I had to keep ensuring to people I was alive these last several weeks.  I kept getting messages, “Where are you?  I know you are not traveling.  Were you abducted by aliens?”  One, if I WAS abducted by aliens, I would only hope that at the end of my experience it included a ride on a flying bicycle across a full moon (if you ever saw ET, you know what I’m talking about and you know you secretly wish that too!)  Others thought I was traveling and possibly dead or kidnapped since I went MIA… that’s a little bit closer to why I have disappeared over the last several weeks.  In a sense, I have been on a long, mentally arduous journey with no turning back to accomplish a goal- granted it was not to destroy a ring in the fiery ring of Mount Doom to prevent a dark lord from overtaking Middle Earth.  However, like Frodo I had my ups and downs, my doubts I could finish, wondering if I was the right person for the job.  The Sauron in my life kept putting doubts in my head, trying to weaken and stress my spirit.  I had no Sam-wise at my side to continuously cheer me up.  Then something came over me… I finally sacked it up and got the job done and told Sauron,  “who’s the motha f’in shit now!”  (FYI- how funny would that have been for Frodo to state that at the end of the third Lord of the Rings???)

So you must be wondering what the Realms of Mordor were like.  For me, it was being stuck in a lab for more than half a day over the last several weeks to identify parasites- alligator parasites to be exact.  Granted, I love my research, but when you are given a task that needs to be completed in a short period of time, as a graduated student you sacrifice the outside world to become a slave/zombie to your research.  For what seemed like an eternity, I identified about 10,500 alligator parasites from the last three years of research from Louisiana.  One parasite is definitely a new species found in alligators, and possibly a new species of parasite!!!!  I was determined to get all this work done before I headed out to Louisiana
and Florida again this coming summer ESPECIALLY since my advisor gave me a timeline, and since he wanted me to present one or two chapter to my doctoral committee this coming December.  THEN, I realized their were stomach nematodes from Florida that needed to be identified- ah crap!  So within 2 weeks I identified 3,000 stomach nematodes- YEP… 3,000 F’IN STOMACH NEMATODES!!!  With all the microscope time I have had, I’m surprised I am not blind or have the posture of Quasimoto.  And I should also mention that during this time I was prepping for my upcoming field season, as well as doing the last tweaks of my croc-parasite monograph book.

So today at 11:30am a bit of relief hit me:  ALL MY ALLIGATOR PARASITES WERE IDENTIFIED!!!!!!  I was packed up ready for the field, and my croc-parasite book is in print.  The black clouds of Mordor separated, and I somehow was transported back to this reality, leaving the bubble of life I endured for the last several weeks.  Now I am about to do what I am sure what Frodo wanted to do after his long journey… I’m going to take a nap… and then maybe go out for a drink…. but first nap!