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Saturday, October 3, 2009

I had a good day today.

No, really. I had a good day today. That doesn't seem like much, but it is. I haven't had a really good day since my wedding day. Work has been difficult to bear due to a number of factors. Graduate school ceased to be exciting in week two when it became an absolute nightmare (and it's stayed a nightmare, pretty much--despite the reassurances of friends and family I'm still convinced I'm going to flunk out after my first semester). So overall life has pretty much sucked.

Don't take it the wrong way--every day with Julie is a blessing, and I am well aware how lucky I am to have her. She's been the one supportive bright spot in an otherwise dark time. It just sucks that 'dark' had to happen right after we got married.

So what, then, made today a good day? Let's go back a bit. As many of you know I've had a lot of big stressors on my plate. First, work has been very rough between trying to learn what exactly my boss means by "take a leadership role" in administering his bioengineering training grant and trying to organize and coordinate a visiting committee for our department. Regarding the training grant, I am not, never have been, and never will be a bioengineer. Nor have I ever done grant administration. My "boss" (in quotes because he's one of the 2 professors I support but is not techically my boss--he can't fire me) has seen fit to assume I will magically know everything that needs to get done and when, and has given me very little guidance or direction, but gets angry when something is overlooked that I didn't know I was supposed to cover in the first place. We had a falling out about this about 2 weeks ago.

The visiting committee consists of a number of distinguished faculty and industry leaders in bio-e from other institutions coming into Pitt to act essentially as consultants for our departments. They hear important reports and statistics and conduct a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat) analysis of the department and give feedback for us to improve. This is a huge 2-day to-do which involves lunches with students, dinners at elite clubs, travel arrangements, accounting, minutely-detailed record and minute-keeping, all of the most nightmare aspects of an administrative assistant job, all rolled into one big event.

I had a big assignment due in one of my classes which required me to read three books amounting to over 700 pages, plus six "outside sources" I was left to search out on my own (i.e. just go find six other sources), then compose a paper that cited all nine sources and was strictly limited to exactly 1500 words--an unreasonable request if ever I've seen one. On top of that, I had to act (in coordination with two others) as an online discussion leader for a topic that had four other readings. All this for the same class. The pressure is on--in most grad schools you have to maintain a B average--Pitt is no different. However, in my case, I have to get all B's for at least the first (maybe first few) semesters or I am out. Period. No "B" average--if I get a "C" I'm out of school. I'm on provisional admittance. And in this class I can't even keep up with the readings, let alone the lectures. So I'm absolutely worried about it.

I have a book due on October 9 to Cubicle 7. It has to be 36,000 words; I didn't want to do it (well, actually, I jumped at it at first, then realized quickly I didn't want to do it and told them so before contracts were signed) but was talked into it by a good freelance colleague who works with them. 36K doesn't sound like a lot to a freelancer...except for all the other shit that's been going on.

Well, I completed the paper. Not sure how good it is--Julie thinks it's good, I don't think it's that great. But it's done and turned in. On time. Wrapped up the online discussion with my partners tonight (I think...hopefully)--we just have to do the final paper (just a summary, really) and submit it by Monday night. So the class is in line, save catching up on some readings, watching some lectures, and starting my *next* big assignment (none of this is as huge as it seems at this point).

The visiting committee is behind me and went very smoothly (no major hurdles of which I'm aware). A minor hiccup when one of the professors (the training grant guy) was unhappy with the thought of me *gasp* calling a cab for the three guys who had to get back to the airport, so I had to spend the morning trying to score a limo for them. With the help of my actual boss and my buddy Tim (our IT guy who was there supporting the tech end), that was accomplished.

I think I'm getting on top of the training grant. More on that as it progresses.

The book? Well, that's still a problem. I have a shitload left to write; I'm going to need to pull about 4,000 words a day to make my deadline. We'll see what happens. But at least busting my ass on that will give me a sense of normalcy.

So all that is off my plate, which is a weight off my shoulders.

Today, I went to the Greater Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival with my friend Eric. Julie went as well, with her mom, and we met up there, had lunch, then went our separate ways again (wanted to give Julie and her mom some girl time). We hooked up once or twice more at the fest, but mostly Eric and I just tooled around, spent some time with Ian (my brother-in-law), and enjoyed the day. I bought a hand-carved pen that is made from olive wood from a 2,000-year-old tree in Bethlehem. It's beautiful. I'm going to use the crap out of it. Eric and I had a shit-ton of people ask to take pictures with us (favorite ones: a pair of ladies who I think were honest-to-God Asian tourists--they barely spoke English! They were adorable!). I guess our costumes were good. A bunch of people asked me about my cheap-ass rapier, which I found amusing:

" that real?"

"Well, yes. It's real, in the sense that it has a metal blade and is pointy. It would probably shatter if I had to use it in a real swordfight..."

"Where'd you get it?"

"Gen Con, 2 years ago."

"Cool! um...what's Gen Con?"

That conversation happened a lot.

People kept complimenting me on my hat, which I think I paid $20 for and is unabashedly a costume hat. *shrug* I guess faux crushed velvet goes a long way when you stick a feather in it.

A fun, middle-aged woman ran up and hugged us both, exclaiming, "I haven't hugged a pirate today!"

Eric took a couple pics. Hoping to get at least the one of him and I to put up on facebook.

Anyway, after everything I've been dealing with lately, I felt I deserved a day that was devoted to just enjoying a day. And today, I did. It was a good day. I'm not 100% recharged, but I'm much better off than I was.

Sorry for the ramble. I'm sure there was much more to write, but as usual I peter out after so long...

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Sophia, Goddess of Wisdom, and Mary Magdalene.

I'm not a mad bible thumper--Sophia, however, is my inspiration and always in my heart