Saturday, February 24, 2007

When it rains, it pours

We've been really lucky with unplanned expenses the last few months. We know the roof has to be torn off and replaced this spring, and we've been saving up the $4000 it will hopefully cost (we got an estimate of $3800 last year, so here's hoping it didn't go up too much). We haven't saved the full amount, but we're working on it.

Well, that got a bit derailed today. In the span of two hours:
-we found out we'll owe a few hundred bucks in taxes.
-the humidifier attached to the furnace is leaking water in the utility room, so that needs to be replaced.
-the washer won't drain. We've tried everything, and it looks like the motor/pump blew. It's less than 4 years old, but it'll be either a few hundred to fix it or a few hundred to replace it.
-Tim dropped off his truck (always a bad thing). He needs $900 worth of work on his brakes. The guy said it's a safety issue and it's not even drivable right now.

So, in two hours, we're out probably about 2 grand-ish, maybe a bit more from the estimates. And we will still have to get the roof fixed. Just when we thought we were getting ahead...

Really, I guess things could always be worse. But it's days like today when I wish we lived in a little apartment and took the bus. I'm hoping the bad news is over for a little while.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I'm back!

Hey there--I'll give you the full run-down on the vacation later, but I just wanted to say that we made it back from Aruba in one piece. There was actually a little bit of doubt on that--getting home was quite an adventure--but the rest of the trip was awesome.

The summary of the return trip:
-Got to Aruban airport at 12:30. Through all the security/customs/check-in stuff at 2:15 (the place was packed).

-Flight was supposed to leave at 3:10. We boarded at 4:15. After taxing for an hour plus, we took off at 5:30 (Aruba time--it's 4:30 US Eastern time). It's a four hour plus flight. Our connection was supposed to leave at 7:30 US time. No chance in hell, despite what the flight attendants are saying.

-Get into Charlotte at 8:45. They put us up at the Ramada. They tell us to take the shuttle to the hotel, about 15 minutes away. Except there is one shuttle. That comes every half hour. And holds 10 people. And there are 200 people (our flight, plus one from St. Maarten) waiting for a shuttle. At 10:30, we decided to take a taxi (let it be known, I was in line to rent a car and go, but I was overruled).

-Got to the Ramada at 11. We couldn't get our luggage, and they didn't have toiletries beyond the basics, so we coped as best we could. We got up at 4:30 to make sure we caught the shuttle for our 8 AM flight.

-Hung out at the airport from 5-8 AM Sunday. The flight took off on time, and we were supposed to land in Cleveland at 9:30. At 9, they told us Cleveland airport was closed, but it should reopen soon, so we slowed down in-flight. At 10 AM, we landed in Columbus, supposedly just as a brief stop.

-We taxied to take off from Columbus at 10:30. Ten minutes later, we were back sitting on the runway, supposedly with an hour delay.

-At 11:15, the pilot said we had a window, and we were going to take off before we lost it. That's reassuring. But finally, at 12 PM Sunday, we landed in Cleveland. Hooray!

-We got our luggage and headed to long term parking. Unfortunately, Tim's parents' car had sat in the 0 degree temps and blizzard for two weeks and wouldn't start. After a battery jump, we were home by 2 PM!

-Oddly enough, a few hours after we landed, a Delta plane went off the same runway we landed on. The runway looked fine, and it was actually sunny when we landed, but it was a little eery to have a plane crash just a few hours behind us.

So, 25 hours after we started our departure, we got home. I was never so happy to see six foot drifts of snow in my life!

Of course, I got in to the lab yesterday morning, and my boss comes by a few hours later. I'm trying to get organized with everything that happened the week I was gone (ordering, paper work, etc). My boss asks where I am with things, and he wants to see my new data. Umm, ok, we met at 4 PM the Friday before I left (at 4 AM Saturday morning). I've been back home for less than 24 hours. When exactly would I have gathered this new data? Do you think I have a twin? I really tried to be nice about it, telling him my plan for the week and beyond, but it's tough not to be totally exasperated with him when he asks me stupid questions. I mean really.

So yeah, that was the rude awakening back into lab. Really, I expected it--he can't remember when you'll be gone, or what experiment you've run, or when you were supposed to meet, but he'll retain random papers or pieces of information just fine. Gotta love selective memory.

Anyway, I'm trying to regroup. I've spent some time organizing bills, doing massive amounts of laundry (and I still have a ton to do), cooking and cleaning, and generally getting back into the swing of things. I'm hoping to have some time tonight or tomorrow to do the fun stuff, like going through the 500 digital pictures I took in Aruba, but that might have to wait.

I'll let you know when I have the pictures up in my photo album. Till then, back to work.

Friday, February 09, 2007

A quick note

I've been a busy bee this morning. Tim's mom bought the airline tickets through Expedia, who bought them through United, who is using US Airways as our flight. This means I had to call all of them to get confirmation numbers for the next link in the chain, and even then, I found out we can't check in online or pick our seats. Actually, I had to call first just to see who we needed to check in with at the airport (United? US Air? Both?). This is why I always buy directly from the airline's website. But, the tickets were a Christmas gift, so I can't complain.

The rest of the day has been cleaning up messes. I checked our credit card balance online, and I found a weird note on Tim's card that the two most recent purchases had been transferred to some new 16-digit account number. Here's how the call went:

"Hi, I have an uninitiated transfer of two purchases to an unknown account number. Can you tell me what it is?"

"Yes, those were moved to your new account."

"What new account?"

"The one that you opened after you closed the current account."

"Umm, I never closed the account."

"Oh, one moment please....."

It turns out that some merchant called them to say that our "account information had been compromised." She couldn't tell me which merchant, but it was under investigation. The credit card company then cancelled Tim's account and transferred all the recent purchases to a new account. Apparently, our new cards are being mailed. I was a bit flustered, since:

#1, I'm going to be out of the country for a week.
#2, I was planning on using that card in Aruba.
#3, I was never told this was happening in the first place, and if I hadn't checked today, how would I have known?

The woman told me that the old card would still work, but all of the purchases will be transferred to the new account, which we can activate when the cards arrive.

It was a big pain in the ass. I had to switch all of the bills that get auto-charged to that credit card to a different one, pull both our our credit reports and check for any new accounts or activity, and call Tim to tell him not to use the card anymore. A big, huge, unplanned pain in the butt.

I don't know why this happened, but I've heard of it happening before. I read that an employee at a restaurant got caught writing down people's credit card numbers when they paid and then buying stuff online with the numbers. When the restaurant found out, they had to contact all of the patrons that had used the card in the last X amount of time. Weird thing is, we never heard from a company, so I don't know what our situation is.

Add this confusion to all of the lab catch-up (ordering has been a bitch), and I've been off the hook busy today. Vacation will seem most excellent.

I did have a bit of a body image nervous breakdown on Wednesday night. I was trying on my bathing suit and summer clothes, and I took pictures with the digital camera of the angles (back, side) you can't see on yourself to check for weird bunching, etc. Seeing yourself in a picture is like seeing a totally different person. It was utterly depressing. I wanted to curl up into the fetal position and rock back and forth for a few hours.

I expected this breakdown though. I was in therapy for my eating disorder the last time (two years ago) that we went to Aruba, and she helped talk me down. Not having that avenue, I knew things would get ugly for me--I just didn't know when. Well, Wednesday was it. I've got to just suck it up and deal with my body image problems for now (funny thing is I think I'm down a few pounds from the last time we went, but I feel worse). I'm leaving tomorrow, and nothing is going to help me drop my unwanted 40 pounds between now and then.

Vacation is always a tough time for me. I've hated the way I look for the last several years at least, and having to be around people/wear a bathing suit/be in pictures makes me want to vomit. But, I also don't want to stay inside while everyone else is out having fun. I guess I compromise--I go out, but as covered as I can. I take most of the pictures so that I am the one always behind the camera. I only expose the bathing suit when I am in the water, and it's covered by shorts and a shirt the rest of the time.

Maybe I should take up a winter sport so that everyone is layered in their heavy, poofy clothes. Then again, skiing takes coordination, and that is one thing I lack greatly.

Overall, I am pumped to be out of the lab, excited to be heading towards warmth, and generally thrilled to just be away. I'm going to focus on that and try not to let the body image stuff creep too much into my thoughts.

Ok, back to work. I've still got a ton to do, and I have to be up at 3:30 AM tomorrow morning. Time to get organized! Maybe I can sneak out of work a little early....

Talk to you in a week!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Almost time.

We're leaving for Aruba at the buttcrack of dawn (actually, even earlier) on Saturday morning. It can't come soon enough, really. The temperature has been hovering around 0 degrees the last few days. That's unheard of in Cleveland--it happens maybe once every 5-10 years. We even had negative numbers for highs overnight a few nights. Brrr. I'm about done with that. Warmer weather is calling my name.

Plus, my boss is back to being crankypants. I don't know what had him in such a good mood for the last month or so, but he's back to being pissy. Most of it isn't directed at me, which is a plus, but everyone in the lab suffers from being an accidental casuality of his bad mood now and then. A break from that is also sounding great.

And I'm just burnt out. I've been so exhausted lately--I really hit the wall about the time my committee meeting happened, and I haven't recharged yet. I haven't been extraordinarily busy with my own experiments either--average stuff, really. But, I've been helping Ming with hers, trying to get the rotating student's stuff finished so he can go torment another lab, calling companies with ordering issues, and just generally housekeeping. I definitely miss the technician we had--people always bugged her for stuff. Apparently, I am her replacement. Thing was, she wasn't expected to do her own project at the same time.

Overall though, things are moving along. I've had to stay late several times, but I haven't come in too much on the weekends. I'm sure my boss will think that I'm slacking, but I'm slacking back to a normal (50-60 hour) work week. I'd say that's good enough for the next few weeks.

And I have a bonus night off tonight. They cancelled classes at the barn, so I'm free to be home on a Tuesday night for once. I love having bonus free time. Maybe I can finally start digging out the summer clothes for Aruba. I've got to do it sometime this week. I hate trying on the bathing suits and the shorts, but I'm not wearing jeans and sweatshirts on the beach. It's all about compromise.

Friday, February 02, 2007

I'm back, sort of

I survived the committee meeting on Monday and am back to the regular grind. Overall, the meeting went better than expected--my advisor still tried to upstage me, although not as much as before, but this time, I was ready. This time it wasn't so much a personal attack on me as it was a sneak attack on my future plans. We're doing a spinoff set of experiments not really connected to my current project. I alluded to them in my first presentation, and my boss liked it. Then he wanted to take it out, so I did. Then he wanted the experiments mentioned again, and then he changed his mind. Final answer: I didn't bring them up in my meeting. But of course, after I was done, he started with, "What Bridgette failed to mention is...." But I was ready--I had read up on it already, so after he introduced it, I took it over. I think the committee was impressed. They are generally happy with how things are, so that's a plus.

I've been trying to get back to real life since then. I finally went grocery shopping on Wednesday, and Jen and I filled up a cart and a half of groceries. I had a list--I just didn't realize how out of groceries I really was! So now we have food again. I haven't gotten a chance to clean, but I am hoping to do that this weekend.

Actually, I am really looking forward to this weekend. I have NOTHING on the planner. Awesome. The Super Bowl is Sunday night, so that's sacred time, but nothing else going on otherwise. I need to clean, organize the tax stuff, go shopping, and start packing for Aruba. I'm also hoping to just have some time to relax. It's going to be bone-chilling cold, but I don't think we are suppose to get a ton of snow. That means I can actually drive and leave the house.

There's been a lot of stuff on my mind, and I hope to get a chance to word spew sometime soon and get it all out. For now, I have to go back to being the "lab mom" or "lab bitch", depending on your perspective, and figure out all of the issues that have cropped up with ordering, equipment, etc since I've been busy with the committee meeting. Always something fun.