Blog

This is not a proper blog, I am aware. Maybe, someday.

An interview with Bernd Sturmfels




I enjoyed watching this interview. Minute 9 on: diversity! Minute 15 on: social skills!

The slow professor... is it possible?

Chicago, August 2021.

What makes us productive? What makes you productive? And fulfilled?

As I start this (first ever!) year of sabbatical leave, I set goals for myself: 1) tie up loose ends, close gaps; and 2) reinvent myself. I'm not entirely sure what the second goal means, but there it is. I will start by trying to reinvent the way I work. Refocus. Grow. Learn again. Slow the hell down. "Smell the roses", how cliche, but how much meaning!

I've ordered the book The Slow Professor, as recommended by a good friend Mara M. Let the journey begin!

The right to 'normal' working hours

Chicago, June 2021.

I feel that many in academia feel like they (and thus all of us) should work long hours every day, year-round, "because we love what we do". It is important to keep in mind our health, and protect those whom we can - namely, our graduate students or younger colleagues.

Take. Time. Off.


Me-time

Chicago, 12. May 2021.

Today I read Ania Grimone's post: "Don't Die Fridays: Sometimes the most effective way to not loose your shit is to loose your shit." Feeling seen? (Read it!!)

I break down. All. The. Time. Ania has taught me to take what I need. Sounds easy? It's not. But, she has also taught me to think about what it is that I need to take.

To feel fulfilled, to feel productive, to feel "in charge" of my own life and time, I need.... space and time to think by and be myself. So, I try to take what I've learned while in Stockholm back in spring of 2011: own the mid-week again by introducing little Saturday! Now, I make Wednesday my favorite workday: I block out all meetings and try to work on a project. It doesn't work for the entire day but does give me a large block of time/space to do what I want, how I want. (Oh, yes, I also pause my inbox.)

Take what you need!!

On interdisciplinary discourse.

Chicago, April 2021.

"Think outside the box." ... Think within a new box?

In my work life, I have been met with countless comments that seemed hostile at a time, and had to really work on figuring out `stubborn' audiences. I am here to acknowledge it is absolutely exhausting to address questions when one feels the audience speaks a different language. What to do?

I've discovered that the difficulties of communication never truly do go away. This is particularly true of communication across disciplines, with different points of view at play who don't understand where the others might be coming from. It is exhausting. But, somehow, it needs to be done. I've had to do it, over and over, to explain my work to mathematicians and statisticians (yes, my own!). I've had to do it in job interviews. I've had to do it at funding agencies. I've had to do it in uncomfortable situations too, while being "grilled".

Are you struggling to explain to someone why what you are doing is important?
I hope you will continue.
I hope you will never get tired of it.
I hope you will see through people and be able to show your viewpoint, highlight your lens.

Because lack of fundamental understanding can also happen within a discipline, and is an indicator of miscommunication, and not bad work. Therefore, being ready to sell, and re-sell, and re-sell (!) your idea/results/methods/approach is something that all of us have to keep doing, and doing for a long time. In some sense, it's part of the challenge and part of the joy and part of the growth mindset.

All the rage.
(Or: the Kilimanjaro of laundry)

Chicago, 9. April, 2021.

A friend (a working mom) sent me this viral comic about working mothers today:


If you are not a working mother, you can easily think it's overreacting. But it is NOT. I've just finished reading "All the rage", a book recommended by another friend (a working mom). Mind you, this is the 3rd book I've read in four years (!) due to ... having zero time for myself for a long time... due to ... being a working mom. Juggling sucks. In fact I can't even juggle. My advice??

If you feel like one of the three women on the left in this comic, I hear you. I fully support you. Fight for what is yours. Take what you need. Complain. Ask for help. Be loud.

I do not have a recipe for success. I do not know how to "do it all". As I've said a million times before, I've leaned into my network for help, advice, support.

But I will also tell you this: in my home, the washing machine is in his lane. The stove is in mine. The dishwasher is in his. The clothes drying rack (well, more like, the dryer & the piles of clean laundry - "the Kilimanjaro", as my mom's friend calls the pile!) is ... sort of in both. And nobody irons (yep, I've taught a class in a wrinkled dress shirt, so what.)

What do you need to get a head start?

Does it cost us anything to show a little more empathy?!

Chicago, 22. March, 2021.

>> A liberating read: Laziness does not exist <<

The pandemic has hit the US a little over a year ago. I thought, OK, we'll deal with this somehow, the health system will be overwhelmed, there will be new policies put in place, there will be measures taken, we'll all do our part, and then it will be over.

On that note, here is a brief reflection on my year. Right before spring break 2020, my grandpa died in Belgrade, Serbia. I was just going to go and spend time with my parents and grandma, since there was no way to make it in time for the funeral, when the pandemic was taking hold and I realized I better not go, else I risk getting stuck away from home, cut off from my husband, son (less than 3 at a time), and daughter (just turned 1 then, and still breastfeeding). So I did not go. Neither did my brother. Shortly after, my grandma was able to leave the retirement home, and a year later I strongly believe that's the only reason she's still alive and COVID-19 has not taken her life. The situation in Serbia is not so great! Many people lost their lives and loved ones.

Over spring break 2020, I worked zero hours. I had packed up my 9 research projects to bring home to work on and wrap up.... right!... Day care closed and there I was, unable to do anything. I am not entirely sure how I even made it through the rest of Spring 2020. My husband worked 10000 hours per week, injured his back and was essentially unable to move for 8 weeks, I still had to cook and do laundry and get groceries. I went in and out of serious depression episodes. All while being of course happy to be with kids for "the extra time"; but that meant I was supposed to have 48 hours in one day to finish everything.

Summer came. "It's gonna get easier." Right, whatever. With playgrounds closed I ended up buying a cargo bike (thanks, tax return!) and hauled my kids around the city - at least we were able to be outside! While grandparents missed us dearly and were lamenting they can't visit, and we cancelled our planned trips to Toronto, Hawaii, and Serbia, we just kept reminding ourselves that we are healthy and that's most important.

Fall came. I broke down crying several times over the workload of preparing a new course, teaching another one, resubmitting a grant proposal, doing a million other things at work and at home, and trying to get reasonably long chunks of time to finish those research projects still waiting. (Not done yet.) SoReMo grew out of the feeling of desperation and the question "what are we really doing in higher ed and who cares?"

All the while, so much suffering around. So much injustice. I stopped reading the news. To survive the year, I leaned in to my network, got support, help, advice, understanding, compassion.

What about my students?? Do they have a support network? How do they lean in and get help? How much must they be struggling if I am having such a hard time, as a tenured professor?! I've seen posts on social media where "professors don't care about theirs students struggles". The gas lighting is unbelievable. Monsters!

It costs you ZERO to acknowledge that other people are struggling.
It does not matter in the least whether you are struggling. Others might be.
Acknowledge it.
Now.
And stop demanding life to be normal when it is not.

Midterm time, Spring 2021. Tired, yet?

I know many of my students are running on fumes. Hang in there. Spring is here (is it?! well, almost!). You're going to do fine. You have an extra week for our class midterm exam. I look forward to meeting each of you one on one for the exam discussion.

If you are not already having fun, then tell yourself to have fun. It's possible. I'm serious. :)

Really not having fun?? OK. Take a break. I did:

On fragility and judgement

11.Mar.2021. Saw this video and had to share. Things are not what you think they look like!

Have you inadvertently misjudged someone recently?

5 thing to know about ballerinas

Feb 2021 thoughts on inclusion

WiSTEM at Illinois Tech. Just equations. Diversity&inclusion initiatives, support groups, mentoring networks.... It is important to be seen&heard! This post today reminded me of the many 'hidden figures' in math and science:

How does your institution address diversity and inclusion issues? What initiatives are you supporting? Are you volunteering to be a mentor to someone (no, they don't have to look like you or talk like you, by the way)?

My one thought today is: Put your actions where your words are.

I promise to try my best.

Oct 2020 class post

Oct 2020 class post

DEPENDENCE


This is a poem I wrote on 4 July 2020.

One of many evenings spent alone on the balcony, pondering life and its meaning.

19 Nov 2020

#MorningRamblings[warning: i did not proofread or edit this. read at your own risk. LOL]

Dear math friends: I MISS YOU.

I miss the community vibe. I miss getting together. I miss the conferences here and there. I miss the motivation. The spark. The "did you know that..." and "how do I...?" and "does anyone know where I can look up?..." and "that's a great idea!".

These days, things are online. So, I look for motivation - online. (Yep you've guessed it: it's not really working out!)

When I wake up in the morning and start thinking about work, having my second cappuccino already, I look for leadership. Who can I aspire to? Who motivates me? Who is driven and infectiously so? Who can inspire me to be my best today?

Unfortunately, I read more email now than ever, and do so throughout the day. I would think that all those amazing work emails and posts (about how great we are, how well everyone is doing despite the hardships, etc.) would provide a glimpse of an answer.

But no, these days, it is kids, friends, and immediate family who send the positive "you got this, you rock" vibe.

I cannot wait to hug everyone.