Category Archives: work

the reason for my long silence

At long last, I can break my silence and explain why I’ve been away from this blog for so long. It’s because I was afraid I would spill the beans before the time was right.ultrasound clipped

I am pleased to announce that Hubby and I are expecting, and I’m due at the end of April. The ultrasound pic at the right was taken about 6 weeks ago, during my 1st appointment at the High Risk OB (consultation regarding my ADD medication).

So far, things are going well for both me and the little one. Our offspring has a good strong heartbeat, and it danced around a ton during the ultrasound! We have our real ultrasound next month, and will have more information then about its development thus far. The pregnancy has been quite easy for me overall. I had very little morning sickness, other than some food aversions and mild nausea at odd times of the day. It only lasted for about 3 weeks, and the worst of it went away when I stopped taking the fish oil supplement (prenatal vitamin adjunct).

A note about fish oil that’s relevant for ADDers, pregnant or not: This might sound stupid, but do not try taking it at night. For a month, I took it with my regular prenatal vitamin at dinner, and I had insomnia for that entire month. It was miserable. The insomnia decreased when I switched to taking it in the morning, and it helped a little bit with concentration. Notwithstanding, a single capsule was murder on my stomach. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so awful if I hadn’t been in the middle of morning sickness, but I’m also not convinced that it wasn’t the cause of the morning sickness itself.

Medication has been a bit tricky, at least at first. I was switched to a new pdoc around the same time I had the positive pregnancy test. Amazingly, my new pdoc has ADD, and she’s been amazingly helpful and supportive with troubleshooting my medication. We tried various options: I dropped back to 10mg of ritalin 3x/day, then 5 mg 3x/day, on the way to the goal of 0 mg of ritalin 0x/day. I was frustrated and miserable at 5mg, and barely functional at 10mg, but I stuck with that dose for a month before going to the aforementioned high risk OB consultation. The three high risk OBs I’ve now worked with in that office have actually been the most supportive of my medication. One of them even said to me, “If you need this medication to function, you need it to function. Period.” Their acceptance was amazingly refreshing. Of course, the reality is that we won’t know for some time if my medication has done any harm… keep your fingers crossed for us, please!

Work issues have been resolving themselves. I met with my department chair today to let him know about our upcoming addition, and he was very supportive. It looks like we will be able to put some plans into place in advance to handle my inevitable absence at the end of the spring semester, and I have some decisions to make about using my summer funding, stopping the tenure clock for next year, etc. I have time to make these decisions, fortunately. This was a big relief, but it’s really the small things at work that have made it more stressful for me this semester. For example, I outgrew most of my work pants around 6-8 weeks of pregnancy, and now I’m starting to outgrow my work shirts. I don’t look particularly pregnant, just  a bit pot-bellied… The second “minor” issue is H1N1 flu. It’s going around on my campus, and I’ve had at least a dozen students out sick with it. I was able to get the H1N1 vaccine over a week ago, but still have a few days until I will have full immunity against all the nasty germs my students are sneezing and coughing all over the place. Yuck!

All in all, everything’s going far better than we’d anticipated, and I can only hope that things continue to go this smoothly between now and the end of April!

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ah, summer….

I haven’t blogged in over two months, and of course the reason is that I’ve been busy. It’s a common misperception that academics “take the summer off.” I can assure you that this is definitely *not* the case.  I’ve been in this line of work for a decade, and even my mom still thinks this a little bit (i.e., she’s bugging me about coming for a visit, but I don’t know how I’m going to make it fit in my schedule without having to pull all-nighters. This would be very, very bad…).

How I spent my summer “vacation”: I taught a summer class in May and June (and will post about an experience in this class soon), dealt with 3-4 Masters theses, took a few days’ off last week before the 4th of July, and have spent this week working on a paper and doing grant reviews. I’ll do the same tasks next week, and then will spend a few days in DC finishing the grant reviews. The week after that, Hubby and I go to Hubby’s home country for a week-long holiday (badly needed!). Once we return, there’s only a couple of weeks until the new semester begins. I’ve taught my two fall semester classes before, but one requires a bit of reprep, an assignment requires fairly substantial revision, etc. All of this work takes time.

It feels like summer is over before it’s really even begun. I’m trying not to think about this too much because it makes me feel sad and burned out. It also makes me feel like I haven’t accomplished anything (totally untrue, but still…). For example, I’d planned to get at least 2 papers out this summer, but now I think I’m going to have to forego at least one because I’m doing these grant reviews.

At least the weather is nice, and I get to enjoy it because I’m doing most of my work from home! If only the weather and summer could last just a couple weeks’ longer…

an ADD-friendly adaption of the 10-10-10 plan decision making

This morning I was watching the Today show as I prepared for work. I usually have it on while I get ready, as it’s a great way to keep on schedule in the morning. The segments are short, and they regularly announce the time, so it’s a lot harder to procrastinate with constant, cheery reminders. Today Suzy Welch was on the show promoting her new book 10-10-10: A Life-Transforming Idea.

Granted, this is an oversimplification, but the gist of the 10-10-10 plan is that whenever somebody needs to make a decision, they should stop and ask themselves about the consequences of that decision/action in the next 10 minutes, the next 10 months, and the next 10 years. The best/right decision is the one that leads people to  where they want to be 10 minutes, 10 months, or 10 years later.

I was intrigued by this simple plan both as an ADDer and an academic who professionally studies issues related to this, but also because I’d intuitively come up with a way to do this on my own, and have been using a modified version of this strategy for at least the last two years.  I can see how this would be particularly challenging for ADDers, who might end up feeling overwhelmed by the 10-10-10 plan.  I know that this strategy could be difficult to employ in the heat of the moment, but I think it’s worth it to give it a try, with or without an ADD-friendly modification.

Part 1: Set aside a few free moments and figure out where you want to be in 10 months and in 10 years. If this seems too distant, think in the increments that work best for you. I tend to think about where I want to be 6 months, 1 year, and 5 years from now. I write these down in one of my notebooks, and keep notes on the steps to reach these goals (i.e., what I’ve accomplished, what I still need to do, back-up plans in case things go wrong along the way). Revisit this plan on a regular basis as suits you, and make changes as your life and goals change. Knowing what you want out of life makes it easier to do the second part, which is the ADD-friendly modification.

Part 2: A short-term modification of this strategy is key for staying on track in day-to-day life, particularly for getting through those “off-track” moments. I suggest a 1-1-1 approach. Whenever I catch myself doing something counterproductive (e.g., procrastinating on Facebook, not doing whatever is on my daily list, etc.), I take about 30 seconds and ask myself “How is this getting me where I need to be in in one minute? In one hour? In one day?” If I’m having a really bad procrastination day, I ask myself “What am I doing in this one moment that is going to keep me from meeting the day’s goals? How else will I go off track for the rest of the week and month if I don’t keep on track right now?” (Disclaimer: As beating yourself up can be counterproductive for ADDers, I don’t recommend bringing out this second set of cognitions unless your motivation is at major lows).

As all the ADD books say, it’s all about small steps and keeping yourself motivated. Knowing where you want to go is a big part of this, and structuring your life so you can get there is another important piece.

the end is nigh

It’s the last week of the semester. Hooray 🙂 I anticipated getting to do some research this week, but things haven’t quite worked out as I’d planned.

Instead, in the 400-level class for majors, I have:

  • Graded 40 papers
  • Caught 8 students plagiarizing on their papers
  • Rebuked 4 of them in person over their offenses
  • Been impressed by their maturity when meeting with me about their plagiarism (two even apologized for making my job harder!)
  • Offered an incomplete and extra help to a crying student completely unprepared to do work at the 400-level
  • Given 1 exam
  • Not yet graded 5×40 short-answer questions

In the next 48 hours, I will

  • Grade those pesky short answer questions
  • Give an exam in my 100-level course
  • Calculate & post grades for both courses
  • Finish assembling my first year review packet
  • Finish commenting on a draft of a masters’ thesis
  • Make notes on my syllabi so I remember how I want to change them for next semester/year
  • Return to the research paper I last worked on about 2 months ago & hopefully finish it enough to send it back to the 2nd author
  • Halfheartedly clean the house in anticipation of my brother-in-law’s arrival on Sunday
  • Do all of our holiday shopping (three cheers for the internet!)

grant is submitted

Earlier in this busy semester, my application for a grantwriting seminar was accepted. I was very disappointed about this, because I really didn’t want to do the grantwriting seminar in my first semester as a new faculty member. I knew that writing the grant on top of everything else would just be too much. But, I couldn’t back out because I’d signed a contract stating I’d submit the stupid thing by 25 November or somebody would have to pick up the tab, so to speak.

I’m proud to say that this very afternoon, I submitted a mostly-complete first draft of the grant (all except the budget & narrative). It’s not the greatest thing I’ve ever written, but I held up my end of the bargain. I can stop thinking about the application, and can get back to focusing on making it through my first semester!

Just 1 week & finals week left to go….

annual flu shot

Being the good little academic I am, I hate to get sick. Not only is it awful to feel bad, but I hate laying in bed feeling like I’m being lazy because sick time isn’t productive time. So, today I was 5th in the line to get flu shots at my university’s flu shot clinic for faculty, staff, & their families.

I was 10 people in line ahead of my program’s administrator (mid-50s something woman from local area) and one of our long-term teaching faculty (early-50s something woman). They saw me in line and started teasing me about getting my flu shot, e.g., “Do you want to sit on my lap?” and “Do you need me to hold your hand?”

When I’d finished with my shot, the admin offered me a lollypop for being a good girl, and an hour later, she actually brought one to my office. It’s always nice to have a piece of candy, but I doubt this exchange would have occurred if I’d been a male faculty member, young or not.

1 week finished and 14 weeks left to go

Whew! All I can say is that these last 3-4 weeks have flown by. They’ve been fun while being so busy, and I cannot fully express how *happy* I am in this tenure-track position in comparison to my postdoc. This clearly says something about my postdoctoral environment, as well as my new department!

Teaching. Classes started last Monday, and I’ve now taught two lectures from each of my two classes. I think it’s going as well as can be expected so far. Most of the time my students stare up at me blankly, but occasionally something I say gets a small chuckle. I think I’m coming across as sufficiently approachable, because I’ve had a slew of student emails over the past week, and one of the small groups in one class had a serious discussion about the virtues of “country-grown” marijuana versus “city-bought” pot (I pretended to put my fingers in my ears and said “I’m not hearing this” in a sing-song voice).

There was a glitch in my class preparation process, however, and I’m not as prepared for the second class as I would like. When I was negotiating my contract for this position, the chair of my department promised that I could teach class #2 “out of the box” because the class is well-developed and “most of the preparation will have been done” for me. Alas, this is not the case, and I’m still having to do quite a bit of prep. I think I can handle it, but it’s going to make this semester a bit more stressful than I’d anticipated. One problem I’ve run into is that it takes me too long to prepare my lectures. Ideally I’d get 1 lecture (1 hour & 15 minutes) finished in 3 hours of prep time, but it’s probably taking me 4 hours to get it done. This hour might not seem like a lot, but cumulatively, this means an extra 30 hours per semester for each class. Do any readers who are educators have ideas for how to cut this time without cutting corners? (Admittedly, this is part and parcel of being a new professor, and things will be better next semester when I’m only having to prep 1 class instead of two).

Research. This will cut into my research time this semester, but I think I can ride out my postdoctoral momentum enough to get a good evaluation this year. Last summer’s “forced march” paper has been conditionally accepted for publication pending minor changes; I’ve made all but two of the changes and can probably send it back late next week. I have another “revise and resubmit” that needs to be finished before December, and a couple of other papers in the works with various co-authors.

I really, really wanted to start collecting pilot data for my next research study this autumn, but yesterday I found out that I probably won’t be able to do so until the winter. This is because my application for a grantwriting workshop has been accepted, although I didn’t really want it to be. What this means is that for the next two months (while prepping for two classes, keeping up with the pubs I’d started in Postdoc City, and just generally learning how to be a professor), I’ll write a full grant with the intent of submitting it to NIH in February. I’ll also participate in one-on-one critique sessions with a nationally-known grantwriting guru, and work with other faculty at my university in this workshop. I should be excited about this, because the selection process was competitive, and it’s an honor to be chosen to participate. However, I’m not very keen on it because I’ve already got so much going on. This is just one more thing to do in the next two months, and I’m afraid it’s going to entirely upset the balance of the apple-cart. I’m trying to keep my eye on the prize: This program will force me to get the grant written sooner rather than later, which can only help a procrastinating Adder like me. Plus, I’ll get helpful feedback from a grantwriting pro, which will hopefully lead to a better score and better chances of getting federal funding (translation for non-academics: getting millions of dollars from NIH or NSF is a very, very good thing for doing good research and will go a long way towards my getting tenure). “No pain, no gain” will just have to be my motto for the next two months.

Being an educator with ADD. Managing my medication in order to get through my classes has worked out ok. I teach both of my classes on the same days, and the second class is scheduled for the early evening hours. In order to have coverage for most of the day and both class periods I have to take my first morning dose of ritalin an hour later than normal (i.e., 9:30 instead of 8:30). It’s working out ok, and I don’t have to take any medication in the middle of class, either.

This is the only thing going right with my medication situation at this time, unfortunately. I had my last appointment with Med Shrink in Postdoc City in late June, which ended up being a phone appointment because our moving schedule was so messed up. I’ve been banking ritalin for the past year so I’d have enough to last until I was established in New City, and in June Med Shrink said she’d drop another prescription in the mail so I’d be completely covered. The prescription never arrived, but I didn’t stress about it because of my banked ritalin. Last week I thought I’d try to make an appointment at the psychiatric clinic here, hoping I’d be able to get in within a couple of weeks, because I’m running short on my SSRI for PMDD but am still doing ok with ritalin. Imagine my dismay when I couldn’t get an appointment until the first week of October at either the psych clinic OR my new primary care physician! So, I emailed Med Shrink, told her that the first mailed prescription never arrived, and asked her for a big favor… she came through and offered to drop the prescriptions in the mail to me. But, yet again, it’s a week later, and no prescriptions have arrived. I hope there’s nothing strange going on with the mail… what do you do when you need medication but can’t get in to see any doctors?!?

That’s all on this end for now. I’ll try to be better about posting now that the school year has begun again, but it might be a little dicey with the grantwriting process over the next 2 months.