Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Life at the moment

It’s been a long and tiring couple of weeks since my last blog post.

A little background – I am the Program Officer (research administrator) of a summer mathematics institute for researchers, grad students, undergrad students, college faculty, and high school teachers of mathematics. The summer session is three weeks long, residential for the 285+ participants, and takes place at a conference center in Park City, Utah. I’ve been doing this gig for the last 13 summers, and I really do love the work and the people with whom I work.

I was a much younger and more agile person when I first took this job, though. I’m 51 years old now, and the past year of major hormonal changes, rotator cuff problems, and general aging has taken an unexpected toll. I was not physically prepared for this summer – in fact, I didn’t realize how physically demanding this job is until this summer when I wasn’t ready for it.

My work during the institute requires far more than just sitting at my computer all day – which is pretty much what I do during the year. Instead, I’m moving equipment, running around, up and down stairs, checking this, checking that – in short, everything that goes into running a major event. Couple the increased activity with my hormonal insomnia, and by the end of 12 days without a break, I was so close to collapsing from exhaustion that I was frightened. I’ve never been that tired in all my life. Horrible feeling.

On top of it all, I’ve got about eight participants who are sick – either with the flu (one confirmed, three more suspected) or some other, milder bug. First epidemic we’ve ever had at this institute. Unfortunately, the sick ones don’t want to miss anything and a few of them keep popping in to the sessions and activities, then they relapse and have to go back to their rooms for more rest. In the meantime, they’ve also spread germs again. Sigh.

When our institute dates encompass the 4th of July, our participants get together and create an entry for Park City’s annual 4th of July Parade. This is not your typical small-town parade, by the way. “Whimsical” is one word that comes to mind, “wacky” is another. We are one of the wackier entries, I think, and we are known in Park City (and very much missed in the occasional years when our institute’s timing doesn’t include the holiday). This year the group created a torus out of pvc pipe and balloons. In fact, they created two of these shapes (they look like enormous doughnuts, but have mathematical meaning), and they were carried down the street in the parade. Sandwiched between the two tori was a “Torus Line” – a group of high-kicking participants who sang and danced to a take-off of the song “One” from the show “A Chorus Line.” Great fun – got lots of laughs, too, as we walked along the parade route. I will know later today whether or not we won an award (we usually do, if only because no one knows that the heck we’re doing).

The air conditioner in the conference center building is temperamental. Yesterday I froze to death in my meat locker (oops! office), today I am toasty. No doubt there will be complaints from the meeting rooms. Every year we are assured by the management that the air conditioning system has been fixed/reinstalled/replaced, and every year we have major problems getting the system to be stable. Very frustrating, and one day I hope what they tell me will actually be true.

My mother and my stepfather started on a new regimen of herbal supplements a week ago, and she reports that both of them are feeling fantastic and more energetic than they have in a long while. The herbs may not cure the cancer, but at least she is feeling pretty normal and is much better able to get on with daily life. I like that a lot!

And that’s the news from condo 632.



Christy said...

I'm a few years younger than you but I am definitely beginning to feel the aging process settling in places I never noticed I had...

So glad to hear the good report about your mom!

Catherine said...

Thanks, Christy! I was so glad to hear my mother sounding strong and telling me how good she feels this week! She is scheduled for blood work today or tomorrow -- it will be interesting to see if anything changes in that quarter.

Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

I'm still wondering what "condo 632" is! 8~) Does the conf. center have condos?

People who don't have it, have no idea how debilitating insomnia can be. Hate it.

Also delighted to hear that your mom is feeling good!

Catherine said...

#632 is the condo where we stay at the conference center (where the summer institute is run).