Impulsive Inquiry

uncontrolled questioning of the world I perceive.

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glimpse the glory of neuroscience

This is what I did at work today:

2014-03-28 09.45.31

I am now off to wash ten tons of exfoliating gel and conductive saline goo out of my hair.

Happy friday!




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“I mock you with my monkey pants” or why I speak the way I do

OK blog-world, I think our relationship has reached that special point where I can confess one of my deepest secrets to you.

All those clever, hilarious things I say? I didn’t come up with them. Well, that is not entirely true. If I am ever clever or hilarious is up for debate, and much of what I say, I do come up with, BUT, a good portion of what comes out of my mouth (or pops into my head) is straight out of a tv show, book, movie, or song.

More importantly, the way I in which I speak, my cadence and word choices are hugely influenced by my media consumption.

Still there? Haven’t given up on me?

Let me explain.

I really enjoy both confusing people and entertaining myself. These joys can be found by inserting quotes or paraphrasing ideas that I have retained from consumed media into conversations. Look at it as a private joke with myself. Sometimes other people get it, sometimes not, but I love it.

Now the real question is “What in the heck kinda media influence taught you to speak in such an odd manner anyhow?” The answer to that, ladies and gentlemen, is two brilliant tv shows: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Gilmore Girls. Yes, I am stuck in the 90s (well, early ’00s too).

Every time I rewatch those two shows (yes, they are both seven season long, and yes I have rewatched them both in their entirety multiple times) I am shocked by how much influence they have had on my speech. It gives me the wiggins. For serious.

The thing is, this is not an “OH MY GOD THE MEDIA HAS TAKEN CONTROL OF MY THINKING AND WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE OR MOVE TO HOLLYWOOD” scenario. I am sharing this because I believe that these two shows helped me to speak better.

let me repeat that. TV helped to improve how I spoke. It is true. The shows I latched onto in my vulnerable teen years are two smart, witty shows. They modeled how to speak well and never dumbed their dialogue down.

And that is precisely how I speak. I learned to love big words, pop culture references, and crazy slang from these shows and I choose to emulate that model. I won’t dumb down what I say, but I will define words when people ask.

It is true that I come from a well spoken family that values education highly, but that is not why I speak well. I speak well because it is cool. I know it is cool because Buffy, the Scoobies, and all the residents of Stars Hollow speak well.

While it might be argued that the main characters in shows like these don’t “speak like high schoolers” the truth is, they speak how high schoolers should. And what is wrong with that?



For all those not in the know, the quote in the title is from Buffy, Season 2, Episode 10 ‘Whats my line: part 2’.

The full quote is one of my favorite exchanges on television ever, and if you spend any amount of time with me, you probably heard me quote it.

Oz, eating animal crackers: Oh, look! Monkey! And he has a little hat. And little pants.
Willow: Yeah, I see!
Oz: The monkey’s the only cookie animal that gets to wear clothes, you know that?– You have the sweetest smile I’ve ever seen.– So, I’m wondering, do the other cookie animals feel sorta ripped? Like, is the hippo going, “Hey, man, where are my pants? I have my hippo dignity!” And you know the monkey’s just, (French accent) “I mock you with my monkey pants!” And there’s a big coup in the zoo.
Willow: The monkey is French?
Oz: All monkeys are French. You didn’t know that?


Some time I will share how Buffy was the first television show I ever watched (due to my tyrannical no screen upbringing) but that is a different story.


Unexpected friendship

I know that everyone always say that they have the greatest friends ever, but with me it is true. For serious, my friends are the most amazing, supportive, goofy, brilliant, wonderful (I could go on and on but I will get to the point) human beings that anyone in the history of the world could ever imagine. And now you have to believe it because you read it on the internet.

Today I am writing to recognize a friend I found through a random act of the universe.

I am talking about the person who inspired me to start a blog in the first place. The credit (or blame) for this creation goes to Michelle, mother to the triplets I used to nanny for, and a friend found in a very unexpected place. (Her blog is called Maple Leaf Kitchen)

Before beginning my job with the triplets (who I will call Jam, Roo, and Peanut) I had worked in preschools, day cares, and as a nanny, in two states and three countries. Most of my nanny positions were for twins, so I thought I knew how to juggle. Emphasis on the word THOUGHT.

What I didn’t take into account was not only would I be watching three babies (they were almost four months old when I started) but I would be spending 50 hours a week with their mother as well. Additionally, I was applying to grad school and adjusting to life after college. I thought I could handle it all.

I was wrong.

That year turned out to be one of the most challenging, frustrating, disheartening, and wonderful years of my life so far. By end of my time with their family I had:

  • Lost love
  • Found love
  • Moved out of my parents house
  • Applied to grad school
  • Learned how to feed a baby while jumping up and down
  • Got rejected from (most) grad schools
  • Had approximately 200 five o’clock dance parties
  • Decided not to go to grad school
  • Survived the loss of my grandfather
  • learned how to take three babies out at once
  • Reconnected with old friends
  • Made new friends
  • Ate a million humus, cheese and pickle sandwiches
  • Celebrated the babies 1st birthday

and found a friend in the most unusual place.

In my previous experiences as a nanny, I connected with the kids but not their parents. Except for one other wonderful exception, parents don’t usually encourage me to maintain contact with their families. Also, I was usually leaving to go back to school.

Luckily for me both Michelle and Alan opened their hearts and have continued to do so. Which I appreciate more than I could ever express. Also, if I had to cut off contact with my three loves cold turkey, I probably would have just shriveled up and died.

Instead I found inspiration and support. I figure, if someone has to spend 10 out of every 24 hours, 5 days a week with me, either one (or both) of us will end up dead, or, more optimistically, we will become friends.

And here we are both alive and kickin’ almost three years later.

It is way to late to make a long story short.

Michelle has been, and continues to be, an inspiration, role model, confidant, support system, editor, book recommender, teacher, cheerleader, and friend to me. I honestly can say, I don’t know how I would have gotten through the past few years without her.

And you have to remember, while doing all of this for me, she is one of the most amazing mothers I have ever seen.

For triplets.

Take that in for a second.

Really this post is a huge thank you to her and her entire family all of whom I love. (Even Rich :D)

So I leave you with this ultimate cuteness:

Peanut, Roo and Jam

Then:                                                         and                                  Now:

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Edit: 3/31/14: I would like to add that Michelle received an honorable mention in the ‘Family and imperfection’ writing contest over at Five Kids is A Lot of Kids. Follow the  link to read her amazing writing!

Edit: 12/6/15: Sometimes I feel like this just isn’t written well enough to express how much I love Michelle (and of course the rest of the family), or how much I value her presence in my life and her support, or how freaking awesome she truly is. Honestly. I want to be her when I grow up.

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On my own…here we go

As an insomnia plagued teenager, the Green Day song ‘Brain Stew’ was my anthem. From dragging myself through class to lying in bed repeating the lyrics, I felt as if nothing could explain how I felt better than that song.

As time passes, other songs have taken the place of ‘Brain Stew’. What these songs have in common is their ability to put into words how I feel about  a specific time or place in a way that I would never have been able to express on my own.

Songs help me explain how I feel about general life, relationships, experiences, and emotions (as I am sure they help anyone else who listens to music). They create associations and give me the words I need. I often struggle to find my own words (as surprising as that may be) and rely on those that are readily available (usually in the form of movie/tv quotes or songs) to express how I am feeling.

As I write this blog I am beginning to find my voice within the context of the written word. It is both empowering as well as frustrating. Groping to use the correct sentence structure, voice, and the oxford comma (thanks Mita!) while trying articulate myself as clearly as possible makes even the smallest expression a chore.

I have always been a talker. I can express anything verbally, but writing is an exciting new challenge. Unfortunately the problem with new skills is their tendency toward rigidity. I know how to write humor (I think). I can figure out how to pontificate clearly enough.

But, what I haven’t learned yet is how to write when I’ve lost my humor and feel opinion-less.

How do I write when I have no words?

When I want to reach out through this medium and don’t even know where to begin.

How do I connect?

I have been with out words today. Full of emotion I wanted to express, but failing to find my voice, both out loud and in writing.

What to say finally came to me when I answered the question of “how are you” with the response “My head feels like it is full of brain stew.”

And I was brought back to that song, which coincidently enough describes how I feel quite well. This time I am dealing with the end of a two year relationship, rather than insomnia, but the connection is the same. The song can express what I have been at a loss to share

So, I leave you with the lyrics.

“Brain Stew”

I’m having trouble trying to sleep
I’m counting sheep but running out
As time ticks by
And still I try
No rest for crosstops in my mind

On my own… here we go

My eyes feel like they’re gonna bleed
Dried up and bulging out my skull
My mouth is dry
My face is numb
Fucked up and spun out in my room

On my own… here we go

My mind is set on overdrive
The clock is laughing in my face
A crooked spine
My sense’s dulled
Passed the point of delirium

On my own… here we go

My eyes feel like they’re gonna bleed
Dried up and bulging out my skull
My mouth is dry
My face is numb
Fucked up and spun out in my room

On my own… here we go

*I edited this the afternoon after it was first posted to make it more coherent.

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My house smells like feet

Confession: I don’t read blogs. I don’t even spend time on Facebook any more (other than to keep my mother updated on my whereabouts). Generally, I prefer to envy other peoples’ lives the old fashioned way, engaging in forced small talk while secretly plotting their humiliating demise, which is (of course) best done in person.

This lack of blog reading (the exception being maple leaf kitchen) allowed me to form lofty goals about what I would say in the blog I would someday have. And so, with images of deep, meaningful contributions to modern thinking dancing in my head, I blogged.

I promised myself that my blog would not be the recordings of my less than thrilling day to day life, but something elevated. Something deeper.

Of course, the reality is, my house smells like feet. I live with four other people, most of whom are actively athletic, and our washing machine has been broken (the new one came today!!!). This is reality. And who am I to try and rise above it?

Hopefully this blog will be entertaining and relatable while also offering up my unique view of the world. But somedays my house will smell like feet and my blog will detail my less than thrilling life. And that will be enough.

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Owning my job title or ‘Toy Waver’ is not a dirty word

For nearly two years I have had the amazing opportunity to work as a research assistant at one of the preeminent developmental neurolinguistic laboratories in the world.  This job has meant working at the cutting edge of science, working on projects that will have a lasting impact on what the rest of the world knows about the developing brain and using the newest technology and techniques for data collection.

It also means that most people have absolutely no idea what I do for a living.

Usually when answering the question “so, what do you do?” the conversation goes one of two ways:

Conversation A

Me: “I am working as a research assistant at a developmental neurolinguistics lab.”

Other Person: “Ahhh. A research assistant. That is interesting. What exactly do you do?”

Me: “Well, we use EEG, MEG and MRI technology to look at how babies process different components of language.”

Other Person: “mmmhhmmm. Well that sounds very nice. What are some specific things you do?”

Me: “Well, I am called a toy waver *the rest of what I say is completely ignored by the other person*”

Conversation B

Me: “I am working as a research assistant at a developmental neurolinguistics lab.”

Other Person: “Huh?”

Me: “I put babies in magnets and look at their brains. I am called a toy waver. Specifically *the rest of what I say is completely ignored by the other person*”

As shown, the outcome of either conversation is the same. And it proceeds thusly:

Me: “Toy Waver”

Other Person: “So you play with toys for a living? That sounds fun! You are so lucky!”

Me: “Well actually, *the rest of what I say is completely ignored by the other person*”

This has led to my rejection of the title ‘Toy Waver.’ Instead I insist that I am a RESEARCH ASSISTANT doing SCIENCE. I do not “play with toys” I HAVE A VERY CHALLENGING AND PROFESSIONAL JOB! I mean it. I do! And toy waving is only one part of my job. I do many, many, MANY other things in the lab. Important, sciencey things. Things that have NOTHING TO DO WITH TOYS!

But recently I have come to realize that people do not denigrate my position out of malice, but out of ignorance. Even within my lab the only people who truly understand are other toy wavers. People who have been there. Who have been drooled on. Which means that out of the total population of the world there are nine people who understand my job.


In the entire world (as far as I know).

In recognition of this, I am going educate rather than lash out. I will replace shame with pride. I will reclaim being a ‘Toy Waver” with my head high.

Here it goes.

A (very, very) brief explanation of what it means to be a ‘Toy waver.’

  • I do not play with toys all day.
  • Toy waving is technically called ‘running subjects for very important science
  • We spend a HUGE amount of time training before we are allowed to run actual subjects. Usually we have to run about 30 subjects before getting the all clear and we still don’t know what we are doing.
  • It is my job to keep a baby (yes a real baby) from getting upset while strangers move them around, restrict their movement and touch them on the head.
  • This is hugely complicated and usually involves the use of diplomatic techniques that the UN would be jealous of.
  • Sometimes it also involves bribery in the form of the ever-coveted cheerio.
  • When the baby moves to the machine itself It is my job to simultaneously navigate them into the right position, keep them distracted from the machine and make sure their parent is in the right place.
  • I then have to keep the baby (who is in a highchair-like seat with their head movement restricted) distracted, quiet and STILL. For 15-18 minutes.
  • By distracted I mean not happy but not sad. Happy is as bad as fussy because both lead to movement which is to be prohibited at all costs. If something stops a baby’s fussing but makes it laugh, I have to move to the next toy. It is a delicate balance of interesting and bland. A true art.
  • Without talking. For real. Absolute Silence.

And that my readers, is an incredibly generalized, very short, quick and dirty description of toy waving. Much like the stay at home parent’s reaction when someone says “you are so lucky you don’t have to work,” when I hear “you are so lucky you just get to play with toys all day” I am hoping that when I *facepalm*  it is my face that the palm hits, and not theirs.