My life lessons

E is for Expectations


That word, and the effects of that word, are soul crushers for me.

Do you want me to fail?
Do you want me to be upset?
Do you want me to judge myself harshly?

Expect me to do something. Expect me to be more.

Expectation is the root of all heartache. -William Shakespeare

One of my best traits is that I am a hard worker. When I open my life up to new avenues, whether it be a new position for work, or trying to conquer a weakness (like writing, ugh!), I do what needs to be done. I put in extra hours at work to overcome a learning curve, to get the science done, or try to catch up because I expected too much out of myself that week. I put in extra hours trying to think of words and how I could string those words into sentences so I could maybe, one day, write another article.

But when I feel like I am expected to put in the extra hours just because, I will under-preform. I will under-whelm.

There is a huge difference in results with the following pairs of statements:
1. I expect you to work 80 hours per week. (I will work 80 hours, but I will resent you.)
2. I expect you to get your work done. (I will work 80, 90, 100 hours, whatever it takes to get my work done.)

3. I expect myself to write an article a day. (Oh yeah! I’ll show you! … by never writing.)
4. I expect myself to write more than I usually do. (Easy-peasy. Writing one article is more than I usually write. But hey! I’m conquering something that is legitimately difficult for me.)

Is there such a thing as a negative and positive expectation? Because I feel that is what I just did there. In both pairs outlined above, the word “Expect” was front and center, but the outcomes were so vastly different.

Perhaps the difference, and the resentment, doesn’t stem from the word expect, but from the intention of that word. In the first scenario of both pairs, a rigid guide was established (you MUST do this in THIS timeline to be successful!) whereas in the second scenario, the guide was more fluid.


Maybe that is why I’m doing so much better … nay, so much more, when it comes to my fitness goals. I’m not expecting myself to exercise every single day. I’m not expecting myself to lose weight. Heck, I’m not even doing a “traditionally Nicole exercise routine” (you know, with weights and being hardcore and the like). I’m just expecting to have fun, and to move more, and maybe the weight will come off during the process.


Well, now my day has flipped completely around! Maybe I just needed to get this off my chest. Thanks for listening!


Happiness: What does this mean for me?

As a graduate student half way through her 5th year (yikes!), I often wonder – when on earth will I be free of this misery? I look outside, and I see cheerful undergraduates, bunnies frolicking, falcons eating frolicking bunnies; basically, I see the world moving on. Is it moving on without me?

As I look out this window, I see my Grumpy Cat calendar that I was given for my birthday. This month looks a lot like this:


“far, far away. losers.” That’s really what I say in my head.

Then today, I was asked a question. I asked this question to myself in December, and I still don’t know the answer.

What makes you happy? What two things can you not live without?

The first thought that popped in my mind was Kristi. Definitely can’t live without her. I was then promptly told she doesn’t count. (Darn!)



I don’t know. Say something! What did you *used* to like when you had time? Sheesh, when was the last time you even attempted to do that? 

I just don’t know. Plain and simple.


(This song, called “Happy” by Pharrel, makes me happy every time I hear it. No matter what mood I’m in, this song brings me out of my funk, for just a few minutes. For that, I’m happy.)


(This song, called “Give a little” by Hanson, makes me SUPER happy. It was the last song at my wedding, and it makes me want to move every time I hear it. For that, I’m happy.)


I think this means I can’t live without music. So, that’s one thing! YES!!!


I don’t know of any other things right now.


What makes you happy?


In-flu-ential In-flu-enza

I have been absent (yet again) due to some prime time influenza. I have no idea how I got it. …well, I kind of do. You see, the flu is a respiratory illness. This means, if someone coughs, sneezes, breathes, spits, talks, etc on or near you (within 6 feet!) you will get the virus. Again, this is because their “germs” (or better yet, their germ droplets) are either breathed in or inhaled by you. Super. Contagious.

I like to think back and try to determine when on earth I was infected. Doesn’t everybody? You will get symptoms 1-4 days after being exposed to the virus. I started coughing on Wednesday, March 19 (that was my only noticeable symptom). This means that I came in contact with some sick person (who may or may not have known they were contagious) Saturday/Sunday through Wednesday. I have no idea who you are, but Thank you!!!

Didn’t see that coming, did you?

First, I want to apologize to everyone I infected. You see, with the flu, you are contagious 1 day before you even notice you have symptoms through 5-7 days after you get sick. I must say that I was at work on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, … and Friday. Although I apologized for this one already, I wanted to say I’m sorry again to my dearest wife. I can’t control covering my coughs at night …. and those pesky germ droplets must have flew up, got dispersed by the ceiling fan, and were inhaled by her. Because just a few days later, she got the flu. Dang!

I went to the doctor’s office on Monday (still contagious, mind you), and I had to wear a mask. I can thank my wonderful sister for capturing photos of me while I was sick.

[Me. This was posted on Facebook because my sister “loves me.”]

I was given antibiotics, and 2 inhalers, and basically told to rest. So, I tried. But it’s hard, and I felt rather guilty resting, especially because my sister Reychl drove 12 hours from Michigan to Nebraska to visit me!!

[Proof that I was resting! And more proof that my sister can be so cruel with her Facebook posts!]

Now, back to that previous “thank you”!

Sometimes something as awful as in-flu-enza can be in-flu-ential (you see what I did there?) Sure, I had a fever that never wanted to leave me, and body aches that shook my bones to their core, but my sickness was inspiring! I was wearing myself thin with all of my research and the stress that comes along with a Ph.D. programme, and this flu told me, in it’s own germ droplet kind of way, REST! Take some time out for you!

And that is exactly what I (tried) to do. I stayed home the entire next week (mostly because my sister was in town – that is a post for another time!) I have a cough now and a sore throat, but that is it. The only person I got sick (to my knowledge) was Kristi. Talk about success!

Plus, now I feel rested (in a weird tired and worn out kind of way).



P.S. Want to know more about influenza virus infections, vaccines, etc? Go on over to the CDC website!
P.P.S. I’m allergic to the flu vaccine, so I can’t get it.
P.P.P.S. This is the first time I ever got the flu. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.

OW! I feel good

Gosh, I feel like I have been incredibly absent! Hopefully my workload will lighten up a bit from now on, which will allow me to sit down and collect my thought.

For some insight, I was awarded a Molecular Mechanisms of Disease (MMoD) training grant for 2013-2014 (WOOHOO! Go me!!) But with this comes additional responsibilities. Like, a lot of them. I have to attend as many training events as I can muster up the will to go to, I have to teach (as part of a team, with the other MMoD candidates) an undergraduate sophomore-level Biochemistry lecture about critical thinking in science, I have to tutor UNL’s athletes in Biochemistry and Chemistry, and I have to get my thesis project moving.

Did you notice how many times I said “I have to”? I need to change that to “I want to” … unfortunately, right now, I don’t want to do any of those things … except my thesis project (because I want to leave). Mentally, I’m just so gosh darn bogged down. Overwhelmed, even. Overwhelmed, definitely.

If I’m not grading, or teaching, or going to meetings about teaching, then I am fulfilling my other obligations, like attending required departmental seminars, or going to my physical therapy appointments, or rushing off to tutor. (Sheesh, where is the me time??)

But today, I’m feeling good about all of this because my hard work is showing and people are noticing! In fact, they even put this on my departmental home page!

[UNL’s Biochemistry homepage]

Did you see what I just did there? Probably not, because you don’t really know what I look like. BUT, I had them use my incoming photo, lol. Oh the youth.

DANG! I just feel so good! I love when hard work is rewarded, and I love it when MY hard work is rewarded! 🙂

Um, excuse me? The colour of WHAT?!

I am part of a team of graduate students who are jointly teaching a Biochemistry class. It’s pretty cool, and I got this opportunity because I was 1 in 4 people who won a Molecular Mechanisms of Disease (MMoD) training grant. The other 3 MMoD candidates plus an additional graduate student make up this team and together, we are doing our best to teach sophomores scientific analysis and technical writing (the un-official name of this special topics course).

I own a lot of raggedy clothes, with lots of holes in my t-shirts, food stains all over the boob area, and pants with the crotch half gone (hey, it happens when you wear the same pants over and over again, and when your thighs touch.) Usually, I don’t care what I look like. When I am teaching a lecture/discussion based class, it turns out, I do care because I want to be taken seriously. This is when Kristi REJOICES because she can finally take me shopping (something I don’t like to do) and buy me new things. This is just another thing she loves and I don’t love (for more reference, I wrote an article on this here).

We have a coupon for $50 off a $100+ purchase at Younkers, so we go there first. I like Younkers because this store is the only store in the mall that sells the brand of pants I just love. What greets me when I enter the store? This kiosk:


The colour of skinny. That’s right, you didn’t mis-read that sign. You will notice at the very bottom of picture, some black jeans. Some very uncolourful, black jeans. The largest size on that table? A whooping 4. This kiosk was placed in the part of the store that does not sell “women’s” sizes (ugh, don’t get me started on this sub-classification). There was another kiosk next to this one saying “Dangerous curves ahead” (I couldn’t get a picture of this one because there were people standing in front of it.) This second kiosk also rubbed me the wrong way.

I wish, for once, that size was left out of marketing. If we are a size 4, we will find our way to the size 4 pants; and if we are a size 18, we will find our way to the size 18 pants. People are not stupid. But signs like this can hurt anyone.

I have to admit, at first, I kind of liked these signs. Until, I started thinking about who they were targeting and who they were excluding. We have the skinny table and the curvy table … but not the skinny with curves table or the skinny as a rail with no curves table or … you get the drift (I hope).

I put this out of my mind as we made it to “the fat section” as I like to call it. The section of the store I can call home and the section of the store I always hate. Why can’t I have the same prints and designs as the “skinny section”? Instead, my section of the store is usually filled with animal prints (because every heavy person wants to wear zebra print) or sweaters with cutesy animal embroidery on them (just like my mom wears). (No offense mom! She is seriously adorable in those sweaters.) But, lo and behold! I see fashionable, if I can be a judge of fashion, clothing this time! I grab a few shirts and head to the dressing room to see if I can tolerate anything this nice on me.

What is that? What do I see staring at me in the dressing room? THIS!

“WARDROBE MUST HAVES” …. an advert for full-body SPANX! What is spanx? They are modern corsets, and are worn to make you look slimmer.  Only, it seems that people never question where the fat goes. It goes in, folks. As in, into all of your precious organs, thereby placing an enormous burden on tissues such as your bladder and your lungs. Spanx are used to hold all of you in, so you don’t bulge out of your shirt/dress/pants/etc.

Needless to say, I felt like crap after shopping here. Kristi does a great job cheering me up, we even went to buy some tea from Teavana!

Younkers, you get an A+ for making me feel poopy. I just don’t understand why fat is the worst thing you can be. I agree with J.K. Rowling.

Is fat really the worst thing a human being can be? Is fat worse than vindictive, jealous, shallow, vain, boring, evil, or cruel? Not to me.
-J.K. Rowling