Life, Actually

Annnnddd I’m back!

Pfew! What a roller coaster! Defending a Ph.D. is seriously no joke. First, there is writing a dissertation – and folks, mine was nearly 200 pages. 200! Me, who has a hard time thinking a complete thought (thanks ADD, who is now called ADHD, because the acronym also has ADD) and has a hard time writing! I wrote that beast in about 1.5 months. It was a necessity though, otherwise the consequences would have been devastating. I would have to stay another semester … surrounded by so many people who have excluded and made me feel lesser.

I have so much to tell you! So much has happened in these past four absent months! SO MUCH!

So, I’m a doctor now. I don’t feel any smarter, and for some reason, I thought I would. Titles aren’t everything.

I’m addicted to MasterChef Junior. There is something about kids with passions and such motivation to succeed. I just love it so much. I will probably talk about this later on.

My friend Charles and I have something cooking up that will please all of my geeky readers (if I have any). It was an idea he had originally and it was going to be done with his brother, but, there was no interest there. And the thing is, I just couldn’t get the idea out of my mind. I kept hoping and hoping I would be surprised and the two of them would do it, and then I would be in reading bliss – but nothing! So, I decided to pitch the idea back to Charles, and now we are doing this together!!!! I’m so pumped. Stand by for this!

I also started, and (wait for it) never got around to it, an alphabet challenge. I may be a year late, but I have a few drafts sitting around with this. Stand by for an alphabet of all of my favourite things.

The best thing – I have a job! YES! I am going to be a postdoctoral research fellow at a hospital in Memphis, TN. I will be joining a wonderful research team doing some very important work. I will tell you more about this as I settle in. I really hope Kristi can find a job because I don’t want to be without her for too long (although I am prepared for this … unfortunate circumstance.)

 

So many great things in the wood-work and I can’t wait to share them with you!

It’s the final countdown

keep-calm-it-s-the-final-countdown

 

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a writer. I’m not a good writer. I’m not a bad writer. I’m. not. a. writer. In stating this, it should make a lot of sense as to why I write so sporadically, and I don’t maintain this blog in a manner that most writers and bloggers do. I’m a faker. But that’s not a bad thing.

Sometimes, you just have to fake it to make it. Isn’t that what people say? If you fake it enough times, then you are made into whatever you were faking. (This may have sounded worse then I intended.) Let me explain. I’m not a writer. However, if I pose as a writer, and force myself to write, then eventually, I will be a writer. I’m not very good with maintaining a healthy lifestyle. However, if I make the decision to monitor my nutrition and get my booty exercising, then eventually, I’ll have a healthy lifestyle.

Totally reminds me of a Spice Girls song. You know the one (HINT: Who do you think you are?). (Holy poop! They are making a musical called Viva Forever based on the Spice Girl songs!!)

I digress.

I started this blog to help me with posing as a writer. Not that I would have anything interesting to say, or anything life inspiring to write about, but to simply write. … and maybe have some people to hold me accountable. (I also do a lot of stuff with fitness, but more on that later.) A friend of mine, who is a writer and has an amazing blog you can find here, is doing these alphabet posts … and I think I’m going to do something along those lines too. For motivation.

Maybe 1 month ago (don’t quote me on that, my memory is shot these days) my boss dropped a figurative A-bomb right on top of my hunky-dory graduate student life. He actually used words like “graduation,” “dissertation,” “committee meeting,” “post doc opportunities,” in pretty much the longest sentence known to man. Plus, it didn’t help that this entire conversation shifted in to slow motion right before my eyes. Oh, I nearly forgot, he also clumped “December” in there, too.

HOLY. POOP. HOLY. POOP. HOLY. POOP. (Speaking of poop, my sister writes a mean poop blog! Check it out here.)

December … totally do-able, right? Right …. fake it until I make it.

 

This means I have to defend my dissertation before December 4, and that means I have to have my dissertation written by end of October/beginning of November, and that means I have to have my research done well before that so I can publish this darn article …. which means, which means …

IT’S THE FINAL COUNTDOWN.

 

 

 

 

You’re welcome. I know it’s stuck in your head now.

 

Spring Cleaning and my (inner) Mask

You know what’s great about spring cleaning? You find a lot of little things you stashed around your house! In my case, it was Halls® wrappers from when I was sick. I had them everywhere! Then it hit me! I know why I kept these wrappers – I wanted to write a blog about it! (I’m a genius when I have the flu.)

The one thing I hate more than cleaning, is being told I’m not sick when I am clearly sick. It brings out my inner Mask.

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[Source]

Halls® has this campaign called “A PEP TALK IN EVERY DROP™” (It’s written just like that on every Halls® wrapper – like they are screaming at you.)

Instead of offering words of comfort – you know “Rest up, you deserve it,” “Take some time for you,” “Go back to sleep,” etc … this is what I read:

“Take charge and mean it.”

“Don’t try harder. Do harder!”

“The show must go on. Or work.”

“Dust off and get up.”

“Be resilient.”

“Elicit a few “wows” today.”

“Get back in there champ!”

“Don’t waste a precious minute.”

“Don’t give up on yourself.”

“Get through it.”

“Fire up those engines!”

“You can do it and you know it.”

“Put your game face on.”

“Let’s hear your battle cry.”

There’s more … I just don’t want to keep writing them all out. Not because I’m lazy. Because I’m getting all worked up again.

I understand the intent of these “pep talks” … but when you are sick, possibly with the flu, for a week fighting fever after fever and wrestling with sleep, the last thing you want to hear is “Get through it.” Or “be resilient.”

 

Dang! I just wanted some homemade vegetable soup, some rest, some tender loving care from my wife, and some quality time with my sister Reychl (who was visiting me, more on that later!)

Sister date nights – a MUST!

You know what stinks about being busy all day long? I think, and write, so many blog posts in my head. I think I put them on here, but I haven’t! The one thing I hate doing, like really hate, is repeating myself. So, when I realize I didn’t actually write anything down, I get super upset. Because I don’t want to “re-write” it. (There really is no winning.)

Have you ever been so close to someone, despite the physical distance between you? Me too! Gosh, we are so similar! I mean, we are sooooo similar. As similar as my sisters and I used to dress.
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[L to R: Reychl, Amanda, Me – we had matching everything]

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[L to R: Me, Reychl, Amanda – see?? We even have matching toys! And onesies … and haircuts]

This bond has seriously gotten us through life. Sure, we fought and did all of that typical children stuff, but we always knew we could rely on each other. Even when Reychl decided it would be a great time to slap me across the face … after I had all 4 wisdom teeth removed the day before. I mean, if that isn’t love, I don’t know what is!

So, let me introduce you (briefly) to my wonderful sisters! Since Reychl “is older,” I will start with her. (hehehe!  This is an inside joke. Reychl and I convinced Amanda that Reychl was older because her birthday comes before Amanda’s in a calendar year. Amanda believed it.)

Reychl. Pronounced like any other Rachael. In fact, her name is actually spelled Rachael. But, just like Nicole and Nikol are different people (as I mentioned here), so are Rachael and Reychl. If you knew my sister before, let’s say, grade 11, you knew Rachael. Grade 11 she was in transition, and from Grade 12 onwards, she has been Reychl. Reychl is brutally honest, selfless, loyal, courageous, driven, stubborn, and caring. She is filled with wanderlust, and loves to explore. She may hurt your feelings every now and then, but it’s never malicious (if only some people would actually see that). You know she is in pain when she lashes out at you, and that’s when you have to set your feelings aside and just get her to break open and spill the beans. P.S. Reychl is the youngest sister.

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[This is Reychl with her pupster Charlie]

Now there is Amanda. Amanda has always been Amanda. Which is strange, considering she is a Gemini (and Reychl and I are Capricorns.) Amanda is easily embarrassed, loving, kind, selfless, loyal, helpful and caring. She is filled with so much love, like soo much love, she can’t say “No” when someone knocks on her door and basically says ‘take my cat.’ She doesn’t slam the door, she says ‘welcome to the family! Time to find you a new name that ends in an “ee” sound!’ (I mean that! Her beautiful babies are named Rari, Gimee, Tuli, Nolli, Remi … her wife? Stacy! – and I Just slaughtered the spelling of all of her baby’s names! Phooey on me!) P.S. Amanda is the middle sister.

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[This is Amanda at a Linda Eder concert!]

The one thing I forgot to mention, but alluded to earlier, is that both of my sisters live in Michigan, while I live in Nebraska/Florida/somewhere far, far away. We always make time for visits, but sometimes, we just don’t have money for long trips (and the vacation saved up for those trips!) We came up with a solution! (If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the precipitate!)

Sister date nights.

They happen once a week, with the respective sister. Reychl and I watch a movie at the same time on Thursdays. We have to be careful because we live in different time zones, but we usually time it pretty well. This way, we can talk about the movie, and laugh, and cry, and it’s all better because we are technically doing the same thing at the same time, just miles and miles apart. The movie brings us closer! We’ve watched Avatar, Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Dallas Buyers Club, The Big Green, The Wolverine, The Heat (sheesh, these have been going on for longer than I thought!)

Amanda and I just started our sister date nights 2 weeks ago because it took us awhile to figure out what we wanted to do. We settled on playing games! Then, Amanda had a brilliant idea involving playing PS3 games against/with each other! Then, Amanda found the most perfect, and annoying, game ever! Portal 2! (Seriously, what would I do without Amanda?!) Basically, we have to work together in order to accomplish some task. We talk on the phone the entire time, because you really need communication, and we try to get our robot selves to not slip and fall in to a pit of acid. We are cute robots.

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[L to R: Amanda, Nicole]

We don’t let distance define our relationships! We define them, and then we do something about them. That’s how the Milkovic (Milk-oh-vick, seriously, it’s not hard) clan rides!

Sunday Living: Meet the kids!

Sometimes, I struggle with what to write about. Like, what on earth is too much information and what on earth is interesting enough. I am, by far, so un-interesting.

But, since I already introduced you all to my beautiful wife (here), I figured I should introduce you to our babies! We have 4 beautiful fur babies: 3 girls and 1 boy.

Boys first! This is my dapper young man, Arnold. He was named after the Arnold. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Kristi and I found him the same day we took Wrolea (you will meet her soon enough) to get her very first hair cut. We saw this little kitten get hit by a car, roll away, and hide in a hole in the median. We rushed in our car, turned around so fast, and hopped out of the car so quickly. Kristi searched the side of the road, just in case the little fellow crossed it while we parked the car. I ran into the road, found the little kitty looking up at me, grabbed him and held him to my chest. He has forever since been a boob kitty.
Arnold

He’6 about 6.5-7 years old now. It must be the year of mischief. He is constantly getting in to stuff these days and always tries to convince us that he did not do it.

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Like here. Believe it or not, he did not know there were flowers in the house. … and he swears, it was not him that ate them all.

Girls next. We have Wrolea (pronounced Rolly), Adia, and Daisy.

I have to talk about Wrolea next. She is my heart and soul. I was so lonely when I moved to Florida, and I just wanted someone to bond with. I looked all over Craigslist for a dog. I was hoping to find a male miniature dachshund but I found her instead. She was one dog of two litters and they were all in pretty bad shape. I picked her up, she was shy, but then she did the best thing ever. She fell asleep in my arms, and then slowly fell backward to reveal her chubby belly. I knew right then and there, she was mine. She was covered in fleas. I’m talking about every inch of her. They were either crawling around, or imbedded into her skin feeding. I took her to the vet and they said she was momments away from needing a blood transfusion! They gave her a portion of a pill (because she was just 6 weeks old) and when all the fleas died, I had to go to work. I bathed her, and then for 8 straight hours, I pulled the fleas out of her skin one-by-one with tweezers: out of every crease in her ears, toes, and all over the open skin.  A few days later when she was starting to recover from the blood loss, she was so lively. She started doing puppy things – like chewing up all of my shoes, peeing all over the floors, and pouncing on me in the middle of the night. Still, to this day, her belly skin is blackened from the scars I had to leave behind. She is my Wrolea, and she is 7 years old.
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Wrolea is the lab-chow mix in the back.

Since, I inadvertently introduced you to the other dog, I should just carry on. Her name is Daisy. She kind of wiggled her way into our little family very slowly. When she was just a puppy, we babysat her a few times. Then, the family that had her asked us if we wanted to keep her because Daisy (who went by Daliah at the time, but that was just too hard for me to say.) Daisy was just too energetic for this family, and their other animals just didn’t appreciate being pounced on all the time. So, we took her in, and she managed to wiggle her way into the lives of the other babies too!

Seriously, who could say no to this face?
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She is a cuddler, that Daisy! Daisy is about 3 years old.

This leaves the last, and most regal, to the end. Meet Queen Adia. Her name isn’t Queen Adia, it’s a title she demands. Adia rules the household, and I firmly believe nothing happens without her consent. Kristi came in to our relationship with Adia (and the late Moe, a basset hound.) Adia loves to scratch all of the wood working in the house, and she loves to chase Daisy. Every other time of the day, you can find her looking very pretty and put together.

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Our lovely Adia. She is about 10 or 11 years old.

There you have it. My family! As I write this, they are all sleeping next to me. What a perfect Sunday!

Expectations of growing up

There are a few questions in life, which I feel, are always relevant. Some of these questions are never even re-phrased as we get older. My favourite?

“What do you want to be when you grow-up?”

When I was younger (much, much younger), I wanted to be a teacher. After all, it was the first “big” word I could spell and it was who I was surrounded by all the time. Not to mention, I loved (I mean LOVED) school. Seriously, it was a treat to do homework every night.

My cousin Matt and I were inseparable when we were younger. My family would often tell him he was going to be a doctor one day, and I would be his nurse. I thought this sounded like the best plan. I would be able to help my cousin make everyone feel better, plus, I would be able to see him all the time. It really was win-win for me. That is, until I started questioning why I couldn’t be the doctor and why he couldn’t be my nurse. Or, why we both couldn’t be doctors?!

But then, I went on to middle school and started to have science classes. Not the generic science classes, but chemistry and biology. I then wanted to be a scientist. I had no idea at that time that there were types of scientists. All I knew was I loved my science classes, despite struggling with them the most. In Michigan, we had to take these achievement tests from California (CAT) until Michigan eventually made their own (MAT). Anyway, I would always score the lowest in the science and english categories, and I would always score the highest in math. This has never changed during the course of my life. The ACT, the SAT, and the GRE all followed these trends. I actually think it’s because of my amazing math skills that I even got in to graduate school in the first place.

Back to my story.

When I was 16, I was nearing the age of getting my first job. I was super excited! I could earn some money to buy myself some new school clothes, or save it up for something more grand one day. It was very important to earn our own money growing up, especially because I lived in a single-parent household with 2 other sisters. All 3 of us hated asking our mom for any money, and we would often go without the things we wanted because we had everything we needed. When I was 16, and I could get a job, I was all for it. But what to do? I knew I didn’t want to work with food. I was awful with people, and I didn’t want to carry heavy trays to tables (let’s face it, I’m pretty clumsy, and this would have been disastrous). So, I began where most people did – I looked in the newspaper to see if there were any funeral homes in the area that could use a receptionist. I figured – I wouldn’t really have to deal with angry people yelling at me, and how perfect of a job would that be?! At this point in my life, I wanted to be a Mortician. Alas, a funeral home wasn’t my first job. I ended up as a game master for a local lazer tag joint. It was the best first job ever! But, it really had nothing to do with what I wanted to be for the rest of my life. That one was getting trickier and trickier to answer.

What did I want to be when I grew up?

I went through high school knowing I was going to go to school to be a scientist. I ended up at Michigan Technological University in the upper peninsula of Michigan studying Molecular Biology. Just 1 measly year in to this degree and I knew it wasn’t exactly for me. It was heavy on the biology, as the degree was offered through the Biology Department, and biology seemed very much like the english and art classes to me. What I mean is, biology was more qualitative and I was more quantitative in nature. I decided to switch to Chemistry. I am so glad I did. My grades were improving, and I liked the classes I was in. Then, I graduated with my degree and …. now what? I guess I should find a scientist job somewhere.

Oh boy, did you know there are many types of scientists? I sure didn’t. So, again, I had to figure out what I wanted to be. I went on to my first job at a prominent institution working as a biochemist in population genetics studying Parkinson’s disease. It was pretty cool, but that lab wasn’t a great fit for me. I also had to move from Michigan to Florida, far away from any familial support system. I got a second job to help pay some bills at a local movie theatre, where I met (and still talk to) some amazing people. After this job, I went to another prominent institution and I worked as a Chemist in R&D helping to develop new contact lenses (you probably have tried them out, if you wear contacts). I loved learning and using all of the instrumentation (which was available in huge quantities, so I barely had any waiting time – it’s like a dream for any scientist!) but it really felt like an assembly line. I would go in to work every day, log in my hours, work as fast as I could, then go home. When I was at home, I never thought about this job. Although I made great money in this Industrial job, I craved the research I did at my first real job outside of university. So, I went back, hesitantly. I knew the work environment could be catty and I hated the drama. So, I made a sacrifice. I took a lesser pay for doing something that seemed important to me. I went back, this time working as a Biochemist and Biophysicist on Alzheimer’s disease. Time when on, and I began hearing that pesky voice in my mind asking that same pesky question. This job is great and all, but what do you want to be when you grow up?

I decided to go on and get a Ph.D. in Biochemistry, with a heavily biophysics influenced project. Would it surprise you that I kept with the neurodegenerative disorders too? I am 4.5 years in to this degree, and I hope I only have 1.5 years (at most) left. It would be wonderful if my pain and suffering could be ended much sooner though (I’m not going to lie)! With this degree, my world is going to open up. The jobs won’t be flowing in like I always imagined due to this economy, but I could be anything my little heart could desire. … but what does that even mean anymore? 

Alas, I arrive at the same crossroads I have been at my entire life.

Have you read Hamlet by William Shakespeare? Basically, Prince Hamlet wants revenge on his uncle for killing his father. Prince Hamlet ends up exacting this revenge, taking the throne he was born to have, and marrying his father’s widow (i.e. his mother). It’s a crazy story that just gets more and more crazy, especially as Hamlet becomes more enraged and more grief-stricken … and, if you weren’t picking up what I was putting down, Hamlet goes mad. This tragedy explores a lot of different themes along the way; of course there is incest, the corruption of morality, revenge, and even treachery. Hamlet is by far, one of Shakespeare’s greatest works, and it has a lot of wonderful quotes. The one you may be most familiar with is

“To be, or not to be, that is the question—
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die, to sleep—
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to?”
-opening phrase to the soliloquy in the Act III Scene I of Hamlet (modern version)

Bare with me as I take this entire passage (which I have significantly shortened) out of context and apply it to my non-incest, non-treacherous, non-morally corrupted, and non-revengeful life that is slightly mad.

What do I want to be as I grow up? Should I suffer doing research that I don’t necessarily like and doesn’t feel important to me, while making a lot of money? Or should I go into the scientific abyss, doing something I really enjoy, that constantly engages me, while making a meager wage? Either way, we all die in the end, and with that death is the death of all our worldly troubles.  …. This brings me to current day. I have done these two things, I have chosen the meager wage and my happiness. I hope this trend keeps happening, because I would love to be able to sleep at night.

So, my friends, I ask you – what do you want to be when you grow up?

Five Truths of Nicole

Oh. My. Goodness gracious.

I’m doing this, like, actually doing this.

If you ever wanted a sneak peak into the life of someone else, then you came to the right place. I plan to unload everything. From work to my fur babies to my lack of indecision. You will get it all, and you will like it. Well, at least, I hope you will. Seriously though, this isn’t really about you, it’s all about me.

So, I hope you enjoy my blog. I have no theme except NIKOL. All day long.

You will love her; I know I do.

First truth. I have multiple personalities. Not “United States of Tara” multiples (gosh, I wish I did have someone like Buck around though), but the sort we all have. At least a little bit. My favourite is Nikol. She is exactly like me, only more extroverted and way more confident. She comes out at job interviews or when ever Nicole is feeling a bit pressured. You want to invite Nicole to some large affair? Nikol is going. Trust me, it’s for the best. Nicole will fret and fret over going somewhere, and (you can ask the wife if you don’t believe me) this starts a few days ahead of time. There are mood swings, anger over nothing, lots of stupid emotions flowing down a dried up river. On the day of the event, Nikol shows up and everything goes smoothly. I have another personality, but he and I are only getting acquainted. I have no idea why I am a man.

Second truth. I am not a writer. I was recently told by a mentor of mine that if I wanted to become a better writer in every aspect of my life (scientific writing included), that I should force myself to write. She claimed that writing just 15 minutes a day, and she means uninhibited writing – you know, the kind where you just vomit on a page and worry about the editing later? – that you will eventually get in to the habit of sitting down and writing when it’s time to actually write. Right now, I just get writer’s block. In fact, I get writer’s block before I even begin to think about writing. That’s how badly I need to practice. So, I bought a blog. I was going to go the free route, but I know (from past experience) I won’t stick with it.

Third truth. I am a lesbian scientist with lofty goals. Most people have goals to strive for better, be happy, get fit, or to get that promotion. My goal is to be awarded a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. I have other goals too, mind you. Like being happy, striving to be the best person I can possibly be, to read more, to get more active, to have a family. But the one I actually envision myself accomplishing is the most lofty of the bunch. I even got to tour the Nobel Museum in Stockholm, Sweden! What an inspiration.

Fourth truth. I will always tell you the truth, unless you want me to lie to you. If you want to know if you look fat in those jeans, or if that new hair colour suits your face. I will tell you what others probably won’t. I strive to be like my sister Reychl in this regard. When we were shopping for funeral outfits, we decided that all 3 sisters should have the same gray terry cloth track suit. I was feeling pretty good about myself because I lost a little weight, so I decided to try on a large. I came out of the dressing room, and I asked Reychl how it looked. I knew full well what I was getting myself in to when I asked this. I saw myself in the mirror. I was just happy I squeezed myself in to a large! Anyway, her response was “I would hate to feel self-consious in my comfy clothes.” So, I bought an XL. Done. She saved me from weeks of tears.

Fifth truth. I am a private person. I’m not sure if I intentionally do this, or not, but it is very hard to get me to open up. I have also managed to repress nearly my entire life. Which is great if you have a funny joke. It will never get old with me!