Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Conference comedy

I was in line waiting for some popcorn at the conference today--even scientists need afternoon snacks.  The popcorn was popping and so we were standing there for a little while.  The people in the group a little ways behind me started talking about the popcorn maker: "Wow, they're so great."  "We should get one at work!"  "Yeah, we could say it's for testing different types of popcorn to get it approved!"

The guy directly behind me, who had been considering an ice cream from the freezer and was not looking at the group, said "Just make sure you don't get any of that genetically-modified corn!"

At that moment, I happened to turn around and saw the nametags on the group of people discussing popcorn.  Our nametags have our institution of company on them.  What I saw made me look twice.

From where did the popcorn-lovers hail, you might ask?


I snickered all the way to my next symposium.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Thoughts from the West Coast

1. I am traveling an awful lot this year.  San Francisco last month (and I still need to post photos) for a publisher's conference.  Anaheim now for the Experimental Biology meeting.  Alaska in June.  New York at Thanksgiving.

2. I was amused at the airport when I got here.  There was a man standing next to me at LAX, waiting for a shuttle.  He made me think that he was trying to be very cool--the sunglasses went on immediately, the jacket slung over his shoulder, that attitude of "I am more important than you" being projected from him.  He was holding onto his suitcase's extendable handle and he looked very cool...until the handle released and he tripped over his suitcase while trying to catch his balance.  I snickered.

3. It feels very weird to have to constantly plan the times that things are happening at home.  I know that Jason will be leaving work soon to get the kids, and they'll go home and have dinner.  However, it's only mid-afternoon here.  I'm about to hold an online review session for my biology majors and it's weird thinking that I should be in class in 30 minutes; instead, I'm going to hang out in Downtown Disney with my stepcousin in an hour!

4. While I knew that Disneyland was here, I didn't realize the intense lure of the Mouse until the shuttle bus that I took from my hotel stopped at the park.  I had to change shuttles and Space Mountain was right in front of me.  It was like the Siren's call.  I don't know how I managed to avoid it.

5. Science is awesome!  I believe Siobhan said it's like the "nerd mothership" and while I can't deny it, this is incredibly fascinating.  I've been to multiple talks on stem cells, pharmacology and pharmacovigilance, and anatomy.  I've read countless posters and gotten several lovely (albeit nerdy T-shirts).  It's a happy place to be...and not because Disney is right next door.

6. I miss my family.  A lot.

7. I got to see a lovely friend from graduate school last night for dinner.  She's here for the meeting also and we had a great time.  Takita, I'm so glad we got together!

8. I'm hoping I adjust to the time change going East as easily as I did coming West...but I doubt it.  And that's going to be challenging since I have to be at work 10 hours after my flight is scheduled to land.  Ugh.

9.  On the other hand, I will only have 3 days of classes left when I get back.  I've survived another semester--this is always cause for celebration!

10. Anaheim isn't nearly as pretty as San Francisco.  I loved San Francisco.  But I'm doing just as much walking here as I was there.  They have sidewalks in California.  SIDEWALKS!  My hotel is just over a mile from the conference center and I've walked it twice a day so far.

And I've got to go hold the review session now!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Who switched my children?

Scene in the house this morning: Kamu had crawled into bed with Jason and I at some point last night, so I'm squashed between the two of them.  The alarm goes off (we have it set to the radio).  I hate when the alarm goes off.  It's insanely irritating, so I usually get right up and flip it off.  Even when Kamu gets into our bed, he wakes up as soon as it does and so I can easily get up and turn it off.

This morning, Kamu didn't wake up.  He grumbled a bit but no more than that.  Jason took his own sweet time getting up; meanwhile, I'm between the two of them, gritting my teeth and wishing I could throw something at the stupid radio because I can't get up (they truly had me pinned).  Jason FINALLY gets up and goes to wake up Patrick.  I hop up and turn off the radio.

Kamu is still not up, so I crawl back into the bed and start munching on his arm to get him to wake up.  He grumbles some more and turns over away from me.  "Kamu, it's time to get up."  "Ehhhhhhhhhh....." and more grumbling.

"Melkamu, you have to get up.  It's a school day!"

Grumble, grump.  "I no want get up.  I seepy."  Hide under the pillow.

Patrick bounces in, stage left.  Patrick is normally the child who has to be dragged out of bed but he is smiling, happy, and wide awake this morning.  "Good morning Mama!  I woke up when Daddy came to get me!"

"Good morning Patrick!  Kamu, you've got to get up."  Uncover the smallest child and throw the pillow to the foot of the bed.

Crying ensues.  Pitiful, pitiful crying, interspersed with "But I SEEPY!!!"

It was a complete 180 from our normal mornings.  I can only wonder what the rest of the day will bring...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Signs of spring at the Morrey home

The signs of spring abound at our house.  Despite the pollen coating EVERY. FREAKING. THING, and associated allergy-type reactions (that are thankfully few in our home), spring is still my favorite time of year in Georgia. 

Patrick is playing soccer for the first time this year.  He scored a goal in his second game!  They get slaughtered every week but the kids are having a great time and are actually getting noticeably better each time.  Plus, two of his best friends are on the team, plus another boy from his class that he likes a lot.  Go Panthers!

A new "tradition" (can it be a tradition if it was only the second year?) is the neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt, hosted by our lovely friends the Petts.  It was a truly enjoyable day--beautiful weather, even better friends, and a fun time for all kids and adults alike.
This is also the second year that I've participated in Relay For Life with the American Cancer Society.  We have a health sciences club at our school, of which I'm one of the faculty advisors, and we partnered with the honor society to raise money this year.  I also brought the kids with me and they had a fantastic time.  I've promised that next year we will set up the tent and stay "until midnight!", as Patrick has gleefully requested.  (As a side note, the kids went 6 laps around the track, running most of them and not getting home until about 10 p.m., and still had enough energy for a 9 a.m. soccer game and a birthday party the next day.  I was worn out.)

Ah, the seedlings.  As usual, I started them too late and they're puny but coming along.  I'm hoping that I can transplant them into their final containers by May and get a decent harvest this year.  The new heat mat and grow lamp are definitely helping.  There are others beyond these, but these are some of the most advanced.  Today I am soaking beans so that they can go in tomorrow!

The laundry racks have taken up their semi-permanent residence on the back porch ;-)  Melkamu loves playing on the porch and there are always toys out there.  Both he and Patrick are currently back in thrall with Weebles.

The strawberries are back.  I planted 3 last year, which expanded to 6, and planted 3 new ones this year.  We should actually have a decent crop of strawberries this year!  Of course, we tend to eat them immediately, so there won't be any jams or anything.  Hey Aunt Meg, we love you...!

And the flowers are just lovely this time of year.  Both Patrick and Melkamu "helped" with their plantings--Patrick actually helped pull weeds and dig holes, while Kamu helped by asking me to hand him every worm I found so that he could re-home them near the strawberries.  He decided that it needed the most help.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

It's important to be happy with yourself

There I was, getting all upset about a conversation on Facebook, when it hit me: I just have to be happy with myself, my family, and the way I'm raising MY children.  That's it.  I looked at my children, who were playing on the back porch swing, watching a squirrel build a nest in a tree next to the house and I was utterly thrilled with my life.

Jason and I put a lot of time and effort into raising our children to be happy, loved, well-behaved, and responsible.  And so far, they are fantastic kids.  Granted, I may be a bit biased, but I truly believe it.  They are strong and healthy, with wonderful moral values already.  Patrick told me that he'd heard about the earthquake in Haiti when he was in school, and said "I have three twenty dollars from my allowance.  Maybe we can send that to Haiti."  He's been saving that money for months but as soon as he heard about people who needed it, his first instinct was to help them because he knew they needed it more than he did.  And so we did.  I can't even begin to tell you how proud I was of his decision.

He is six.  Just six, and yet he already knew that you have a responsibility to help others when you can.  I like to think that we have instilled that value in him by demonstrating that we do so also.

We know some people who look at Melkamu as exotic, who use him to claim that their children "have black friends." Like he is supposed to show that they are well-rounded and not stuck in a narrow little slice of the world.  As a rule, we've stepped back from those people.  My child will not be used to show that you are "colorblind".  My child will not be used so that you can say "Oh, we don't care about color.  My son has a friend who is black!"  He is a beautiful, smart, loving, happy child in his own right.  He will NOT be used to show your "acceptance" of others.

To me, these are symptoms of the same problem: that people isolate themselves with those who share their own views.  The only people they know are people with whom they share commonalities of race, socioeconomic class, and/or religion. They do not stretch themselves to know others who come from different backgrounds.  As a result, they believe that everyone has the same advantages, the same opportunities that they did.  And they then believe that people who are struggling are there because they just didn't try hard enough, didn't work hard enough.  It makes me truly sad to know that I personally know people with these views, because they don't see the problems themselves and aren't willing to consider the fact that there might be people who, due to the circumstances into which they were born or those that they can't control, DON'T have the opportunity to help themselves back up.

I went to an inner-city high school.  White students were in the minority.  There were a lot of drugs around, though we used to joke that our students couldn't afford them, so they just sold them to the students in the mostly-middle-class, mostly-white, high schools nearby (in retrospect, it's clearly not funny but a 17-year-old has a different view of what's funny).  As a result of being in that environment, I learned to get out of the comfort zone into which I'd been placed while going to an all-white private Jewish elementary school.  I had no choice, and it was one of the best things for me.  I could genuinely claim friends of many races.  I could genuinely claim friends of different religions.  I could genuinely claim friends of different economic backgrounds.

I hope that Jason and I are instilling that in our children.  I believe we are.  My children's friends are black, white, Indian, Hispanic, and Asian.  They have friends with more money than we do, and friends with less money than we do.  They have friends with two-mom households.  They have friends with traditional families, and many friends with adoptive families.

When I dropped off my kids at daycare today, Patrick (who is on spring break) was immediately welcomed by two girls in his class--one Hispanic and one Indian.  He then went to play with some other friends, both of whom are black.  Melkamu hugged his favorite boy in the class, who is white, and his favorite girl in the class, who is black.

And so I leave this post, not trying to brag on how well-adjusted my kids are and therefore how poorly-adjusted the kids of these other families are, but with a hope that the parents of those other families will stretch themselves, come out of their comfort zones and reach out to others who come from different backgrounds.  And that they will do it with only a sense of wanting to meet others, to expand their worlds, not with the ideas of changing their religions or using people as ways they can show how "accepting" they are.  Their kids will benefit tremendously.