Archive for February, 2009
New developments

Wow, I don’t even know how to respond to this.  The search committee for that job wants me to come give a talk in early March.  Um, woah.  One of the candidates withdrew her application so now I am back in the running.  What a rollercoaster ride this is.  I guess the good thing about having been semi-rejected by them once is that I know I can handle the rejection and that I am not going to crumble to pieces if I get rejected again.  Feeling like there is less at stake will allow me to be more relaxed and more capable of thinking fluidly under pressure.  At least the slides for my job talk are almost done…just need to brush up on a ton of stuff now!

More disappointment (now with a silver lining)

I found out today that I was ranked “a close fourth” for the job and that I would not be asked to come give a talk.  I was, however, asked if I would like to keep my candidacy open because I am a strong applicant and you never know what sorts of twists and turns a job search might take.  So I told them I would love to keep my candidacy open, knowing that it probably won’t matter since (in this tough market) one of the other three finalists will likely snatch up that job whether it’s what he or she really wants or not.  I was also told that I was inched out of the top three finalists due to less teaching experience and fewer publications.  This took me by surprise.  While I don’t have a ton of publications by any means, the ones I have are solid, mostly in top journals, and I am first author on all of them (except for one).  I also was surprised that I had less teaching experience compared with the others—I have taught five courses and supervised two semesters of Independent Study students.  Basically what this all means is that the people who did make it into the top three slots have been eating shit longer than I have, and in that case, my hat is off to them—they do indeed deserve the job more than I do.  They may have been Visiting Assistant Professors or adjuncts for years and years, or worse, if they are already at the Assistant Professor level at another institution, they have the upper hand in terms of research experience, grant funding, teaching experience, you name it.  Against someone like that, I don’t have a chance.  The more I think about it, the more I think this is a very real possibility—the competition for grants is intense, and if you’re at a research-intensive institution and not getting those grants, the only way to save yourself from being asked to leave is to go looking for a place that values teaching more than research.  I just never had a chance against someone like that.

Minutes after receiving the news about the job, I got my quote for setting up my lab in my Inbox—a little over $19,000 would buy me the basic equipment I would need to start running experiments.  I spent a good chunk of time over the past week looking at behavioral testing equipment on the Med Associates website.  I just look at that quote now and wish I had spent time watching paint dry instead.  

I feel a lot of disappointment and shame.  I feel like I’ve let myself and my family down.  I feel like this is all impossible and that I don’t want to do it anymore.  And I have a manuscript sitting on my table, waiting for some final edits before it goes back out, and I can’t even bear to look at it.  I held myself together all afternoon through a playdate and a last-minute pediatrician appointment.  I didn’t let myself cry until the drive home, and even then, I pulled into the driveway and pulled myself together again.  It’s like the old beater that you’ve driven for 10 or 15 years—with every $1000 repair you think to yourself “This is it.  This is the last thing that needed to be done to keep this old girl running for another year or so.”  The problem is that you plunk down $1000 every month, and each time you do it, you think to yourself “Now really, *this* is the last time…”  My career has been like that.  It’s leaking oil and I keep topping it off, and it keeps leaking.  And I top it off again because I am a moron.

The titular promise of a silver lining can be stated thusly—-despite not getting the job I really wanted, I will be starting a different job in April!!  I had coffee with my postdoc advisor last week to discuss start-up funds, the costs associated with setting up and running a lab, how awesome eyeblink conditioning is, etc.  The next day he found out that one of his grants had been funded and he is reserving a funding line for me!  The funding line is actually intended for a graduate student, but I don’t care—-it’s money and it’s a job.  I would get training in the molecular core which is very, very cool.  And I absolutely adore my postdoc advisor and I am very excited to work with him again.  He has a lot of knowledge to share and he is just a great person.  And now because he has funding, I will likely have more success at getting grants of my own.  The fact that we don’t have to move is good and bad.  It’s great that we don’t have to sell our place in this market or worry about moving with a baby, but it also sucks that we have to stay in a place that has been so problematic for us (the most recent annoyance involved the cleaning of vomit from the rear walkway).  Yuck.  It’s also good that we are both still walking distance from work.  I do need to arrange childcare and I do need to wrap up my pumping for Milkin’ Mamas so that I can start pumping for Holden’s daycare.  

So, I think that pretty much gets us up-to-date.  I am really excited about working again, even if it’s not exactly what I had envisioned for myself.  I am excited for Holden to have some other experiences and get to play with other kids (he generally loves his 1-hour sessions at his weekly playgroup).  And my VT friends, although sad for me, seem really happy that we’re still going to be around.  And everything is more bearable when you are surrounded by friends.

Eight months

Wow, time is just flying by here in the great, frozen North.  Holden is now 8 months old—and while one could argue that the past 8 months went by quickly, it also feels like the longest year of my life.  

Holden is doing great!  Except for the teething.  He’s been really irritable during the day and will cry out many times during the night…a sure sign of discomfort from teething.  Our sleep has suffered a lot because of this—Holden is usually in our bed by 2AM where he stays until he wakes up for the day at 6AM.  Between 2AM and 6AM he sleeps fitfully.  Ergo, between 2AM and 6AM, Rob and I also sleep fitfully.  I don’t care what anyone says, there’s really not a whole heck of a lot you can do about teething pain other than try your best to deal with it and provide comfort and distraction whenever possible.  Actually, the thing that always gets me is when people quickly glance at Holden and tell me self-assuredly “Oh, he’s definitely teething.”  I mean, isn’t this one of those self-evident truths?—he’s an infant, and one of the tasks of infanthood is cutting teeth, which is more or less a continuous process.  I would be stating an equally obvious truth if I looked at Holden and said “Oh, he’s definitely digesting that breastmilk he just had for lunch” or “Yup, definitely exhaling carbon dioxide.”  

And yes, I’m definitely being sarcastic.

So what is Holden up to these days besides teething?  He has been sitting unassisted since November, but is finally able to transition from a sitting position to other positions.  He can transition from sitting to being on all fours.  He is able to pull himself up to standing from a sitting position using whatever available furniture is around (usually his crib).  He also gets up onto his knees and will “rock” back and forth—and after a few minutes of this he usually starts fussing because he wants to be crawling and he isn’t quite there yet.  He moves a few inches but not much.  He’s starting to show frustration and impatience with his inability to do certain things.  He will fuss because he can’t crawl, can’t walk, and most recently, he is dissatisfied with being fed by spoon.  He prefers to put the food in his mouth on his own.  He has perfected his pincer grasp and will readily feed himself whole grain puffs, corn, bits of salmon burger, etc.  Holden will eat anything.  There isn’t anything that he has disliked so far.  He even likes pickles.  At this point, he is starting to share lunch with me, and we are pretty much at the point where he can eat our dinner too.  Last night we had dinner with some friends; he enjoyed spaghetti, tomato sauce, and yummy garlic meatballs.  I still have a lot of pureed food in the freezer but I don’t think I’ll be making any more new purees.  

Holden is still obsessed with his cat and is beginning to be more interested in his rabbit.  He also loves dogs which is unfortunate for him because Rob and I are very much anti-dog and will never, ever own one.  Holden still loves story time and will turn the pages when I tell him it’s time to turn the page.  He loves music, especially classical guitar and Bjork, for some reason.  He also loves the iTunes visualizer.  He loves women, especially older ladies.  Flirting happens in every grocery store queue.  Holden is finally over his phobia of certain sounds.  From about 6-7 months, Holden would get very upset if he heard any of the following sounds:  a tape measure being retracted, mini-blinds being pulled up, cereal or uncooked macaroni being poured into a bowl, the crinkling of plastic bags.  It was very strange.  Holden is also beginning to call me by name.  He will say “Mama” and tug at my shirt when he wants to nurse.  Here’s a funny story from the other day.  I had the 2nd plugged milk duct in a week’s time (the unfunny part of the story) so I spent 24 hours soaking in the tub, massaging the plugged area, pumping, nursing, etc.  At one point, I was in H’s room pumping.  H was in the living room.  He started crying and saying “Mama!”  I stopped the pump and ran into the living room to find him wedged under the ottoman.  Somehow, he had crawled backwards and gotten his legs and butt stuck under the ottoman.  His upper body was sticking out from under it, his arms flailing wildly and his expression frantic—I actually had to lift the ottoman up to get him un-stuck.  The point of the story is that he definitely knows to call me when he’s in peril!

Some fun activities we have done recently include a playdate with Jasper, who is almost exactly a month older than Holden.  I took prenatal yoga classes with Jasper’s Mama and I used to work with Jasper’s Papa, so it’s especially fun to see the little guys rolling around on the floor together:



We also recently had our annual family trip to New Hampshire for the weekend.  Holden got to meet his Great Granddad Friesel for the first time (pictured here with cousin Colby as well):


And here’s the whole gang all together—-Have you ever seen so many boys?!


I’m pretty sure that’s drool on my upper arm.

During our trip to New Hampshire last year I was around 23 weeks pregnant and we were still in the dark as to whether we had four generations of Friesel men representin’:


And now we know!  Our mystery baby is Holden!


Holden eats anything!

H., mid-chewWhile out for lunch today, we brought along a little container of “puffs” for Holden.  Well, he tore through those and had eaten nearly all of them by the time our nachos arrived.  On a bit of a whim, we decided to give him little bits of what we had:  tiny bits of corn chips, melted cheese, sips of water from Papa’s pint glass…

He ate everything.

At one point, A. offered him her pickle, thinking that he would turn away from it.  But he put it directly into his mouth and tried to bite off rather a large chunk.  Then he tried to go back for more.

Greedy little duck, that boy.

First interview completed—hopefully one more to go?

I had my phone interview this morning.  It was a conference call with the three members of the search committee.  One of the things that I am usually pretty good at is anticipating questions that are bound to come up during interviews and seminars.  I was able to prepare for several of the questions and give relatively cogent answers despite being ridiculously nervous.  There was one question that threw me for a loop though—a question that I wasn’t expecting until I got further into the application process.  They asked how much start-up funding I would need to get my research going.  Usually, they don’t ask about stuff like this until later in the interview process when they are gearing up to start salary negotiations, so I was totally unprepared.  I told them I didn’t know.  Honesty can’t hurt in this situation.  (I later found out from a mentor that I should request no less than $50,000 in start-up costs just to begin my research program).  The search committee also told me that they would only have 3 questions for me.  In the end, they asked around 7.  I don’t know exactly how I feel about how it went.  Phone interviews are nerve-wracking because you don’t have the usual feedback (e.g. facial expression, etc.) to let you know how your responses are being received.   They indicated that they are selecting the finalists to give job talks within 2-3 weeks.  So I imagine I will know very soon about whether I will be called for an additional interview.  I feel decent about it, but I don’t feel as if I nailed it.  It’s easy to second-guess things that you said or to want to add things that you felt should have been mentioned in the first place.  My sympathetic nervous system has been through the wringer for the day and my 2nd round of post-interview coffee isn’t exactly helping me to calm down.  I feel like so much is at stake right now.  It was exciting and surreal to be telling the committee how much space I would need to conduct my research, what sorts of equipment I need, and how I will introduce students to the lab.  After 10 years of doing lab research, I feel like I am on the brink of finally becoming more independent with it—I am so close.  And I will be crushed if it doesn’t pan out.