Happy New Year!!!

January13

Hello All! One of my resolutions this year was to get back to the blog.  Now that I have graduated and moved on………

Final reading of my poster for ISHAS the following week.

Final reading of my poster for ISHAS the following week.

 

This is the poster I was supposed to present at ISHAS (International Society of Hyaluronic Acid Scientists) but wasn’t able to due to falling and breaking my right leg just above the ankle.  That laid me on my rear for most of the summer but by August, I was preparing for the trip to Professorhood.

I can honestly say that I love teaching.  It was a difficult first semester trying to get a grip on the college’s procedures and protocols as well as trying to teach science to a class of students with drastically differing backgrounds.  But when that light bulb goes off and the student “gets it”, it’s all worth it.

However, Lupus did rear it’s ugly head a few times.  This made me re-think the theme of this blog.  I’m going to focus on what I do to cope with the issues I face daily.  I should make it very clear: THIS WILL BE WHAT WORKS FOR ME.  Before trying anything I do, please contact your physician to discuss whether or not it’s appropriate.  I’m going to also discuss various things I find on the internet.  This is mostly cover biology, Doctor Who, microbiology, Doctor Who, physics, Doctor Who, chemistry and maybe, every once in a while, Sherlock (the BBC version with Benedict Cumberbatch.)

Until next time…….

 

 

 

 

Sleep. More important than you’d think.

August8

From high school health class until I believe, yesterday, I’ve been told how important it is that I get good, restorative sleep.  Back in high school and college, sleep was not on the top of my list. As a young mother, sleep was so far on the back burner, it’s a miracle I got any between motherhood, school and work. Now, however, 10 hours of sleep is a must. On the days where I haven’t gotten 10 hr, I’m a wreck.  After last night, let’s just say it’s a miracle if I remember to breathe.

The toughest thing to overcome in this journey is sleeping light. After so many years of dealing with aches and pains, I tend to sleep very lightly. Part of my brain is always on so if I awaken, I can figure out why fairly quickly. The down side to that is I sleep so lightly, I can wake up from the slightest sound. This morning, the dog woke me up at 430am by scratching an itch. He was in his bed on the far side of the room.  I finally got back to sleep about 6am then the roofer called at 7am to find out if someone would be home so they could start replacing our roof today. (As a side note, they still hadn’t showed when I spoke with my husband about an hour ago.)

For me, the repercussions of a bad night of sleep are many. Focusing on what I’m doing in the lab is so difficult it actually drains my energy.  I’m trying to be available for another lab member who is learning one of my protocols but since I am running on empty, the prospect of me getting anything else done independently is growing from slim to none rather quickly. I have my experiment for today written up but every time I get going on it, there is a question to be answered and I’m off the track.

For my personality type, this is something I am still struggling to learn how to deal with.  I want to “push through” and keep going but the consequences of that can be additive putting the rest of the week in jeopardy.  One can never underestimate the energy it takes to make careful decisions and stop yourself from doing too much when you’re basically running on adrenaline.

Okay, so my break is now over and I’m going to crawl back over to my lab bench. At least I can look forward to cake for the boss’ birthday on Friday. Cake always makes everything better.

At the bench or fluorimeter

January22

The semester has begun and it’s going to be a bumpy ride.  With all my classes and journal clubs, I have two presentations to present for the semester.  Add to that my lab meetings that come around about every 4 weeks.  It just so happens that my first presentation will be my lab meeting on January 31st.  My presentation for Proteomics was February 1st.  And finally my journal club presentation was February 4th.  All in one week.  Shoot me now!

But then I stepped back and looked at the bigger picture.  The goal was for me to defend my thesis by May or June.  Actually doing all these presentations in one day might just be the only way that will possibly happen.  One of the professors in another department, with whom I frequently talk things over, strongly urged me to wait and graduate in the summer.  In order to make it this semester, I would have to apply in just over two weeks.  The written copy would be due fairly early too.  By waiting until Summer, it would give me a bit more time to get everything done.

So that is the light at the end of the tunnel—the Master’s tunnel anyway.  The PhD tunnel is still out there.  Another plus to waiting until summer is that I can defend in June, get my thesis rewritten and finalized then take some time off until the beginning of the fall semester when I’d be back in class four hours a day four days a week.  Great fun for someone whose pain level is directly proportional to the amount of time I spend sitting.  I’m am not looking forward to that at all.

Our lab has undergone a bit of change during the past year and we’re finally turning a corner, I think.  Last February, the boss’ wife, who was our lab manager, retired.  She didn’t just retire so much as ran running out of the building never to return unless it’s to pick up the boss for a basketball game or night at the theatre.  I can’t blame her at all; she has worked all of her life in a lab and she was ready to be Grandma more and  to perfect her skiing.  The trouble with this though, is that she set up this lab and knew where EVERYTHING was.  She was also the one who kept up with all the general housekeeping issues in the lab.  After a year of not having a “lab mom,” things were getting messy very quickly.

Finally, after all the crap around Christmas, I was feeling well enough to be back in the lab full time.  The first week I was back, I had things fall on my head more than a dozen times.  Every time I turned around, I was stepping around things that had been used and not put up afterwards, or deliveries that had been signed for and left right where the delivery man set them, or even walking around trash that had just been set where it was last used and left for someone else to clean up.  Finally I’d had enough when I was walking down the hall outside the lab and the boxes that had been set aside for whatever reason fell on me when I stepped back to allow someone else to walk by.  Normally, more than one person could have walked down the hall side by side but not now.  Too much crap was in the way.

I grabbed the boss and made him walk the lab with me.  Then I asked him if I could handle the clean up.  He honestly hadn’t noticed how out of control things had gotten and of course, he said yes—with the caveat that I don’t do anything that could hurt me.  So the first section I tackled was the hallway.  We normally save a few small boxes to use for disposing of broken glass but we had probably 25 small boxes and several large boxes just piled on top of each other.  Packing material had been thrown all over the place and it was so obviously disorganized that people were throwing candy wrappers and other trash into the pile as they walked back and forth from the break room.  After I confirmed which of the four large boxes we needed to keep (one of them), the rest got pushed to the freight elevator full of several of the smaller boxes that we just didn’t need.  It only took about 15 minutes of me going through stuff and breaking down boxes for our laboratory technician to come out and ask me if I had gotten permission to clean up.  She is the only person I know that would actually have to get permission to clean.  She absolutely freaks out if there is a minor bacteria spill or refuses to be in the lab if someone is working with I125 and has the Geiger counter going.  But she has no problem with leaving metal carts in the middle of the floor or leaving trash and boxes sitting around  OR making media at the balance and spreading the powder all over everything within a two foot radius.

Anyway, I assure her that I do indeed have permission and explain to her that we can store more boxes for glass disposal neatly if we break them down flat.  I am actually quite proud of our little section of the hallway now.  The next day, I tackled the shelves above our two large centrifuges that hold all of our various tube racks.  We also started saving all those styrofoam holders that our 15 ml falcon tubes and 50 ml falcon tubes are sent in.  We had approximately 50 of each not stacked nearly, but just thrown up on the shelf.  If you attempted to grab any of the tube racks, at  least a portion of these styrofoam racks would come raining down on your head.  Above these were this mis-mash of various sizes of styrofoam coolers, the find that vendors use to ship reagents.  We had more than 50 of these.  Several were coolers with no lids but there were also several lids that fit no coolers in our little collection.  I pulled all of them down, matched up the ones that I could and then went through and toss the ones that had holes, were falling apart,  leaked or had nasty stains in them.  I ended up saving about 20 of the coolers.  The next area was over our chest freezers where we had even more styrofoam coolers but also several coolers in their boxes that we could use for shipping to collaborators.  The problem was, again, we had several that were exactly the same size, didn’t have lids, were nasty, etc.  Each shelf was about 8 feet long and there were two shelves full of these.  We were getting so low on shelf space that we were putting supplies on the floor.  Tissue culture supplies.  It just seemed incredibly stupid so I grabbed one of the guys, the ladder and we went to work.  Again, our tech was climbing the walls.  “What if we  need to mail something?”  I asked her if she thought we’d be mailing 75 of anything to anyone in the next few weeks.  We narrowed everything down to one of the shelves and the rest went to the dumpster.

As we were cleaning up, I looked over by the microscope where there were five boxes piled on top of each other.  Thinking they were supplies that we could now put on this nice clean shelf, I asked my friend helping me to look and see what was in them.  The tech then stands up and say, “Stop! Those are empty boxes I’m saving to use as glass boxes since you threw out all the others.”  I was absolutely stunned.  I tried to calmly explain to her again that I had not thrown away the glass boxes, but simply cut the tape so we could lay them flat.  The guy who was helping me grabbed these last few and threw them out for me.  I had to take a walk about the building to keep from absolutely slapping  someone.

The next day,  I was preparing to place several orders and went to grab the 3 ring binder we use to log our orders.  As I reached for the notebook, the cover tore and the notebook slipped from my hands.  I jerked out of the way and wrenched the hell out of my back.  It was the first time I’d logged anything in a while and I  was amazed at the condition of the notebook.  We have a cabinet in the hall full of empty binders and here we were using a binder with the cover torn in several places and pages falling out of it.

The next week, I tackled the ordering notebook and the notebook we store our radioactivity wipe tests in.  Each were 3 in binders and each was completely full.  I grabbed a new binder for ordering and moved over most of what was in the binders into other storage binders.  The next day after sending an email explaining what I did, I get a response from this tech, “We occasionally move things over regularly.”  I guess her definition of occasional is different from mine.  The order notebook had over two years of orders and the wipe test went back four years.  She still didn’t address the problem of the pages escaping from the notebooks.  I told the boss I wouldn’t be going back and reinforcing all those holes.  It wasn’t my job to keep the notebooks current.

The tech and I have banged heads more this year than we ever had before but I’m just done with things not being finished.  She changed the cartridge on the printer and left the old one sitting on the ordering desk for a month before I finally took it to our administrative assistant to send in to the exchange program.  This week we ran out of both gloves and ethanol, both which she is supposed to order.  And we had several other reagents run completely out but that isn’t all her fault.  Communication in the lab has disappeared lately.  People are using the last of reagents and not telling anyone else.  It’s an attitude of lazyiness that is driving me crazy.  We all have a lot going on but it’s going to get much harder if we don’t all get our heads out of our asses.

I really do feel sorry for those I work with over the next few weeks.  I will have even less patience than normal.  Wish them well, they will need it!

Happy 20th Anniversary for the Americans with Disabilities Act

July23

On July 26th, 1990, Congress passed landmark legislation designed to prevent discrimination of people with physical, emotional, and mental handicaps.  As a person who classifies as a disabled person, I have learned to deal with the ramifications of the ADA.  It’s been a very long and frustrating road but here we go……

In 2004, walking long distances became very painful.  It was finally bad enough that I qualified for a handicapped hang tag so I could park closer to the stores.  Even with the cane, I would be dirty looks from people that apparently thought I was really not injured badly enough to warrant me having the tag.  I’ve been asked about it a couple of times too.  Nothing like a confrontation in the parking lot. 

We have a major problem on our campus where some aspects of the ADA is concerned.  The Parking Office is rude and unhelpful when asked to work with us to fix a problem.  We are forced to have the director of the Disability Services to call the director of the Parking Office.  The latest problem happened last summer when my status in the lab changed from staff to student.  I have been using the handicap parking in the parking garage one building over from mine.  For almost four years I had parked in this area.  When I went over to change my status, I was told that I could no longer park in that area (since I was now a student) but instead must park in a lot four blocks from my building—the student parking.  I asked if there were handicap parking there and they assured me there was and they were just adjacent to the shelter where I could wait for the shuttle.  The timing between buses was supposed to be every 5 to 10 minutes.  So, I drove back there, got out of the car and sat down to wait for the shuttle.  After 30 minutes and no shelter, I walked.  I was in great pain by the time I got to the lab so I started looking for a better way. 

Digging in to the schools website, I remembered what a director of Disability Services had told me, “With your handicap tag, by Federal law you can park in any handicapped space on campus”  So that got me to thinking and I scoured the web pages and found exactly what I had been told plus there was also a regulation stating that I can park in any of the spaces with a parking meter and not have to put money in the meter. 

Armed with this information,  I got with one of the office gals and we called over to the parking office to see if we could get through to them .  We pointed out the federal regulations that was on their own website as well as the parking meters hint.  They denied knowing about either of them and repeated that the only place I had to park was in that far parking spot.  They also refused to believe that in the three times I had tried to use it, the first and second time I waited 30 minutes and they never showed up.  The last time I tried, I pulled into the parking lot and there was a shuttle sitting there and the driver was talking to a couple of people.  I know she saw me parking and getting my stuff out of my car and as soon as I closed my car door she pulled away from the shelter.  In speaking with the other girls who were there, I realize another problem.  I can’t lift over 10 pound and my rolling bag would have to be lifted.  I was told the drivers done lift anything.  I was done at this point.

Once I finally reached my lab, I immediately called the Disability Services and the director said she’d get right on it.  Within 10 minutes I was officially back in the parking garage and able to park in the same area I had been parking in for several years. 

What totally bugged me in this situation was the almost robotic manner of the clerks in the parking office.  When you’d ask about alternatives for handicapped parking, the response would always be “all students park in Lot O.  Lot O is for students.  There are no other places available for you to park.”  So I decided to see how far they would go in writing me a ticket. 

The next day, I parked in a visitor parking lot in another adjacent building.  The lot has four handicapped spots and for the next week, I parked there.  By calling in my sticker number, they would see that I was supposed to be parking in the garage.  But apparently, they knew the rules but just didn’t want share them with the people who might actually need them.  So today, when there aren’t enough parking spots in the parking garage, I go over to the other parking lot. 

There is a misconception all over my university when it comes to people with disabilities.  Some have decided that anyone who asks for  accommodations are doing so just because they want special treatment that they don’t need.  I decided to confront this issue with each individual professor, discussing my accommodations and why they are needed.  I’ve been very lucky in that the professors I have understand.  They also know that I’ve been around the department for a long time and that I haven’t let my medical issues slow  me down for very long.  In addition to your own challenges you face in trying to progress in your education and reach the goals you set for yourself, having to deal with ignorant staff that really doesn’t want to learn is stressful and taxing. 

In the past 20 years, there have been incredible advances.  Those of us who have benefited from the progress need to continue the effort.  We owe it to those who have worked to insure our right to freedom.

 I’m currently attempting to put together a Disability Support Group on campus that will hopefully work as a way to single out what other departments besides the parking office.  My mission for the group is to educate the university community as to what the laws are, when accommodations are warranted and when they aren’t, and learn how to deal with difficult faculty and staff.