Top 10 of 2011: Looking forward

by Lorien E. Menhennett

I know, I know — 2011 has just started. So unless I count things like sleeping and eating, I couldn’t come up with a true, best-of, top 10 list for this year yet. That said, I do have a different kind of top 10 list to write about for 2011 — a list of things I’m looking forward to, as well as some goals. (And I promise, this is my last top 10 list.)

A third drum roll, please …

Top 10 of 2011: Looking Forward

10. Exploring new music.
Ever since I was a child, I have loved music. Back then, it was mostly classical, oldies, and church hymns; these days I listen more to electronic and industrial rock. I am a bit stuck in a musical rut, however. But with school, I simply don’t have time to comb through the (daunting) depths of material out there. That’s where my husband, Geoff, comes in. He is a true music aficionado, a lover of jazz, blues, new wave, rock, soul, electronic, dance, you name it. We have dedicated an entire room in our house to his music collection (all in all, a few thousand CDs and LPs) and stereo equipment. So his mission is to help me find some new music. Luckily, he knows very well my tastes, while at the same time knowing how to stretch me and encourage me to listen to things that I might find a bit challenging (but enjoyable in the end). It will be a fun, cultural, enriching, joint project that we will do together, and one that will fill our home with beautiful music.

9. Volunteering with Future Problem Solving.
Talk about a blast from the past. I was involved in Future Problem Solving — better known to me as simply “FPS” — when I was in middle school and early high school and living in Tucson, Ariz. Part of my schools’ gifted program, FPS is a written, team-based problem-solving competition. I absolutely loved it, and my three teammembers (one of whom I’m still in touch with), and my coach. We won our state competition twice, and did very well at the international competition level (Australia, New Zealand, and Canada also have teams). My coach also took us to Beijing, China, to present the basics of the FPS program to educators at a national Chinese education conference. But back to the present. My old coach recently contacted me and asked if I was interested in being put on the FPS alumni e-mail list. “Why not,” I said. A few days ago, I got an e-mail from the FPS program. A wave of nostalgia hit me. And I thought how wonderful it would be to help out in some way. I’ve gotten in touch with the Illinois FPS director, and hope to get involved (I’m not sure how yet) this year. Go FPS!

8. Keeping the house cleaner.
I will admit: I am not the greatest housekeeper. Not that it’s the woman’s job to keep the house, of course … but Geoff does other things, such as taking out the garbage and mowing the lawn. So I take on the laundry and basic housecleaning. And I haven’t been keeping up with it lately. It’s hard, with school, to get those things done. In terms of priorities, I’ll put a physics exam above cleaning the toilet any day. That said, I can’t completely ignore the fact that I have a two-story house (three if you count the basement) that needs taken care of. And I rather let it go to seed last semester. I definitely did an early spring cleaning (in December), so it’s nice and tidy now. I intend to keep it that way.

7. Cooking more.
Again, it’s not the woman’s job (entirely) to cook. Geoff and I have always shared this task, thankfully. But last semester, as with the whole cleaning thing, I rather fell off the chuckwagon and Geoff wound up cooking most of the time. Either that, or we wound up eating out. (One of the reasons for #6; see below.) So this semester, I’m stepping up. Not to do it all — but to do my fair share. Because that’s how a marriage works.

6. Getting into better shape.
As I mentioned above in #7, Geoff and I did a bit of eating out (often at our fav local Mexican joint, King Burrito) this last semester / year. Not so good, healthwise. And with a new (and rather grueling) school schedule, I found it hard to fit exercise into my day. So this semester, it’s time to start breaking a sweat again, on a regular basis. No excuses.

5. Pre-med: year 2.
I know, I know … I haven’t even finished year 1 yet (haven’t even begun the second semester of year 1 yet!). But this fall, I’ll be starting year 2, which will bring with it the opportunity to take more advanced classes. I’m especially looking forward to biochemistry, advanced anatomy (with cadaver dissection!!!), and pathophysiology. I can’t wait to get beyond the basics. But I know I have to be patient, because it will be worth it.

4. Researching medical schools.
This is something that stresses most pre-meds out. But I can’t wait to spend more time (I’ve already spent some) perusing the MSAR, scouring med schools’ Web sites, flipping through brochures, calling admissions offices, visiting campuses … I find it incredibly exciting to imagine the possibilities. And they are endless.

3. Spring 2011 research seminar with Dr. Kreher.
Last semester, I spent a good amount of time in my bio professor’s office. Not because I was struggling in the class — I finished the semester with above 100% — but because I enjoyed the material and wanted to … well … go beyond what we touched on in the course. I had questions. Lots of them. And I found Dr. Kreher to be a good sounding board, as well as a passionate teacher and researcher. Midway through the semester, he sent me an e-mail inviting me to take another course with him this upcoming semester — a research seminar course. I was thrilled (and flattered, because I technically hadn’t met the pre-requisites), and found a way to work it into my schedule. Thankfully. It’s a small class, limited to 10 students, and we will be working with fruit flies, bacteria, genetic sequencing, all kinds of cool stuff. I can’t wait.

2. My summer triad.
Yes, this is a rather cryptic heading. But I wanted to mention all three pre-med-related things I hope to do this summer, so I have wrapped them all up into one item here:

  • volunteering more at the free clinic as a Spanish medical interpreter
  • working at the UIC research lab (and hopefully working on my own project, or at least more independently)
  • interning with a physician at a local hospital (part of my post-bac program requirement)

1. Saving up for an iPad (and an iPad bag). 
Am I a techie? I don’t know. But I do know that I desperately want the new version of the iPad when it comes out, supposedly this spring (according to rumors circulating the Web). For e-mailing and Web surfing, of course. But also for reading: I would very much like a portable way of reading books and articles, and of carrying them around with me without carrying around a brick-laden backpack. And I’ve already got an wish list set up of titles that I’m planning to download (eventually). Here are a few of them:

  • Nature’s Robots: A History of Proteins (it’s obvious why I want this one)
  • Zeitoun (the relatively new Dave Eggers book)
  • Generosity: An Enhancement (by Richard Powers, one of my favorite authors)
  • Several Richard Dawkins titles (famous biologist)