2009 theme: Sustainability

i-9dc84d4d9156dccb30d5f62466b4219a-swblocks.jpgLike many others in the blogosphere, I've adopted the profgrrrrl model of defining a theme for each year rather than a list of resolutions. In 2008, my theme was "Seeking Strategies for Survival, Sanity, and Success." As I said a few weeks ago, the survival part was achieved, but beyond that, I'm not so sure.

This year I'm going to take a slightly different tack on the same general idea, and I'm not moving from my spot in the alphabet. My theme for 2009 is Sustainability. As in, I'm going to focus on trying to live my life that is sustainable in the long run for my body, my mental health, my family and my career.

I spent all of last semester frantically running from one deadline to the next, and I constantly felt like I was in triage mode, fighting only the most urgent fires. I was physically and mentally exhausted by the end of the semester, and time with good friends at AGU and concentrated time with Minnow over the last few weeks have only begun to recharge my energy. I am a bit dismayed by the rapidly approaching first day of class, and I already feel myself starting to be sucked into the frantic vortex. But I am trying to stop the rising sense of panic, and while acknowledging that there is a lot to be done, remind myself that I must also allow time, energy, and mental space for things other than the nearest blaze.

Though I claim to have eschewed resolutions per se, I am at heart very much a list maker, so my theme is accompanied by a list of ways that I will seek to incorporate long-term perspective and sustainability into my life. Because these are not resolutions, I will not feel guilty if I don't live up to them, instead I will think of them as guiding principles to help keep me on theme.


  1. Recognizing that graduate students are the building blocks of a successful research program, I will more coherently mentor my students, including scheduling regular meetings and progress reports.
  2. I will limit the number of grant applications that I submit, and I will focus my efforts on projects with larger payoffs and longer time-lines. Instead of submitting four proposals, I will aim to submit only two.
  3. I will transfer the time and mental energy I have used to write grant proposals into writing up papers, with the goal of submitting two first-author papers this year.
  4. Now that I've done most of the tremendously difficult work of developing new classes, I will aim to take better notes and revise my materials as I teach a course, so that I'll have a clearer idea of what works the next time I teach the material.
  5. I will continue to be strategic in my selection of service tasks.
  6. I will continue to seek synergy between my professional career and my women-in-science interests.
  7. I will stay better abreast of the literature by not only perusing abstracts and TOCs, but by actually reading at least one article per week.


  1. I will not begrudge Spouse's working hours and instead I will be thankful that he is working and that I get one-on-one time with Minnow.
  2. I will make dedicated time each day to focus solely on Minnow and enjoy her. I will not multi-task during those times and I will not feel guilty about it.
  3. I will prioritize responsibilities to ScienceGrandma and Brother ahead of career, as much as possible. (ScienceGrandma is having surgery on Friday and will be disabled for several months. Some of that time she will be living with us in Mystery City. Keep her in your thoughts.)
  4. I will continue to push Spouse to address his issues, and I will continue to be dedicated to our marriage, but I will not let his problems be an unending excuse for poor behavior.

Physical and Mental Self

  1. I will regain some control over my body this year. Having weaned Minnow, I need to finally stop eating for two, and I'd like to get my waist back. I'm down with the mom jeans, but I always prided myself on a thin waist and it greatly distresses me to see the paunch there now. My passionate love affair with chocolate and chai will have to be tamped down, I'm afraid.
  2. I've got some kick ass running shoes thanks to Dr. Isis, and I'm actually going to use them on occasion for their intended purpose. But I am not going to commit to ScienceMama's challenge because I want the running to be something I want to do, not something to check off the list in pursuit of a goal.
  3. By the end of year, I will be in a yoga class again. I miss the physical and mental aspects of the practice.
  4. I need to connect with this place where I live and where I may spend the next several decades. In order to do this, I'm trying to take an outdoor picture every day. This will (a) force me to get out of the house/office every day, preferably during daylight hours; (b) indulge my interest in photography and maybe even learn something along the way; and (c) most importantly, help me to see the beauty in my everyday environment and encourage me to seek out the beautiful spots in the surrounding region.
  5. I will take some days and nights away from Minnow and away from work in order to do the things I love by myself or with my friends. There's talk of a girl's hiking or rafting trip this summer, I'm going to ScienceOnline in a few weeks, and my heart yearns for some solitude in the mountains. I will work to make such time away from home logistically comfortable so that when I do go off on my own, I will be relatively free from worry of impending deadlines or Minnow's well-being.
  6. I will start to make our suburban-hell life in Mystery City somewhat more sustainable in the ecological sense, because that is important to me personally and professionally. On top of what I already do, I will start composting kitchen scraps, replace the sunlight-all-around back door, and add insulation to the attic door. I will seriously investigate how to use graywater around the house (we already don't use much water outdoors).
  7. In order to make all of the things listed above come true, I will need to reduce the amount of time I spend procrastinating, especially on the internet. Thus endeth this post.

More like this

According to my self-declared theme, 2009 was supposed to be the year of sustainability. The year when I planned to "focus on trying to live my life that is sustainable in the long run for my body, my mental health, my family and my career." Instead, I feel like I could write another post with the…
It's the end of the year, and I'm feeling a bit reflective. (I'm also avoiding a daunting between-semesters to-do list. When will I manage to take a break?) In a recent comment thread, Female Engineering Professor commented: I often find myself wondering about various random threads on these blogs…
Abel, host of the next edition of Scientiae, has asked us how we balance our summer "musts" and "needs" (work and play). I think I've come up with a personally satisfactory answer to that question: lazy summer mornings. During the academic year, mornings are a blur of getting everyone breakfast,…
Money is on my mind a lot this semester. First, there's the grant writing marathon. And then there's the personal budgetary shortfall. Without a second income, we run a several hundred dollar per month shortfall. I've trimmed the fat from the budget and we're eating through the small amount of…

You go girl!
But seriously, "down with the mom jeans" ?!?!
May I point out the great thing about a really nice pair of dark wash boot cut trouser jeans from Ann Taylor Loft is that male STEM colleauges are not usually fashion saavy enough to know I'm wearing jeans to work. Wide leg trouser jeans often flatter the postbaby body. Mom jeans not so much.

By Female Enginee… (not verified) on 05 Jan 2009 #permalink

Having spent two frantic hours in the mall on Saturday because both pairs of jeans ripped out in the knee in a two day period, I can tell you that I've only found two styles of jeans that fit well and flatter my body. The Ann Taylor loft curvy fit bootcut shown here (Unfortunately, they were out of my size this time around.) and the Eddie Bauer curvy fit jeans shown here. Fortunately, they lack the elastic back of the prototypical mom jeans.

So much for not wasting time on the internet.

I love the photography idea. It's weird to get into a science because of attachment to places, and then move to wherever there's an academic job. (Sometime I should blog about my emotional reaction to Steve Semken's work on teaching place-based geology - I actually cry during his talks. Very unprofessional. Good thing the lights are out for the powerpoints.)

My thoughts are with ScienceGrandma for her surgery, and with you taking care of both parent and child! (And also with the post-weaning body. I trained to run a marathon after weaning my son, and that helped, but then I kept eating like a marathoner while trying to dive back into research and teaching an overload and doing afterschool care and... well, it's a good thing I've got a couple sizes of clothes around for my weight fluctuations.)

Wonderful goals for the year, ScienceWoman! I especially like the one about connecting with MysteryCity through photography. I find myself complaining so much about where I live that I'm probably missing out on a lot of beautiful things.

Thank you for the thoughtful and positive post! I wish ScienceGrandma all the best. Being a graduate student I appreciate #1, under the professional list. May 2009 be fruitful in all aspects.

Great list of goals and am hoping things go well in 2009!

If you need advice on composting, I have some information from helping our apartment complex take those steps. It has cut down quite a bit on our weekly trash bag and we don't have to worry about the summer fruit fly invasion. As an initial step, you may want to see if Mystery City offers deals on composters as many cities are now subsidizing them for residents.

As for the body plan, I always recommend a site like fitday.com to see where your Caloric intake is. It is not always necessary to entirely cut out your goodies. Plus chai isn't too bad with skim. ;) I like coming up with 30 min circuits (e.g. squats, plank, pushups - 3 rounds) that can be done in the house since it can be hard to get to the gym. I find it is a nice way to pick up energy in the morning.

It seems I wear the only size neither website has in stock right now. I might be interested in the cords at Eddie Bauer as long as they are at least as cheap as the site shows now.

I'm not a mom yet and I wear curvy-fit jeans anyhow. I found that boot cut Rider jeans from Wal-mart fit me and my budget pretty well.

Good luck with your goals, SW!