Thursday, June 29, 2006

Vacation!

I didn't want to have the top post on my blog be a downer for a week, so this is just a quick note to say adios!

I'll be on vacation until late next Sunday, the 9th of July, so don't look for any updates till after that.

See you soon!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

As promised: the downer post

(editor’s note: I’m really not this much of a downer on a regular basis. This is just something I deal with. I know I have some degree of a body image disorder, and I’m working on it. But, as in all things, growth takes time. This is just part of the journey. And PS, this blog is frickin long. Sorry.)

It’s been almost a year since I finished my therapy for the eating disorder. That means it’s been almost two years since I really became aware that I had a problem. Looking back, I’m proud that I’ve stopped the gain-20-pounds-a-year cycle, but I wish I could have lost some of the extra 40 I’m still carrying. I’m not bingeing like I used to, but there are definitely times when I let myself stress-eat. At least now I know I’m doing it. I just need to work on stopping it instead of giving in. I’m worlds better than I was, but I’m not cured yet.

I know I have serious body image issues too. We didn’t get into that as much in therapy, but I see it surface in myself. There’s a reason I like being behind the camera—I’m not in the pictures. When I saw myself in some of the wedding pictures from over a week ago, I physically gagged. It makes me sick to see myself. All I see is the round, pudgy face. When I smile, it’s like there’s no edge to my face—it just gets lost in these rings of flubber. I see my body and can’t stand it. My stomach looks huge, I see giant hips and legs, and every bump shows. Added to my hate of my overall body shape is the fact that I have terrible skin, and I have for years. The tan has covered some of the acne, but I’ve always had an oily face, and no matter how vigilant I am about it, or what I try to do to get it to go away, the acne and oil are always there. I have a referral to a dermatologist, but it’ll be a while before I can see him.

Add up the weight, the bad skin, the goofy faces I make every time someone takes a picture, my huge forehead, the fact that my right eyelid closes more than my left (I’m not kidding—every picture), the rolls and bumps I can’t hide under my clothes, and put that together with having to pose next to insanely skinny people in pictures, and it’s enough to make me want to jump out a window. And terrific, it’s been immortalized in a picture. So now family, friends, and total strangers can see what a hoss I am. That just makes my day.

For some reason, I can see myself in the mirror every day when I get ready and not see it. I mean, I never LIKE the way I look, but I can stomach it. I see myself in pictures and it makes me want to puke. I really can’t look at them. That’s why I can’t post a picture of myself on myspace, or on my blog. It’s not that I’m worried about some stalker or something—come on now, my life isn’t that interesting—it’s that I can’t stand to look at it, and I think that every person that sees a picture of me has the same reaction that I have—repulsion, disgust, and contempt. If I do post a picture, it has to be at least five years old, preferably older. But I’d just rather not post one.

I look at pictures of myself in high school. There’s one of me at my first prom, when I was 16. The dress size that I wore then is half of the one I wear now. And we’re not talking about moving from a 2 to a 4 here. It’s a huge gap. I never expect to return to my high school weight, but what I miss is the disinterest I had in my body then. Sure, as a high school girl, you’re conscious of how you compare to everyone else. I knew I wasn’t tiny like the cheerleaders. I was fine with that. What I miss is just being comfortable in my own skin. I’ve never worn a bikini, and I’ve never been a fan of bathing suits, but I could wear one if I was out and about. More so, I could wear everyday clothes—t shirts, jeans, shorts—and not feel like everyone was staring at me. How simple life was back then.

Now, when I’m out, I need to be constantly covered. I hate winter because of the snow, but I love it because I can wear long pants and baggy sweatshirts. I’m comfortable in them. Prior to therapy, I thought I never wore tight clothes (anything not baggy I consider tight) because I just preferred to be comfortable. What I learned is that I wanted to be hidden.

I discovered this a few months after I started therapy. It was December, and I was in my favorite outfit: long jeans with one of Tim’s old hooded sweatshirts. It was warm in the room, but I sat in the corner of the couch with my arms crossed tightly over my chest, hunched over my crossed legs. My therapist asked if I felt comfortable. I thought she was talking about the temperature, so I said, “Sure.”

She commented on my clothes and my body position. She asked if I thought my stance and my clothes were related to my body image. I realized they were.

I think that was the same day I had a panic attack in her office. I’ve had only a handful of them in my life, and usually they are related to academic stress—papers due, big tests, etc. This was the first panic attack I ever had about my weight.

We were talking that day about going to Aruba. It’s a vacation—it should’ve been a happy, calm discussion. I was petrified. We were leaving in early February 2005, and here it was, December 2004, and I was panicking. I had been there once before, in February 2002 (it’s when we got engaged), and I now weighed about thirty pounds more than I had during that first trip.

That first Aruba trip was a turning point for me. Prior to it, I hadn’t been terribly self-aware. I had gained a little weight in college, maybe 10-15 pounds, but I hadn’t paid much attention to it. I didn’t buy new clothes for the Aruba trip because I figured I’d just wear my old stuff.

When we got the pictures back from the trip, I was mortified. I had squeezed myself into clothes I had no business wearing. And to top it off, I was standing next to Tim’s mom and aunts. These three women are some of the nicest people I have ever met. They have been nothing but accepting, loving, and supportive of me. But they are tiny. Naturally petite. Here I am, 21 years old, standing next to women in their 50s who look better in a bathing suit than I ever have.

Three years later, we’re headed back to Aruba. This time, it’s Tim’s mom and one of his aunts, plus his cousin. Not only are his aunts petite, but his cousin is gorgeous. She’s a year older than Tim—she was probably 27 at the time. She had two young girls, but you’d never know from looking at her.

Thinking about me, having gained 30 pounds since the last trip, being at the pool with his skinny family, gave me a panic attack. Instead of being excited about the trip, I was petrified. I couldn’t stomach the thought of being seen, in public, in a swimsuit, next to these women. Especially Tim’s cousin. She is so sweet, but she intimidates the hell out of me. And here we were, planning snorkeling trips together, and I was terrified.

My therapist worked me through my panic attack that day, and I made it through Aruba, but that whole experience makes me so sad. I exhausted myself the whole vacation with preoccupation with my appearance. I tried to cut loose, and some times were more successful than others, but I longed for the days where I could have just gone out and been free.

It’s hard to explain to other people the fear and anxiety my body causes me. When I go to a restaurant, I feel like everyone is staring at me, thinking, “Why is she here? She could stand to skip a meal.” When we eat out with other people, I feel like I am being judged. If I order something off the diet menu, I feel like people think, “Well, she knows she has a problem. Why doesn’t she try harder?” If I order something off the regular menu, I feel like people think, “So that’s why she’s fat!”

My therapist made a good point with this, and I am trying to take it to heart. She asked if I really thought people had nothing more important to do than stop everything and judge me. Isn’t it self-centered to think that the world stops when I enter a room? And I guess that it is. So now I’m self-centered with a body image problem.

The thing is, I can be a judgmental person. I work very hard not to be, but it is one of my biggest vices and a constant struggle. I know that I’ve caught myself having some of these thoughts about other people. It doesn’t seem that far fetched that people may have the same thoughts about me.

I’m working on it. Part of the reason to go back to Aruba this February is to conquer some of my demons. I always have fun when we go, but I know if I could let go of some of my issues for just one week, it’d be exhilarating.

It’s hard for me. I’m facing similar issues now, with leaving for the beach this weekend. I know I need to wear a bathing suit at the beach, but the thought of being seen in it devastates me. I went shopping for swimsuits Saturday and Sunday. It was just awful. I tried on a ton, and I couldn’t find a single one I was comfortable in. I ended up buying a two piece set. I never thought I’d be doing that in a million years! It’s not a bikini or anything—it shows the same amount of skin as a one piece, maybe less—but I felt more covered up in the two piece set than in the one piece. It scares the crap out of me that I am going to have to actually be seen in it, in public, but I didn’t figure I could just wear my jeans and t shirt into the ocean. That’s probably a swimming hazard or something.

I feel bad for Tim in all of this. He asks me what is wrong, and I tell him, and he doesn’t understand it. It used to be he would say, “So lose the weight.” He wasn’t being callous—he just thought that I could drop it at any time. After seeing me go through therapy, he understands that saying “lose the weight” isn’t really an option. He knows I struggle with it, and he’s been helping me make changes in my lifestyle. It’s now the body image stuff he doesn’t understand. I don’t know what he could say that would make me feel better, which is why I usually don’t tell him it’s bugging me. I know he wants to be supportive—he’s told me again and again he’ll do whatever I need him to do to get through this—but I don’t know how he can help me.

I am really tired of being the fat girl in pictures. I know that I can’t just crash diet, or really diet at all, since it would send me back to my eating disorder, but I need to come up with some sort of plan. My new doctor said to focus on the exercise, which Tim and I are going to do. We walk several times a week, several miles each time, but we’ve decided it’s time to up the cardio.

We started running on Saturday (or gasping as we call it). I read online that you should walk the curves on the track and run the straights to start with. That’s my plan. The first lap (each lap is a quarter mile), I feel like I don’t need to stop running when I hit the curves. Then my exercise-induced asthma kicks in, and my lungs start to burn. It’s never my legs that feel like they are going to give out. It’s always my lungs. We’ve run now Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, and while I feel like I’m not progressing, I’m willing to be patient. Even when I was in the best shape of my life, I’ve never been able to run. I played on a softball team, I’d bike 20 miles on a weekend day, I’d swim hundreds of laps, I’d walk for up to seven hours at a time. I still couldn’t run. I’d like to take the slow and steady path on the running thing, and maybe, just maybe, this will be something I can stick with. Both of my sisters have exercise-induced asthma, and they are runners, so I just need to suck it up and get past this. The inhaler doesn’t help, so I need to do it on my own.

I’m going to work on the exercise, but I know I’ll need to get back to journaling my eating if I want to lose weight. It’s a fine line—journaling for a short time helps me locate my problem times (when I get home from work until I fall asleep) as well as my trigger foods (pasta and ice cream). It also helps me make better decisions about what I am choosing to eat. Unfortunately, if I journal for a long time, I start to get fixated on it and begin the guilt/punishment cycle when I think I’ve let myself splurge on something. Guilt and punishment lead me back to the binge eating and emotional eating, and then I’m right back where I started. The constant vigilance is hard, and I slip, but it’s what I need to do to never go back to that place.

Vacation next week is going to be a bit of a test for me. Can I keep up the exercise? Can I actually go out in public in a bathing suit? Can I let myself enjoy “vacation food” without bingeing or punishing myself?

I don’t know how this little test is going to turn out, but I can tell you, I’m about tired of letting my body image ruin my life. I know that my automatic reaction to how I look in pictures may not change so easily, but I think I just have to deal with it and move on. We’ve got a “no pictures while we’re in the swimsuits” rule in my family, so that’s one disaster averted. I just need to learn to enjoy the day and let vacation be relaxing for once.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Another day

Well, we discussed, and I think we came to a (hopefully) happy medium. He doesn't want to switch projects entirely, at least not yet, but I convinced him that we need to move away from this one very narrow, very specific chemical inhibitor model we are using. I've got some stuff to research, but hopefully we can salvage some of the work I've been doing the last ten months. It went better than I expected, really. Always a nice surprise.

So, in order to continue riding the wave of positive energy, I'll post my downer blog tomorrow. Really, it's not that exciting--I know I've been building to it for a week. I just don't want you to think I'm a bummer all of the time :)

Crazy talk tomorrow, then. Today, I'll just keep doing what I'm doing. As Tim's favorite cartoon characters say, "To the over there!"

D-Day? Maybe?

I think I'll finally post the dreaded Depressing Post (aka Why I Have Issues) later, so that I can fully give background into why bathing suit shopping this weekend was hell, but until then, just more rambling.

So Dr. B came to me about 4 PM Friday and said, "Why don't we get together for an hour on Monday to talk about your project?" While that sounds innocuous, what he meant was, "Why don't you get all of your shit together, form a coherent plan, tell me what has and hasn't been working, and tell me what you want to do from here."

I know this is because I have my informal 3 month committee meeting July 20. He'll be gone from 6/28 to 7/11, and I'll be gone 6/30 to 7/9. He kept mentioning things like, "What will you be doing while I'm gone?" I'm thinking, "Umm, you know I'll only be here three more days than you, so what are you expecting?" I was getting the vibe he expected me to accomplish like a month's worth of stuff. Umm, you DO know I'm leaving? I've been telling you for months....

I have a vibe of what this afternoon will be. I'll show him the same blots I show him when he comes in every day/every other day. He'll basically ask, "Is this it?" I'll say yes. There will be an awkward pause. I'll bring out my huge 4 inch binder of day to day stuff, just to show that yes, I've been working, and no, nothing's been successful. He'll ask where I want to go from here.

And that's where I'm having trouble.

I've told him, in a nice way, that I don't see a lot of future for this specific project. No one will publish the paper that sets up my work--the paper that identifies the model and describes the question. The research associate has been trying to get it published for months, and he can't. I'm not surprised--even to me, it seems a bit weak. And the reviewers of each journal always ask the same thing, and he can't answer it. Yet, my boss thinks it's a good paper (he sent it to JBC to start with, for gosh sakes!). And so, whenever I display my uneasiness with the future of the project, he just tells me to try a different experiment.

Which is why, almost ten months later, I'm still working on a useless project.

After my last committee meeting, they were concerned about the antibody issues. We haven't solved that. Yes, I've made some stable clones that express my protein with different tags. However, those haven't been any more successful. There's something going on with this protein that we can't find the mature form (we think maybe it's being degraded, but even with the boatload of inhibitors we put in there, we can't get the mature protein).

So, today, I have to try and convince him maybe it's time to give it up. I am a stubborn person, and if I saw any hope at all for this project, I'd stick with it. I hate the thought of another ten months being wasted. First it was the year I spent with Frank. Then he moved. Now ten months of a non-working project. Yes, it sucks to lose basically two years. But it would suck more if I kept on this project, got nowhere, and had to switch a year from now.

There's another project he's writing a grant for with a group of professors from my department. It seems that there is overlap--I'd still study cholesterol metabolism, and I'd probably still try to analyze my protein. Problems: this is in animals. Hence, all the clones I've spent months making--not useful. And we still can't identify the protein with the antibodies we have, so that issue hasn't been solved.

Plus, it's basically the project Sriram, the research associate, has been doing for a few months. I basically took over his old project when I entered the lab, and now I'd be taking this project from him. That's a little weird.

And, although the question is better (it's actually sort of clinically relevant) and the model is better (not just adding a chemical to a cell and guessing what it does), we still don't have the tools we need to answer the question. So, there's still going to be a lot of time where we are trying to get things to work without actually collecting data.

Still, at least I see a little hope with this project. I'm still not positive what Dr. B will say about me switching, but I'm hoping my committee will convince him if I can't.

I meet with him in three hours. I really should be working to organize my stuff and outline my thoughts. Will I do that? Not likely, or at least not until the last minute. It's just sort of who I am.

Friday, June 23, 2006

In honor of Pete...

One of the people I saw Saturday at the reception was a friend of mine from middle/high school who I hadn't seen in a long time. We had spent many hours working on the yearbook together, and we had many crazy conversations. My good friend Amy brought him to the wedding, and I got a chance to catch up with both of them a bit. We started talking about these terrible jokes I used to tell. I got them from Girl Scouts, and they were corny and stupid, but I told them anyway.

One of the jokes, which I remember to be very long and complex, ended with the punchline, "Silly Rabbi, kicks are for Trids!" I remember the outline of this joke, but not enough to retell it.

The other punchline was "Woo ho!" (pronounced wu hoe), and I remember that one a bit better. It's a dirty-ish joke (aahh, what we learned in Girl Scouts), but not filthy. Just be forewarned. Oh, and it's totally racially insensitive. You know, just to offend everyone.

(Ok, I don't remember all of the beginning, so I'll start with what I remember).

A man meets an Indian tribe, and he falls in love with the beautiful daughter of the chief. In order to persuade the chief to let him marry his daughter, he gives him a set of high-end golf clubs. The chief is so impressed he agrees to the marriage.

The wedding night, the man and his new wife are consummating the marriage (hey, it's cleaner than what we said). They are busy all night long, and right at the most exciting time, the woman would always yell, "Woo ho! Woo ho!"

The next day, the man is out golfing with his new father in law. As he gets ready to hit a difficult shot, he yells out, "Woo ho!"

The chief looks at the man, puzzled, and says, "What do you mean, wrong hole?"

Ba-dum bum.

I told you it was a bad joke.

In other news, I have part three of my ramblings to post sometime soon. It's a bit personal and sort of depressing, and I'm just in too good of a mood to do it today. Maybe tomorrow.

I go on vacation in a week, we're going to the Indians game tonight (if we can get the Ark out of the garage to get through the streets of water), and Tim's parents bought us our plane tickets to Aruba for next February (gotta love early Christmas gifts!). So, life is good. Depressing tirades are for another day.

I'm ahead of my time

MSN this morning had an article about the "quarterlife crisis." Who knew I was so forward-thinking? ;)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Tim's response

Tim let me post his email. He can say things much better than I can:

Read your blog, and you're a spaz.

We'll make it all work. And don't you dare feel bad about "wasting people's tax dollars." The government does it all the time. And you never signed a contract saying you'd be the best of the best of the best. You signed a contract that said you'd get a M.D. and a Ph.D. paid for by Uncle Sam if you kept a certain performance level. You've done that, so you do not need to apologize to anyone. And you don't need to beat yourself up, either.

Shed the guilt over everything. I know you've been working on it, but just keep telling yourself "Today is the day I let it go." It'll do wonders for you.

And babies, we can make that work, because there have been busier people than us to have children. We are more than capable with the resources at our disposal.

Relax, and have a good remainder of the day.
ME

Ramblings pt 2: Quarter-Life Crisis

The next chapter in the blog saga:

Quarter life crisis: Lab, houses, and babies. I think a lot of what I have been struggling with these last few months can be summed up by the term “quarter life crisis.” I’ve heard many people refer to your mid 20s as when you start discovering who you are and what is really important to you. It’s been a tough time for me.

I always figured, being the overachiever/perfectionist I am, that I’d want to do the best work in the best lab, get the best publications, get the best residency, and then be the best doctor/researcher I can be. I’ve had a lot of realizations about this. First, it’s one thing to be smart in high school, or even college. Everyone is smart in med school. These people are freaks (no offense intended). They know everything, and I can’t even come close to competing. So, if these are the people I have to set my standards against, you can forget all those high-powered publications and top tier residencies. These people scare me with how well they retain knowledge. That’s been quite a wake-up call for me, and it makes me uncomfortable when my best doesn’t put me at the top.

This whole “overachieving” issue has made me re-evaluate my goals. I’m torn between sacrificing my personal life to fulfill all the expectations people have of me and deciding to settle and just be average. I know there are a lot of people who have invested in my “potential”—if you are a taxpayer, you are one of them, since you are paying for my education—and that it is unethical to not try to achieve as much as possible.

The rational side of me, the one that realizes I don’t like the lab as much as I did in undergrad, tells me just to be a good doctor and a good person. For me, part of being a good person is having the time to have a family and keep giving back to my community through things like volunteering. But then I feel like I’ve wasted everyone’s time and money. I didn’t plan to dupe people—I did think I would want to do high-powered research—but now I feel guilty if I settle.

Another part of this quarter-life crisis is the house search. It started off ok, with us only looking at super deals in an area that would help our commute. After we got screwed out of the one house we wanted, we started broadening our horizons. I think now we are looking to find a house just so the last six months haven’t been in vain.

This house we went through Sunday night was not what we wanted at all. The main level was ok, and the yard was nice, but the basement was nonexistent, and the upstairs needed a lot of work. There’s one other house we’ve talked about—a split level with an inground pool—but Monday night, we really sat down and talked about what we wanted. And I don’t think the split is it. We may go through it after vacation, just to be sure, but I think we’ve expanded our options too much. We wanted a house that we wouldn’t need to move again, ever, if we didn’t want to. None of these houses fit that—we’d need to move again someday. And that’s the big picture—could it be a forever house? If not, we need to let it go.

So of course, since I’ve seemed to work through my issues with work and home, that leaves: babies. Yes, that’s right, we’re now debating when we should enter parenthood. We’re not talking tomorrow—calm down my family!—but we need to start talking about our available windows.

As we see it, there’s no great time, but here are the best times: in my PhD, toward the end; in my fourth year of med school, towards the end; the end of my residency; maybe the end of a fellowship. That puts me at 28, 30, 33, and maybe 36. If we want to have more than one child, we need to start making some decisions. I’m 26 now, Tim will be 28.

Umm, yeah. Our first window is two years away. Do I feel prepared for that? Heeeellllll no. Will I ever feel prepared? I doubt it. I mean, I can be prepared in the sense that I’ve made sure we can afford food, clothing, shelter, and child care, but I can’t prepare my emotions or anything like that. I’m not sure we’ll use that first window—two years is really close—but I would like to have one while I still have family in town. I can just imagine being ten hours away from family and having some sort of emergency while I'm in the middle of my residency. Not my idea of a good time.

So, that’s where I am in my “crisis”. I’m sure we’ll sort through this baby part like we got through the work and house stuff. I’m not all that stressed, despite how this sounds. I know Tim and I can get through this weird time I’m having (he’s been relatively calm).

I just want to make sure I don’t end up with the equivalent of a mid-life crisis regret (no convertibles for us) by the time I get through this.

I'm not one of those fancy college-educated doctors

You HAVE to read this! I love The Onion.... Thanks to Tim for finding it.

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/49604

More ramblings to come later.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Bits and pieces

I've been busy, so I'll post a little bit every day instead of all of it at once. It'll still be a few long posts though, so get ready!

Heather’s wedding: It started out with Amy and I getting our hair done at a separate place from the rest of the bridal party. That saved us over an hour. Amy’s hair came out super cute, but mine wasn’t what I expected. The girl noticed I had curly hair, and she said twists would keep the flyaways down. I described how Amy had gotten twists up the back of her head, with curls on top, and the rest was just swept back. Well, an hour-ish later, I got a look at my hair. She had twisted the whole thing! I had sideways “corn rows” through my whole head, even on the top. It wasn’t what I wanted, but we were pressed for time, so I ran with it. I told everybody to call me “Snoop Dogg” at the reception.

After that, it was getting dressed at my Grandma's, then the ceremony, and then pictures. Post-pictures, we had time left, so we just cruised around in the limo bus before the reception.

They did the receiving line at the hall, so I got a chance to mingle with some people I hadn’t seen in a while. The toast was lovely, and then dinner was served.

The reception post-dinner was pretty fun. I had two friends from PA come in, and Tim’s parents came too. I was surprised they were invited, but I was happy to have them there. Especially since Tim was MIA the whole night with his friends. I didn’t mind—he doesn’t get to see them that much—but when things ended at 10:30 PM, I wanted to help clean up and go. I had to drag him out the door at 11, but we got home by 12, and I passed out. I hadn’t had a drop to drink since the toast on the limo bus, but Sunday morning, I felt like I had been steamrolled.

Sunday Heather’s family had a brunch for their out of town guests. We had intended to go, but I felt terrible. They weren’t leaving until Monday morning for their honeymoon, so I wanted to say bye, but I couldn’t. I had asked her several times Friday night at the rehearsal to let me know when they were doing gifts, and I reminded her a few times on Saturday. Sunday I called and emailed, asking the same thing. I never heard back. The initial thought was they would do it when they got back from the honeymoon Sunday (the 25th), so I figured she’d call me then. Part of it was I had to drop off my gift—I felt uncomfortable leaving it in my car all day while I was being shuttled around. How bad would it be to have their gift stolen! But the bigger part was that I wanted to see them be relaxed, happy, and pumped about their gifts. Tim and I were totally overwhelmed by people’s generosity at our wedding, and I wanted to see them have the same experience.

Well, when my parents came up Sunday night (we went through one last house—another story), my mom said they had opened gifts that afternoon. I was bummed and a little hurt. I thought she’d want us to be there—she was there for ours—but I guess not. I’m going to get over it. It’s her wedding, and she’s allowed to do whatever she wants, but I wish she would’ve wanted us there.

That’s the wedding stuff. More rambling to come later.

Monday, June 19, 2006

another time

I have much to talk about, but lab safety services is here cleaning up a spill. The postdoc in my lab broke a 5 liter bottle of chloroform, so we've got to stay away from it. Hence, why I am heading home at 4 PM today. It freakin reeks here, but I'm sure it'd make for an interesting post if I tried to stay here too much longer.

Much info about the wedding to be recounted at a later time.....

Friday, June 16, 2006

Busy, sort of

I'm trying to get my work done so I can leave early and stop home before my cousin's wedding rehearsal tonight, but I'm failing miserably. For whatever reason, I am totally distracted today. I haven't been able to maintain a thought all morning. I got in early, and here it is, 11:15, with nothing done. I helped a postdoc in my lab get set up, but other than that, it's just been housekeeping. Aargh. As much as I hate to say it, I may have to scrap my experiment today and just do maintenance (pass billions of cells, freeze my bacteria, etc). That takes me hours in itself.

It's going to be a busy weekend. The wedding is tomorrow, and my day starts early with tanning and a hair appointment, followed by the "getting ready" pictures, the ceremony, more pictures, figuring out how to get my car to the reception while I'm on the party bus, the reception, and then home very late, hoping my dog didn't pee everywhere. Tim won't have to leave till about 11 AM, so I am hoping little furry boy will sleep all day. He's done the 12 hour thing before without a problem. I just feel bad making him stay by himself.

See, who needs kids? I have guilt about my pets.

Other than that, not too much else. We've decided to go through that split level just as a sort of last-chance thing. It's bigger than we need, and it's more than the other houses, but if we could get a good deal and/or they'd be willing to let us put a house-selling contingency on it, then maybe we'd do it. Not doing a bridge loan would save us about 10k, so I'd be willing to pay that much more. Who knows?

I figured we can go through it and then decide. If we hate it, then we're done. If we like it, we can talk about if we like it enough to go forward with it. Better to just see it than regret passing on it entirely.

So, house-shopping Sunday and recuperating from the wedding. Hopefully we'll at least see the parents for Father's Day--I suggested ice cream post-house touring. We'll see.

Off to try and get on track for the day. Someday, I'll be super productive. I don't think that day is today.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Not much going on. We've decided to be done with houses, barring something amazing. We just don't need to freak ourselves out all the time. It's not worth it.

Other than that, we've been enjoying the mild weather with walks and generally neglecting the cleanliness of our house in order to spend more time relaxing :)

In other news, I've been enjoying being "found" on myspace. I got an email from a friend of mine just this morning--we worked together in high school and spent a week at Disney after I graduated. We kept up pretty regularly in college, but she went to New Mexico and stayed there for college and her master's degree. I just found out she's in Winston-Salem for her PhD, so hopefully we can stop by and catch up on our way down/way back from vacation.

Ahhh, vacation. Despite the fact that I am petrified of the thought of having to wear a bathing suit (I actually have to buy one first), I am soooo looking forward to the change of pace. It's something about leaving home--you may have down time at home, but there are always those nagging thoughts of things you should be doing (like dishes.....). On vacation, it's ok to sleep in and chill out. Want to lay on the beach all day and eat ice cream for dinner? Sure! It's vacation! No email, no phone calls, no way anyone can harass you--it's priceless.

We (the 6 of us) are hoping to leave Friday, June 30, and stay somewhere in North Carolina-ish for the night. We get the condo on Saturday, but if we stay overnight somewhere only a few hours or less away, we can shower and change into beach gear at the hotel and head straight for the ocean--no need to get into the condo first. We have to leave the condo Saturday morning, July 8, so Tim and I are talking about maybe driving to Durham Saturday morning, staying overnight there Saturday night, and then seeing Nikki in Winston-Salem on our way home Sunday. It's all pretty tentative, but that's what we're thinking.

Tim's never been on a vacation with my fam, so that'll be interesting. I've been to Aruba twice with his fam, but he's an only child, so it's no biggie. It'll be Tim & me, my parents, and Jen & Joe at the condo (unless Amy decides to go, or Jay & Kim, now that they aren't working). I think it's a two bedroom place, but there are couches. We don't have any plans really, other than going to Medieval Times (so tourist-y, but most of us have never been). So, it's like $60 a person for that, and we'll split the $700 for the condo, plus the hotel(s), but beyond that, it's just food and gas. We'll eat out, I'm sure, but we also do low-maintenance cooking. It'll be a nice, low-cost way to relax. Compared to the price of a cruise, which I've been checking out for next year or the year after, it's a bargain.

So yeah, not much else going on. The lab is still being slow, but Dr. B and I are going to talk about maybe moving to another project. My next committee meeting is July 20, so I've got a little over a month to figure things out. I'm just taking it one day at a time right now.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Weekend update

Here’s the latest:

House stuff: We drove past the new white colonial and the split level Friday night. The colonial is really nice, but it sits right on the road. Even with a fenced in backyard, I would just be too nervous living that close to a main road. The split is in a good location, but driving by, it didn’t look nearly as nice as it did in the pictures. Plus, it being older and more expensive, the price would really have to drop for us to be interested.

So, we’re back to just planning on staying in this house. Something spectacular would have to show up for us to change our minds.

Wedding stuff: The bachelor/bachelorette parties for the upcoming wedding were this weekend. Tim had a good time golfing (I guess they were loaded—maybe it helped his game) and enjoyed dinner, but I guess things trailed off a bit after that. I went down early (although not as early as I had planned) with Amy and worked on the centerpieces, and then we met up and went to a Mexican place for dinner. That was fun, especially since we had a little room almost to ourselves and could be rowdy. Then it was back to my aunt’s house for a bonfire. Some of my aunts and cousins came over, and we had a good time swapping stories and drinking margaritas. The male dancer was supposed to show at 9:30, but he ended up being over an hour late.

Poor Heather. The guy showed up, and #1, he wasn’t hot (his stomach was all flabby!), and Naomi thought he was a bit impaired. It started out ok, with a dirty poem, but then it got crazy. He didn’t do much dancing—he just started grinding all over Heather! I didn’t think strippers were allowed to get all touchy-feely, but if this guy did what he was doing in a club, he’d get thrown out, that’s for sure. He did a little grinding on the other girls too, which caused everyone to get up and move into the other room except Amy, Melissa, and I. Poor Melissa too—he laid her down on the couch and then was all straddling her, grinding everywhere! He’d sit down on the chair and then have the girls dance all over him—he wasn’t doing any of the work!

Amy and Melissa did a good job of trying to distract him from Heather, and by the end, they wouldn’t leave her side. Aunt Angie gave him several warnings to back off (I guess she had even talked to him outside before he started dancing), but he didn’t really stop. Finally, he agreed to end early, but even his last song, he was getting all nasty. Christina pulled Heather into the bathroom after he was done, just to keep her away until he left!

I felt bad for Heather, who basically got “dance raped”, but I also felt bad for Naomi and Aunt Angie. My aunt had played perfect hostess the whole time, and she felt responsible. Naomi had been the person to hire him, and I think she felt bad when everyone was saying how terrible it was. I mean, there’s no way to know what a guy is going to be like until he shows up, and they both did such a good job with the rest of the party. I hope they know that and don’t take the dancer thing too personally.

After the dancer left, things started to break up. We put Heather to bed, and I left about midnight. I dropped Amy and my mom off (she had come down for the bonfire). I was proud of my mom too—there was alcohol everywhere, but she had made a cute little fruit punch and frozen fruit mix for herself and the other non-drinkers, and she didn’t drink at all.

Rest of the weekend: We didn’t get up till about 2 PM (I never heard my alarm) on Sunday. After that, we got up and went for a walk, then I went tanning (my new favorite hobby!), made dinner, and went to a going-away party for one of my classmates. It was basically a complain-fest for all of us—there are few of us who really feel like we are progressing in our PhDs. I guess that’s fairly normal, but we all agreed it’s insanely frustrating. One of the girls in my class (who I always thought was a bit of a gunner) confessed she too had been thinking seriously about going back to med school, even though she was more interested in the research side than the medicine side. That really surprised me, and it made me feel a little better about my struggles. I figured if she’s had doubts, then maybe I’m ok.

Other than that, not much new. I started tanning on Friday for the wedding, and it’s the big joke now. I was like a different person when I got home, so Tim told me I need to go tanning every day :) Maybe I have some sort of seasonal affective disorder or something, but I do feel a ton better. I’m only going in for about five minutes at a time—I am a pale, pasty girl—but it really has been great. Maybe I’ll do it for a while.

Friday, June 09, 2006

When to quit?

First off, I got a new battery for my car. Hooray! I had to get a jump to get out of my parking garage, and then there were five times when my car almost stalled on the way to the mechanic (I had to keep moving to keep the alternator going, so whenever I was stopped in traffic longer than a minute, all my indicator lights came on and started flickering! I almost didn't make it...) So, $150 later and I have a functioning car. Hooray!

The title of the post refers to house stuff. The house we put an offer on is gone--financing must've gone through. There are pretty much no other houses that fit our specs in our range, but there are a few that are close. Here's the deal:

Perfect house:
4 bedroom, at least 2.5 bath, colonial, newer, with decent yard, fence, and a deck. Basement a must, preferably finished.

House #1: the one we lost
It's built in 1989. 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath. It's got a fenced in back yard, but overall, most of the yard is creek--there's one on the left side of this pic, and one running through the back yard. Very small deck. Basement wasn't finished, but it had potential. It was on the market for almost a year. Most recent asking price: 209,900. We were told it sold near to asking price. It has been emtpy for a while.



House #2: the older colonial
Built in 1969, it's older than our current house. 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath, but needed A LOT of updating. Rooms were laid out weird (small kitchen, bathroom basically right in kitchen area). It was almost identical to the house we lived in when I was in PA. Huge deck, but no back yard to speak of--it basically drops into a wooded ravine. Currently asking 209,900, but it was 219,900 when we looked. It has potential, but it is for someone willing to do the work. It's one street over from the newer colonial. Also empty for some time now.

House #3: the split level
Tim and I aren't into split levels for the same reason we wouldn't get a bi level again: no basement. However, this one has a first floor living room, dining room, kitchen, family room, and bedroom suite with bathroom. It's got four more bedrooms and two more bathrooms upstairs. The lowest level has a huge rec room. Because it has a LR and FR upstairs, that rec room is basically a basement. So, that's it's plus. It was built in 1973, so it's the same age as our current house, although the roof and stuff is newer. Down side: it's a corner lot, which Tim hates to mow. It's off of a cross street north of the two colonials, so not too much farther. It was 239,900 when we first saw it, and it's 224,900 now. Looks empty from the pics, but don't know how long.

House #4: the "if-only" house
This one our realtor just sent us today, although I think it is the same house Tim's mom told us about a few days ago. It hits all our requirements: 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath, built in 1996, fenced, flat backyard with a deck, finished basement. It's beautiful inside. Two problems: it's not as far east as the other houses, so it cuts less time off of our commute. And then the biggie: it's a corner lot. The street it's actually on is a no thru street, so that doesn't get a lot of traffic. But the other road is Broadview Rd., an extremely busy main throughway in Parma. Like, it's five lanes wide--two in each direction plus a turn lane. If only this house was on a different street... We just saw it today, and it's 219,900. Not sure how long it's been on the market.

So the question is: when do we quit looking? The other night, we talked money and got ourselves on a plan to stay in our current house. If we move, that all changes. It costs us about 10k to sell the house through a realtor (this comes out of the proceeds, so you never actually see the money. But there it went). Then, it's about 10k in loan fees, assuming we have to take out a bridge loan (and assuming our house sells in a few months). Again, you can roll the fees into the new mortgage, but it costs you.

So, right off the bat, you're down 20k. If you save money, like through gas costs, and you are in the house long enough to let it appreciate (they say at least 4 years), then you've made a good financial decision.

But right now, if you subtract what we've paid to fix our current house, plus what we'd pay the realtor, we'd be lucky if we broke even selling our house. So, we'd need a good deal on the next house, and we'd need to know we'd be there for a while.

If that last colonial was on a quiet street, I'd jump at it. But I don't know if I can live right next to a very busy street for many years. Really, the split level is probably our best long-term option, but it's also the most expensive.

I just need to know when to quit. I am ready to move on, either in a new house or in our current one. I just can't take being in limbo anymore.

Tim and I are going to talk about it and see what we want to do. We haven't gone through the split or the white colonial, so maybe we'll do that and then decide.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Ahh, Irony

Last night, Tim and I were talking about money stuff. Since the house stuff fell through, we're trying to decide how to get our financial house in order so that we don't have to rely on our home equity line every time something comes up. I mean, it's nice that it's there, but it'd be better if we had a savings account that we could use as an emergency fund. We've been very careful to save for our long term goals like retirement, but we've been lacking in other savings.

They say you should have three to six months in expenses put away in case of job loss or disability. We don't. Luckily, when Tim was laid off a few years ago, he was only off work for a month, and he had unemployment. Granted, unemployment pays you less than half of what you usually make, but for a month, we got by. If that happened again, I think things would be tougher.

I'm not so worried about Tim's job as I am about random expenses. There's the house, with things like the water heater, washer, and roof. I'm sure those expenses won't slow down any time soon. His car craps out every few months and costs us several hundred dollars a pop. Plus, he'll need another car soon, and it'd be nice to have a down payment saved up. My car isn't a spring chicken either--it'll be four in August, and it's over 71,000 miles. Not as bad as Tim's five year old, 150,000 miles, but it'd be good to be prepared.

Well, of course since we were talking about being prepared for car emergencies last night, my car wouldn't start this morning. It wouldn't even turn over, and all the displays were flickering, so I was pretty sure it was my battery. Tim was already long gone, and when I called AAA, they couldn't guarantee a time (they thought about an hour). So I called Amy and dragged her out of bed. Half an hour later, she had jumped my car and I was on my way. Hooray!!

I got into work and parked in the garage. Just to check, I tried to start the car. No luck. I sort of thought that would be the case, since I didn't find a light on or a door open that would've drained the battery overnight. It is the original battery--I don't know what the normal lifespan is, but four years and 71,000 miles seems pretty good.

So, I've got to get a jump from the garage people, and then it's off to get a new battery. At least it's a minor repair. And I am sooooo thankful it happened like this instead of on vacation in a few weeks, or at a point where I really didn't have the time to wait for a jump.

I think it's just a little karmic nudge to say that setting up some short term emergency money might be a good idea. Squirreling away money in a low interest savings account isn't sexy, but it's something we've been putting off for a long time. I know some of the internet banks are giving almost 5% interest, so while it won't make us millionaires, it'll prevent us from having to shell out finance charges by paying it through home equity.

Ahh, life. The whole thing is pretty funny, really. I think somebody Upstairs is having a good time messing with me these last few weeks. Well, at least it's taught me to have a sense of humor.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Time heals all wounds

Well, it's been 24 hours post house bombshell, and I seem to be coping pretty well. I'm still sad we didn't get it, but we spent last night thinking about all of the things we do have (mostly, a roof over our heads, even if it leaks). Being grateful is really the best way to get out of my selfish ruts that I get into. So we didn't get this really nice house at a bargain price. Well, at least we have a house. And we ended the deal without shelling out big bucks for loans and realtors and home improvements that can wait.

We could still get the house if the financing falls through, but that's probably a less than one percent chance. We'll know in a week or less, since they agreed to close by the 23rd and they have to have their financing set up before that.

We've agreed that we'll let life be on relative hold for a week, but after that, we need to get on with things. This whole house-in-limbo thing has been going on since January-February. I've been going to this church by my house for almost a year. I haven't joined the parish yet--the first few months, I thought I'd go to this other one, and then the last six months, I thought we'd be moving and it wasn't worth it. We haven't found a new dentist for the same reason.

It's time to commit. If this house sells, as we think it will, it's time to put down more permanent roots. I'm tired of not doing this or that--planting a garden, painting the rooms, etc--because we might be moving. I need to know I'm going to be somewhere for the next four or five years. If it's a new house, great. If it's this current house, that's ok too. I just need to know.

So, I think I've already started accepting we'll be where we are for a while. And really, that's ok. The house is fine, we have enough space. It's more affordable than what we were looking at. Sure, it's a drive for me--I've made no secret of the fact that I hate my hour commute. Sure, the money we'd save in gas would almost cover the increased monthly payments (although it wouldn't cover the nearly ten thousand dollars in loan fees between the new mortgage and the bridge loan). But, we're moving in four or five years no matter what. It'll likely be to a new city for residency, but even if we stay in Cleveland, we've already decided we'll move to be closer to the hospital.

I will miss not having the new house, but I'm ready to stop looking. I can't handle the heart-wrenching rollercoaster of the homebuying process anymore. I don't even know if I have it in me to go through dealing with these sellers a third time if the financing would fall through. It's just too emotionally exhausting, and the stress has been taking a toll (just ask my immune system and my intestines. They've been unhappy).

The lesson from all of this, at least for the short term, is to be happy with what you have. I definitely feel like I've learned this. We went through some real "fixer uppers" while we were house searching this time, and they were all a lot more than our current house is worth. I guess location is everything, but I'm not willing to pay $100,000 more than our current house is worth in order to get a crappier house that is 30 minutes (or less) closer to work. I don't pay that in gas, that's for sure.

Maybe the thing to do is alter my schedule so I am driving less during rush hour. I don't have a lot of flexibility right now, and I won't when I'm in the hospital for clerkships, but maybe soon my time will be more negotiable.

For now, I am thankful that we have a place to live. I'm only 26. I don't need my "forever house" right away. I'm content to stay where I am as long as that's what I'm meant to do.

Life goes on...

Monday, June 05, 2006

Gone

We didn't get the house. I guess the realtor said that this other guy didn't even call her until they had already accepted the other offer, so we never had a shot. The seller's realtor said he felt better about our offer, since we were preapproved for a loan and everything, but money spoke to the sellers and they took it.

I'm really bummed. I got all choked up when Tim called to tell me. I didn't think I'd be so emotional about it. I've been the rational one this whole time, but I finally let my guard down this weekend, and now I've let myself be hurt.

Our realtor said she'd call if their financing fell through, but my guess is it won't. It's pretty easy to get a loan, especially with all the "no money down" and "interest only" stuff out there.

Damn. There are so many "should haves" and "what if's" going on right now, but I believe we made the best decisions based on the information we had at the time.

I really do believe that if we were meant to get the house, we would've gotten it. I don't know what the big picture is for us, but this is a part of it. There's some lesson in this, as there always is. A lot of times, it just takes me years to see it.

I am really bummed. If I didn't have seminar this afternoon, I might just finish up and go home. I'm that torn up. I know things will be easier now that we don't have to sell. I just thought maybe that was the lesson--to learn to take chances and not take the easy way. I though this house buying experience was to teach me to be less conservative, to be more flexible, and to be willing to take a risk. Well, it didn't work.

So, we'll be fixing our roof and tidying up the house. No big projects, no packing of boxes, no moving of furniture. I can buy groceries again. Maybe I'll plant the garden I've been debating.

Or maybe I'll just go home, lay on the hammock, and try to move on.

Am I grieving for not getting a house? That seems awfully selfish and materialistic. But I think grief is the closest label I have. I'm certainly moving through the stages. We're past shock--that was the first phone call. Denial was thinking that we could just go back and take their old offer. That was bargaining too, I guess. Guilt is where I am now--if only we had taken their counter offer, if only we had started this process sooner...

So I've got anger, depression (maybe I just skipped anger), and acceptance to go.

Oh well. I hope I'll get over this soon. I am really sad about the whole thing, and I feel like I let Tim down. I think that is the worst of it. He was completely in love with this house. If I had let him be completely in charge--if I would have just butted out completely--maybe we'd have the house. I know he's heartbroken, and I feel like it's my fault. I know he won't be mad at me. He's a good guy, and he's already tried to comfort me for how bad I feel about this. But if he was mad, or even just upset, at me, I think it'd be justified. I feel like I held him back on this whole thing. Maybe me trying to be rational was too much--maybe I should've just jumped in.

I could rehash this for years. I'll stop rambling now and try to get on with my day. I have a feeling I'm not going to be very successful with that one.

My heart is racing....

I think my heart is about to stop. Seriously.

To get you up to speed:
-Tim went through the house Thursday night.
-We made an offer Saturday afternoon.
-They had an open house Sunday afternoon and wanted to see how much traffic they got. We drove by a few times, and we only saw two cars, one of which we were pretty sure was a realtor.
-We got their counter offer just before Jen's graduation. They hadn't moved much, but they moved some, which was an improvement over last time. We thought things looked pretty good.

-After Jen's graduation, we made a big move in our number and put in our counter.
-Just a few minutes ago, Tim called and said someone had made an offer last night with no inspections and closer to the asking price (although we don't know what it is). They've verbally accepted the offer.
-Tim just called Lindsey to see if we can take off the inspections and give them what they offered in the counter last night. Now we wait.

I am so freaked. I don't know what to do. Part of me wishes we would've taken the counter right away last night, but at the time, we felt it was really high. We are only taking it now to avoid a bidding war. If that starts, we lose. We just can't do it.

I don't know what to think. Part of me is really bummed about losing the house, part of me is pissed that we didn't take the counter, and part of me is relieved. The relief comes back to knowing this is out of our hands. If this deal falls through, it's not for lack of trying. Maybe this is God's way of preventing us from making a mistake.

Right now, we haven't lost any money. If this falls through today, we're just right back to where we started. It's sad, but we still have a house.

I wouldn't let myself get excited about the house, but after they moved a little on their price last night, I let myself start planning. We picked a move-in day, we were already talking about finding realtors and where furniture would go.

I know if this falls through, it'll hurt for a while. There's nothing else out there even remotely close to what we want. We've looked.

But, if it falls through, we just stay where we are. It's a tough market right now, and by far my biggest reservation was selling our house. What if we end up in a position like these people? I mean, we'd like to think we'll price our house better, but who knows?

I am shaking. I really am. But I would guess within the next hour, we'll know, one way or another.

It is going to be impossible to do anything until I hear from the realtor. I'm just frozen.

Ug, I think I'm going to puke....

Friday, June 02, 2006

Such chuckleheads

Well, we're proceeding ahead with the house searching again. Really, it's not a search, because we are only interested in the one house. We're doing things a little differently this time. We have a buyer's agent, which has already been helpful, and we've gotten pre-approved for a mortgage loan (not that we were worried--we're not breaking the bank here).

We've had some roof guys come out. If we do replace the roof, it wouldn't be cheap. However, the roof overall is ok--it's one leak around a vent. It sounds like if we were going to be in the house for ten years, we might as well do it all now, but if we won't, just fix the leak. There's a tiny bit of mold around the leak on the plywood, but the guy said all they'd do is spray it with bleach. If we do that and patch the leak, the roof should be good for a while (or at least long enough for us to sell). We hope. Hopefully the home inspector thinks so too.

I've been pretty calm with this whole thing. My feeling: if it will be, it will be. This house has continued to pop up in our lives, so I believe that either it's meant to be our house, or we're meant to learn a lesson from this whole process that will help us in the future.

Tim, on the other hand, is being a hopped-up lunatic. It's cute, really :) The guy is so excited he was literally jumping up and down at one point last night. He and his parents went through it again last night to check everything out, and by the time I got home a little before 9, he was ready to call the realtor and put an offer in last night! I tried to talk him down, but it wasn't happening. Thank goodness that he listens to the realtor more than he listens to me :) She didn't see a need to rush, so we'll wait at least until tomorrow. Not that that doesn't seem like rushing to me too!

So, I've been doing all the touch up stuff I've put off for six months. Wednesday night I finally touched up the bathroom. Two hours in sweltering heat with no ventilation--it wasn't fun. But, that was one of the biggest things we had to do. There's some ceiling touch up and a lot of landscaping stuff, but overall, I think we could pull it off in a weekend, especially if we could coerce some family to come over and help. I'm hoping promising food will do it:)

It's been tough to get anything done at work, but I am trying to be ok with that. I don't have a ton going on anyway today, so I'm calling it an at-work mental health day.

That's where I'm at. I'm really pretty calm with things one way or another. I really like the house, but I don't want to let myself get to a point where I'll be heartbroken if it doesn't work out. Tim, on the other hand, is already mentally moving furniture. It's great to see him so pumped about something, but I don't want him to be heartbroken either. But, if one of us has to be disappointed, he's the better person because he won't get all psychoanalytical about it :)

Here's hoping! And if you know anyone interested in buying a well-maintained bilevel in Parma, let me know....