My Life Since Converse

2006

We graduated!

Baccalaureate: The Beginning of the End.

Baccalaureate: The Beginning of the End.

I drove my mom and my grandma up to Toronto to visit my cousins and aunt. One of my cousins had been attending boarding school in Canada since she was 13 and her mom and younger bro decided to visit that summer to study English. While we were there, we met up with some of my mom’s childhood friends who are now living in Canada and we all went to Niagara Falls.

My mom and her friend at Niagara Falls.

My mom and her friend at Niagara Falls.

In mid-July I moved to Winston-Salem, NC to start graduate school. I spent two weeks at bartending school before starting grad school orientation. Just after orientation, I went down to Charlotte to celebrate Page’s 21st birthday.

Page's first (legal) drink.

Page’s first (legal) drink.

The first year of graduate school consisted of the bulk of my required classwork, as well as rotations to test-drive potential dissertation labs. During my first rotation, I worked on Haemophilus influenzae biofilms and developed a close relationship with the members of that most excellent lab. Shortly after starting grad school, my cousin, Kyoung-Eun, came from Korea to live with me and study English at UNC-Greensboro. It was great to see her again and to reform bonds.

My second rotation was my favorite and, in addition to the awesome PI (private investigator, aka boss) and subject matter, I bonded with my classmate and co-roton (rotation student), Rick, over silly songs and karaoke. Our lab spent a long weekend in Spartanburg meeting with some collaborators from Atlanta. It was over that weekend that the first of many Grad School Musical songs was written.

I was so taken with my second rotation that I was inspired to draw this adenovirus on a bar wall with pool chalk.

I was so taken with my second rotation that I was inspired to draw this adenovirus on a bar wall with pool chalk.

I saw Page and Amy over Thanksgiving and spent New Year’s Eve with Page, Vicky, and my cousin in Charlotte.

NYE in CLT.

NYE in CLT.

2007

My third and final rotation was my least favorite. I hated every minute of it. Actually, that’s a lie. I didn’t mind being there working by myself, processing samples and staining, but I hated the people, I didn’t care for the subject matter, and I hate making IP (intraperitoneal) injections. I made the last-minute decision to fly to Stuttgart for spring break and wound up playing hooky during that rotation…and kinda didn’t bother to tell anyone until I was at the gate, waiting to board. Whoops. I did get to take a quick trip down to Freiburg (where I spent Spring Semester of junior year) during that trip to visit a friend I’d studied abroad with back in 2005.

Lovely Stuttgart.

Lovely Stuttgart.

Bomb-ass German breakfast.

Bomb-ass German breakfast.

I'd missed schnitzel from Tacheles soooo much.

I’d missed schnitzel from Tacheles soooo much.

In June I chose to join the Ornelles lab and focus on the oncolytic properties of human adenovirus.

Joe and I celebrated our second anniversary in Alexandria, Virginia. It was a fun vacation filled with a ghost tour through the Old Town, a lovely dinner cruise, and a foray into DC to see the major tourist sites and the Spy Museum.

Obligatory White House pic.

Obligatory White House pic.

Joe during our dinner cruise.

Joe during our dinner cruise.

Again, I saw Page and Amy over Thanksgiving.

2008

I got a fluffy little bundle of joy named Huggybear!

2008_Huggybear

I wrote and submitted my proposal, then read/watched all the Harry Potter books/films for the first time in the two weeks I had before I defended my proposal. I miraculously passed.

Joe and I traveled to Berlin, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, and Rothenburg ob der Tauber in early December. It was a much needed trip.

The view just outside our hostel in Amsterdam.

The view just outside our hostel in Amsterdam.

The Christmas markets in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

The Christmas markets in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

2009

I was a bridesmaid in Courtney Clark’s wedding.

Courtney's wedding.

Courtney’s wedding.

I traveled to Oxford, UK for the DNA Tumor Virus Meeting.

Grabbing a pint at The Eagle and Child.

Grabbing a pint at The Eagle and Child.

Oxford: so Hogwarts-y

Oxford: SO Hogwarts-y

2010

The Ornelles lab went crabbing during the first week of June. It was a great retreat. Very relaxing. I slept in the sun, read on the pier, went crabbing, and ate the best crab cakes of my life.

2010_Crabbing

I traveled to Madison, WI for the DNA Tumor Virus Meeting over the summer. I wasn’t expecting much, but Madison surprised me. It’s a quaint city and it holds a special place in my heart due to the fact that the first public performance of a GSM song took place during the meeting’s final banquet.

Beers on the lake in Madison.

Beers on the lake in Madison.

I spent the week after Christmas in New York City (my first trip there!)–right after that huge snowstorm.

Snow in Brooklyn.

Snow in Brooklyn.

2010_NYC2

2011

This was the year of the postdoc from hell. My labmates and I would head down the hall every afternoon for a blissfully postdoc-free tea break. With goodies.

Tea time.

Tea time. Ha! And there’s no tea in this pic. There WAS tea. I promise.

Here we are at the 5 -year reunion.

5 year reunion.

5 year reunion.

In early summer, I went to Taste of Charlotte and won this awesome shirt for completing a hot wing challenge…and I’m apparently a really prissy eater….

2011_FoodCompetition

I traveled to Trieste, Italy for the DNA Tumor Virus Meeting with two of my favorite labmates, lab tech Ana and undergrad Nat. We played hooky one of the conference days (who cares about Merkel Cell Virus?) and slipped off to Slovenia and then spent a few days after the conference in Venice. I was especially impressed with our medieval rental in Venice. Great location, great price, and just all-around quaint as hell.

2011_Trieste2

Trieste sunset with Nat. Photo courtesy of Ana.

2011_Trieste

The lovely port of Trieste.

Divaca, Slovenia. Where trains come and go, but no one ever leaves.

Divaca, Slovenia. Where trains come and go, but no one ever leaves.

Gondola ride in Venice.

Gondola ride in Venice.

2012

I joined the Winston-Salem Symphony Chorale early that year and performed Orff’s Carmina Burana with them in May. Look for me in the second row down, last one on the left.

2012_CarminaBurana

I traveled to Le Monêtier-les-Baines, France in June to attend the European Workshop on Cell Death. EWCD was one of the best conferences I’ve ever been to. 90% of the people who attended were senior grad students, postdocs, or junior faculty, which broke down a lot of barriers and really opened up discussion. That and I just love cell death people. And European scientists.

2012_EWCDGermanScientists

Here I am with a group of awesome German scientists.

2012_EWCDLeMonetierLesBains

Conference location. BREATHTAKING!

I went to my 10-year high school reunion (Eek! Time flies!). It was nice seeing the handful of people I stayed friends with after high school and to see my old HS principal not long before he passed away.

2012_HSReunion

I won a blue ribbon in the Meatloaf Competition at the Dixie Classic Fair. I’d never entered a fair competition before. Totally worth it just for the free fair entry and the fantastic free parking.

2012_Meatloaf

I had a cholecystectomy in October, after months of not being able to keep anything down and turning slightly yellow. Yay.

2012_Gallbladder

Trying not to laugh after my operation. Laughing was incredibly painful.

I had an incredibly embarrassing experience going to see The Hobbit in costume…the closest to a costume anyone else in the whole damn place was wearing was a pair of pointy ears.

I was a female dwarf.

I was a female dwarf.

2013

2013 was a huge year for me. The first half of the year was spent writing my dissertation. During all the madness, Joe convinced me to audition at the Full Figured Fashion Week model casting call at the Pineville Lane Bryant. I found out that I’d been chosen in April and come June, I was in NYC. It was an incredible experience…and surprisingly eye-opening. It gave me an appreciation for the hard work involved in modeling and in the fashion industry in general.

My Plus Model Mag Interview

Modeling Ralph Lauren at Bloomingdale's.

Modeling Ralph Lauren at Bloomingdale’s.

Modeling Youthery Khmer at the Indie Designer Showcase.

Modeling Youthery Khmer at the Indie Designer Showcase.

2013_FFFWeek_Pranna

After party at Pranna.

In May of 2013 I won a spot in the UNCSA CMS Honors Recital at the Stevens Center, during which I sang a Korean folk song, “Barley Field”, and Strauss’s “Zueignung”.

I defended my dissertation in August.

Here's the damn thing.

Here’s the damn thing.

And I got my diploma in December.

2013_Diploma

While 2013 had some breathtaking zeniths, it was also littered with its share of lows. My grandmother broke her hip that summer and developed a nosocomial infection while she was recovering. Her infection apparently unmasked Alzheimer’s that we never even knew she had. She’d had a few small lapses in memory, but no more than we’d expect from someone her age and we didn’t know that it was the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Her recovery from the hip surgery and the subsequent bacterial infection, although difficult, was promising, but her mind was rapidly deteriorating. We had to make the heartbreaking decision to send her back to Korea and she left in early December. She was put in a fancy schmancy hospital/care facility where she is surrounded by people she likes and gets round-the-clock supervision and specialized care and is currently very happy, though she misses us very much.

2014

I sang at the March 1st Movement Festivities at the Korean Senior Citizens Center of Charlotte and received a ballin’ ass plaque–the first with my new title on it.

Ballin' ass plaque.

Ballin’ ass plaque.

And my mom’s dance went swimmingly.

I participated in the graduation rigmarole in the Spring…mostly for my parents’ benefit, but I have to admit that I love my cap.

2014_Graduation

Over the summer, I performed with the Eastern Music Festival Chorus in Greensboro.

Review of Eastern Music Festival Choral Concert

In November, I made my opera debut with the Symphony as Sister Claire in Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites.

My Sister Claire costume for Dialogues of the Carmelites.

My Sister Claire costume for Dialogues of the Carmelites.

Page, Amy, and I got together over Thanksgiving, as per usual, and then the Christmas season madness began. December was absolutely insane. I was in lab 14-18 hours a day for about four weeks. This was just after two long runs of the Carolina Christmas Spectacular and Handel’s Messiah with the symphony. I was glad to see January.

Can’t wait to read what you ladies have been up to!

Roberta

An Introduction to my World. Drum Roll Please…

I love this.  I can’t tell you how many times I have wondered what everyone else is doing every day, how your children are growing, how you are growing.

Right now my biggest time suck is my full time job, of course.  I am the childcare director at our hometown Y.  I have been with the Y for more than four years, but just took this position after maternity leave last November.  In all honesty, I didn’t want it.  Now that I’m in it, I’m finding my talents are well suited for the most part.  The best part is being able to make my own schedule.  I also get free childcare.  I guess it makes up for the lack of a good wage. I also feel like I can do some good for our community.  There is a lot of opportunity to serve others, parents as well as children. The worst part is supervising.  I really hate that part.  There are 14 people that I supervise right now.  This number will increase during the summer.

My heart is at home, though.  My children are 7, 2, and 6 months.  All are absolutely gorgeous little girls (I’m not biased at all ).  Hannah is about to finish her first year of grade school.  She’s so smart.  Her personality is all ribbons and princesses.  She’s very gullible and has a good sense of humor.  One of her teacher’s told me she is everything a little girl should be.

The toddler, Ezri, is a force of nature.  My husband nicknamed her “Demon” to the shock of everyone who hears it.  He’s only half joking.  She is a terrible morning person.  She destroys everything in her path.  Sometimes she refers to herself as “we” and randomly talks in terrible voices.  She’s not entirely social.  Even as a baby she just gave everyone mean looks.  Don’t get me wrong, she is healthy and happy.  She has a twisted sense of humor like her father, though.

The youngest, Nora, is just so sweet!  She’s the happiest baby I have ever encountered.  She smiles 90% of her waking time.  She loves watching her sisters play and she rarely is unhappy.  She can belt it with the best of them, though.  The day she was born the nurse said “there’s nothing wrong with her lungs.”  If she’s not in her bed at 7:45 every night she lets the neighborhood know.

So for us it’s really the same Monday through Thursday.  I get up at 4:30 to get the four of us ready.  My husband goes to the gym before work, so he’s not there to help, and honestly, that is helpful.  When he does stay home to help I just badger him with questions about what he has or has not already gotten together and we always leave something.  Hannah is at school by 7:35 and then the little ones and I go to the Y.  At 8 they go to the nursery.  At 8:45 Ezri goes to school.  I pick her up again at noon.  The nursery closes at 1 and I usually keep them with me until 1:30 or 2.  At that time either my mom or my mother in law comes to get them and then pick up Hannah.  We get home around 6, to dinner already started by my husband, take showers and get the girls to bed by 7:45.  Chris and I follow by nine at the latest.

If all goes well during the week, I usually get off early on Friday to do the grocery shopping and a little cleaning at home.  Saturdays we see my husband’s family a lot or sometimes have events or birthday parties to go to.  Sundays we go to church, have lunch at my mom’s, the oldest two go visit my dad in the afternoon and then they have Awana at church at 5:30. There’s very little wiggle room to our schedules.  Coordinating three children gets tricky sometimes.  If someone wants to schedule something it’s gotta be a month in advance.

My outlet is home projects or throwing parties.  I just love to put together detailed tablescapes.  I’m already planning an apple orchard theme for Nora’s first birthday.

All in all, I’m really happy.  I love our little town, the people I work with and my job.  My girls are miracles and I think my husband is secretly working on sainthood.  I have my moments when the little things get to me but I am truly blessed.

Following in Alma’s Shoes….

Well, I suppose I’ll follow Alma’s lead and introduce you to the day-to-day of my life. I am still living in Winston-Salem and, as of two years ago, Joe has been living with me. I graduated from Wake in December of 2013 and spent 2014 doing several crazy 6-week stints of frantic science while half-heartedly looking for postdocs and doing a ton of soul searching, but I’ll save my disillusionment with science for another post on another day.

My days are now devoted to music, writing, transcribing, occasional scientific consulting, and, most recently, studying for the LSATs. I typically study for the LSATs in the morning and spend my afternoons doing any freelance work I might have, singing, writing, researching my genealogy, brushing up on my German by reading the Harry Potter series, and brushing up on my Italian with a grammar text. I have Winston-Salem Symphony Chorale rehearsals on Monday evenings, church choir rehearsals on Wednesday evenings, and church on Sunday mornings. Sunday and Monday are Joe’s days off, so the two of us usually do some exploring on those days: trying new restaurants, visiting small local museums, and visiting historical sites.

The Winston-Salem Symphony Chorale is the absolute highlight of my week. I’ve been singing with the chorale for about three years now and we usually put on four or five sets of concerts per year. We just performed Bach’s Christ lag in Todes Banden and Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass (I thought of you and Trafalgar Square, Alma!) at Centenary UMC last weekend and that was a ton of fun, even if the crowd was disappointingly sparse.

This post is really short, but perhaps I’ll write a year-by-year recap later today or tomorrow.

Roberta

Hello world!

shoes

Walk a Week in My Shoes

I thought we would start this off by writing about what a typical week looks like for each of us.

In February, I left my full time job as a supervisor at a non-profit mental health agency. I now stay at home with my son and in August I will be switching from a graduate Counseling program to a graduate Industrial/Organizational Psychology program. I want to share with you what my life looked like before I resigned and what it is like now.

My husband works 12 hour shifts three or four days a week and he rotates between day and night shifts. On the days that he was not working or sleeping, he would stay at home with our son. When he was also working, my mother-in-law would pick up my son in the morning and watch him until one of us picked him up at her house. Each day for work I would get up, get ready, get him ready and send him with my mother-in-law or leave him with my husband.

At my job I had certain tasks and responsibilities that I had to complete each week to fulfill a monthly quota. I had to attend meetings for the supervisors on my team in the morning on Monday and Tuesday. I had a two hour meeting on Monday that I had to lead. On Tuesday, I took notes at a meeting that was led by the consultant for about an hour. I was responsible for meeting with each person that I supervised for about an hour to discuss their development within their role as a specialist and within the company. I had to meet with so many clients each month to either supervise and train staff or to help with coverage if needed; it was always needed for some reason or another. If I saw a client for the staff member then I had to write the session note and submit it into the paperwork system. I had to read each piece of documentation that a staff member entered into the computer system and either approve it or send it back to them to improve. Each specialist that I supervised would have a caseload of 9-10. Each week they would have 9-10 session notes from where they met with the client. They would also have monthly paperwork due for 2-3 clients each week like treatment plans. I reviewed all of that paperwork for quality and took note of their timeliness score which I later reported in one of my supervisor meetings. I had to read each treatment plan, safety plan and other supporting documentation and would write up a one page sheet (we called it group preparation) that was my direction to them about their treatment plans. I was on call 24/5 for my team for emergencies. Emergencies ranged from a youth has become homeless, to a youth has expressed a suicidal or homicidal thought to anything in between that required staff assistance. I was also on call on one weekend a month for the entire office. Emergencies for each program varied from a youth ran away from home, expressed suicidal or homicidal thoughts or any other concerning behavior. To basically sum up my job, I drove, wrote, typed and talked on the phone a lot.

The semesters that I was in class, I would go to class starting at 5 pm until 8 pm at the latest. I would do homework whenever I had breaks at work or when I got home at night. The days that I didn’t have class I would drive 30 minutes away to pick up my son and drive home in rush hour traffic. I would make dinner and get my son ready for bed. I usually had a million things that I didn’t get done during the day that I would stay up doing after my son had fallen asleep.

On Saturdays, I would clean as much as I could, go grocery shopping and run any errands that I couldn’t do during the week. On Sundays we attend church for three hours. After church I would try to spend time with my family. We do not go shopping, watch television or work on Sundays so I would basically play with my son all day and squeeze in a nap if possible.

Now that I am a full-time stay at home mom, my life is much simpler, easier and less stressful. Most days, except Tuesdays and Sundays, my son and I wake up anywhere between 7-9. We get breakfast and I let him play while I get ready. I get him ready and we usually go to the library for a story time or a play group. There are several libraries close to us that have different story times so we rotate between each of them. We come home for lunch and then play until he takes a nap. I either clean or nap while he naps. We usually go outside after his nap and then come in and make dinner. After dinner we play a little more and then get ready for bed. My son magically falls asleep right at 10:30 pm no matter what time I try to put him to bed. After he goes to sleep, I usually try to get some of the things done that I cannot do with him around and then I go to bed.

On Tuesdays my mother-in-law takes my son with her for the day. I clean as much as I can on these days. I also attend a community French class at the local Catholic church. I took French in college and did horrible at it. I learned Spanish after college and so I wanted to try my hand at French again. I really want to go to Marseille one day and I like to keep my mind busy learning new things. On Sunday, we attend church for three hours and then try to visit family.

As you can see there is a big difference in my life before and after resigning. The reason I decided to leave my position was to be able to have more time with my son and to focus on my graduate program. I feel a lot less crazy these days and my house is so much cleaner. We have also been able to do a lot more as a family.

Alma