work life balance


149879171_8e339d2fc0_bIn 2004, I adopted a cat who was about one year old and weaning her second litter of kittens.  Moo, named for the sound she made, was first rescued by friends Chad and Tiffany from a kill shelter.  When I met Moo, she dropped her kittens in my lap and took a nap while I looked after them.  Then, she came and gave me a headbutt.  It was love at first bonk.  Once her kittens were old enough to be adopted out, she came home with me and my partner at the time.

Moo is arguably the greatest cat in the world.  She’s fluffy, she purrs, she talks, she knows tricks.  I adore this cat.  In grad school, I had a dream that I physically gave birth to her (probably a product of the stress of grad school and the comfort she provided when I got home feeling bad every day).  Moo keeps me humble — every once in awhile, she places a hairball right where I’ll step in it.  Moo keeps me stylish — I find tasteful accents of cat fluff on every outfit.

For those doing the math, Moo’s about 13 years old.  She’s in excellent health; last year, she had a dental surgery to preempt future problems.  Other than that, she has never had a major medical procedure (aside from spaying).

Sometimes, things as a pre-tenure professor get a little overwhelming.  On the toughest of days, I know I can rely on Moo to sit on me and purr until I get out of my funk.

So, here’s to Moo!


The Definitive Guide to my Cats, part 1 1

For some reason, there is a growing segment of the campus population that is interested in my cats.  Far be it for me to deny the public what it wants.  Here’s a quick guide for those new to the craze.

Cats: Moo, Sophie, and Tipper
Ages: 13, 8, 1.5
Sexes: Female (spayed) × 3
Rescued: 2004 (Colorado), 2008 (Nebraska), 2015 (New York)

Follow the #cats tag for more information.  Coming up: Moo’s biography.


Surrounded by inspiring people

The two other REU mentors, Erin McNicholas and Colin Starr, are incredible people.

Erin is one of the PIs for the grant that’s funding the REU for the next three years. Colin has had this role in the past, too. Aside from the obvious responsibilities that come with that job, there are hidden mountains of paperwork and bureaucracy to summit. Erin is a portrait of productivity. She’s doing the extra work on top of mentoring her algebraic voting theory group, learning new math alongside them, organizing the occasional picnic or outing, and keeping up with her research agenda! Colin spends most of each day working with his students, which is a big time commitment considering everything else a professor has to do over the summer. My only complaint? Erin and Colin haven’t gone to karaoke with me yet. It might be the only activity in which I have a chance of keeping up!

However, I’m not just writing about Erin and Colin because they work so hard for the success of the REU. What impresses me is that they also manage to be excellent parents and spouses.

When I think about my future family, I’ve always got a bjillion career objectives that push the event-horizon further into the future. When people ask about my work-life balance,* I shrug. What balance?

At this stage in my life, as a 30-something junior faculty member, it’s inspiring to be around people who have found that balance. I don’t get the sense from either Erin or Colin that they have compromised or that they have sacrificed being “real” mathematicians or being good parents. When I see them at work and with their families, it’s clear that their successes in each realm amplify their successes in every realm. I am slowly shedding my skepticism of the “You can have it all!” ethos that defines my generation’s values. Maybe it is possible, after all.

Still, tell me to “Lean in!” at your peril. Enlightenment doesn’t happen overnight. 😉

*I will tell you another time how much I resent that this question is put almost exclusively to women!