Sunday, May 8, 2011


After  Brandy (my dog that had been a huge part of my life for 20 years)  died and my marriage ended, the kids and I lived with one dog for a couple of months, but I decided we needed some extra happiness in our lives. That happiness came in the form of a dog named Happy, who was always wagging his tail with excitement. We found him at the San Francisco Humane Society. Where Odie (our Australian Shephard mix)  was mellow, Happy was happy. Where Odie was subdued, Happy was happy. Where Odie was lethargic, Happy was happy. Happy always wanted to play; Odie preferred it if he stayed away. Although being a single mother in a large house with two dogs was a huge responsibility, I never allowed fear to dictate my decisions.

In 2006, when unexpected brain surgery complications forced the dogs to live alone for several months, Happy and Odie kept each other company and stayed out of trouble. They didn't escape, fight with raccoons, get unusually dirty, or injure themselves. They saved all of these things for Mommy. The latest incident involves Happy's knee.

He tore his Anterior (Cranial) Cruciate Ligament on his left rear knee. I took him to the vet because he suddenly stopped using that leg. My vet referred me to a surgeon. I did a lot of research on this condition, so I was armed with information at Happy's appointment. After discussing all the options with the surgeon, I decided to go ahead with the procedure to stabilize his knee joint.

In my research, I came across a lot of advice for getting Happy strong again. Prescribed exercises, icing, heating pads, and massage were suggested. Ok, this was starting to sound familiar. As you may know, I am quite familiar with a prescribed exercise program. I always referred to it as torture, but you may know it under
its more common name: physical therapy.

My dog needs physical therapy? Okaaaaay, that's a new one. I didn't know how I was going to do doggy rehab, when I couldn't walk him or carry him myself. Abby suggested, half-jokingly, that I make this a project for a student. I thought this was a great idea, so I wrote up a proposal and showed it to my dean.

The next day, a student with aspirations of veterinary school contacted me with interest. Lisa works with Happy twice a week, and has researched an exercise protocol to strengthen his knee. She made up data sheets for the kids and I to fill out as we implement his therapy each day. Each week, new activities will be added.

Lisa will research which exercises Happy should do AND why they should be done. She will submit an abstract to present this project at this year's SACNAS conference and next year's honor's symposium. Happy's (and our) lemons are turning out to be Lisa's cranberries!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


How do you measure success? Success. When you read that word, what images come to your mind? We all know people that seem to succeed at everything. Everything they try works. They win many awards. They make a lot of money. They are recognized for their achievements. Their health issues are manageable.

Recently, I attended the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival. The program that Abby and I watched showcased films about shark finning, manta ray fisheries and saving whales. Based on the number of people in the theatre, the Festival was a huge success! The producers of the films were able to deliver their message. The shark-finning movie disturbed me greatly. The sight of a magnificent, powerful animal having its fins sliced off, then pushed, squirming, back into the ocean to die, was horrific. It really doesn't seem worth it for a bowl of soup!

Another successful event that I was honored to participate in again this year was the annual Expanding Your Horizons in Math and Science Conference (EYH). Young girls from all around the Bay Area attended this conference, participating in three different workshops throughout the day. Each workshop was led by a woman who uses math or science in her career. Now in its 32nd year, EYH has always been very successful.

These two events, which represent a lot of hard work by a lot of people, were measurably successful. Personal success is sometimes more difficult to measure. Some people measure their personal success by how much money they make. Others measure how much they like their job, how happy their marriage is, or how many friends they have. Part of looking for and accepting cranberries in the face of overwhelming lemons is recognizing your own, less obvious, successes.

I had four book presentations last month, and if I measure their success solely by the number of books sold, they were not very successful. But, still looking at this from a marketing perspective, telling my story to community groups can certainly lead to more community talks, which WILL eventually increase book sales. In addition, I have been told many times that my story is inspirational, and if I've inspired  even ONE person to continue to work hard despite tragedy, I consider that to be a success.

Part of being able to accept life's cranberries is the ability to modify your goals based on your own achievements or abilities. I'm NOT saying to just give up if you don't reach your goal, or to spin negative experiences into positive ones, but sometimes a modified goal can help you achieve success!