And Now My Watch Has Ended: TGen

My last day was December 4 — the end of a four-year adventure at TGen and the start of a new journey for me.

TGen, the Translational Genomics Research Institute, explores the human genome to find the causes of and develop treatments for complex diseases. A nonprofit biomedical research organization, headquartered in Phoenix, TGen hired me as its first marketing director.

I don’t think they or I knew what we were getting into, but it was a hell of a ride. Every day, I got to work with some of the brightest minds in science and medicine, and they let me tell their stories… in small words and big type so everyone could understand.

And so everyone could celebrate and, more importantly, support their achievements. 

Along the way, we made rap videos and time-lapse installations. We wrote e-newsletters and created ad campaigns. We promoted fundraisers, gave tours and posted patient-stories on social media. We launched a podcast — TGen Talks — to give voice to the people behind the discoveries.

The scientists invited me into their laboratories and lab meetings, and they gave me grace and patience as they answered my (repeated) questions and (painstakingly) explained their work so I could share it with others. They showed me that failure is always an option; that the answers found aren’t necessarily as important as the questions asked or the work put in to achieve the goal; that you can stand in awe of the mysteries of the universe while working doggedly to solve them; and that you can do great things and also have fun along the way.

I am grateful to my friend Troy Richards for introducing me to the organization that saved his life. I owe my eternal thanks to my boss, Galen Perry, for giving me a chance, and I am honored to have worked alongside the hardest-working team in the building, the MARCOM team (an army of seven, of which I was a department of one). I am humbled by everyone at TGen that put their faith in me to tell their stories.

So why did I leave?

It was not an easy decision to make, but growth doesn’t come easily. I have been invited to lead my own team at Barrow Neurological Foundation. I will still be supporting science and working to inspire donors to a cause greater than myself. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid: It’s daunting, but if we’re not afraid, we’re not growing.

My first day is December 17. 

Winslow

January 30, 2004 – August 12, 2018

Winslow supervises the Pacific Ocean

We have no dogs in our house anymore.

For the first time in our marriage, we are two instead of five, or four, or three. Winslow, our sweet old pit bull, died Sunday at the age of 14-and-a-half.

Winslow was not the “Best Dog Ever” — that title will always belong to Coolidge. She had no patience for fetching. She did not grovel for belly rubs. Squeaky toys annoyed her. She was indifferent to treats.

She did not care for walking, but when we insisted, she always paused to press her nose into the same white trailside flower, and she always made a full stop and raised a paw for medical assistance if a thorn brushed against her or an errant fleck of gravel touched her toe.

She was particular about where she sat — her bottom only touched carpet, never tile. She grumbled and grunted with maximum disdain if you were in her spot on the couch, and she leapt at that warmed cushion if you got up to refresh your drink. For being only 60 pounds, she had a knack for maximizing her surface area on the California king, pushing both Pat and me to the margins.

She was a strict enforcer of bedtime: At 7:30 PM (in Arizona or California), she departed the living room for our bedroom with an insouciant sniff. At 8:30, she began to bark her commands to turn off that television, brush our teeth and get in the bed. And if she had to get up in the middle of the night to relieve herself or celebrate the Supermoon, she made sure you knew that the dog door was “exit only:” It was our responsibility to let her back inside and put her back on the bed… which we did at 2:30 in the morning.

With her discerning sniffs, she made sure we did everything right: From pumping up our bicycle tires to administering her many medications with the correct (and most generous) Pill Pocket-to-pill ratio, to packing the car for our road trips and ensuring her maximum comfort therein.

No, she was not the Best Dog Ever, but she was a Good Dog. Instead of being a slobbering pleaser like Coolidge, she was a cool companion, grateful for our place in her world, and we were grateful that she was our friend.

Winslow loved to luxuriate in a pile of fresh laundry, still warm from the dryer, and she built mighty pillow fortresses on our bed. She enjoyed a good flop on the cool grass, as much as she reveled in roasting on the hot rocks in the gravel beds. In her youth, she joined Coolidge in defending our backyard with warnings to the joggers on the sidewalk beyond our fence. As a middle-aged den mother, she welcomed us home with enthusiastic howls, “Roo! Roo! Roo!”

Her howls had grown mostly quiet since Coolidge departed this mortal coil last year. Her world grew smaller, circumscribed by hobbled hips and muffled hearing and the general indignities of being 90-something in dog years.

Since Coolidge passed, she didn’t come to greet me when I returned from work each day. I could always hear Pat through the door saying, “She’s here! She’s here!” and I’d be lucky to get a head cocked in my direction as she lounged from her bed beside Pat’s desk.

This brindle shadow was Pat’s workday constant in the year since Coolidge died. Winslow would stand then sit then lay in a melancholy vigil by the front door when he went out for an errand or a walk, leaving chopped-liver me (in her spot) on the couch by myself.

Yesterday, after Dr. Rachel at Scottsdale Animal Healthcare had assured us that we had done our best and there was nothing more to do, we came home to a silent house. We took off on our bikes to burn off our tears in the desert sun, and she did not greet us at the door when we returned.

She wasn’t there to lick the sweat and tears from our cheeks. 

Our house is quiet now. It has no dogs. We’ll welcome others when the time is right, but as with Ruby and Ink and Red Puppy and Coolidge, it will be different. When you give your heart to a dog, you will always end up heartbroken, but it will always be worth it.

Winslow

My First Story Slam

On Tuesday morning, Bella, our summer intern wrangler, asked what I was doing on September 14. 

“Nothing. Why?”

“I’m going to enter you in a storytelling contest at Changing Hands Bookstore, and we’re all going to go together to cheer you on.”

“Oh, OK. That sounds good. Will there be drinks involved?”

Unbeknownst to dear Bella, I’d been toying with the idea of entering a story slam for a while: Over the past year, I’d written stories for the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction and Short Story competitions (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). My friend Cynde had suggested I do a TED Talk for the Chandler Public Library, but I didn’t feel that was the right fit. After listening to yet another Moth broadcast on NPR, I said, “I can do that,” and disclosed my secret dream to my friend Penny.

“I think this year, I want to enter a story slam.”

Continue reading My First Story Slam

Roadie — NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge, April 2018

This was my favorite entry of all the NYC Midnight short stories I wrote, in part because Pat came up with the twist on road rage and it made for a fun, funny story. Enjoy.

Genre: Thriller
Character: Neuroscientist
Random Element: Road Rage
Word Limit: 2,000 words / 48 hours

Roadie

A river of cool air cascaded down the bathroom mirror, as Dr. Laura Porter feathered mascara above her icy blue eyes. Tousled blonde waves brushed across her bare shoulders.

Heat Advisory flashed on the display, prompting the blackout shades to draw against the white-hot sun. The frosted glass garage door rose, and her Volta Roadster 8 — “Roadie” — pinged its digital ignition.

The rich Corinthian leather scorched her thighs: Laura jumped from the car, pulling the linen dress from her red skin.

“For Chrissakes, Roadie!” The candy-apple coupe roasted as if it’d been abandoned in a Phoenix parking lot and not ensconced in a climate-controlled cocoon. “Do you want me to have a hot flash?”

Forty-five degrees requires interior climate adjustments for your comfort, Dr. Porter.

“It’s forty-five Centigrade, Roadie.”

Adjusting.

Cold air blasted from every vent. Within three seconds, Dr. Porter’s comfort had been restored and a hot flash averted.

“Alright, let’s go then.” Continue reading Roadie — NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge, April 2018

Instagold – NYC Midnight Short Story Contest, 2018 (Feb 2018)

After I washed out in the semifinals of the Flash Fiction contest, I entered the NYC Midnight Short Story Contest. The format was just a shade different: Each round had different story lengths and deadlines, but the same types of wacky prompts. I finished in fourth place in my heat for this round to advance to the second round.

Here was my first entry:
2,500 words / 8 days to write (a luxury – both in words and time)
Character: Executive Chef
Subject: Cryptocurrency
Genre: Comedy (woo-hoo!)

Instagold

Synopsis: The Queen of Social Media Food CryticsTM pays a visit to the renowned Satullo restaurant, and #FlambeFlimFlam erupts, cratering the Instagold markets.

Continue reading Instagold – NYC Midnight Short Story Contest, 2018 (Feb 2018)