Sunday, February 27, 2011

Diabetic Cookies: Part I

I am not a good cook.
I love being in the kitchen, I love the chemistry of cooking, I love the delicious smells that slowly emerge from the oven, I love the laughter and general happiness that seems to live there. But still, the facts remain, I am not a good cook. Somehow, though I try to be incredibly diligent with the ingredients and measurements, my masterpieces are almost always a flop.

My professor is publishing a book. He's been working on the novel for years now, and when I first took his class almost 2 years ago, I would run up the three flights of stairs to his office to listen to his rants and raves about it. He found an incredible agent and after endless months of editing and drafting, it's been sent to the printers!! Sooo exciting!

Well, in celebration of the exciting occasion, I decided to bake him cookies. Delicious, warm, gooey cookies for him to munch on as he grades papers and revels in his author-ness. I knew this was going to be a challenge not only because I can't cook, but also because he's diabetic. Thus, the challenge is to make sugar free delicious, warm, gooey cookies that he will actually like.

Tonight I tried a recipe for "Soft Cinnamon Applesauce Cookies". Yum, right? Well, though the batter smelled deliciously like Autumn, the cookies themselves turned out ugly, bland and dry. Darn it. I think they're good if introduced as biscuits...but my family won't eat them. Well fine! I'll have lots of cinnamon applesauce cookies for school!

But the fact still remains, Professor Keifer needs his cookies. Tomorrow on my way home from school I'll stop and get some splenda; it has no effect on sugar or insulin levels in the body. Perfecto. We'll see what happens next batch.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Nature of Science

"Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science." -Edwin Powell Hubble

The four heads bend close over the library table. Other students pass by with their backpacks full of textbooks, ipods blaring in their ears, chatting and running to their next class - but not these four. These four sit with lab books open, periodic tables by their sides, working to balance equations and predict complex chemical reactions. Coffee cups and wrappers from espresso candies lay on the table; most of these four stayed up all night studying for this particular lab and they have to concentrate to keep their sleep-deprived minds from straying.

The four heads bend close over the chemistry fume hood and watch as their copper sample dissolves into the concentrated nitric acid. They take notes as plumes of brown, toxic NO2 rise into the air and try to describe the bubbling green solution left behind. Four pairs of goggled eyes scrutinize the exothermic solution and analyze it to determine its molarity, its pH, its chemical properties and the oxidizing agents. The professor sighs as these four remain after lab; debating, talking, attempting to solve the world's chemical problems...or at least the ones written on the whiteboard.

The four heads bend close over the calculus homework. Graphs, derivatives, chain rules, product rules, square roots and exponents glare back at them like personal challenges. TI-83s lay on notebooks and eraser flakes dust the table; remnants of frustrated attempts at solving ridiculous equations. They finish a problem and one of the four checks the answer in the back of the book....suspense....are their calculations wrong? Success! A feeling of victory lights up the four faces as they move to tackle the next equation. They bend once more over the calculus homework; nerdy jubilation driving them to conquer the next one, and the next, and the next.

"The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting waiting for our wits to grow sharper." -Eden Phillpotts

These four pre-med students are uber nerdy. They get maybe four hours of sleep each night. They call each other at 1am to compare answers and talk through stoichiometry problems. They basically own a table in the library. They annoy the professors by asking "why" much too often. They dream about med school and share stories of anatomy labs and volunteering in the ER. They're pretty weird.

But we have a lot of fun.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Homework session

After a weekend of blustering wind and rain, the sun decided to peek out from behind the last few lingering clouds. I love how warm the winter sun can seem after days of a wet, grey existence...amazing really. I think there is an inner-cat deep within each of us; the sun comes out and your soul wants to hug itself and bask in the golden warmth.

I'm curled up on my favorite couch in our livingroom, right next to the big window looking out over the yard. Mariposa the chicken waddles by. A robin tugs at an earthworm. And inside, a pot of lentils is bubbling on the stove. I am surrounded by textbooks, solution manuals, class notes, pencils with chewed-off erasers, and a spoon full of cookie dough. My chem lab notebook lays open beside me; splotchy with reminents of NaOH accidently dropped on the pages. (Side note, if you can avoid it, don't let HCl drip on your knuckles look like they're in their 80s.)

I feel refreshed after this four-day weekend. I'm caught up with homework, ahead in my reading, and ready to tackle a new week. I vote every week be finished with a four-day weekend. It's perfect really.

It Takes A Village

There is an African proverb stating, “It takes a village to raise a child”. It’s truly a thought-provoking concept, and one which I think is beautifully true.

These past couple months have been hard for me personally, emotionally and academically. I have felt so lost, so overwhelmed, so disadvantaged, so unsure of what I am really doing. There have been rough all-nighters working on calculus theorems and chemistry post-labs, 13 hour days at the college finishing homework with tutors, living on energy bars and vitamin water for days straight, and I come home and feel deflated. What am I doing?

But these past couple months have been incredibly encouraging for me. Unexpected words of inspiration and support arrive in my inbox, dear friends drive over just to give me a hug, and people go over and above to support me. How wonderful is that? It is when I feel most frustrated and alone, that God continues to place these wonderful people in my life with little messages of, “I believe in you”, “Keep trying”, “You can do this.”

A surprise, "encouragement" email from a college friend who, unbeknownst to me, is a doctor and knows how hard the journey is. An offer to shadow a practicing physician. An old calculus textbook and solutions manual (from ’83!) from a dear math-geek friend so I can practice derivatives more. An incredibly thoughtful and caring friend in Spain who is praying for me. People who don’t have to take the time, but do.

I feel so humbled and blessed to have a “village” of a couple incredible people around me who want and help me to succeed. I couldn’t do this without you.