Eclectic summary of the week
Also, I wanted to mention that if you don’t want to see yourself in my blog, let me know. It’s no problem to me! I can tell you that I will never bash anyone here – or repeat information or conversations I feel are too personal. People have told me things that I’ve never repeated to another soul and that will die with me. Unlike some, I don’t have a problem keeping things to myself. I don’t even give all the details I could about the stories I *do* have here – just enough to accomplish the purpose.
The purpose of the God blog is to talk about what the Lord has taught me during the week. The purpose of the science blog is to tell stories about what happened in lab – progress or otherwise – make it funny and just generally talk about science. Sometimes, they’ll mix. Anything outside of that doesn’t go here. I thought about this on Monday and felt it was worth mentioning, even if unnecessary.
Starting Off on the Wrong Foot
Because I began the day believing lies of the enemy. If you believe one, a hundred more immediately besiege you. None of them even had to do with lab – it was all related to this blog, actually. All of it untrue. But it *felt* really real at the time.
Unlike what some might think, I don’t find it easy to write a blog. I actually find it very difficult. I’m not fond of letting anyone but my closest friends know what I’m thinking. John talked it over with me and said I was fearing rejection, which is true. On Monday, I was convinced everyone would hate me and forever avoid me, because I’m too weird. He said, “You’re in a Ph.D. program for chemistry. *Everyone* is weird there.” Point.
In either case, it doesn’t matter, because I’m not writing for me or anyone else. The Lord told me to start writing these. So, it’s His business. I think it’ll work out all right. When I started this website and list of blogs, I *assumed* no one would ever read it, of course. To my ever increasing surprise, I find that some people actually do – or parts of it. This will never cease to amaze me. If anyone ever reads the whole thing – may God bless you and have mercy on you. I write far too much.
Growth of Worry Like a Fruit Rot
I talked to Dr. Salaita in the morning, which was great, until I said something that seemed to stress him out. As the day wore on, I became more and more stressed about nothing. And, whenever I saw or talked to Dr. Salaita, he was reflecting expressions to me that I recognize from myself when I am feeling miserable about something. So, I quickly began panicking about *that.* I was convinced it was my fault. I wanted really badly to fix whatever I did and make him not stressed, but the more I worried and tried, the worse he looked.
Nervous Collapse and Rebuilding
I got home and clung to John, who’d had a miserable day as well, and said, “John, sometimes, I just wish I could be normal.”
John smiled and said, “No, you don’t. Normal sucks.”
I can’t tell you how incredibly encouraging that statement was! John *always* knows what to say to make me feel better.
We went to Chili’s and had the most wonderful nonsense conversation we’ve had in a long time – all the way there and continuing into the restaurant. It was wonderful.
//Example – John’s humor//
Me: Do you want to wash your hands? [hint hint]
John: No. I’ll just wipe them on your food. And then you’ll emit this high pitched scream and flip the table at me. And people will ask me, “John, what happened to you?” “I wiped my hands on my wife’s food and she hit me with the table.” I can think of few atrocities worse than soiling you with dirty things.
This had me laughing hysterically before we even got in the car.
Later, John told me about one of his weird customers that was really furious because there was a huge orange stripe of paint on the *bottom* of his car. He kept saying, “It looks like I ran over f******* Garfield!”
I asked John if the guy was in the habit of looking under his car all the time. The answer is no. Apparently an auto shop who changed his oil told him about it. John placated him by getting the underside of his car painted with black paint.
We talked about all the stuff I was worrying about. John helped me reconcile a lot of it and prayed with me. It was all an intense attack of spiritual warfare that I bought into hook, line and sinker. He said something similar almost happened to him that day.
Exercise to Remove Lies – And a Realization
I did this when we got home from Chili’s and then my prayer partner Esther called me. I had called her earlier in the day and got voice mail. I talked to her for nearly an hour. By that point, I had relinquished all my worries except for Khalid. I told her, all I wanted was for him not to be stressed. It was causing me such unbelievable pain. Just as I hung up with her and was about to go to bed, a picture fell into my mind of what had happened. I think it was probably the Lord, showing me the obvious again.
It was something like a domino effect: I said something that made Khalid look stressed, and then I started looking stressed because he looked stressed, which made him more stressed, which made me more stressed – ad infinitum into a spiral of doom.
I stopped and thought, “Oh.”
So, obviously, the solution was for me not to be stressed. I decided that, hopefully, that would break the negative cycle and Khalid would recover. The only way for me to be unstressed was for me to surrender him to the Lord. I had to learn that with Bijoy. So, this week, I relearned that with Khalid.
I predicted to myself before I ever started working that something like this could easily happen. When one of us is excited, that also seems to stack.
Differences Between Khalid and Bijoy
For the longest time, I thought that Bijoy had only one expression – solemn disapproval. His face never changed. Then, I eventually learned that he did have other expressions – they were just very minute. And he wasn’t necessarily disapproving all the time. That was just his face. It took me a while, but eventually I learned to recognize his other expressions and what each meant.
He also didn’t talk much. The longest conversation I had with Bijoy was probably 10 minutes – and that’s pushing it. I maybe had two of those in two years. Fifty percent of our conversations were under 2 minutes. The other fifty percent were under 1 minute. Bijoy would talk for about a minute and then seem to think that was enough talking, and he had to go work again right away – or read something.
However, Khalid will talk to me for nearly 30 minutes about nothing much, if I ask. He did this Monday – it was gloriously amazing. I enjoyed the entire conversation. My enjoyment was only exceeded by growing amazement the longer it lasted. Sometimes, I still forget that he isn’t like Bijoy.
Also unlike Bijoy, he’s very exuberant and has thousands of different expressions that change depending on the situation. (!) It’s somewhat of an overwhelming flood and is one of his many charms. However, I do have to be careful it doesn’t also drive me nuts. I like to understand what someone’s expressions mean. There’s no way I can interpret that many.
Learning Bijoy’s reactions and then working for Khalid is a little like going from straining to hear a barely audible radio to one suddenly on full blast. *BOOM* I don’t have to look for Khalid’s expressions. Compared to Bijoy’s, they jump up and slap me in the face. He’s really easy to read – but not easy at all to understand, half the time. I feel like – ahh!! Too much data!! I don’t know what half these reactions mean!!
I can easily end up worrying. After all, when I’m confronted with something confusing and that I don’t understand, my natural reaction is to want to puzzle it out. Only, that’s not really possible in this case. There was one time Khalid reacted differently than I expected (which happens decently frequently). I think I eventually figured out why, but it took me nearly two weeks of thinking about it, off and on. >:[
This week, I had to give that up. It’s a ticket to an early grave. Once I realized what I was doing – I didn’t fully realize, until this week – it was easier to short circuit. Esther and I understand each other, on this point. Our personality requires that we must short circuit whatever we don’t want to think in circles about.
What Not to Do – A Lesson I Re-learned
I haven’t had a boss I liked more than Khalid since Ms. Harmon at Oxford, one of my best friends. Ms. Harmon and Khalid I feel like are science parents to me – I feel about them like my mom and dad. Science parents, or super heroes. Or both. You get the idea. I’d imprinted on Khalid long past the point of no return probably two weeks *before* I started working, and after one month – yeah, no going back.
This is not unusual for me. When I find a place that’s wonderful, I put down roots. Oxford was one of those. The Salaita lab is the second one the Lord’s given me. Ms. Harmon is fond of saying to her students, “I’m not your mother!” Which is ironic, since I think of her like a second mom.
Therefore, I can easily make my boss an idol – a.k.a., put he/she before the Lord. One does this every time one tries to please anyone more than the Lord. That’s always a recipe for disaster. It never works, in any situation. Even the nicest person is impossible to please ALL of the time. When I worked for Bijoy, I had to unlearn this – and it was one of the most incredibly painful lessons of my life.
How does one surrender one’s boss to the Lord? Acknowledge that one works for the Lord first, not anyone in particular. Remember that it’s not your responsibility to make someone happy or unstressed. That’s God’s job. I asked the Lord to take it away from me, because I cannot physically do it. It’s one of my biggest weaknesses. I think the Lord has to bring you there. I don’t know if I would have really been *able* to do that two years ago or even know what it meant.
In this case, it meant that I had to give up trying to make Khalid happy and especially, give up worrying about him. I’d give my right arm to see Khalid not stressed, but I can’t make that happen by force of will. I suspect that Khalid might be of similar mind. He wants me to be happy and unstressed. We were both trying so hard to do this that we worked at cross purposes and annihilated each other – matter and antimatter – or something.
Tuesday, a Day of Peace
When I drove to Emory and prayed around the building, I asked the Lord to take my worry away from me and surrendered to Him, among other things. To my amazement, He did this. It amazes me every time that when I surrender to the Lord, He takes care of me. I was entirely peaceful the whole day. Tired. But entirely peaceful.
I got to see Dr. Saadein! That made me SO happy! He’s my former organic chemistry teacher at Oxford and one of my good friends, who I have done SI sessions for the last three years and known for five. He even came to our wedding! He always teaches in the summers at Emory, second session. I’ve attended some of his lectures there before.
He told me he was going to come on Monday to see me, but he never did. That was another discouraging point of Monday (spiritual warfare, anyone?). But it turns out, he just got side-tracked and forgot. We got to chat, I showed him the lab briefly and he made sure that he had my number so he could keep track of me better in the future. He said he’d wanted to call me, but forgot he’d put my number under “Jessica” instead of “Petree.”
Wednesday, the Long Hello
So, on Wednesday, I was happier and more peaceful than I’d been even last week. It was almost weird. Yvonne even commented on it. “You look *happy* today!”
However, as the day wore on, I was still peaceful, but the temptation to want to talk to Khalid myself and fix things started becoming unbearable. I asked the Lord to please, work something out by the end of the day, because I wasn’t sure how much more I could take. I felt as if it was a selfish prayer. But the Lord had mercy on me, and answered it anyway. He also sent me lots of little blessings that were encouraging the whole day. God is amazing.
Khalid came by and said hi randomly and seemed normal. I was so incredibly relieved I thought I might cry. I hadn’t even realized I was that tense.
I’d have been fine with that. But, when I was walking down the hall later, he snagged me and started talking to me with his usual good humor like nothing had happened. It was just what I needed. I felt as if I melted into a puddle of happiness at his feet. All my previous tension fled. That was only possible, because I didn’t try to do anything myself and had committed myself to the Lord. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have worked.
Later, I talked to him myself – which I figured was ok, since he’d already talked to me earlier – and we might have discovered where my protein is disappearing. He mentioned that I could be losing it while I was concentrating it. For *some* reason, I hadn’t thought of that before. It makes a tremendous lot of sense. Now I’ve got some ideas for how to go about next week.
So, while eating dinner, in spite of frustrating experiments, I was so incredibly contented – peace combined with the best of contentment. It’s hard to describe. I’ve labeled it my “kitten mood” in my mind – the nearest approximation of which is – “kitten curled into a ball asleep on a fluffy cushion before a hearth after drinking milk, purring a deep and resonant purr.”
Experiments this Week
1. I got to discuss sonication with Ashley in the Lutz lab. She recommended doing the Bradford assay during it to determine how long it takes the cells to lyse. Great idea. I found out that my sonication is probably fine. I got gigantic amounts of blue color (indicating protein) after only one minute. Very useful information.
2. Xin in the Weinert lab was really nice to me this whole week and said she’d be happy to set me up with dialysis (the alternative to buffer exchange and concentrating my protein in filters). That’ll be great for this next week.
3. Yvonne showed me how to get liquid nitrogen and use the cryo storage unit thing in the cell culture room – that took me a long time to do – better that I do it once with questionable protein, so that I know how to do it properly when my protein is actually there.
4. I’ve almost solved my gel leaking problems. After trial and error, I’ve discovered the secret appears to be applying grease to the edges of the glass plates and letting them sit for about an hour. If you don’t let them sit, the grease won’t have congealed, and when you setup the plates, they’ll still leak like crazy. I poured some, but they ended up failing anyway, due to bubbles. I think I can prevent that in future. At least, I feel as if I have a better handle on it now.
5. I was able to get access to the Biorad stockroom device dispenser thing in the Whitehead building. They sell a few useful supplies and stock, like gel cassette short plates.
Thursday, July 4th, Restfulness
As it turns out, I didn’t end up working like I’d planned on the 4th. I picked blueberries with my mom in the morning. I haven’t spent much time with her in a while and we had a lot of fun. It took nearly an hour to pick all those – good grief! Those bushes are prolific. It’s important that you pick them frequently. The more you pick, the more they grow.
Then, John and I went to our friend Bryan White’s house. Bryan is an awesome nerd that we’re lucky to know. He’s on one of the two national Warmachine teams for the U.S. that’s going to play in the world tournament in Belgium this year. It turns out, Atlanta harbors some of the best Warmachine players in the country, we hang out with them weekly and John is getting quite good.
He and John played a game of Warmachine and I slept on his couch. Wednesday had been long and I was still tired. It’s a really fluffy couch. His place is the only place I’ve ever been able to sleep besides home and the Petrees. I think that says something good about him. And John was there. Maybe it’s John that’s the common factor.
We got to hang out some more, ate some pizza, then I went home and ate my parent’s ribs and corn. And, my brother James launched fireworks, while we all watched. They were just the little ones – but still fun. All the real ones got canceled by the rain, which was too bad. It’s not the 4th without fireworks!
But, while we were outside launching small fireworks, all the neighbors were out launching *theirs.* Some of them were BIG! It was clear there were some bootleg ones from South Carolina going up. Gotta love it. James grinned at me as we watched and said, “I love our country.”
Friday, Catch Up and Fun
I looked up some articles. Worked on the leaking gels. Went to subgroup meeting – the research was interesting. I am just trying to learn more about what everyone does – I’m very staunch in sticking with a nanoparticle, DNAzyme, synthetic biology kind of thing. But, I think some it could eventually connect to that. I have to think more about it.
Notch is particularly interesting, as are Yang’s gold nanoparticle force sensor arrays. And, I’m always interested to see what Yuan is synthesizing. She and I talked later about her protein, which was fun. She wants my help on Monday with her gels – fortunately, that’s one thing I can do. I’m always excited to help anyone with anything when my so far limited knowledge makes that possible.
Today, a Day for Rest and Prayer
In any case, the Lord asked me to fast lunch and pray for one hour – to draw closer to Him and to pray for Khalid. It’s always been difficult for me to pray for any long period of time, but today was ok. He helped me.
The Lord gave me some great songs to sing to Him, which I’ve included at the bottom of this post. They really sum up how I felt today, when I was thinking of Him. I’m so honored that He even cares about me. While I was praying, I ached for the Lord so much – to know Him better – that I was in tears. There’s really nothing I want more than that. And He’s answering my prayer. It’s just never like I expect it to be or as fast as I want.
I prayed lots of things for Khalid – for those proposals he’s writing – and all kinds of stuff and also for Meisa. Whatever I thought the Lord wanted me to. I felt like the Lord told me today was important.
Whenever I pray for Khalid, I tend to see big eye glasses in my mind. If you'll recall, earlier I mentioned that Esther and I both tend to see things sometimes when we pray. They were eye glasses like – you know the kind that jewelers use to look at diamonds – those kind that are made to look at really small things and make the person’s eyes look huge when you look through them the wrong way? Those kind. I’m not sure precisely, but, I think the Lord’s told me it means that he’s looking for something, so I’ve been praying that he sees it, whatever it is, that the Lord makes it obvious to him.
I finally figured out today why I feel that Khalid’s talking to me like an equal is better than the other professors – because the other professors are also nice in that way, but not exactly the same. I couldn’t put my finger on it before.
The other professors – Dr. Lynn, Dr. Weinert, Dr. Lutz, Dr. Conticello – etc, talk to me with respect, as if I’m someone who could become important and worth listening to. Khalid treats me with respect, as if I already am someone important and worth listening to AND can become even more so. That’s such an incredible gift and an honor – one I certainly don’t deserve or feel worthy of. No one has ever treated me like that. It’s almost like total acceptance – which leaves me with such a heady feeling of happiness, and is probably just about the very best thing anyone that’s not John could ever give me.
I’m looking forward to seeing more of what the Lord is doing! I don’t know exactly what it is – though He’s always giving me tantalizing hints. All I know is that it’s really big.
Appendix: Songs the Lord Gave Me
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