I Survived the First Semester! Or, I’ve Been Really Busy


When I applied to a Ph.D. program on an impulse last summer, I knew my life would be busy, but I didn’t realize just how busy. Call me a cock-eyed optimist, but I thought, sure, I can go to school full time while working full time. It hasn’t been the easiest thing I ever decided to do, and I have many more semesters to go. But having now submitted my last paper for the first semester (YAY), I can look back and reflect on just how crazy the last few months have been.

Before–the cockeyed optimist, ready to study!
Insane Asylum Entrance
This way madness lies…
after 1
Got my last paper in. Semester one done. Can I brush my hair now?

One of my first moves was to get a big dry-erase calendar to organize my life. I hung it, planned out the semester, and then pretty much ignored it until today, when I am wiping it clean for next semester.

calendar 2
I’ll pay more attention next semester.

As would be expected in any doctoral program, books are involved. Lots of books. Some I really enjoyed. Some I struggled with. And I faced the reality that I have to pick and choose what to read; I can’t read it all. Or I’m going to have to take a speed-reading class.

Read this book!
On Complexity
Foster cat Mouse and I struggled with this one.

My dictionary stays open to the “h” pages–I can’t remember the definitions of heuristic and hermeneutics to save my life.

I did have to change some things in my daily routine. My obsession with making the bed every morning is a thing of the past, I hate to say (sorry, Mom). As much as I like to do laundry, the laundry room is now the least visited room in the house.

unmade bed
I blame it on the cats.
I justify infrequent laundry by saying it’s because of the drought in California.
My mending and sewing pile gathers dust on top of the sewing machine.
I have become the queen of unfinished craft projects.

We might not ever eat homemade meals if not for the Purple Carrot. Similar to Blue Apron or Hello Fresh!, it’s a service that ships the ingredients and recipes for 3 meals a week. Purple Carrot happens to be vegan, and has the caché of having Mark Bittman on the team.

Purple Carrot logo

purple carrot 2
Quick, easy, tasty and healthy vegan recipes. A life saver!

Of course, we do end up eating on tv trays in front of television most of the time. But that’s not new.

tv trays


eating at desk
Eating at my desk is also not unheard of these days.
Clif bar
Yes, a Clif Bar with coffee is a balanced breakfast, really.

Have I mentioned coffee? There’s a lot of coffee in my life. Funny thing. it’s mostly decaf, but still gotta have it!

I have managed to have some fun down time. Maybe that’s why I scramble to get my papers in on time, but my idea of fun down time is going out on marches and protests, and I think of those as a part of my humane education program. As my friend and fellow future Ph.D. Suzy Fisher says, don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk.

Never Be Silent

Elephant March
Marching for Elephants with one of my favorite activists, Sara Muñiz.
Gene Baur
Farm Sanctuary Founder Gene Baur speaks at UC Berkeley.
Walk for Farm Animals
Walk for Farm Animals in San Francisco with my buddies Cláudia Santos and Heather Meyer.
I also spent a beautiful day at Preetirang Sanctuary thanks to Cláudia.
Brave the Cage
I Braved the Cage with Suzy Fisher. Animal Place was at UC Berkeley to demonstrate what the lives of hens in battery cages are like.
Fur Free Friday. The awesome Kitty Jones is behind me, holding the Animals Are Not Ours to Wear sign.

A trip to Chicago was one of the highlights of autumn for me. I got to live my Ferris Bueller moment at the Art Institute of Chicago and attend a wonderful concert by the National Brass Ensemble, thanks to the generosity of world’s best boyfriend and amazing brass player Robert Ward.

There’s always room for food in my life, maybe too much so sometimes, and cooking classes are a great way to spend the spare time I don’t have.

JL Fields
Fun holiday cooking class at the PETA Foundation offices with JL Fields.
Thanksgiving cook
Thanksgiving chef in pajamas and apron, with bed hair.

I bake for the monthly bake sales held to benefit animal sanctuaries by the Berkeley Organization for the Advocacy of Animals at UC Berkeley.

I continued to volunteer for East Bay SPCA. It’s because of my experience there with the animals that I am on this path, so I can’t give that up! And I’ve added fostering onto the list of things I do. Our guest bathroom has been turned into a foster cat habitat.

Mouse 2
Foster kitty Mouse and her babies. She did most of the work. All now adopted into loving homes!
kittens studying
The kittens were not particularly appreciative of the finer points of research methodology.
Honeysuckle preferred television to studying.
Kianna, not loving the cone, after surgery to remove her paralyzed tail (probably hit by a car).

During all of this, work was chaotic too! The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive moved into a new building. Moving is never easy unless you have truckloads of money to pay someone else to do it while you go on vacation.

I had a wonderful time volunteering at the Western Museums Association 2015 Annual Meeting in San Jose.

And just when I got settled into a new office and a new neighborhood, I found a wonderful opportunity to work at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at UC Davis. Let the commuting begin! Only it didn’t begin so well. My car should be done at the MINI service center soon.

Shrem build
The Manetti Shrem Museum, under construction, planned to open in Fall 2016.

Ask me how I’m doing:

I’d like to say life is like this, but…
thumbs up
A fellow Saybrook student posted this on Facebook; all of us in the program understand!

One day it will all be worth it: I will be one of the new Doctors of Philosophy getting to wear the coveted sash.

Saybrook graduates, August 2015. I want that sash!

I couldn’t be doing any of this without the love and support of aforementioned Robert Ward. Thank you!

vegan kiss

And for any possible naysayers out there (thankfully that would not be any of my friends or family), I will leave you with the wise words of Harold. Please excuse his language.



An afternoon at PreetiRang Sanctuary

I have wanted to visit PreetiRang Sanctuary in Dixon, Calfornia (about 65 miles northeast of San Francisco) for a while now, and I finally made it up there thanks to my wonderful friend Cláudia Santos. Cláudia’s birthday was in October, but she arranged a “delayed” birthday party for a lovely November Saturday.  It was just the right temperature (mid 60s) and not too much wind in an often windy spot for a trip to the approximately 40 acre farm sanctuary in the Sacramento Valley.

map 2 map_tile

Check out the website at http://preetirangsanctuary.org/index.html

Founders Madhulika Vsingh and her husband Mukul Banbihari left life in the Silicon Valley to devote themselves to animal rights and providing a peaceful habitat for rescued farm animals, primarily cattle but also goats and chickens. The sanctuary name comes from the names of Madhulika’s parents and means “color of love” in Hindi, says Madhulika. Beautiful and so appropriate.


As you get out of the Bay Area, the landscape becomes flatter and the roads straighter. There is a certain beauty to the flat fields and scattered native oak trees. And such a nice change of pace for me, not being a true urban creature.

Harnessing the wind
Harnessing the wind.
PreetiRang Sanctuary.
And here you are!
And here you are!


The welcoming committee
The welcoming committee.

Anyone who knows me well realizes how important meeting the goats would be to me, so first thing when I parked my car, I headed straight to say hello.

Gayatri says hello!
Gayatri says hello!

Now I can go join the party!

A vegan picnic
A vegan picnic.


With my beautiful friend Cláudia
With my beautiful friend Cláudia.

After some eating and socializing, Madhulika and Mukul invited us inside for a video presentation on the sanctuary and the animals before taking us out on a tour to meet the animals.

Mukul on the left, Madhulika on the far right.
Mukul on the left, Madhulika on the far right.
Cat Toffee (AKA Tofu) joins us.
Cat Toffee (AKA Tofu) joins us.

The video we watched commemorating the second anniversary of PreetiRang is dedicated to Eartha.

Eartha, 5/25/2014-5/15/2015.
Eartha, 5/25/2014-5/15/2015.

I first heard about Eartha at the National Animal Rights Day 2015 ceremony.  Eartha and the other animals honored that day (and the ceremony from the year before) are memorialized at PreetiRang.

plaque 1 plaque 2 plaques view

Our faithful mascot, also a rescue.
Our faithful mascot, also a rescue.

First stop–the goats! Such charming, lively, inquisitive creatures! Like dogs, they love being scratched around the ears and they wag their tails. And nibble on anything that gets in their path! Geeta decided to taste my vest.

goat habitat smiles with goats kisses jacket eater


I think the name Gandalf is self-explanatory.
I think the name Gandalf is self-explanatory.
He even has beards on his knees!
He even has beards behind his knees!

And now to the cattle:

the herd

Jai trying to help me with messy hair.
My new hair stylist.
Chester, over 6 feet tall when he gets up, and around 2,200 pounds. A powerful body with a gentle soul.
Chester, over 6 feet tall when he gets up, and around 2,200 pounds. A powerful body with a gentle soul.
Handsome Harvey, with a heart on his head...
Handsome Harvey, with a heart on his head…
and one on his leg.
and one on his leg.
Cláudia and a new friend.
Cláudia and a new friend.

In the next field area over lives Norman Leedlahar, born with 3 legs. PreetiRang is working with UC Davis on fitting him with a prosthetic leg to make life a little easier for him and ease the stress on his other limbs and spine. A sweetheart, and so beautiful.

Norman Leeladhar
Norman Leeladhar.

Norman shares his abode with Tulsi, a female of about his age who has been bonded with him since they were about 3-4 months old. Whereas he is gentle and shy, she lets you know she wants your attention!

Funny Tulsi.
Funny Tulsi.
A truly wonderful afternoon.
A truly wonderful afternoon.

As the sun was showing signs of going down, we all headed out, smiles on our faces and love in our hearts.

sunsetPG panorama

Thank you Cláudia for making the arrangements, and thank you Madhulika and Mukul for all you do for the animals!

If you would like to sponsor an animal or make a general donation, please go to the PreetiRang website http://preetirangsanctuary.org/index.html