. She even choked up a bit when she showed the picture, saying that she wouldn't normally include the picture but felt it was appropriate for this career achievement award. It was refreshing and encouraging - an excellent scientist and a happily married mother of three. She is far from the norm, but I'm glad to know she exists. If I get the chance, I will tell her just that.

My second occasion for inspiration this week occured once I returned home. I attended a noon seminar given by another woman at the top of her profession and had the privilege to take her to lunch after. She was sharp, funny, easy to talk to and full of wisdom. As she talked to the mostly female audience about how she blazed her path in academic medicine over the years, she asked a couple questions that really got me thinking. She said, when you think about your career ask yourself "What are you known for?" and "What do you want to be known for?" Hmmm. Both questions require some introspection and the subtle but significant difference between the two could be revealing.

On the home front, an update on our baby birds! Two eggs hatched and the babies are thriving in the nest. We know for sure they are cardinals because once the babies hatched, the dad came back. The mom still sits in the nest most of the time keeping the birds warm, but every once in awhile the mom flies away and this beautiful red cardinal comes to the nest with food for the babies. It is the coolest thing ever - right at eye level we can watch the dad put small pieces of food directly into the wide open, hungry mouths of the baby birds. Charlie is pretty excited about it and checks on the babies first thing in the morning and when he gets home from school - but I might be more excited. We didn't see the dad the entire time the mom was sitting on the eggs, and suddenly there he is. So cool.

And finally, I have a new project. Last weekend we purchased a 'real' camera! I'm so excited.

I've been wanting to learn how to take really good pictures and do justice to my favorite subjects (C & Iz, of course!). I know it is going to be a long and slow process but I am excited to learn something new and creative. And the best part? This camera was essentially a gift. While cleaning and organizing my desk at home, I came across a savings bond given to me by my grandfather when I was born. Turns out they can be worth a lot of money after so much time - what a nice surprise. So this camera is a gift from my Grandaddy G and I will think of him when I use it, capturing pictures of his great-grandchildren. I know he would have loved it.

And while I am learning how to use my camera, I can find inspiration from so many beautiful sources. Paris is my favorite city and this book reminds me why.

A few more pictures from my trip to San Diego here, have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

30 things

Turning 30 was a big deal for me. I had accomplished many things, but I was still single and felt far from my dream of having a family. Getting my Ph.D., running marathons, living in another country and learning a foreign language - these were all goals I could tackle and will to happen. Finding love and a person to share your life with is not something you can put on your TO DO list and easily check off. Sure, you can put yourself out there and prioritize your personal life, strive to meet new people, engage friends and family in your efforts, and be open to all avenues of finding love (even online!). But in many ways, it is out of your control and my Type A personality had a really hard time accepting that. I remember well the pressure I felt turning 30.

I think for women, 30 feels like an age when we should have our acts together, know what we want and how to achieve it. In 1997, Glamour magazine published a story titled "30 Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She's 30."  Here's the list:

By 30, you should have ...

1. One old boyfriend you can imagine going back to and one who reminds you of how far you’ve come.
2. A decent piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in your family.
3. Something perfect to wear if the employer or man of your dreams wants to see you in an hour.
4. A purse, a suitcase, and an umbrella you’re not ashamed to be seen carrying.
5. A youth you’re content to move beyond.
6. A past juicy enough that you’re looking forward to retelling it in your old age.
7. The realization that you are actually going to have an old age -- and some money set aside to help fund it.
8. An email address, a voice mailbox, and a bank account -- all of which nobody has access to but you.
9. A résumé that is not even the slightest bit padded.
10. One friend who always makes you laugh and one who lets you cry.
11. A set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill, and a black lace bra.
12. Something ridiculously expensive that you bought for yourself, just because you deserve it.
13. The belief that you deserve it.
14. A skin-care regimen, an exercise routine, and a plan for dealing with those few other facets of life that don’t get better after 30.
15. A solid start on a satisfying career, a satisfying relationship, and all those other facets of life that do get better.

By 30, you should know ...

1. How to fall in love without losing yourself.
2. How you feel about having kids.
3. How to quit a job, break up with a man, and confront a friend without ruining the friendship.
4. When to try harder and when to walk away.
5. How to kiss in a way that communicates perfectly what you would and wouldn’t like to happen next.
6. The names of the secretary of state, your great-grandmothers, and the best tailor in town.
7. How to live alone, even if you don’t like to.
8. Where to go -- be it your best friend’s kitchen table or a yoga mat -- when your soul needs soothing.
9. That you can’t change the length of your legs, the width of your hips, or the nature of your parents.
10. That your childhood may not have been perfect, but it’s over.
11. What you would and wouldn’t do for money or love.
12. That nobody gets away with smoking, drinking, doing drugs, or not flossing for very long.
13. Who you can trust, who you can’t, and why you shouldn’t take it personally.
14. Not to apologize for something that isn’t your fault.
15. Why they say life begins at 30

I'm well past 30 now and, in spite of my worries, I found Mr. Right and have the beautiful family I've always wanted. In many ways, I am happier now than I've ever been as a result. Maybe i'ts time to think about what I want out of the next 10 years (I do have a birthday coming up, though its not the BIG ONE yet!).

What should I have and know by 40...??

Monday, April 23, 2012

Checking in from the west coast

Greetings from (partly) sunny southern cal! I arrived last night after what was quite possibly the easiest trip ever. The last time I came to San Diego in February, it was the first time we had flown together, all four of us. What a difference! This time I didn't have to cart around extra bags for both kids plus snacks, toys, and diapers; wrangle with a stroller at the gate (why do we always forget to get the gate tag for the stroller?!) and worry about getting three seats together amidst the cattle call that is southwest airlines. I felt so calm and relaxed with my B16 boarding pass (for once I remembered the check in!), my bottle of water and carry on luggage. I did some work on the plane, snoozed for a few minutes, and suddenly we were in San Diego a full 30 minutes early. I grabbed a coffee and a cab and was at my hotel in 30 minutes. Wh-wh-what??

I have been looking forward to this trip for awhile and it is the first time since having Izzy that I was not dreading leaving her. I took her to three meetings with me last year when she was really little, and while I'm glad I did because I couldn't have left her that soon, I didn't get much out of the meetings professionally. It is just too hard to put in the time at the meeting when your 3 month old is waiting back at the hotel for you (hanging in the room playing video games and raiding the mini bar). So this time I am looking forward to reconnecting with colleagues - as that is most of what these meetings are about - in a way I haven't in several years. And don't get me started on the posh hotel room, comfy bed and tv in the room! You could say I have an unnatural affinity for a hotel tv and room service, it feels like the guiltiest of pleasures and it's what I look forward to when traveling alone...we all have our things. 

On this particular trip, I not only have tv and room service to look forward to, but I also get to hang out with two of my best friends - the kind of friends that you only have to see every once in awhile and yet its like you were just together. Visiting Dan in San Diego has become a regular thing and this has to be about the 10th time (at least) that we've met since he's been living here. My own personal tour guide. He took us for the best fish tacos in the city last night. Yum! 

And I was in need of some much needed girl time with Susan. We've had so much to catch up on. I really miss her and wish we could see each other more often. Who knows what we might accomplish if we were within shouting distance... 

My quiet spot in the hotel room where I did some last minute work on my presentation for tomorrow. I love a good window seat.

And of course, I miss these two like crazy. Whenever I travel alone, I see a million kids everywhere I go that remind me of them and stir up a longing to hold them close, even if just for a split second. But the time will go fast and I know they are in great hands with Dad. And while I hope everything goes smoothly while I'm gone, I secretly hope they miss me and appreciate me all the more when I return.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A prelude to a kiss

More than a decade ago, we almost certainly passed along the same street, or walked down the same halls towards class, and yet never had the chance to meet. Perhaps we had a glimpse of one another across the lake in the early morning mist – him on the side of the shore with a camera, me on the water in the boat at the other end of the lens.  

Ryan took this photo as part of a photography class assignment in college using the rowing team as his subject. I was on the team at the time and we practiced nearly every day. Was I in one of those boats in his picture? I like to think so. It makes a lovely story.

He moved to Kansas City after college and I didn’t move to KC for another 10 years, making it impossible for our paths to cross in the interim. One year after I returned to KC, we met - online. I used to think our meeting online made for a slightly less romantic story. But that was just the medium, the go-between for something I know was meant to be. We didn’t meet in college because it wasn’t the right time for us – I’m pretty sure we would not have been a good fit for each other back then. And yet we found each other 11 years later on the World Wide Web. That’s not easy to do (anyone that has tried online dating knows).  So now, on the eve of our 4th wedding anniversary, when every day I feel happier and luckier for the love and family we’ve created, I think the beginning to our story is romantic.

He was the first and only person I exchanged emails with, the first and only date I ever went on from my online foray (they should pay us to tell our story. We’re right here and waiting, Maybe it was an unlikely way to find each other, but then again maybe it wasn’t. Does being set up by a friend ever work out? Do people really meet in bars, or at church? In the end, everyone’s story is unique. And the intro to the story doesn’t mean much without the middle and the end.

In a way, finding this old photo in the basement after so many years puts a new beginning on our story – a prelude you could call it. Our story may still be in the early stages – but I like how it’s going so far.

Happy Anniversary, love. Every year just keeps getting better!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mid-week mash up

My last post was a bit of a downer, but, in the interest of keepin' it real here on Speed Bump, some days are like that. While I focus on the positive events in my life on this blog, I don't ever want to give the impression that every day is sunny and rosy. Life is messy and hard sometimes - and I think having challenges and obstacles in our lives is what helps us appreciate the good stuff. In the words of one famous Scarlett O'Hara, "Tomorrow is another day!" and I'm looking up. Next week I am going to a science conference in San Diego to give an invited talk. If I were just getting by in my work, they wouldn't invite me to speak and pay my way, right?? Positive self-talk is something I am still working on.

circa 2006?
As an added bonus, I will meet up with two of my dearest and oldest friends - just like we did at this same conference in San Diego several years ago. I doubt we'll stir up much trouble like in the good old days (Susan!), but I know we'll have fun! Susan and I are going to be roommates at the meeting and I am really looking forward to some shopping girl time . She has just taken on a new job, throwing that whole career/life balance out of whack for the time being. She's been doing the juggling act longer than I have and I look to her for advice. We have lots to catch up on - several drinks will be in order. I will not tell you how many we actually have. Some things are sacred and best kept to ourselves.

Checking in on the kids mid-week, here is what they've been up to at school:
Izzy painting in the world's largest t-shirt and Princess Charlie doing...??

Here's what we're having for lunch this week in the Maniger household, if you're interested:

This is a yummy and fresh salad from my very talented Aunt Cynthia's cookbook. I am really loving salads with kale right now (I was previously in a quinoa salad phase). I make a slightly larger batch of this salad than the original recipe (not quite doubled, but maybe 1.5x the recipe) and add feta cheese and it lasts the two of us most of the week. The recipe calls for wild rice but I had brown rice on hand and just used that. Cynthia's salad recipes are fabulous and I make them all the time for lunch. What I like about them is that you can substitue a few things here or there if you don't have an item on hand, and they always taste great. You can find the recipe for Emerald City Salad here and a link to my aunt's cooking website here.

And finally, we have a very interesting nature study going on at home. A mama cardinal has built her nest in the rose bushes just outside our sunroom window. Charlie is fascinated! The mama bird flies in and out of the next and sits on her eggs, right in front of our noses. I counted 5 eggs in all. Can't wait to see what happens when they hatch!

Yes, Charlie has no pants on. It is a regular thing at home. I hardly notice anymore.

I'll try to get a picture of the actual nest, you can only see a faint shadow of it here in this picture. But I don't want to disturb the birds anymore than our regular gawking already does.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

When my best isn't good enough

Most days I am proud of what I do. And even though it is a struggle to balance an academic career with two small kids, most days I feel like I am making it work. Then there are days like today.

A competitor colleague published an amazing study today - a knock it out of the park, game winning home run study. The study was published in one of the best science journals. This paper was a world series championship, an Olympic gold medal, an Oscar, all wrapped into one. Certainly it would be for my career. While this study is not going to cure cancer, it will enhance our understanding of a very debilitating disease and also highlights a new direction of treatment. In my field, it's big. Very big.

If I was forced to find the bright side of this event, I would have to admit that in the still emerging research field that I am studying, this paper will increase the importance of my own work. It puts my research on the map in a bigger and brighter way than I could do on my own. The spotlight is bright and the glare will hopefully spill over on to all of us in the research area working towards similar end goals. It's a good thing, all the way around.

But here's the rub - I want to do awe-inspiring, ground breaking research, too. I want to publish in Nature and make a difference. I know what it takes to get to that level - I've been in labs with that same standard of excellence. It takes complete and utter sacrifice to your work and a single-minded focus and passion. I know what it takes because I lived it for a long time - and I burned out on biomedical research as a result. After that, maybe because of that, I was lucky enough to fall into this wonderful life that is bigger and greater than anything I ever imagined. I wouldn't trade places with my fellow researchers to have my name on this game changing paper. Not for a second.  And yet I can still feel the sting, feel the air drain out of the room today with the news.

I chose to have a family and I will never regret that nor use it as an excuse if my career goals fall short. But it doesn't mean the reality of this choice can't still frustrate me at times. My male peers with small children in this same stage of their research careers don't feel the intense crunch on their time, the same tug from home on a daily basis. No matter how great our husbands are at sharing family duties - and mine is one of the best - the expectations for moms and dads are still different. I am the one that cares for the kids when they are sick, that takes them to the doctor, and meets with their teachers. And I'm ok with that - that is how we set things up in our family structure. (In some families, the Dad may hold this role, but it is definitely not the norm).

I took on this role knowing it would compromise my career, at least for the short term. And knowing what I know now, I wouldn't do anything differently. So then I can't really complain about the situation, right? I can't feel remiss when someone else publishes ground breaking research while I was wiping noses and drying tears. It's just that sometimes I can't ignore the sting of someone else’s victory, hard as I might try. It’s a rare day, for sure, but it’s out there. Today was such a day.

On days like today I feel like I am just getting by, doing only enough to keep the wheels turning and not much more. Then I go home to the happy chaos of Charlie and the warm snuggles of Izzy and I leave the worries and strain far behind. It is easy to leave it behind. And the next day I try to just get by again.

Most days it doesn't feel like I'm short changing my colleagues, my students, my own career goals. Most days it feels like my best. But I worry that my best - the best I can give right now, the best of myself I'm willing to give right now - isn't good enough.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Quick weekend update

I have to report back from the weekend and mention that Ryan came through on the corsage for our prom date. Here it is in all its glory:

And in his first purchase of a corsage in probably 20 years, Ryan did get reminded of a few things. First, it's best to order a corsage in advance as apparently floral shops don't just have them sitting around ready for purchase. And second, when buying (or odering!) a corsage, you should know what color will best compliment your date's dress. For showing up at a flower shop on a Saturday afternoon unaware of either of these tips, Ryan was told he was "such a guy!" I appreciate the abuse you took for the purchase of my corsage, babe. It was a big hit at the prom and all the other ladies were jealous.

After our big night out, we had a leisurely Sunday morning for the first time in a long time. We slept in, did some last minute cleaning/prepping for a 1:00 house showing and had a relaxed breakfast, just the two of us. Just like it used to be, say three years and 3 months ago. It was nice.

But like anytime I am without the kids for very long, I missed them. I enjoyed every minute of our adult time, but I was also very anxious to hear their voices and to feel sticky little hands tugging at my arm. How is it they can look different to me after just one night away? I picked them up from Gram's and we all walked to the park to enjoy a beautiful spring evening - a perfect cap to the weekend. Our Sunday evening was not without event, however, as the power went out for the second time that day (gotta love old neighborhoods with big, old trees). We put the kids to bed just before dark and then had a romantic dinner by candlelight. The house is so quiet with no power, we read for a little while and then went to bed early.

Ready for the week!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Happy Friday the 13th!

I need a do over for this week! The littlest one was sick and the week was a wash. I feel so torn when one of my kids is sick. I have deadlines and meetings at work that need my attention, making it hard to drop everything immediately. But I also feel quilty if one of them is sick and I'm not right there to take care of them. I spent a day and a half at home and was lucky Ryan's dad and my mom could cover another two days for me. But even with loving grandparents to help, there is that mother's guilt lurking around - unwelcome and uninvited. Because everyone knows that what a sick baby or child needs and wants is for mom to be there, to hold them - all day if necessary. Izzy wasn't even that sick this week but I still feel bad if I'm not right there. I try to be the one to care for them when they're sick. Some days it works, some days it doesn't.

Just like these photos...sometimes they come out, sometimes they don't.

So I'm glad this week is over and I'm looking forward to the weekend. We're going to the med school prom this weekend, it's ok to be jealous. I like the other faculty members that will be at our table, so it could be fun. Regardless, it will be over early and we can go out for a drink in our finery, celebrate our mementous week of putting our first home up for sale. We then get to come home to a quiet house and sleep in late as the kids will be staying over night at their grandparents. Now that's worth getting excited about. I just hope Ryan remembers to get me a corsage for the prom.

We were supposed to run a half-marathon tomorrow - best laid plans. With all the work for the house, we just didn't get the miles in and trying to train became a chore. Maybe now we'll have some more time and can think about another race soon. I will be glad that we won't be getting up at the crack of dawn Saturday morning, but when I see runners going by, practically down our street, I will wish I was out there with them.

As were were staging our house for photos and showings, I dug out many decorative items from boxes in the basement. Little items that small hands love to pick up, bang around and drop to the floor. Its nice to see some of my favorite pieces out and about as most of them have a story and were picked up on a trip somewhere. Maybe I will take some pictures and share them here. I realized we don't have very many coffee table books and could use a few more. I saw this cookbook the other day and it is now on my wish list. It probably has some decent recipes but would mostly be fun just to look at.

Between the prom and a few more things to do in the yard before our first open house, the weekend will be busy. But I feel like the biggest pressure is off - the house is listed and the process has begun. I don't know where we will end up - but wherever it is, as long as we are all there together, it will be our home. And that's good enough for now.

And finally, here is a short article to follow up on the French parenting post I wrote the other day. The author's views about how French children eat echo my thoughts after reading Bringing up Bebe. Perhaps I should have written the post for Motherlode. There is the slight issue that the author of this latest article did write an entire book on the subject, but that seems like a minor detail.

I would like to write a book on something, someday...

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Here we go...

Where are we going?? We have no idea at this point. Eventually, west, over to the Kansas side. I'm excited but also really nervous (and a little sad, we love our home). It is a brand new adventure, a new chapter in our family story and for now, the page is blank -  ready and waiting to be filled. We have some ideas, some tentative plans - I will share those here for sure. But for now, we're taking one step at a time. The house is ready, the sign is up, and it's really happening.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The hunt is on!

Did somebody say something about an egg hunt?

I can't believe how grown up this (not so) little one is getting. Maybe its the scarf...but I see the years flashing by and she is in highschool. It seems like just yesterday she was Izzy's age.

Getting her basket, ready to hunt for eggs!

This is the closest Izzy got to wearing the bunny ears on Sunday.

 Izzy's eggs were close by and easy for her to spot. She liked carrying around the empty plastic eggs.

Not done yet, Charlie was getting some instruction on where to look for his next egg.

Collecting the money he found in his eggs.

Trying to put the money from his eggs into his pockets...

This is my new favorite picture - maybe of all time. Iz was peeking through the garden gate, looking for eggs? the other kids or Gram?  

 Taking stock and making sure they each got 10 eggs.

 Transferring the candy from the eggs to a plastic bag so Gram can use the eggs again next year. Love the vest! Charlie is so wearing a vest next Easter.

Note the "C" on Charlie's eggs. This is a family tradition - everyone has plastic eggs with their initial on it and everyone gets the exact same number of eggs. You might imagine that in my uber-competitve family, this tradition arose as a response to a trend each Easter when we were kids to 'win' the hunt and get the most eggs. According to the rules, if you find someone else's egg, you are to leave it there and keep looking for your own initial. This rule was often overlooked in favor of hiding said egg in a spot that might never be found. (I won't name names, but the worst offender of this collected eggs with the letter "T"). And based on what I saw Sunday, I think this tradition has been passed down to the next generation.

For now, no one tampers with the eggs labeled "C" and "H" but they will, soon enough.

Izzy wasn't tired, but Gram must've been after hiding 80 eggs!

And Roxie was a good sport, as always - even though she didn't get to hunt eggs or eat any candy. Now the baskets are packed away, the last piece of stray Easter grass picked up, and all the Easter candy is gone (Mom is entitled to a few chocolate eggs). Until next year...


As promised last week, here is the run down on our dyeing eggs-travaganza!

Since we're getting ready to put our house on the market, Ryan had the brilliant idea to take the dyeing outside. It was a beautiful evening, so we set up our egg dyeing station in the grass, Mom and Dad opened up a beer, and Charlie and Dad got to work.

Izzy came to check out the action, but since I wouldn't let her touch and tip over the bowls full of food coloring, she soon lost interest.

Our high tech set up. These plastic bowls were left over from the kit I bought last year. If only I had saved that little wire egg holder thingy...

Izzy and Roxie were bored with the egg dyeing. Roaming around the yard chewing on grass and sticks was much more fun.

So proud to be walking! (on a side note, nice unintentional picture of our house in the background. Will this be our last Easter in this house? Sniff.) Check out how well Dad is supervising in the background. That's how this happened....

It wouldn't be much fun if there wasn't some mess involved. A little food coloring on your skin and clothes is well worth the end result: 

I was very pleased with how the eggs turned out. The neon food coloring makes for bright, vivid colors and I will definitely use it again next year. We're not quite ready for fancy, pinterest-worthy eggs just yet. But, this was the real result I was going for...

All out fun!