Monday, May 23, 2011

Bones, Beaches, and Biochemical Cycling

Dear friends & family,

I'm currently sitting in the middle of a discussion about underwater basket-weaving by two science majors who are devoting their summer to research. Really guys? Underwater basket weaving?

I feel like not much has happened since the last time I updated, except a lot of visiting the beach. And watching Bones.

The Bones is pretty addicting and infectious.  I watched the latest episode with my sister, and FREAKED out realizing how much awesome stuff I've missed!  Then Chris & Ian invaded our house while I was catching up on my brother's netflix, and now we can't stop.  Soooo good. But I'm glad I have Amanda to watch with me too, not just boys. Because they think the things I think are sweet, are extremely cheesy.  Ugh, boys. Also, we have played clue more than you could possibly imagine. 

(By the way their basket-weaving conversation has evolved into that of propagating life on a new planet. THAT'S more like it. :D)

Other than watching Bones and playing at the beach not much has gone on.  I've only learned a little bit about the lab.  Mostly there is a dinoflagellate (a little underwater creature) that produces a precursor of DMS, a chemical that is very key in environmental cycling, and I'm going to study a specific dinoflagellate and its role in the DMS production.  In order to learn lab things I've gotten to use a Gas Chromatograph (which the referenced on Bones)! In the process of that I got to play with liquid nitrogen for the first time ever. Its super easy to use and I'm 100% bummed that Adam Haraburda and I never went through with our fro yo plan. :( After I figure out the Gas Chromatograph, I will get to used a HPLC, or high performance liquid chromatography machine, which is pretty exciting because I haven't gotten to work with a lot of technology.  I feel like I'm already widening my appeal for future employers!!

Also, who wants to hear about food? Everyone? That's what I thought! I love food!  I know you do too. 

My sister and I are planning family dinner this week! Last week she made mama's lasagna, so this week I'm going to make my second ever pot roast in my CROCK POT!! :D  

Then next sunday the REUs are doing potluck dinner. Pocahontas themed (a.k.a Thanksgiving food). We've dolled out turkey, stuffing, corn, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, bread, fruit salad, and pies. Mmmmm I'm SO excited. Then I'm also going to buy things to make minestrone soup again when we go into town so I can eat it for dinner for the rest of the week.  Yay!

Yesterday was a pretty fantastic day of the week, I went to church in a little white church with stained glass windows with Amanda, my roommate, and then we came back, I watched bones, had some bible time, got all my laundry done, AND cleaned my room.  Isn't that fabulous?

Okay. So Ian, Amanda & Chris want me to mad libs on my blog as a farewell. Here we go:

Mad Lib:

The Beach

Hooray! Summer is finally here, and that means we can go to the beach! Today, my family is going to Dauphin Island Beach, and I can bring a friend with me. I decide to invite my best friend Chris' Girlfriend. I know Chris' Girlfriend will want to go with us. She thinks going to the beach is porous!
We start our beach day by watching the sunrise, and then eating breakfast at UncleObama's Pancake Hut. I always get Potato flavored pancakes.
After breakfast we squirt the waves, go mashing for seashells, and secrete a sandcastle. Then we eat the lunch we packed for the beach. It's my favorite—olive sandwiches. The only time olive sandwiches are not so slimy is when you drop them in the sand.
By 2:23, everyone's had enough of the beach. But Dauphin Island Beach is fun at night, too! There is a really despicable boardwalk. It's always crowded with people. Would you believe we saw my teacher Laura Ellis there, eating a huge banana split?
There are a lot of cool shops on the boardwalk. You can get a little hermit Oyster, but make sure your mom and dad say it's okay! My favorite store is the jewelry store. Chris' Girlfriend and I each buy a rope bracelet that will shuck when it gets wet. Pretty shiny!
By 8:00, we're all ready to head home. I usually fall asleep on the ride home. I can't wait to go to Dauphin Island Beach again.

<3 Melissa

P.s. Are you happy Jacob?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sweet Home Alabama

So I think sorta until today this summer didn't really feel real.

Like I knew I was coming, but I didn't REALLY KNOW that I would be here in Alabama doing research all summer.

But this morning I woke up in my Alabama bed, spent the day with my Alabama friends, rode to the Alabama wal-mart, and made my Alabama house a little more homey.  I THINK It might be starting to sink in!  Especially watching my mom go to the airport. That was the least fun part of the sinking-in part.  My truck won't be in texas again for months. Literally. Weird.  AND by then my Texas inspection sticker will be out of date FOUR MONTHS.  :D Oops.

It seems really fun. I met the other REUs (That's what I am, it means research experience for undergraduates or something), and Laura, the girl who is in charge of us, and we talked about sorta what the summer will be like. I'm totally and completely pumped!! We get to spend a night in New Orleans, and we're going on all kinds of trips, PLUS we're possibly touring the Blue Bell Creamery!! Yay!!

Maybe I should slow down and actually say what happened so far. So we checked in yesterday, and got my stuff all dumped in before we grabbed some delicious cinnamon rolls from a super cute bakery here on the Island. Then I went up to Bellingrath Gardens, an amazing estate that they preserved from some head honcho in the Coca Cola company with all these wonderful gardens that make you just appreciate life like 100 times more.  If you're interested look at my pictures on facebook!  They're mostly just flowers and fountains, because normally you can't take pictures inside the estate. It was BEAUTIFUL, they have all kinds of china and bathrooms that match the bedrooms! And the sets were ALL FULL, and I just really love matchy things. :D

Then we got sushi for the first time ever! It was delicious, healthy, and much more filling than I expected. Plus it was a fun outing with my mom and sister, and I felt like I was expanding my horizons. I think my favorite was the shrimp tempora, but I tried raw, spicy, and cucumbery, just so that I could say that I even tried things I DIDN'T normally like.

After sushi, we made the trip to wal-mart. I got everything I could think I would need to eat. Especially things you could double-up, like bread and jelly that you can use for toast OR a pb&j!  Lots of fruit, bananas, blackberries, apple slices (although I discovered today that sunbeam makes dried apple slices, so that is DEFINITELY on my next shopping list), eggs for breakfast, all kinds of fun things!  Pretty happy with that, and after I returned I got to meet my housemate, Amanda!  We had a good time, but both fell asleep super early like old ladies, we were exhausted.

Today, I woke up early to take mom to the airport. That was the weirdest feeling ever. I mean, we always leave Alabama, and leave RENEE here. I've never been on the other end of that transaction! It made my heart sink a little. I've been realizing for the first time what a home body I am. I've never been more than a few hours away for more than a week.  THREE MONTHS IS A LONG TIME.  A tiny part of me keeps freaking out, but I try to shush it and put that in the back of my mind.

Then the party started!! I went to wal-mart with Amanda. She didn't have any groceries, and it is TOTALLY not fun to shop alone.  We also decided that our very inhospitable bathroom needed some sprucing up, with as little as money as possible, so we pooled our money and our efforts to get a cheap towel for a bathmat, shower curtain, and some seaside decoratives to perk things up. I think it looks pretty fabulous, if I do say so myself :)

I like that the colors of her room AND my room are incorporated in the bathroom, and that the bathmat towel matches the clock so perfectly!  Then we hung up hooks by the door...

... looks so homey! Yay!!  Now I'm going to go enjoy my new temporary home :)

<3 Melissa

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Um.. I'll take... Door # 3?

I saw this quote today when I was stumbling.  It really made me think, because, in case you didn't know...

I LOVE school. I mean, I REALLY LOVE it. Like, a lot.

But unfortunately I haven't been so fabulous at it for the past couple of semesters. Don't get me wrong, I've still LOVED it, but Life has just gotten in the way of the grades.  Its kinda a sore spot for me.

So, OF COURSE I grit my teeth, and tell myself that I will do better next semester. Which is what I told myself last semester. And I did, but just not good enough for my own standards.  So what can I do?  I can be strengthened from the experience of not living up to my own goals, standards, and potentials, or I could sit here and cry.

WELL I'm not really a crier (except that I am. Just not in this situation :P).

So I guess my decision is made!

I will do better next semester, just like I did this semester.

And in the mean time I will ROCK. IT. OUT. when I research in Alabama this summer.

I have to let the part of me that is disappointed in myself go, so that I can focus on moving on and doing better. Not letting it destroy me or define me. It's hard, because I often just beat myself up. But "Life is a series of self-evaluations and self-improvements," according to Dr. Pantano. And I feeeeeeel like he might be right! Especially because his class was my favorite this semester.

On a lighter note, I would just like to stop and take a minute to point out how fabulous it feels to take care of your world, your home, and your body.  Recycling is the best!  Taking time to focus on my health (in conjunction with my faith), and just generally thinking about how to maybe give back to the world, even if it is just a little bit, is always a fabulous feeling. Just try it! Just puuut the bottle in the recycling bin. You can do it, I promise!  AND upon placement in the bin, take a moment to revel in it. :D There, isn't that wonderful?

The whole taking care of your home thing is a direct result of the lackthereof on my life.  My apartment, my truck, and most of my clothes are a complete and total MESS. And let me tell you, it really just throws off your mojo. Okay? So take a minute. Do something good for yourself. Eat a package of apple slices. They wake you up in the morning more than a cup of coffee, have excellent fiber that kick-starts your metabolism, and if they are already cut, they're just ready for you to go!  Then, when you finish, you can throw the trash into the recycle bin, and complete a wonderful morning on the way to your spiffy-clean and vacuumed car.  Trust me, it's the little things. :)

<3 Melissa

P.S. This one is dedicated to Melena! Because if it wasn't for her fabulous trip, I would be too busy to write this :) I love you, and stay safe in California! Your safety on your flights is on my mind and in my prayers :)