Why am I “Reaching for the Stjärnor”?

I dreamed about living in Sweden secretly for many years. It wasn’t until my farfar (father’s father) died when I was finishing up high school that I realized in order to make the dream more than just a private one, so that it actually might happen I had to take action. I felt like I had missed a huge opportunity to know my farfar personally and that while I have a “feeling” of him from our interactions during my childhood, since they were always translated via my aunt or my father I never really knew of him myself. With this new motivation and because I attended a large undergraduate university (The University of Texas at Austin) which offers tons of foreign language classes, I decided to learn to speak Swedish. I have always wished that my dad spoke in Swedish to my younger brother and I when we were children but since my father doesn’t speak a lot and also because my brother and I are both dyslexic maybe he had his reasons. Anyway, after learning Swedish in an intensive one year class, where we went to class for at least an hour every weekday. I found a research position in a Biochemistry lab for the summer of 2006. I lived in Lund, Sweden and worked at the university. It was a wonderful experience. I got to have coffee with my farmor (grandmother) every week and feel like she got to know me as an adult and my Swedish got pretty good. Since then I have been secretly planning to try to get back to Sweden….

So I hatched a “plan.” If I went abroad for a postdoc after my PhD I could live abroad for 2-3 years and not loose too much momentum in my career plus get back to Sweden. I have morbidly joked with friends that as long as my farmor was alive when I finished graduate school I would go to Sweden for a postdoc (Now this is sort of justified since she will be 95 in just a few weeks). When I began applying for postdoc positions I started with a list of 5 professors in Denmark and Sweden that I was interested in. Luckily for me one of these top choices was able to take me. So I am headed back to work in Lund again. This time will be longer and although my Swedish has gotten much worse I hope to explore more of Sweden. I am extremely excited and hope you will join me on this crazy journey of scientific, familial, locational, and personal exploration!

 

2013 Goals Update 4

The sun is coming up earlier and earlier every day so it is time to jump start my yearly goals again.

Every month I hope to keep you all updated on my progress toward my yearly goals.

End of April, how am I doing with my yearly goals?

Well, over all this month I have not made much progress…

1: work at the office 5 days a week: done!

2: work out: As in past months very little consistent training has occurred but by choosing to walk the long way around often I have made some progress. Using my new pedometer every day I am averaging > 5,000 steps a normal work day getting up as high as ~15,000 on some days. From all of this and by utilizing the wavering “sticky lbs” I am down 6 kg in the last 2 months. This brings me closer and closer to my first mostly unstated weight goal. I am looking for ways to increase the amount of training I do and also take some dance classes as I used to love dancing.

3: keep up with blog: failure. This has been sacrificed for “real” work, from my job and my dad visiting the last few days. Need to find a better way to keep up with posting all of my ideas.

4: work on my Swedish:  My new Swedish class is much harder than the last. I still am struggling with remembering vocab and having words for what I would like to say. I am trying a new program for this and hope to have a good review to report soon.

Outlook for May: UPDATE BLOG, do more intense workouts more often, and keep up with Swedish class & vocab.

I hope you guys will help keep me motivated and honest about the results of this 🙂

Does your job make you do a happy dance?

As I sat at my home desk today doing some background work I had promised to people, I checked on my main work that had been runing overnight. SUCESS! something I had been struggling with recently finally worked! (actually 3 somethings) As I did what my brother calls my “chair happy dance”, I thought does your job make you do a happy dance? At a time other than when you get your paycheck?

*Happy DANCE*

*Happy DANCE*

If your job doesn’t make you do a happy dance then why not?

2013 Goals Update 3

Every month I hope to keep you all updated on my progress toward my yearly goals.

End of March, how am I doing with my yearly goals?

Well, over all this month I have not made much progress…

1: work at the office 5 days a week: I have been sick for the last 3 weeks. At the beginning of last week I went to work and everyone acted like I had the plague. When you get so many comments on how sick you look, GO HOME! so I have worked from home the last few weeks, taking lots of naps and drinking lots of tea.

2: work out: OK well, good news, I haven’t gained any weight…actually I have “lost” a few kg due to being sick but I am sure they will come back soon. Right now the focus is getting really well. **goal of the month: walk extra and work out 2 times a week when  I can** My mother gave me a pedometer and I have been using it recently, this is a great way to monitor how much you walk and try to up the amount.

3: keep up with blog: A few updates. A few more half started…being sick makes everything harder especially writing. My brain has felt so tired lately.

4: work on my Swedish:  Well my first Swedish class is over. The second one starts on Wednesday!

Outlook for April: WORK ON THE BLOG, find a better way to fit in workouts, and keep up with Swedish class.

I hope you guys will help keep me motivated and honest about the results of this 🙂

What does a science nerd do when sick?

tea

Well, you should sleep more, drink lots of fluids, and rest up…I did these and more! After dragging myself to work on Monday, in an effort to stick to my working at work pledge, I took a break from re-doing the same work over and over to go to afternoon coffee break. I made my self a cup of tea and sat down with the very few people there. The minute I opened my mouth to speak one of them asked if I was sick (I sounded like a frog). I said that yes actually I was sick again. I had the flew 2 weeks ago,spent the weekend with my cousin, and when I got home I was feeling somewhat better. Two days after returning to work I was starting to feel tired and by the end of that week I was experiencing the beginning symptoms of the flu again! WHAT? I almost never get sick. I lived in Chicago for 5 years and got only one real winter cold. Mostly I get sniffly and tired but not stay home from work sick.

After being told I looked “like death”, “really sick”, sounded “horrible”, “please stay away from me”, and that I should “probably go home” I decided to work from home for a few days till I was better. This way I could take naps, drink lots of tea, and work when I was able but not when my brain was fuzzy. It is amazing how slow you think when you are sick. I was trying to write a review article and do corrections on a paper plus write a review of another manuscript for a journal. None of this was going well. I couldn’t even focus enough to write blog posts. So I decided to turn to every science nerd’s if I only had time pile. This is the stack of papers you would like to read, the blogs you would like to catch up on old posts, and the podcast back episodes you have been avoiding because those 100+ episodes of Science Friday now feel like a job not just for fun.

I spent the last week, making figures while listening to podcasts about space, the flu (more to come later), honey bees, solar energy, nuclear waste, and the meteor that crashed into Russia. I read 20+ articles I had flagged to read later, taking extra notes to look back at when I no longer had tired brain. I went through over 40 packs of tissues and 3 boxes of tea bags. All in all, I obviously needed this break from work to get better and I was able to clear out my science nerd inbox. I wonder how long it will be till it is full again.

flu survival kit

science nerd sicky survival kit

New Employee Orientation

Every time you start a new job they have some kind of new employee orientation. I remember very clearly the year I started working at my college tutoring center and had to attend a two day orientation and training. This professional feeling workshop was starkly contrasted with the video tape in the backroom orientation I had to attend when I started working at a movie theater the same summer.

Today I had the orientation for new employees-in English. The best thing about orientation is the free stuff! Plus you learn a lot about the history and policies of your organization. Once, a previous boss complemented me on always knowing the rules about employee tasks. I was shocked. They covered all of this in orientation. I mean I didn’t remember what the rule was but I did remember that they had talked about it so I went and looked it up in my notes. Apparently this in not the norm.

Today’s orientation was great. The free loot consisted of a 2G USB stick with the university logo, a cloth bag with the logo, some handbooks for organizations, a spiral notebook with university logo, a pen with university logo, and a good lunch. They covered topics ranging from the history of the university presidents, a very cool modern art museum that is part of the campus system, to inventions that have come from research at the university. I was inspired and took a lot of notes, and am planning some upcoming posts based on the day. However, today I just wanted to say, you should go to your new employee orientation. Not only will you learn about what benefits your company offers but you will get free stuff and hear about all the cool things that you might not know about the other parts of the company.

LOOT!

LOOT!

Working on the Train

This morning I am taking a train from Norrköping to Lund. I spent the weekend hanging out with my cousins and am headed back to “real life” (i.e. work). I love traveling in general but especially via trains. I know that this is a minority opinion so why do I love riding the rails? Well I find that a train or an airplane is a great place to get work done. Now obviously not all kinds of work but very specific types of work that I can often put off for more pressing issues.

I tend to procrastinate writing. Somehow the blank page mocks me and at times I hear my computer laughing at me…haha you can’t write…haha….

For me the first step to overcome writing is always just getting something down on the page. I am much better at editing once I have something written. This is exactly what a train or plane ride is perfect for. Just typing directly and not editing much. I have already started a work paper that I need to write. I have written an outline, copied all the common information from old papers, rearranged the information and started writing the new sections the paper needs. I am now in the part of writing where a larger computer with a better mouse (than my 10in/25.4cm computer with its travel mouse). SO with less than 30 min on the train I have achieved the goal I had set for today’s trip…no problem…I am way way behind on my blogging.

With blogging I have head the opposite problem. Something happens and I want to write a post. I set up the post on my smart phone and make a few notes and then save the post under private. Then the post sits there for a long time and I don’t go back and update it, flush it out and finish posting it. So now I have tons of half started posts that see overwhelming. I wonder how many I can get written and flushed out in the 2 more hours on the train today.

 

Extra Note: When we arrived at the next train station and a young woman sat next to me on the train and is editing/responding to reviews on a journal of physiology paper. See all kinds of scientists can use travel time efficiently.

Shopping in Swedish!!!

Goal of the day: find fun things to buy & do so in Swedish

Mission accomplished! Today I went to the largest shopping mall in Sweden with 2 of the girls from work. We all had a few things we were looking for. My list was: get ipod fixed, blazers for work, black heals for with work dresses, and a structured purse for work (and fun). Seriously mission accomplished I found something in each of these categories. I had a great day chatting with the girls from work about world fashion, weddings (they are both planning their weddings), gradschool vs. professional style, and so much more. We shopped our way through about half of the huge mall before giving in and heading to dinner and cocktails.

The biggest win of all was that I did all but one store and one drink of my shopping in Swedish. I ordered my coffee and muffin, in Swedish. I bought my great new blazer for work, in Swedish. I even had a long conversation (2 min+) with one shop attendant about how my new purse was the color of pear ice cream, how we don’t have pear ice cream in the US and how traditional silhouettes in fun colors is modern fashion. Basically everything I bought except when getting my ipod fixed at the apple store, I started the conversation in Swedish and I didn’t change to English. At the bar, one of the bar tenders was British so he began to talk  to me in English when he heard me turn to the girls I was with and speak in English. However, since this wasn’t of my doing I think overall it was a successful shopping and a successful Swedish day!

shopping haul!

shopping haul!

Making New Friends

Making new friends is the hardest thing about moving anywhere new. The real problem is always where will you meet new people and how will you transition them from being work colleges, that girl/guy in your ___ class, roommate, or any other category of acquaintance to a true friend you can call and say “my day sucked lets meet that the bar 1/2 way between our houses for a drink on the way home.”

I have been living in Sweden for 4 months now and honestly I have a lot of acquaintances, my family, and no real friends. I was spoiled in my last city that I magically became best friends with 2 amazing people in just over 3 months.

SOO how do you make friends? You invite them to do things out side of your normal settings. Today I am going shopping with 2 girls from work. Wish me Luck!shopping

Leaving work after 11pm

Tonight I headed back to work after my Swedish class (18-20:30) because I hadn’t finished everything I had planned for the day by 17:25 when I had to walk out of the office to go to class. No problem, I thought, I can just go back and finish up everything and take a later bus. I figured I had about an hour more of work to do. And since it was basically busy work, it wasn’t a problem to do late in the evening but as we had committed to get the work to a collaborator in just a few days I wanted to get it to my PI ASAP.

When I made it back to the science building I was about 21 (9pm). The building was totally deserted. I thought it was a little weird to not see any students studying or working on projects in the main hallways. I know 21:00 is late but when I was a student in science we often met up to work on homework and projects after dinner. As I walked to my office I noticed that I didn’t see a single person. Not only were there no students studying but basically there were no workers walking around the halls. First, the building is set up with many wings that are closed off by security card but the way I walk through the building is past tons of study rooms, the main cafeteria and the main instrument labs, as well as, some research wet labs. This building has over 450 employees and 900 students taking classes in it and I saw not a single person.

After getting to my office I locked myself in and finished up my work. I love being at work really early or really late when there are few people around. In graduate school it was my habit to get to work around 7:20am and my favorite part of the morning was before 8am when I would have a cup of coffee, answer emails, and sing my country music aloud in my office. Even the few times that other students came in early and caught me singing (and maybe dancing) around our 15+person office didn’t damper the fun (and honestly productivity) I achieved during my early mornings alone. Tonight, as I made figures and tables I played my music loudly and sang along. I am sure if there had been anyone on my floor they would have come to investigate. However I didn’t see anyone.

I finished up the work that had to be done on my office computer about 5 min after a bus had left. The next bus wasn’t for a while since they only go twice an hour this late in the evening. I decided to work on a few other things before heading to the bus stop for the next bus.  I walked out of the building a different way than I had come in and still saw no one. Then I walked the 5 min walk to the bus stop (a huge bus interchange) and still saw no one. As I was walking, I started thinking  that maybe this was a cultural thing. In the US, at top universities you would expect to see people working all sorts of hours. You would expect the students to be studying all times of night. Is is really that the students are working and studying less in Sweden or that they are just not doing at work?

In graduate school it drove me crazy when a few people I worked with tried to make comments about the fact that I left work around 18-19 every day, when I had come in to work hours before they had. I felt that staying at work when I had put in a full day and wasn’t working very hard anymore was posturing instead of actually being productive.

One of my commitments for this postdoc was to be organized enough that I could leave work at a reasonable time (17-19) and if I needed to, I could monitor work from home. I have mostly been succeeding at this goal but honestly there have been times that I feel I am not working hard enough. These are feelings I can mostly associate with feeling like I am just not working enough. These are not new feelings for me. In graduate school there were times that I felt I wasn’t being productive enough, time I felt I wasn’t very motivated and so wasn’t giving it my all. Basically I went into almost every meeting with my advisor feeling that I could have done more.

Recently I have been feeling this “not working hard enough” feeling until I stop to analyze if maybe I am not putting in enough time. Last weekend I spent all of my time alternating between work and sleeping. I would work for a few hours and then take a nap, then I would wake up with an idea for work and roll over in bed and start working on my laptop. This kind of work schedule is one I easily fall into but isn’t sustainable or healthy. It is definitely a pattern I would like to minimize. However, no one can say that I haven’t put in lots of time in the last two weeks. So are these feelings of inadequate work real or are they socialized into me via the US Chemistry Ph.D. mentality?

2013 Goals Update 2

Every month I hope to keep you all updated on my progress toward my yearly goals.

End of February, how am I doing with my yearly goals?

Well, over all this month I have not made much progress…

1: work at the office 5 days a week: DONE! Actually maybe too much work…

2: work out: OK well, good news, I haven’t gained any weight…bad news, haven’t lost any more and more importantly basically haven’t worked out at all this month. With my new busy evening schedule and things picking up at work I need to rethink when and where I can work out. I am going to try this coming month not just to work out more but to find more convenient times or places. **goal of the month: 2 times a week**

3: keep up with blog: Again a huge failure on this. The number of half completed posts or just blog ideas has piled up into maybe an insurmountable list. Honestly as the list got longer the less I wanted to deal with this. So trying to remove the pressure to back post these old posts and starting fresh with posting new events in a timely manner. I will still keep the back posts for the next month and try to update these also but after that I am deleting them. **goal of the month**

4: work on my Swedish: My Swedish class is going well. I haven’t missed a class yet but I also haven’t invested much time out of class to working on my Swedish. So this month my goal is to practice more outside of class…and spend some time learning the vocabulary we go over in class.

Outlook for March: WORK ON THE BLOG, find a better way to fit in workouts, and keep up with Swedish class.

I hope you guys will help keep me motivated and honest about the results of this 🙂