Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How 13 bucks saved my mind

I like order.

It's got a lot to do with my job, where I have to be precise and structured in my methods, spilling over into my daily life. I do things the same way every day, park in the same places, put my keys in the same place, even my purse has a special spot for everything and if something comes out, it goes right back in that spot when I'm done with it. (Which helps when I'm screeching down the highway and need a piece of gum right now.) Doing things the same way helps me keep from forgetting things, and helps me retrace my steps easily and find whatever it is I need, whether it's a kid left at school or my favorite pen. Not having things put back in the same place makes me craaaazzzy. (Just ask Ryan, who put my iPod back in my purse, but not in the same spot--I nearly drove off the road, I was so frantic, thinking he'd lost it.)

Right now there are a lot of things out of order around the house. It's not entirely laziness but a lack of motivation and time. Working full-time and trying to balance the time I spend with the kids has been a challenge for me this year, not to mention trying to balance in time for regular housecleaning. Not that I was super-super-eat-off-my-floor clean before, but I was considerably neater when I had an extra day or two to think about it.

I realized just how much the disorder was bothering me last week when I was looking into my pantry and it looked like Costco exploded in it. One of the problems we've been tackling is what to do during the time frame when the kids get home in the afternoon and we get home in the early evening, and dinner preparation is waiting on me, the last person into the house. A couple of 8:45 pm dinners made me realize that something had to be done, or I was going to be riding the guilt train forever; because that doesn't stop coming to your station just because you're working, and pizza all the time is not necessarily good for you. I gathered everyone together and proposed some solutions, the most obvious being that the older kids and Mr. W were going to have to pick up some culinary slack. Awesome idea, I told myself, let go of the kitchen, you control freak, and eat someone else's dinner once in a while.

The Marinade Explosion of 2010 notwithstanding (during which Ben found himself covered in marinade that "just exploded" out of the bag and my kitchen looked like someone committed a murder in it) this new regime had gone okay...until I looked into the pantry and realized that because it was such a mess, I knew where everything was...but no one else did, which is why Mr. W sent Nolan to the store to buy some spaghetti when there were 6 packages already in the pantry. And while I can throw amazing things together out of the supplies I have in there, Ryan is only going to see the Tostitos.

Inspiration struck me in Target, of course, when I was looking for a glass jar and saw shelves of organizers you can put in your pantry. Intrigued, I bought some plastic baskety-bins to house my baking supplies, as I had various chocolate chip bags about to stage an uprising with the sugar to take over the entire shelf, and an under-cabinet thing just the right length to hold a loaf of bread or two. I arranged that particular shelf when I got home and voila! a little pocket of order peeking out at me from the chaos. Thirteen bucks later, and I started breathing easier, and the spot between my brows unfurled, no botox required. Now, everytime I open the pantry, I look at that shelf and it makes me happy.

While I still can't look at the other shelves without cringing, I am feeling brave enough to tackle the rest of the pantry this weekend.

If only I felt brave enough to tackle the dust on my bookshelf, too.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Hug your favorite person in a lab coat

It's Lab Week April 19-23rd. Ordinarily the lab I used to work in would have some contests and a couple of fun things, maybe a potluck, and maybe a management-provided catered lunch, and maybe some swag from our vendors.

The lab I work in now goes all out. There will be contests all week, like dry ice shuffleboard, LabLympics (there are three individual and one group relay event), a salsa/guacamole competition, and all kinds of food all week long (breakfasts, lunches, ice cream social, barbeque in the park). The bottom line is that I won't be able to come home and complain about being worn out at all this week, not without risking an "Oh, pleaaase!" eyeroll from the family. (That's what I get for bragging a little about how this group outdoes my old one.)

One of our contests is for people to submit an account of "How I Became A Scientist" which will be emailed out to all, and we have to guess who it is. I thought I'd post my story here, if only to get a post in. It's been a long time since I've done one, I didn't think anyone would mind too terribly much if I cheated. Just a little.

Here's my story:

I became a scientist because of two people.

My parents.

I remember being about 6, and stumbling across a book inside one of our living room tables called “Biology”. It was big, and green, and I started looking through it. In the middle of the book were transparencies of all kinds of things. Plants, animals, a human body; the transparencies were designed to be looked at separately to look at details of certain systems or structures, or all together to get the full 3-D effect. I was completely fascinated by the frog and would flip through those pages, trying to figure it out. Eventually, Mom would catch me with the book, and while she did not mind me going through it, she worried about the transparencies getting torn, so she’d usually take it away after a little while.

But I’d always find it again.

Mom would take the time to talk to me about her biology class, not squeamish at all about the dissection portion, and how interesting it was. It was from my Mom that I first heard about DNA and how things could be inherited from your family. She was always curious about science and her musings to me would make me think. I wanted to find out the answers so that I could share them with her.

My Dad, on the other hand, was all about airplanes and space. He told me stories about astronauts and fighter jets and all about the math and physics that went into those endeavors. He stressed that math was not something to ever be afraid of and when he talked about the laws of motion, he spoke about them like they were old friends. I could not wait to meet them. On road trips, on our way home at night, he'd talk about astronomy, mythology, and the first man in outer space.

Their combined influence made me want to pursue science as a career. And while I never knew I’d be in the field I’m in when I was a little kid, I always knew that I would be a scientist.

As for my Mom's book...I still used to find it from time to time, and I still turned to the page with the frog splayed out on it. I've not been able to find it for a while...

...because my nephew has it.