Friday, August 15, 2008

The 10th Anniversary of LadyLee's Ph.D.

Dedicated to That Southern Black Gal. Do your thang, Ma.

10 years.

10 long years, since I obtained my Ph.D. in Or.ganic Chemistry with concentration in Organi.c Synthe.sis and Dru.g Design.

You say "That's a mouthful, LadyLee! We don't understand what that is!!!!"

Shoot. I guess I better break it down for ya real simple like!! I don't even need to get all long-winded about it!

Let's see, I can go in the lab and make from VERY cheap readily available ingredients. I can activate it with a few little modifications to get you...

10 times as high. 100 times as high.


to not get you high AT ALL. Make you break out in a bad rash instead. LOL

Here's a synthesis layout right here:

Just eyeballing that... hmm, that's a 3 to 4 day process, depending on if I need to get the co.caine 100% pure.


(Incidently, I had a classmate who liked to make REAL pure speed for his, uh, personal use. He got caught drunk-driving up in Tennessee and got caught with a load of PURE speed on him. A classmate had to drive up there to get him. They were both grilled about how they got that speed SOOOO dayum pure. LOL. I remembering wondering why he didn't sell it. I would have.)

No, I never made drugs. (Me and a coworker were looking at the chemical in weed that makes you high. I drew it out, broke it down and realized that we could make it from some ingredients in a common household Pine cleaner. HMMMMMM.... Let me stop.)

I made quin.olines.

They are useful in the area of HIV and arthritis, etc... The trick for me was to come up with all kinds of different combos and have them tested for drug activities.

This ain't no technical post. I just know that if ya'll don't understand anything, ya'll know about them DRUGS!!

And NO! Do NOT run around saying "That Oldgirl be making co.caine". I don't even do organic synthesis anymore. I am a food chemist now. HUMPH.

(My field of study worried my Mama sometimes: "Lisa, don't tell no one what you do. They sometimes kidnap people who know these things, and make them work in makeshift labs." Hmm.. I'd heard this too. *Lee watching her back constantly*)

People asked me why I liked Organ.ic Chemistry, since it's so difficult. I like it because I come from a family of artsy folks who like to draw. Org.anic Chemistry takes MUCH art skill (on paper), and I can draw perfect structures. Plus, there is no hard math. I just needed basic math to do it, no calculus, none of that. I HATE math. UGGGH.

But it's been 10 long yares!

I told my cubicle mate Cowgirl Cre, who's married to Timmy-Tim, a dude I graduated with, that it's our 10th anniversary on today.

She looked at me like I was crazy, then walked away.


Now, when I was in undergrad, we had a black chemistry professor who use to talk to us all the time. We thought he was the hotness, because don't no dayum black people get no Ph.D. in something like Chemistry...

"Oh, you all need to stop bellyaching. People who get Ph.D's in Chemistry are just regular everyday people."

"No they are not," we'd yell in unison.

"Yes they are," he countered. "Just regular people. They're not all that smart. Just normal everyday people who found an interest and pursued it."

"The hell you say!" I yelled one day.

He ignored us. And we would talk about that man like a dog. "What the heck is he smoking? Talking about regular people. Is he crazy? He talking stupid."


One day...

Me and some of my classmates were sitting in Burger King downtown eating our lunch, and my girl Jill (who always was talking about she'd sleep with one of our professors... "Sex for knowledge" was her motto), said...

"You know, I heard we could go to grad school free of charge. Plus, they pay you 12,000 dollars a year stipend."

"For real?"


Okay, we all muttered about this for a loooong time. I would go if it was scot free PLUS you lay some bread in my hand.

So I applied and got in. Went to school for free, all tuition and books paid. I think I had to pay a $103.22 student activity fee each semester (and I has PISSED about that!), but that is about it. My stipend was 1023 bucks a month.

Well, I must agree with that black professor who would talk to us. We were all normal regular people.

Struggling scared upset frightened people, that is.

We were normal. We all had our lives, friends, and hobbies away from the lab. I met fascinating people. Made lifelong friends.

But I will not lie. It was HARD.

It was like being in a black tunnel, and you see the light at the end of the tunnel, and you run fast toward that light at the end of the tunnel, knowing that it was the end of the road... only to find out that that light at the end of the tunnel was the headlight of a fast moving train...

-heading fast toward you, so it could mow you down and KILL you.

Yes, that's how it felt. It was the DARKEST time of my life. I was depressed. I was drinking. I was smoking weed. Man, I was an awful mess.

But I had a glimmer of hope. I kept working, kept "jumping hoops".

And one day my advisor said "You're done, now go write your dissertation."

My advisor was a quirky man. He was a Polish gentleman, with one bad eye. He always wore a tight pair of Levis 501 jeans. And he was a bit too much fondness for good bourbon. (It was ODD for that dude to be drunk, leaning on you, talking about (in a HARD slurred polish accent) "Have a drink, LadyLee).

I KNOW that dude had to be drunk sometimes when I'd go to see him for advisement.

So I began to write. Timmy-Tim began to write also. We had a schedule: get to school at 8 in the morning and write until 11 at night. We would take breaks here and there, but the plan was to do this for a couple of months. I'd written up my methods and procedures for new organic compounds I'd created from day one, so I had a bunch of data, and a few published papers to work from...

So, some interesting tidbits for you...

I had a song that I'd listen to when I'd write. And this was the only song.

Xzibit's "What you see is what you get"

(Oh goodness. This Oldgirl got all teary-eyed when listening to that song... Haven't heard that in years!)

Well, I would run around screeching the chorus of that song: "Players, pimps, hos, hustlas, willies, thugs, ballers, busters, gangstas, rats, everyday all day shotcallers, high rollers, KEEP IT MOVING!"

Poor Timmy-Tim is the nicest white boy. He would just smile when I sang, but I knew he was saying quietly to himself "oh. no." LOL!!

I'm not really sure why I cared for that song so much. But it was my personal "Dissertation Song".

I sat in a tiny office and did my writing alone, away from everybody. No one really saw me. Timmy Tim said "They asked about you! I told them, she's found her a little office with a computer, and she's just working away. She's not upset or anything, she's just writing."

(I had a reputation of being the angry black woman. I still have that to this day.).

But I finished my typing.

Now what was JACKED UP (Man, I want to use a worse word), was that my advisor up and decided to go hang out in Ireland with his wife, who went over there on business once a year (She was some big time soft drink executive). So his ass just up and leaves for 3 weeks. He'd send lovely emails about the beautiful countryside, and the scenery. I wanted to thrust my hand through the computer and beat him down.

This man had me faxing chapters to Ireland. He'd make remarks and faxed them back.

Bastid! He was suppose to be there to hold my hand, and he was off having a GOOD ol' time in Ireland. HUMPH!!!

But he finally came back. I turned my in 150 page dissertation (which was very short- considering how long winded I am), to my committee, and then set up a date for my "Defense".

Now, the "Defense" is usally a technicality. You get that far, you are done. But it is basically a seminar you give in a nice small room to your committee (sometimes you can invite guests or have it open to everyone), and they sit around and ask you a TON of questions and fight with your behind.

This is your original work and you have to "defend" everything you did.

This was a big deal. Everybody had a plan. This one New York brother, who I just loved to death, just let his hair grow out. "Yo, I ain't cutting my hair until I pass my defense!!" His plan was to look like the "crazy deranged bush man" or something and scare them all.

My plan was to feed them. I'd been paying attention to what they ate. So I had a full spread of candy, chips, doughnuts, and Frutopia. My committees eyes lit up when they saw all that dayum food, lol.

Sometimes, defenses take all day! Mine took about 2 hours. I had a bunch of drawings (like those shown above- about 30 slides for a overhead projector). And I talked and explained. Explained and talked. Got pissed when I got interrupted. Wanted to break the pointing stick I had in my hand over one dude's head. My advisor jumped up one time and screamed "LadyLee, don't you let him talk to you like that. DEFEND it!!!" (He scared the hell out of me when he jumped like that. I was like "Oh no, He's had too much bourbon).

I went to the chalkboard and drew a bunch of crazy stuff... Put that dude in his place real quick. We talked and fought a bit more. Then they told me to go stand outside while they decided on whether to pass me (another technicality- I saw them in there eating M&M's, laughing and talking, making a sista wait in agony).

The door finally opened after 10 minutes. They came out and shook my hand, and said the sweetest words I'd ever heard...

"Congratulations, Dr. LadyLee"

Whoa. I smiled. (N'awl Man, I'm hardcore! I didn't cry!)

What a relief. Wasn't done yet, but I had to make a bunch of corrections to my dissertation.

That took about 2 weeks. I wanted to sock one advisor who really made a bunch of corrections. When I took it back to him so he could read again, he was like, "Oh no, LadyLee, you didn't have to make the corrections. I was only doodling around."


My acknowledgments were a whole different story... My professor was reading it, would look up at me over his glasses in disdain, read, look up at me like I was crazy. I'd sit there and smile like Celie!

My acknowlegments were REAL hood and funny!

Funny points:

"I'd like to thank my girl Weenie for letting me stay with her when I was homeless!"

"I'd like to thank my girl Dr. K. Gal, you know we use to do our Bitch and Beer Tuesdays and bitch and moan and cry!"

"Thanks Auntie Joyce and Uncle Shawn for selling me that Nova. I love that car!!"

"My homegirl Lady T-double-EE, thanks for your support!!"

"I'd like to thank my man, Oldboy."

"I'd like to thank my cats, the ever so cosmopolitan Jeremy Girard, and the thuggish ruggish kitty Oscar-Tyrone- who'd attack my printer everytime it started up!"

Yeah, I thanked my cats. LOL.

3 LONG pages of shoutouts! And at the end I put Master P's words in BOLD text!

"Make em say UGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHH!!! Naw, naw, naw, naw, NAAAAAWWWWW!"

(I really wanted to put the "players, pimps, hos, hustlers" chorus above instead, but uh... I don't think I could get away with that. LOL)

My advisor said "Why don't I just not read that part."

*LadyLee smiling hard like Celie*

I remember taking the completed dissertation to Kinkos copy center to have it copied onto this REAL EXPENSIVE cotton paper. (Man, that paper cost 90 bucks). I had a copy made for myself, one for my mama, one for my Auntie, and one for my Grandmama.

I stood in the copy center pleading with the woman "Please don't mess this up. I have to turn this in tomorrow. Please."

She looked at me like I was crazy. Whatever. I was gonna bust out every window of that place if they messed things up.

Me and Timmy-Tim went to the graduate school office to turn everything air. We walked out of that building and stood on the sidewalk together.

"Ladylee," he said, and sighed hard. "We are done, girl."
"We sure are," I said.
"I'm going home," he said. "What are you about to do?"
"I'm going to the movies!" I said.

We shook hands and went our separate ways.

I walked to the CNN center and saw the movie How Stella Got her Groove Back.

I remember sitting in the theater wanting to scream "I don't have anything to do!!! I can just sit here and enjoy a movie!!!"

I didn't too much care for the movie. But it was nice to just sit... and be still.

Graduation was interesting.

We got there, the 7 of us who were graduating together. We took pictures, even did some hardcore gangster stance pics in our caps and gowns, lol.

I promised myself I wouldn't cry, and I was doing well.

So we were at the ceremony. Ph.Ds get awarded before Masters and Bachelors.

Timmy-Tim got his degree. He was sitting in the front row, where we all lined up.

I was 2 or 3 rows back. So when it was my turn, my Advisor went up to get my suede hood in place.

I was cool. Real cool.

But right before they called my name, Timmy-Tim reached back, put his hand on mine and said,

"Way to go, LadyLee."

Man, I started crying. All me and Timmy-Tim had gone through flashed right before my eyes. Me and that boy had to get each other through it all. I cried, but I had to get myself together real quick.

They called my name...

"Dr. LadyLee, Dept. of Chemistry, advisor Dr. Strek"

I went up, received my degree and my advisor hooded me (placed hood arond my neck) and we gave each other a BIG bear hug. He looked at me with that one good eye of his. I smiled at him, and I wanted to say "Thank you, and I don't want to EVER see you again".


I went back to my seat. I was a sniveling emotional mess. The chairman of my department had to get up and come over and console me.

Man, ya'll just don't understand. That was the WORSE time of my life. But I had FINISHED. I was done.

My fiance through a huge party for me and a few others that had graduated. That was a GREAT party. You thought you saw some good food pics here on this blog? We had some GOOD food and champagne that weekend.

But that was my journey. I moved to New Orleans for some post-doc fellowship work, learned a whole different type of chemistry (got tired of that organic chemistry) then came back to ATL after a couple years to take the job that I presently hold.

But what a journey it was.

I have a book club sista, Kat, who's in the middle of her dissertation process. She's getting her Ph.D. in some other area, business related, I think. She has that tired look in her eye. I keep telling her "I know it hurt, Kat, but once you get to this step you are DONE. Just keep writing and making corrections. It is done!"

She's plugging away. And she will finish. I know she will.

I did.

That's a process that everyone should go through.

I learned after going through that, that all crap in life is temporary. There is a beginning, a middle, and a an end. Just get through it.

So with that, let's eat! You can grab some leftovers out of the fridge, i.e. scroll down to the last post and pick up a plate.

Thank you for celebrating my Ph.D. anniversary with me, and-


*LadyLee looks around the room. She looks over and sees a pissed off Ms.Behaving"*

"What, girl?"

"I'm from New York, and we don't eat leftovers, so you have to cook."

LadyLee stares hard at her. "Uh, no. You in the ATL now."

"You better cook. And this time we want steak. T-bone steak," she said.

"YEAH," someone yelled. It was Opinionated Diva. "Make mines well done. That's how we do it in New York."

LadyLee got mad. "Shut up, Opinionated Diva. And for your information, I know you the one who stole all my iron pills out of the bathroom last time you were here. Got the nerve to come up in here talking trash after stealing from me. You really need to go sit down somewhere before you get your feelings hurt."

Opinionated Diva *shudders*, but holds her hard stance.

Terry, who's sitting in a cheap seat in the corner (he refused the luxury of the recliner) blew cigar smoke high in the air. He took a long draw off his cigar and said "Lee, you want me to throw these broads out of here?"

LadyLee shook her head. "N'awl. You sit there and enjoy your thousand dollar cigar and eat your plate of biscuits. Just relax, I'll take care of this."

Terry got comfortable on his cheap seat. He blew a large smoke ring into the air.

Opinionated Diva pulled up her shirt. The butt of a gun poked out from her waist band."You better cook, LadyLee." She pulled the gun out and gripped it hard.

LadyLee stared. Then she said two words real slow.


Everyone was still, looking around for whoever LadyLee was calling. All they saw was her cat. He'd been sleeping on the top of the recliner.

He was demure enough. No one knew why she was calling him. He was 11 years old, and needed his rest. LadyLee really needed to be worried about Opinionated Diva and Ms. Behaving crashing the party and tripping out.

LadyLee pointed hard at the two ladies.

"Why is that cat looking all crazy like that, LadyLee?" Ms. Behaving asked.

Sic em, Oscar-Tyrone!!!! LadyLee screamed.

The party people scrambled out of the way, careful not to drop their plates of leftovers on LadyLee's white furniture. Oscar-Tyrone flew through the air and landed on Ms. Behaving's head. He tore all the braids out of her head.

Sic em, boy!!!!

"Teach those broads not to come up in the House of LadyLee talking smack!!

Oscar-Tyrone jumped to Opinionated Diva's head. Scratched her face up. Both ladies ran from the house hollering and screaming. LadyLee stood on the porch and called Oscar-Tyrone off the ladies. The cat walked back to the house with a mouthful of Ms. Behaving braids in his mouth.

"I TOLD ya'll I ain't cooking! Don't come back here no more. Oscar, put that yakie hair down and come in the house!"

Opinionated Diva had dropped her gun on the porch. LadyLee reached down and snatched it up and put in in her own waist. "And if ya'll come back 'round here, I'ma shoot you with your OWN pistol!!"


(Ya'll know I had to concoct a corny story for my anniversary).

It's been 10 years... and now, I can say something similar to what that black college professor told us 10 years ago...

I am LadyLee. Just a normal, everyday girl, who worked hard and got a degree.

Now I understand what he means. Some 15 years after he'd uttered similar word.

I leave you with one thing:

Whatever goal you have, just try. Just try to do it... You'd be suprised at your achievement, and more importantly, alllll the things you'll learn along the way. You really will.

Thank you all for hanging out for this week of celebration.

It was sooo much fun!

I want to do something to celebrate tonight but I have no idea. I hung out at the 'Shed with blogger Atlien Nikki last night (girl, I STILL got the 'itis), so maybe that will have to do!!

I know what you can do to help me celebrate...

Have a great day, and a great weekend... on purpose.


  1. wow Ladylee that was a powerful story!

    Had me tearing up when u started cryin! Thanks for sharing!

    I have some goals that I need to achieve and I'm gonna do a post on it!

    Congrats on being 10 yrs strong PhD!!!!

    Lmao at Tyrone and that Yakie weave, and at Diva dropping her gone!!!

  2. I can't believe I read all of that! LOL!

    But I'm glad I did...CONGRATS girl! Sounds like it was truly a worthwhile journey!

    As for your story...LOL. I know I'm from brooklyn, but I'm not THAT gangsta!

  3. @Dreamy...

    Thanks Mami, and your black tail better not cry!!

    Write those goals down. Heck, I'ma go down and revamp my list.

    Yes, Tyrone knows how to snatch massive amounts of Yakie out of the hair. Ms. Behaving said her braids were hurting her. Well, we took care of THAT.

    @Opinionated Diva...

    Don't say that too loud! I thought they were gangsta up in Brooklyn!!

    Ya'll need to get together and teach me how to do some short 100 word post. I'm just saying... I need help! I'm pissing my ownself off. LOL

  4. Happy PhD anniversary!!! The story of your journey is very engaging, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I'm a 3rd year Bio major...I have to take Orgo I next semester. Don't be surprised if I come around asking for help, lol!! But Congrats, LadyLee! :-)

  5. shooooooooo.


    ya dig. sho nuff!

  6. I think what I admire most about you is not only are you very intelligent and creative, but you illustrate to young African-Americans that you can be a Scientist, and still be cool as hell.

    Congrats & Keep on keepin’ on.

  7. @Shy...

    3rd year? Shoot, you almost there! And if you got Org. Chem questions, shoot me an email!! I don't mind helping:)


    @ATLien Nikki...

    "shoooooo" is your favorite term. You said it several times at dinner, lol.

    So shooooo Nikki, shoooo, shooo, shoooooooooo!!!

    Thanks chick!

    @Terry, eating biscuits in his cheap seats...

    Awww Terry, I am a nerd, and I am cool... that makes me feel special.

    I think that that professor was right: we were all regular peeps.

    I think 99% of getting through anything is MENTAL. Deal with the mental (and at times I didn't do this well) and we as a people can achieve anything.

  8. Powerful. Your story is inspiring. I abandoned an MBA program a few years ago for stoopid reasons. I've been ashamed and spend the last few years saying shoulda, woulda, coulda. Now maybe I can get it together and say Can.

  9. That was QUITE the journey!!!

    With school starting in 2 weeks I'm inspired!

  10. Congrats on being 10 yrs deep into the PhD game. I'm still laughing at you putting a Master P lyric in your acknowledgments.

  11. Damn, you are bad! Congrats and happy anniversary on earning your PhD.

  12. Well I did have a great weekend on purpose. That is why you ain't seen me...

    The corny story had me cracking up. Especially after all that story where I was ready to compose my commentary. Now I forgot...

    Oh, yeah. I will take a quart of that liquid weed extract please. Triple strength... And some artificial sweetener that is not HELLA expensive that is good for baking! If you don't mind!


  13. I got my own ideas about how that story should have ended but since you a cat lover and all, I'll keep em' to myself!!! [LOL].

    I'm sayin' tho' *SOB*

    ::Glances off in a nearby mirror @ all these damn bald spots::

    I'm takin' you and Oscar Tyrone's @ss to court!


Slap the *crickets* out the way, kindly step up to the mike, and SAY something!!