04 October 2005

Small Miracles

Small Miracle #1: Once again another grant deadline has passed and I have, despite all the odds against it, survived. This one was particularly heinous for a number of reasons. For one thing, one of us helper-types had the audacity to get married right smack dab in the middle of September (how dare she?!), which meant she wasn't there for the flurry of budget-prep and editing that preceeds Submission Day. It also meant that I worked twice as many hours as I actually get paid for for a couple of weeks. That part I don't mind all that much, since I get it back eventually, but for the moment I am Burnt Out.

The second thing that made it bad was that NIH - in its infinite frikkin' wisdom - says that if a grant deadline falls on a holiday or weekend, you have until the following business day to postmark your submission. In this case, that meant everybody had an extra weekend to work on their proposal. In my case, it meant another weekend chained to my computer. Joy.

Finally, we had four going out on the same day. That's not really all that many; I've heard of worse. Hell, I've seen worse. We even had one guy (he's a lab guy, and they're a pretty self-sufficient lot) take care of his all by himself - I mean he did all his own photocopying, binder-clipping, FedExing, everything. I could have kissed him.

Two of the others made the FedEx pick up in our building at 6:00PM, but the last one? Well, that was the killer. There were six subcontracts - SIX. The thing was colossal - we had to send it in a paper box. The body of the proposal and the Appendices BOTH required the use of large binder clips. And forget FedEx, we were still page-numbering at 6:00PM! It took six of us to actually finish it and get it out the door by 7:30PM - five women photocopying, double-checking, binder-clipping and - hovering in the background, I have to say somewhat uselessly - the PI (that's Principal Investigator for those of you who are uninitiated - pray you remain so...).

But it's done, it's finished and I don't have to think about it anymore. Until next time.

Small Miracle #2: I still make milk. It's been six months since she nursed and for the couple of months before she stopped, it was for all of ten seconds right before bed. In other words, there's been very little to provoke lactation for the last eight or nine months, and yet, I still make milk. Not a lot and it's not white anymore. It's more of a yellowish brown, like colostrum. I can't squirt it clear across the room anymore either. It just sort of wells out in tiny little beads that sit reluctantly on the end of my nipples and look around all groggy-like as if they're wondering why they're there.

But all the same, there's still milk and that's what amazes me. It's like my body is holding this capability in reserve. Just in case. Just in case that baby changes its mind, it'll be ready.

Small Miracle #3: You remember Jack, the big, bad spider in the window? Well, Jack ... is a girl. When her abdomen swelled up and got all glossy, I thought it was all the cicadas she'd been catching lately. But then she got me all worried, because she just sat there in the center of a deteriorating web for about three days. Normally, she rebuilds the web every day, so I thought she might be sick. (Are there spider doctors? I was ready to take her in.)

Well, we woke up yesterday morning and there was this magnificent egg sack up in the corner of the window. Check it out, it's the size of a ping-pong ball, fercrissake! And there was Jack, looking quite a bit smaller - since she was no longer pregnant - and moving very slowly like she was exhausted, as well she should be after creating her masterpiece. I'm just so proud! And to think, a few weeks ago, I was terrorized by her!

Unfortunately, the husband says he'll have to move the egg sack, because the babies will hatch soon and they'll be so small that they'll be able to fit throughthe cracks in the window. The three-year-old was well and truly crushed by this news.

"But I want to see the babies!" she wailed, looking at her father like he'd just cancelled Christmas.

Which I guess means she's not so afraid of creepy crawlies anymore either. Then again, I may have done my job too well. When the husband explained that we don't really want hundreds of little Jack's running around our house, she gazed at him agape with disbelief.

"Yes, we do!" she insisted.

Small miracles. Life's full of 'em.

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