Category Archives: NPS Work

Work and Grad School


The picture at right is my view for the next two days straight… and probably many more, too. I’m getting into crunch time. I have less than a month left in my first semester of Grad School at Johns Hopkins! I am excited, stressed out, and exhausted all at once. I absolutely love my courses (Water Resources Planning and Smart Growth/Urban Revitalization), but whoever even thought about working full-time and going to grad school part-time should be smacked. It’s impossible. My days are constantly consumed by working all day and feeling guilty about leaving work on time and then working at night and feeling guilty about stopping to go to bed or eat dinner or heaven forbid, do nothing. Any free time that I find I constantly feel guilty and like I am wasting that time that could otherwise be put to good use.

This begs the question… did I make the wrong decision to go back to school right now? No. I am glad that I did. As I mentioned before, I love my classes; they are interesting and I’m learning a lot. Do I think that writing 3 papers a week for one class is a little excessive, yes, I do. But, that’s life. The crunch time now is spent attempting to write and edit my term papers. They aren’t really long, but they require even more work because there is a page limit. I often think to myself, one more month and I’m done. I’m free. Then it kicks in. Calculus II. I still have to finish Calculus II.

Before I started this blog, I signed up for Calculus II as a requirement for my grad school program. I have to finish it before the Spring semester begins. I worked on it here and there when I first started it out– I made progress. slowly. Now I am at a point where I am wondering how I am going to finish it. It is a mastery course that consists of about 128 assignments (including 4 exams). As a mastery course, you have to continuously revise your homework until you get 100% on it. The idea is that you walk away really understanding the program. Great in theory, but I am on about assignment #25 and I have a few corrections to make to a handful of previous assignments. My fear is that if I wait until my classes end to re-focus on Calc, I will NEVER have enough time to finish everything including a final proctored exam in time for Spring classes.

Of course in the midst of this funness of work and school I am stuck wondering if medicines will work on my AS and if my pain will decrease and my exhaustion will be squelched (hehe I like that word). In the past two weeks I’ve had an increasingly hard time using my fingers and wrists- they seem to get extremely sore and tight… to the point where I was spraying a spray bottle of cleaner and had to stop because it hurt so much and I felt like I didn’t have the strength. It sucked. It makes me wonder if this will be a re-occurring issue that I will be facing and if so, I will need to figure out a way to handle it; much of my job and certainly the majority of my schooling revolves around typing so that is a must. Guess we’ll see what the Rheumy says at my follow-up appointment next week!

I supposed I will close with this; this is a HUGE shout out to anyone who is working and going to grad school at the same time- I feel your pain.

~Stress is waking up screaming only to realize that you haven’t been sleeping~


Things That Go Bump in the Night


As a recap to my travel post here, I have now completed my recent work travel binge because of Recovery Act oversight dollars. Between July 15th, 2011 and September 26, 2011, I have traveled approximately 23, 100 miles. I have spent at least one night in 16 states. Eeks!

But onto other things… this morning I had my appointment with the Rheumatologist. He was super friendly and listened to me as I recounted my stories and sagas of aches and pains and creeks and cracks. I always feel bad complaining to doctors, but I guess that’s the point, right? Anyway, he moved a bunch of my joints and asked a bazillion questions and reviewed my SI joint xrays and then excused himself from the room.

He returned a little while later to tell me that it appears that I have at least sacroiliitis. It basically means inflamed SI joints. This could be tied to a variety of other issues including auto-immune diseases, issues with my spine, etc. So, he prescribed an anti-inflammatory that he says will be better than Nabumetone (one I was on before). This one is something with an M… can’t think of the name right now. He also told me I was to get xrays of my knees, MRIs of my hips and spine/lower back, and then bloodwork to see if it is an auto-immune issue.

I got my xrays and my bloodwork done at the office. I passed out from giving blood, per usual. I’m not sure what my issue is, but I just pass out… the nurse was super nice and helped me come back to with some smelling salts. Yay! Anyway, at least I have a portion of an answer– yayyy Rheumatologists!

So now it’s on to bigger and better things— and I’ll be back to go over all my test results in two weeks. For now I’m off to go home and make some dinner, do some work, and hang out with Andrew and Franklin. Perfect evening!

Nashville, TN- Who Knew They Even Served Mexican Food?


Back to my epic travels. I haven’t yet blogged about my adventures in ME, VT, and NH, but I’ll get to that down the line. This past Monday afternoon, I flew off to Nashville, TN for work. I was meeting with folks in the Department of Environment and Conservation. In case you’ve never been to Nashville, here it is…

Anyways, it was a pretty good trip. There weren’t any “site visits” involved per se, but I did get a nice walking tour of the city. I lucked out with my hotel choice, a Courtyard Marriott directly across the street from the state building (hello awesome commute)! It was a very informative discussion about the water quality management program and the nonpoint source program (604b and 319 for you wonks out there). I got to learn about the work they’ve doing and some of the challenges they’ve been facing in regards to dwindling resources, being force to cut staff, and frustrations with “the people of DC” as they put it.

With each additional state that I visit and program that I learn about, it always amazes me at the amount of work that states do, the amount of stress they are put through, and the types of obstacles they encounter. As I become more involved with the 604b program, I really think that these trips well assist me in making it a more directed and worthwhile program… and hopefully, someday, I’ll be able to answer some of those ever-elusive questions that states always pose to the people who are too far down the totem pole to be able to answer.

Between working, the good folks of the Department of Environment and Conservation so graciously “toured” me around downtown Nashville. I got to see a newly revitalized section of downtown that’s been changed into mixed use and made pedestrian-friendly (my grad school smart growth and urban revitalization prof would be so proud). I also walked across a massive pedestrian bridge and checked out the Titan’s NFL stadium… all while the paddle boat (in the picture above) passed underneath us. I also got to walk by CMT and share in the excitement as people cheered for Journey (in concert on Tuesday night… WHY DIDNT I KNOW UNTIL IT WAS TOO LATE!??!). My last meal in Nashville was Mexican, yes, Mexican. I didn’t even know they served Mexican in Nashville. They do… and for the people who were born and raised and lived their whole lives in TN, it’s the best Mexican that ever existed.

I like people from TN, they have big ideas, big opinions, and a gentleman’s attitude. It was a quick and dirty 48 hour trip. I’m back in DC now until Sunday. Then it’s off to Jackson, MS.

IDEM: Indiana Department of Environmental Management


This week’s trip sent me to Indianapolis, IN. Well, about 9 miles from the city center, so not really Indianapolis, but close, just the same. Apparently, the IDEM had some re-organization done and the watershed folks/Nonpoint Source Pollution folks are located out on Shadeland Ave.

Shadeland Ave should not be confused with Shadeland, Indiana, a town about 1.5 hours from Indy that is near Purdue. I made this mistake originally and was left cramming in some last minute travel arrangements about an hour before I left DC.

So, the purpose of my visit to IDEM, you ask? To meet the staff, listen to to their thoughts and experiences on the 319 program, GRTS, and finally, assist the Region 5 Grants manager in a 604(b) ARRA onsite review. For those of you new to the “environmental-speak,” click here for some quick definitions.

The site review basically consists of speaking with each of the project officers about the work that is being done, how far along the projects are, any obstacles or challenges they are facing, how much communication they are having with the pass through organizations, and any other questions we may think of to ask. In addition, we collect all of the grant files and go through them with a fine-tooth comb to look for inconsistencies and data gaps, indications that work is being done as planned, to see if money is being used legally, and to determine if work is properly recorded and the files are complete.

I think a lot of states probably see us as the ‘bad guys’, but really, we are the good guys. It is our job to go through these reviews and to help out and act as buffers prior to any possible audits. The audits are when you want to be spick and span- 100% organized and precise. Anyway, we go through the files, interview the folks, and then pull together and exit review/findings. We’ve been meeting with IDEM since Tuesday and plan to wrap-up on Friday morning at some point. The work is interested and the people are friendly.