Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Perspective

Let me first say that Sophie's surgery went well. I'll get back to the details, but I wanted to make sure you knew that first :)

This past week has been very challenging in lots of different ways. I don't think Sophie will nap long enough for me to get into all of them, but let me just say that it has really made me prioritize my life a little bit.

First: Sophie. Poor little thing. She has been so cranky (well, cranky for her, which isn't all that bad). She doesn't want to sit still, doesn't want to eat, and just has random bouts of crying. We took her to my departmental party on Friday, and she alternated between having a great time and wanting nothing to do with anything. My department rented out the Natural History Museum, and we had free run of the place. We actually got to eat in the main hall, underneath the dinosaur skeletons! It was pretty awesome. Tim was like a kid in a candy store. He was trying to teach Sophie all the names of the animals. I, on the other hand, was pointing to things like leopards and saying, "Look Sophie, big kitty!"

Sophie had a great time when we let her out of the stroller to run around. They have all of these stuffed animals (like real animals, not plush ones) set up in dioramas. Sophie loved running up to the glass and yelling at them :) As long as she was free, she was fine. Trying to get her to sit still and eat was something else. Tim ended up scarfing his food (which was ok, but not great) so that he could walk around with Sophie while I ate. We packed it in about 9. From the stories I've heard, it sounds like people got a little goofy after we left. Fortunately, no dinosaurs were injured.

Saturday I figured out why Sophie might be cranky. Not only were her ears bothering her, but she was popping both the upper and lower molars on the right side. That would make anyone cranky!

Saturday night Jen came up and made the midnight CVS run with me. We got most of the free stuff we wanted, but we hit another CVS at 7 AM to try and get the rest (without much success). I went to church later in the morning while Tim stayed with a fussy Sophie. My friend Katie from Alaska came over Sunday afternoon, and Sophie was in a good mood long enough to have some fun playing.

Things were going really well until about dinner time on Sunday. We were trying to get organized for Sophie's surgery on Monday morning. Since I had to stay at work after the surgery, we figured we'd drive two cars to the hospital Monday morning. Tim went out about 7 PM to fill up his car with gas so he didn't have to go in the morning. I started getting Sophie ready for bed. He called me about 15 minutes later to say that his car wouldn't start. He got to the gas station fine, but after he pumped, the car wouldn't turn over. It was in the single digits temperature-wise, so we thought maybe that was an issue.

He called AAA at 7:15, and they said they couldn't have someone there until 9:30!!! Seriously? We needed it towed just up the road to the mechanic. There are tons of tow shops around, and he had to wait more than two hours?

This also meant I had to keep Sophie awake so that I could pack her up and take my car to pick up Tim once he dropped the truck at the mechanic's place. So, I kept little feisty-pants up. We finally all got home before ten. And we had to get up at 5 AM the next morning.

Sophie was NPO after she went to bed, and all I could think about Monday morning was how pissed she was going to be when she woke up and realized she couldn't have anything to eat or drink. The plan was to have everything packed in the car and literally pick Sophie up from her crib and put her in the carseat still asleep. We had decent success with that.

Driving into the hospital at 6 AM, the thermometer outside said it was 0 degrees. And it was dark and windy. There is a tunnel from the parking garage to the hospital, but it was still frigid. We had Sophie wrapped in a big fleece blanket to keep her warm. She really put up with it well.

We checked into pre-op about 6:30 AM. They weighed her and had us change her into this (absolutely adorable) tiny hospital gown. She was wide awake by this point, but she was so curious as to what was going on that she wasn't upset about being hungry. For a while, anyway.

We saw the nurse, the resident, the anesthesiologist, and the surgeon. And then we waited. We were second in line, but Sophie didn't get in until a little after 8. By that time, she was bored, hungry, and had had enough. We walked with her, next to her little crib, until we got to the surgery double doors. It was the saddest thing--she was sitting up in her crib, and she turned around to look at us. That was the first time she looked scared. It absolutely broke my heart.

We sat in the waiting room, jumping every time we heard a baby cry, for about 25 minutes. We saw them wheel her into recovery as they went past the waiting room. She had a mask on and was still under anesthesia. I wanted to run to her, but we had to wait 15 minutes until they had her off the anesthesia. That was terrible--I was glad she was done, but I was literally twitching because I wanted to see her so badly.

When they finally took us back, she was off of anesthesia but asleep in her crib. We waited for a few minutes until she woke up. When she did, she had the most pitiful cry. I held her and rocked her, and she went back to sleep for a bit. We were able to give her some juice when she got up again. Once she had eaten, she was much calmer. It was obvious that the anesthesia hadn't worn all the way off yet. We changed her and bundled her, and then I walked Sophie and Tim back to the car. I absolutely did not want to have to walk next door and go to work, but I knew I had to. All I wanted to do was hold my baby.

Tim said she slept the whole way home, and she slept the whole morning too. The surgeon told us that she actually was developing an infection in her ears before surgery, so he had to suction some infected fluid out. That meant 10 days of antibiotic drops instead of 3. Tim got her up at noon to have some milk and tylenol, and they drove back up to pick me up at 1.

It was so hard to focus during my rat surgeries, but I knew I needed to get done and get home to Sophie. I felt bad that Sophie had to take another car ride, but I didn't have a car. Tim bundled her up and cranked the heat the whole way up. She was semi-awake the entire car ride. Sophie and I dropped Tim off at the mechanic's on the way home to pick up his truck (bad battery and corroded connection, $250). When we got home, Sophie was actually pretty awake. She had some food, and then she wanted to play.

Already she was acting like a different baby. I think she can hear better, and she's verbalizing more. Her balance is a little better too. And even with those nasty molars coming in, she was in a much better mood. For instance, Tim had a dentist appointment a little after 6 PM, and I needed to fill Sophie's prescription. So I bundled her up and headed to the store. It should've been a quick drop-off. Instead, we drove 15 minutes west to a Rite Aid, but they didn't have the drops. So we drove 20 minutes east from there and tried a Walgreen's. No drops. So it was back west again to Giant Eagle, and they finally had them. Through three stops, getting in and out of the car, Sophie was an angel. Not a peep. She seemed semi-alert, but very calm. It was amazing.

I finally picked the drops up at 8 PM, right before bed for her. She didn't love them, but afterwards she had a bottle and went right to bed. I'm sure she was exhausted.

My sister Amy came up Monday night, and she stayed with Sophie on Tuesday. I was able to get home about noon after finishing some rat echoes. Sophie was having a great time, playing and tooling around the house. She still had moments of tantrums, but overall she was good.

My parents and Jen came up for a few hours to make the Christmas lasagnas (we're trying something different this year). Then, it was just Tim, Sophie, and I last evening.

Tim and I also had some other bad news this weekend. His grandma had fallen and broken her hip several weeks ago, and she had it fused. Since the surgery, she has not been dong well. She's in her late 80's, diabetic for decades, and has a slew of other medical problems. She's now very depressed because she's lost the little mobility she did have. She doesn't want to be in a nursing home, she's in a lot of pain but doesn't want pain medicine, and she's generally given up. To top it off, the stomach flu was going around the nursing home. I'm not sure if grandma got it, but they've taken her back to the hospital for other issues. And his entire extended family (minus his dad, who wore a face mask like they suggested), caught the stomach flu from the nursing home. Because everyone is sick, they are canceling Christmas Eve.

Last night, we really had some time to reflect on all of this (and other things as well). We both were awed by how quickly things can change. Last week, the biggest concern about Christmas was whether his cousin's kids would leave the dogs alone. Now, there is no Christmas on his side, and we're worried about how long his grandma will be around.

It just made us realize how thankful we are. I personally am very guilty of overlooking the big picture for the day to day stresses. There's so much busy-ness in my life. My daily to-do list seems overwhelming, but I fail to take a step back. We have a roof over our head, food on the table, and we are all in fairly good health. We have loving families, and we love each other very much. There has been so much happening in the last week that has affected each of these items that I take for granted. It made me realize that I need to be more in-tune to the big picture. I don't want to look back at my life and realize all I did was "make it through" on a daily basis. I know that saying "stop and smell the roses" is trite, but it's really something I need to work on.

I will get to see some of my mom and dad's family over Christmas, which I am thankful for. And hopefully we'll have a rescheduled Christmas on Tim's side this weekend. Sophie's recovering, we are (so far) healthy, and the temperature is back up into a reasonable-but-still-cold range. We don't have gifts or fancy decorations, but we have each other. And for as much of a cliche as that is, it's really all we need.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Typical holiday craziness

I really do have good intentions of updating more. Things have just been nuts, which is typical of my life in general but especially around holiday time. I'll try to give you the brief overview:

-Winter is here in Cleveland. And then it leaves. And then it can't decide, so we have mornings like today when it snows/sleets/rains all in the same morning, making things very icy. I don't love the commute, especially when it takes almost two hours, but what can you do?

-As I mentioned in the previous post, Sophie is going to get her tympanostomy on Monday morning. We don't have a time yet--for whatever reason, they assign times from 6-9 PM the night before, so I have to call tonight. But everyone has said that the procedure to put in the ear tubes is relatively quick. I hope she does ok. I didn't want to do it this soon before Christmas, but I also didn't want to wait another couple of months. So if Monday is what they had open, Monday is when we'll do it.

-I finally got the Christmas trees physically up this weekend, with help from Tim. They have lights but no decorations, and it may just stay that way. It's easier than chasing Sophie down constantly so she doesn't touch the breakable ones. And it looks pretty now, so I'm good with it.

-I can't believe Christmas is next week! What is it about this year--everyone I have talked to feels a month behind. I know Thanksgiving was a bit later than usual this year, but still, I am nowhere near ready!

-We're doing a (mostly) gift free Christmas again this year. Thank God. I would be shopping non-stop from now until Christmas if I was buying gifts.

-However, this Sunday is going to be a crazy good CVS-ing day, so I am going to do a midnight run to roll my ECBs from Black Friday. I love not spending money but coming home with bags of stuff! I've really scaled back the deal shopping recently. First, I don't need the stuff--why get it if I don't need it? I'm already looking to donate a lot of what I have. Second, my time is too valuable to do deals just for the sake of doing them. It takes a lot of time to prep for the perfect shopping run. I'd rather spend that time with Sophie and Tim. Every now and again there are things that entice me to go out. But I started deal shopping to save money, not to spend every waking minute obsessed with it. And obsessed is something I do well--I've had to keep myself in check.

-The lab is really good. Experiments are generating data, although not totally coherent data. But it's something. We had a really fun time last week at the lab Christmas party. It's so nice to be in a group of people that are normal, as far as scientists go. I really liked having Kim, Ming, and Valerie in the old lab, but there was tension on the higher levels. In this lab, everyone gets along with everyone. It's a great change of pace.

-And now, the plan is for the postdoc in the lab to help "girlifie" me before the scientific meeting we are going to in April. I told her it'll be an uphill battle :)

-I'm really looking forward to having some family time this holiday. I have a TON of work to do to prep for my first class (Jan. 10!), but I also need to decompress.

-And, my friend from Alaska is coming into town today, and my sister is flying in from California on Sunday. Woo hoo for the west coasters!

-My other sister turns 21 next weekend, so that will also be something fun to plan :)

-In general, life is crazy busy. My house is a total wreck--half emptied totes of Christmas stuff, newspapers I haven't read yet, and general clutter everywhere--but it's a happy house. Sophie is so non stop now. She's running everywhere. And she has the most hysterical laugh. We had dinner at my parent's house last night, and my dad was playing with her. He'd just move her wooden blocks and talk in a silly voice, and she was laughing so hard she could barely stand up. It's adorable.

-Overall, I am working hard to keep some balance. Ironically, I'm reading a book right now that someone gave me about work-life balance. I'm three quarters of the way through, and basically all it has said is that balance is hard. Umm, really? Want to pay me to write a book that says the same thing?

-But, when I am home, I try to spend time with Sophie while she's awake. Once she's in bed, I take some time to relax. And Tim and I have had a lot of time to catch up too. We're always good about keeping in touch, but it's been nice to really have some thoughtful discussions. And some not-so-thoughtful ones. That's what football is for!

-So, even though I haven't been able to keep the house as pristine as I like, I have had time to organize in discrete pockets. Cleaning the garage all day last Saturday was very cathartic for me. I'm hoping to do something similar with the main living area of the house. Hopefully before the clutter swallows me up. But I'm working hard to not be a perfectionist about everything.

-That goes for some of my more personal issues too. I really haven't dedicated my energy to the weight loss/exercise arena as much as I'd like. Looks like it'll be another perennial new year's resolution. But I'm trying to cut myself some slack. It's been a busy year and beyond for us. I'm succeeding in not gaining weight, which is a fight in itself. Nothing like the holidays for some emotional eating! The losing of weight will be a priority soon. There is just a lot of other things that need to be taken care of first.

So, no deep thoughts for now. Hopefully over the holidays I'll have some time to get reflective. I don't get all of the break off from work--just Christmas, New Year's, and the two days afterwards (since they are Fridays). I actually have to go back into work for surgeries after Sophie's surgery on Monday. Talk about mommy guilt! But there was no other time to rearrange the surgeries, so I have to do it that way. Tim will be home with her. I'll be home as soon as my surgeries are done. And then we can all hang out together :)

As far as Christmas cards go, I've given up for this year. I haven't even taken her picture yet. I am debating sending out after-Christmas cards, maybe with a picture of her opening presents, but we'll see. So, if you were waiting for a card, let me say it now: Merry Christmas!

I'll try to post more soon, but I'll definitely update you after her surgery. Wish us luck...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

More to come

Lots to update--super fun lab party Friday night, lots of cleaning/organizing/decorating over the weekend, etc. But the biggie is that the decision was to get Sophie tubes for her ears. And the doctor called on Friday--we have surgery on the 22nd (as in Monday). So I'm trying to get things organized for that. Lots more on that topic later...just checking in.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Of course

So, I have to get up pretty early some mornings (5ish) to be into work in time to have my experiments set up. These days are usually Thursday and Friday at a minimum. So, being Friday, today was one of those days.

Of course, since I had to be in early, everything went wrong.

Of course I didn't get up on time.

Of course my water bottle filled with diet coke was leaking, and it spilled all over the front seat of my car.

Of course my gas light was on when I got in the car, so I had to stop for gas.

Of course there was an accident on my entrance ramp to the highway as I was getting gas 100 yards away.

Of course I didn't see the accident until I was already on the ramp. The same ramp that was narrow and had concrete barriers on the side because of the construction. The same ramp that curves sharply as it goes up a hill.

Of course I was stuck in a long line of cars on the ramp. And starting with the cars behind me, we all had to back down the ramp. The tiny, curvy, narrow, concrete barricaded ramp. In the dark. In reverse.

Of course by the time the cops came to direct traffic, I was nearly off the ramp.

Of course that meant that I got in half an hour late.

It's not the end of the world, but by the time I got in, I think I had said the word, "Seriously?!?" about 100 times.

And, due to my own fault, I didn't get the lab gifts finished, the veggies bought, or the meatballs made for the lab party tonight. I should have enough time (hopefully) to get them done this afternoon before the party. Just another way I'm stressing myself out.

Here's hoping I've hit my bad luck quota for the month. Such is life, I suppose.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Uh oh

I just got an email from my alma mater, where I am teaching in the spring. Apparently, the class I am teaching is high demand and actually closed out, and there is a waiting list of students trying to get in. Now, a class of 25 doesn't seem huge, but in my school, I think only organic chemistry had more than 20 students. Most were 10-15. And I have 25.

That's no biggie for the classroom stuff--more to grade, but doable. The issue is the lab. I had things set up for pairs of students, with just a few groups in the lab. This will definitely change that. They are even talking about finding me a TA!

I'm a little nervous about all of this. Actually, I'm petrified. I figured I could make it work with 10 students. Especially in the Weekend College--they are non-traditional students and generally eager to work hard. Now I think I have mostly traditional college students just taking the Weekend College course. That might be a different story.

Oh crap. What have I gotten myself into?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Done, part one

Thesis committee meeting over? Check.

One big thing off my to-do list. I really didn't have a lot of time to stress about it. I caught a nasty stomach bug on Friday and was vomiting before I even left work. That knocked me out Friday and Saturday. And of course, just as I'm starting to feel better, Tim came down with it. He didn't really have it to the extent that I did, but this weekend was still full of the (relatively) healthy parent watching Sophie while the other one was sick. And Sunday was spent decontaminating the entire house so that we wouldn't be sick any more.

My actual committee meeting was yesterday. I didn't even have time to think about it. We had animal sacrifices right up until the beginning of my meeting. While it's nice that I didn't have time to stress about it too much, I always like to have a few minutes to review my presentation and refresh myself. Didn't happen this time. I was a little nervous in the beginning. You'd think I'd be a pro by now, but this is the first meeting on my new topic, and I wanted to show them that I've been working hard the last seven weeks.

One thing that did help my nervousness was that Dr. B, my old boss, wasn't there. He left a message on my new boss's voicemail saying he couldn't find the room (and I believe him). Really though, it was better to have this first meeting not muddled with strange history and tension.

The meeting itself was fine. It took me a few minutes to calm down and be able to express my thoughts rationally. After that, it was a good conversation. The vibe I got in general was that they are happy with how things are going, and they are happy that I am happy. We've all tried to be politically correct about things, but when I was asked how things were going in the new space versus the old, I replied that it had, "reaffirmed my interest in science."

That's basically a nice way of saying that I didn't feel like I had made a huge mistake in choosing to be in the PhD. So much of my time spent in Dr. B's lab had me feeling like I was completely incompetent. I don't think I ever felt like I was being mentored or taught how to have a career in science. Things in the new lab are very busy (in a good way), but for the first time I actually feel like this is something I could see doing in the future. I am being challenged, but instead of having my ethics and values challenged, I'm being challenged as a scientist in a productive way. It's made all the difference in the world.

After a long weekend of being sick and all the stress of the upcoming committee meeting, I was exhausted. To my surprise, I actually got almost an entire night of sleep last night. I woke up and thought, "So this is what it feels like to actually get some rest!" I wasn't leaping out of bed or anything crazy like that, but I actually felt semi-functional.

It just goes to show that my stress affects me more than I like to realize. And to that, everyone that knows me yells a big, fat, "DUH!" I know, I know. I do know that things have been stressful recently--I've said so on here many times--but I like to think I function in spite of the stress. Sometimes I need to realize I'm only human. We all need a break now and then.

I don't really see a break in my future. I've got to tweak some of my experiments, start some new ones, and write a predoctoral grant. And I have to plan my syllabus for teaching in the spring--that actually starts a month from today. Unreal. It's only 7 classes, but it's 6.5 hours of work per session. That's a lot. I'd like to have that all worked out in the next two weeks or so.

But, at least I can cross this thesis committee meeting on my list. Maybe that leaves a spot to add better eating and exercise to the list. That's a post for another day. I've been trying to not fixate on it without letting it get completely out of control. I've had mixed success, but honestly, I've just been too busy to get all crazy about my weight. I have days, but in general, I just don't have the time to ruminate about anything for very long.

That's the update for now. Sophie has her ENT visit on Thursday, the season of holiday parties starts on Friday, and I haven't even started decorating for Christmas yet. One thing at a time, I suppose.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Missing the point

Yeah, so after I re-read the blog this morning, I realized that my rambling had completely taken me away from the point. Sorry about that (not that it is anything new). My point had been that I was starting to feel back in control of things, and then daycare called about Sophie and I felt like it was all getting chaotic again.

Let me say first that I know Sophie can't control when she's sick. And I don't blame her for getting sick. And, as her mother, I WANT to be the one taking care of her when she's sick.

It's that being a working mother sucks. There, I said it. And while I don't think I'd make a very good stay-at-home mom either (just my personality), I hate being torn in opposite directions all the time.

I am working very hard in the new lab to put my best foot forward. I try to be around as much as I can, I'm trying to be super productive, and I want to not be a pain in the ass. I tried all these things in my old lab too, but that place was not rational, and it got me nowhere. Still, I really like the new lab. I like the people, I like the project, and I want to be a good student. And I feel like I owe it to my boss--she really did rescue me from a bad situation.

Still, when daycare calls, I have to go. I had to cancel a meeting with my boss and get someone else in the lab to cover my stuff for the afternoon. That sucks. And it makes me feel irresponsible to my job. Especially with not even having been in the lab for two months, I don't want to get a reputation about not being serious about my science.

And there's the rub. Am I a mom first, or a student/employee first? My heart says mom. But how do I stay a mom first and still be the ideal student? I'm the only student/postdoc in the lab that is married and has kids. My boss, who has been very understanding, does have two kids, but they are adults. And she had her kids before she went to graduate school, so the kids were older when she was doing research.

I just feel so out of control all the time. I'm trying to get lab and home organized and running smoothly. Just as I finally feel like I've got some balance, either lab or home has major drama. And then I'm back to square one.

I don't want to sound like I regret being a parent. Sophie is by far the best thing to ever happen to me, and she and Tim are the reasons I look forward to coming home every night. Even though I had to leave work and move everything around yesterday, I loved having her to myself for a few hours. She brings me such joy. And yet, I don't want to do anything that is unfair to her. A stressed out crazy woman for a mother is not what she needs. I try very hard to separate myself from stress when I am with her--I don't want her picking up on that. I don't raise my voice in front of her, ever, and I want her to see me (and Tim) as her source of comfort and security. The world is a scary place. It's my job to make it less scary for her.

And so, this is where I am. I'm surviving at this pace, somehow, and I know I'll continue to survive. I'm just scared about what happens when my schedule becomes less flexible. I don't like always being the one to stay home with her, but I understand that for now, I have the flexibility. What happens when I'm not flexible and Tim's out of town? Or in a few years, when I'm in residency, Tim's gone, and she gets sick at school? We do have family around, but they have their own jobs/travel/lives too. I'm just not sure how we handle it.

And yet, millions of working moms do. Many of them don't have the luxury of flexible jobs or family nearby. And they make it work.

I just feel like, as a woman in a male dominated field, I have to try ten times harder already to be taken seriously. Needing to leave all the time doesn't help that issue. I won't ever do anything to put Sophie in jeopardy, but I do struggle with my responsibilities on a regular basis.

Things have been stressful for the last two years--since finding out I was pregnant and then delivering a baby while working in the lab from hell, and now finally trying to get back on track and hitting road bumps on a regular basis. Someone asked me the other day when we are going to try and have another. Here's my answer: NOT FOR A LONG TIME! First off, daycare for two would cost more than our mortgage every month. Second, I'd like to have a handle on raising one before I throw another one in the mix. Tim's friends are all on the two-years-apart plan, which would put us trying NEXT MONTH. Can I tell you that there is no chance on God's green earth that we are going to do that?

I seriously wouldn't trade Sophie for anything. Part of me is proud that she gets to watch her mom be a (hopefully successful) career woman. I really do think that I personally need to have a career to feel like a complete person (not trying to start a debate here). I love medicine, but there is definitely a part of me that wishes I had chosen a more family friendly career. And I think working all day makes me cherish my time with Sophie in ways I couldn't appreciate when I was home with her all the time.

But, it's a struggle. I've talked to lots of other women in science that have families, and it sounds like it gets harder before it gets easier. I am thankful I have Tim, who is a gigantic help with Sophie in ways that I am sure many other husbands aren't. And I am thankful we have a safety net of family around. I just wish there was a way to be balanced. But I think it's a myth, honestly. I've heard working and having kids is more of a juggling act--you can devote yourself to one or the other, but not at the same time. The women who are most successful and happy in their work-life balance find ways to keep the two as separate and compartmentalized as possible. When you are at work, you work. When you are at home, you don't. It's oversimplification, I know, but I think it's worth striving for.

I am looking forward to having a few days off over the holidays. It's hard enough scheduling work and family time--personal and fun time has gone completely out the window. I'm hoping to have half a day sometime to read a book, take a walk or a bath alone, or maybe even do a hobby for a while. I think it'd recharge me. I know I've been running on fumes for a long time now--a little refueling would do me good. And they say you can't take care of other people until you take care of yourself. I feel selfish taking time off, but I'm trying to convince myself that it'll make me a better mom and a better person. Here's hoping.

For now though, I'm just going to keep juggling. Every now and again I drop the ball, but the important thing is to pick it back up and keep going. That's all I can do.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Figures

I was all ready to finally post today. My idea was basically to say, "hey, it's been a busy few weeks, but after my thesis committee meeting on Monday, things should slow down and go back to normal." That was the plan.

Things have been busy. My thorn-in-my-side first paper (that I wrote two years ago) got rejected again. Once again--no helpful reviews. They just didn't like it. It's got some results that go against some dogma, but we've really done the experiments to show it's not a fluke. Still, it's been an uphill battle to get people to listen to us.

So, that rejection came back last Monday. And the person I am working with on it decided we should completely revise it and send it to another journal within a week. Fine and good, except:

1. It was Thanksgiving week, so I basically had Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday.
2. I also had my thesis committee report due this Monday. And I was in the thick of citing papers for background and outlining my experiments.
3. I had multiple experiments set up in the lab, and I really didn't have time to squeeze in the revisions in lab, so they'd have to happen at home.

But, I told him I'd get the revisions out. I really want to be done with this paper. I figured it was worth the pain.

So, lots of experiments, complete revision of a paper, and a thesis proposal. Good times.

And did I mention that I found out last Tuesday that they were cancelling enrollment for the insomnia clinical trial I was in? And that they made me come out to my visit anyway Tuesday morning, when I could have been working?

Fun stuff.

Still, we managed to visit family until we dropped on Thanksgiving. It was nice, but exhausting. And Sophie, Tim, and I were all coming down with these horrible chest colds. It really wiped us out, but none of us could sleep. Despite that, my sister stayed with us Thanksgiving night, and we were up at 5 AM to shop on Friday. We only did a few deals--Inkstop for cheap SD cards, CVS for the freebies (it took 3 CVS trips though, and we still didn't find anything), Kohl's for $10 jeans for Tim/clothes for Jen/shopping for my cousin, and Sears (although the shelves I wanted were gone by the time we got there). There were only crowds at Kohl's, and even then it was only to check out. The line wrapped around the inside of the entire store to check out, but even then we were done within 45 minutes of getting in line.

We didn't really have money to spend, and we're not doing gifts again (I think this is our 3rd year), so it was pretty low key. Tim's old jeans were at least 5 years old, so I got him 4 new pairs (and 4 pairs were still cheaper than 1 regular priced pair). I figured I could squeeze that into the budget.

I did buy Sophie's Christmas present today though. She played with a Little Tikes kitchen set for an hour at my Aunt's house on Thanksgiving. See:She just loved this thing. She carried all the fake food around in a little bowl. I had no idea she'd be interested in it--it says ages 3 and up. I looked for one online, but they are all waaay out of our price range, and there wasn't one on craigslist.

So, today I got a message about a deal at Amazon.com. It's not quite the same thing, but it's a Hasbro Playskool rose petal cottage. It comes with a little stove, and you can get other appliances. It was marked from $80 to $30 (and I had seen it for $150 at Target), so I figured for $30, we could do it. Here it is:

It's more tent-like than the sturdier little tikes playhouses, but it's also smaller, and the two halves can nestle in each other to store it. It comes with the little stove in the picture, which is what I think Sophie will like.

Plus, they are selling all the extras (sink, washer, nursery set) for about $20 a piece on Amazon, so it gave me the chance to finally tell the grandparents what Sophie could use for Christmas. She doesn't even need that stuff--some fake food from the dollar store (big enough so she can't actually eat it, obviously) would keep her amused forever.

So, Sophie's done. We only buy for the two grandmothers otherwise, so I'm nearly done shopping. I do like not buying gifts--much less stressful, and easier on the wallet--but it does make getting gifts weird. I feel guilty when I get gifts--even when it's something like my birthday, when no one expects you to get a gift for them in return. It's a weird self-worth I-don't-deserve-presents thing that stems from my childhood. No need to get into all that tonight! But it's amplified when someone buys me a gift and I haven't gotten them one in return. Tim's much better with it--it's a person's choice to buy a gift, you can't tell people NOT to get you something, so enjoy it without guilt. I'm working on it.

Anyway, all of our time off over Thanksgiving was spent being very sick. We all still felt crappy on Monday, but back to work/daycare we went. Tim and I both came home from work/school and had stuff we needed to work on. And then yesterday I was busy after the VA with MSTP applicants. I hosted one student, who was very nice, but that took up my whole evening.

And then today at lunch, daycare called to say that Sophie was puking. I had to cancel my lab meeting and get someone to fast my rats, which I felt bad about, and Tim had to pick Sophie up and stay with her until I could get home. She puked again in his car, but by the time I got home, she was fine. No temperature, very playful, very interested in food. She never threw up again. I stayed home with her all afternoon, but she seemed totally fine. I figured the doctor wouldn't do anything if she wasn't either running a fever, continuing to puke, or not acting like herself, so we stuck it out at home.

And now, finally, Sophie's in bed, Tim's home from his class (he had a paper and presentation due today), my thesis proposal and revisions on the paper are both sent out, and I have a minute to myself.

Really, things have been nuts the last few months. Starting with the old lab drama in August (and honestly, even before that), I've been going at full tilt and beyond. It's always been, "I'll rest after I (fill in the blank): switch labs/go back to med school, get started in the new lab, get experiments going, having a thesis committee meeting, get this paper accepted, write my grant proposal, etc."

Since my grant won't be in until the end of January, I really don't think I'll have much of a break until then. After that though, I'd like to take a whole week off. I haven't done that since maternity leave--and I wouldn't call that a vacation, per se. We don't have the money or the time to do anything crazy fancy, but even just going up to his parent's cabin for a week would be nice. Or going into Pittsburgh or Columbus to see some of our friends--that's not a far drive. We just both need a break. Tim is finally taking his last class for his engineering degree this spring. Maybe we'll go away after he graduates. I promised I'd throw him a "congratulations on your second bachelor's degree, please take a break from school" party when he is done, which I will, but it'd be nice to do something just the three of us. We'll see. I'm sure something will come up between now and then that will continue to have me running around like a crazy person.

Other than being insanely busy, things in our little family have been good. There's been a lot that other people near to me have been struggling with, and it's not my place to air their issues (and it's not all the same issues that have been brought up in the past). But it's painful to watch people I love hurt. I'm a fixer--always have been--and it takes every part of me to not want to jump in and tell people how to fix their lives. But I've really be practicing the "healthy detachment" principle. It's not easy, but I know it's healthier for me. I've just got to find the right balance between letting people know I care about them and getting all up in their business.

Hopefully, life will slow down a little from here on out and I'll be able to update more frequently. I just wanted to let you know we're all still alive, generally doing fine, and just trying not to have panic attacks on a daily basis. But that's nothing new :)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Updates later

I'll give you the run down later (nothing earth shattering), but it's after 1 AM, I got up early to do Black Friday deals, and I am going to attempt to fall asleep now. So, until later, a few pictures:



Friday, November 21, 2008

Spoke too soon

Well, I figured posting about Tim being home when he was actually on his way home was a safe bet. As I should have learned from almost every business trip he's taken, getting home is not a guarantee.

First, his flight from Dulles to Cleveland was delayed two hours. The plane was there, but apparently it needed maintenance. So already his arrival moved from 2 PM to 4 PM. He was still planning to pick up Sophie when he got in (I had meetings all afternoon), so I thought we were ok.

I checked his flight status before one of my meetings, and he was in the air. When my phone rang at 4, I figured he was landed on the strip and ready to unload from the plane.

I was right on that. Problem was, he was in Pittsburgh, not Cleveland. Apparently the plane had an engine malfunction in the air, and they had to land at the closest airport. Tim said they even had emergency vehicles waiting on the strip in case they were needed. Sounds like fun!

So, it's 4 PM, and Tim's in Pittsburgh. I had to rush out to get Sophie while he figured out a plan. The next flight to Cleveland wasn't until later. He was going to try and rent a car, but the weather in the snow belt between Cleveland and Pittsburgh was forecasted to be pretty bad. I offered to drop Sophie off at my parents and drive out to get him. I didn't want to risk driving with Sophie in bad weather, but I also didn't want Tim to be stranded.

He was able to get a rental car (thank goodness!). He had to drive to the Cleveland airport to get his truck and drop off the rental, but he finally got home about 7 PM. I guess the weather was pretty treacherous for a good distance, but he made it.

And today is his 30th birthday. What a birthday present--at least he didn't get stuck on his actual birthday. But all of his travel misadventures make me think he's better off working via teleconference. Maybe someone is trying to tell us something...

Anyway, happy birthday Tim. My parents are coming up tonight to watch Sophie so his parents can take Tim & I to dinner. Sophie's not quite ready for the nicer restaurants yet. And then we're all meeting back at my house for cake & ice cream. Low key, but apparently that's what Tim wants. I offered to throw a party, or watch Sophie so he could go out with the boys, but he's not interested in really celebrating. It's his birthday, so I've got to follow what he wants. With the big snows coming through, this may not have been the best weekend for a party anyway.

Gotta love winter (or not...)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Same old

I don't like to post about Tim being gone while he's actually out of town, so I've been putting off an update. I know, I don't think I'm so exciting that I have an internet stalker or anything, but there's something uncomfortable about posting about being home alone while I'm actually home alone. Basically, sorry for the delay.

Tim is coming home this afternoon after being gone for much of the week. Thank God. Really, every time he goes out of town, I pray for single parents. I have no idea how they do it. I've only been able to survive with the help of family. For instance, Tuesday morning I had to be at my insomnia appointment by 7:30, which meant I had to leave at 6:30. From my appointment, I had to head to lab, and then I had the VA in the afternoon. This meant I would be gone from 6:30 AM to at least 5:30 PM (depending on clinic). There was no way I could leave Sophie at daycare for 11 hours. Number one, that's just too much for Sophie. Number two, I don't think we're allowed to leave her for more than 10 hours at a time.

Usually, this would not be an issue. Tim would drop her off or pick her up (or, often both on my long days). We do nudge up against the 10 hour limit on occasion, but we've never exceeded it. However, with just me, there was no way around it. So, I called on family.

My mom came up Monday night and spent the night with us (either that, or she would have had to leave the house at 5:45 AM to be at my house in time). She stayed with Sophie at my house all day, and then she had dinner with us. There's nothing quite like coming home to mom's home cooking. I really missed that--I wish I would've enjoyed it more while I lived at home.

Despite past events (check out the June archives if you need some history), I really had no concerns with my mom watching Sophie at our house. My mom has never struggled with her alcoholism while staying with us. I'm not sure we were ready yet to leave Sophie down at her house--we'll get there, but we're not there yet.

I do know that Sophie loved it. When mom packed up to head home Tuesday night, Sophie cried and cried to see her leave. Sophie is not usually clingy. I drop her off at daycare and she never even gives me a second look! But with Tim gone, Sophie not feeling great, and then my mom leaving, it was a bit much for her. She was better when I held her and we waved goodbye out the window. But I couldn't be out of her sight the rest of the night.

Wednesday was even worse for the clingyness. Sophie wouldn't let me put her down all morning, not even to change her diaper, without her screaming. All she did was grab on to me. Dropping her off at daycare was really tough. She got better when she could play with the kids and toys, and I made sure she was settled before I left. But she caught a glimpse of me when I came to pick her up (she was in the middle of a diaper change at the time), and all she wanted in the world was to be held by me. It's a wonderful feeling to be so loved, but nothing brings on the mommy guilt quite like a clingy child.

Mom called and invited us down for dinner last night, so we didn't have to spend the evening alone in the house. It is exhausting though to travel with her on my own. It takes so long to pack her up and keep her occupied while still doing things like taking the dog out, getting the house organized for the evening (turning on lights, shutting blinds, etc), and trying to get out the door without forgetting anything.

And by the time we get home, Sophie's sleeping, I'm exhausted, and my whole night is gone. And I still have all the nightly chores to do, except that I'm the only one around to do them.

But, we survived. I of course miss Tim for personal and emotional reasons too, but I am thrilled to have another set of hands around. I have no idea how we would do residency with me having a crazy schedule and Tim traveling if we didn't have family around. I told him--he's either got to have a job with flexible hours and no traveling, or we have to stay in Cleveland for residency. Fellowship may be easier, but residency is a no-go without support around. We just can't do it.

So, that's what I've been up to. I also started this sleep trial on Tuesday. I'm guessing I either got placebo or the drug is crap, because I am still not sleeping. I was actually so nervous Tuesday night about taking my first dose of drug while I'm home alone that I set multiple alarms and cranked the baby monitor up so I wouldn't oversleep. Turned out to be a non-issue.

I've also been pondering a lot about some of the issues I talked about in the last few posts. I've really been thinking about how hard I am on myself sometimes. I also realized that reading my journals makes me sound all depressed. I'm really not. Things are tough sometimes, but they are for everyone. I get through those times with optimism, faith, and support. I just need to vent (hence the blogging), but really, life is pretty good. I do need to work on some personal issues. I can get into those at a later time. But I'm working on remembering the positive and just doing what I need to do to get through the tough times. It's not all thorns; there are plenty of roses along the way too if I stop and take a look.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Introspection

The last two days, I've had several moments of deep thought and general awe. Yesterday I went to the library, just to walk around and stay awake (stupid cold medicine makes me tired). I decided to walk around the section with all of the medical books just to browse and see if there was anything that jumped at me. As I walked up and down the aisles, I was dwarfed by the sheer number of books.

I was humbled by the amount of knowledge sitting on those shelves. And for a moment, I panicked. I thought, "How can I, as a future doctor, ever expect to know enough of this knowledge to actually treat patients?"

Even areas that are "specialties" have rows upon rows of books. I feel like it is my duty to know as much as I can when I plan to see patients full time. And I want to learn forever. Judging by the books in the library, I don't think learning forever will be a problem.

Then, yesterday, I was sorting through files on the computer in an attempt to be more organized. I stumbled across journals I started typing in 2005 (back when I actually was in "Crazy Talk", as we called therapy). Wow. Just wow. It's amazing to me to read about what was going on in my life. I was completely transfixed by the entries. Here's what I've learned since then:

-I've really regressed back to associating my weight and food issues with success in my life. I actually don't weigh more than I did in 2005, but I feel like I've gotten huge (it doesn't help that pregnancy redistributed everything).

-I'm still measuring myself with a different yardstick than I measure other people.

-I really hated lab in 2005. I should've cut bait when my first PI left and gone back to medical school. Instead, I've suffered since then. I wish I would listen to my instincts more. I do think switching labs this time was the right decision, but I knew in 2005 that there were no good options for me (as least as they were presented by the director in my department). Instead of compromising then, I should have listened to my intuition. I think this lab I joined will be the best I've been in for my PhD, by far.

-Much of the same family drama that existed in 2005 still exists. And it's had ups and downs, but it isn't consistently getting better. I am working to do my part with it, but I can't tell the rest of my family to do the same. And I'm a judgmental control freak, so keeping my mouth shut is not easy.

-Basically, everything I talked about in therapy in 2005 is still an issue with me. I am better about saying no to everything that gets put in front of me, but if I didn't have Sophie, I may still be a "yes" person.

-I question myself. A LOT. And I always have. At some point, I need to learn to make decisions and go with my gut.

-I am happier now in the sense that I've had enough clinical experience to know that at least one aspect of my MD/PhD training will be useful.

-Life is much more complete with Sophie in it. I had a lot of superficial things that I fretted about pre-Sophie. I've gotten better about letting the stupid things slide. It may mean that the house is messier than it used to be, but I am getting better about prioritizing.

-There are still a lot of things in my life that I am worried about. They are basically the same as before, just in different incarnations. And it all comes down to security. I worry about money in terms of security. I worry about having a career because of security. I worry about raising Sophia so she is happy and secure. I'm insecure with myself. Basically, that is my personal #1 basic need, and everything I do in live is somehow related.

It's interesting to step back every now and again in order to take stock in the big picture. I do feel intrinsically happier than I ever have before--Sophie is a big part of that--but I still worry about the same stuff. I keep saying that "I'll get to it." I don't know how, but I need to find a way to work on my issues while dealing with everything else I have going on. I think it will make the rest of my life easier in turn.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The goings on

As you’ve probably noticed, life has been a bit crazy recently, preventing me from blogging quite as much as I used to. In full disclosure, I’ve also not been trying to find as much time. I’ve had a lot of personal stuff going on. While I am generally not shy about talking about my issues, I’m also a little hesitant to get into some of the real nitty-gritty that is causing me stress. Really, it’s nothing earth shattering. It’s just enough to stress me out.

And, I don’t like to be so negative all of the time. I know the reason I started blogging was to vent, but that isn’t what my whole life is about. So generally, if I can’t think of something positive to say (at least on occasion), I’m more like to just not blog about it.

The big picture things are fine. Tim & I are good, thank God, because there is no way I could deal with this stuff on my own right now. Sophie is generally good, but I’ll fill you in on her rough weekend in a minute. Finances are tight, as always, but it’s not like we are in danger of losing the house or anything like that. And I’m taking on as much as I can with teaching/clinical trials to try and supplement our income. Work is ok. I’m adjusting as best I can, and I’m also trying to re-prioritize. The lab itself is a wonderful change from my old work environment. I’m just trying hard to change from working on my own to working in a group. But the people are great, so I’m sure I’ll be fine. Now if the data would only cooperate . . . but that is why they call them experiments, I suppose.

It’s more the day to day stresses. There’s been some family drama, which I’d rather not get into. There’s the insomnia, which is getting worse. And there’s also some of my own personal demons coming back to haunt me. As in the past, when life gets stressful, my food issues generally creep back. That leads to body image issues, which leads to negativity, which leads to guilt issues and self-worth problems. That is a difficult spiral to escape from. My issue now is more putting the brakes on things to not make them worse. I’ll have to worry about actually improving things another time

Anyway, back to life at hand. Sophie had her 1 year visit on Friday. She’s at the 75th percentile for weight and the 90th percentile for height—so she’s keeping pace with the 93rd/93rd percentiles she started at when she was born. She’s had a cold for a few days, and that turned into redness in her ears and lots of clear fluid, but no ear infection. Still, talking to the doctor, I think we’ll probably set up at least an ENT consult if not tubes. The doctor seemed to think this would probably turn into another double ear infection, but she didn’t want to give antibiotics just yet. Since she didn’t have an actual infection or a fever, she also got all of her shots. She hated those. Big shocker.

She did ok Friday afternoon. She was doing so well that we went down to my parent’s house for dinner. It meant we got to visit, I didn’t have to cook, and we got to see my niece. She did really well, and she slept well Friday night. Saturday she was supposed to have her first playdate with the son of a friend of mine, but she decided to run a fever and get really fussy, so we had to cancel. We ended up driving around for a few hours Saturday afternoon in order to let her sleep. Her cold was so bad that she could only sleep sitting up, but the car seat seemed to do the trick.

Saturday night she was doing better, so we went to my cousin’s house and had dinner. Again, she seemed fine. She went to bed ok, but then about 1:30 in the morning she started screaming. Bloody murder screaming. She didn’t want a bottle, she didn’t have a fever, she didn’t have a dirty diaper, and she wasn’t even as congested as she had been. She would go to sleep while I held her, but as soon as she hit the crib she started screaming.

Now, this is not my baby. She is not a crier, let alone a screamer. Even when she fusses at night she doesn’t scream. This was worse than when she got her shots!

I felt terrible for her. Since I couldn’t sleep anyway, I took her into the back bedroom, put pillows around so she couldn’t go anywhere, and I held her the whole night. She would finally drift off to sleep for a few minutes, but then she’d wake back up. She would roll over and grab my face with her hands, crawl until she was laying on my face, and then she’d fall asleep. She had to be holding my face all night long or else she was screaming.

It was almost like she was afraid of something. She’s a little young to be scared of the dark—and she’s never had an issue before—but I am wondering if that was a sleep terror or something like it. She slept fine Sunday night, so hopefully we won’t have another experience like that.

I just felt so awful. And helpless—that was the worst feeling. All I could do was hold her and make sure she was touching me. She did sleep eventually, but judging by her naps on Sunday, Saturday night wasn’t very restful for her. It wasn’t for me either, but what else is new?

Of course, I have come down with her cold. This morning I woke up with a swollen throat and whole-body aches. Motrin has helped a little, but the cold medicine is doing nothing. I catch everything she gets now because my immune system is so run down from the not sleep. Another vicious cycle.

I haven’t heard from day care yet today, so hopefully that means she is doing ok. I really expect her to be running another fever soon—I think the ear infection is coming. She was pulling her ears yesterday. The high fever is usually what tells us that it’s time to see the doctor.

Really, I feel like we live at the doctor’s office. I know that’s not true, but considering I go less than once a year, being there every other week is a lot to me.

Once we get the ears figured out, we also have to wean her off the bottle and the pacifier. She was weaned from breastfeeding a week before her first birthday (and I’m thrilled). The doctor suggested bottle first, then binky, but not to try until she was feeling better. So hopefully that will be soon. Sophie does ok with a sippy cup, but she’ll have to get really good at it pretty fast.

Sophie is also walking-ish now. She’s been taking one or two steps for a few weeks. We said when she did three steps, we’d count it. Well, Friday she did five, and she did five again on Sunday. So I guess she’s walking! She’s been pushing her little car around (along with laundry baskets, small chairs, and anything else she can find) for a while, and she can stand and squat unsupported for a few minutes at a time. When she figures out how much easier it is to carry things when she’s walking instead of crawling, I think that’s when she’ll really be into it. She can just crawl so quickly now that she doesn’t need to walk to get somewhere fast.

I’m still floored by how much she’s grown in the last year. She says “dada” and “mama” pretty regularly now, along with an occasional “dog”, “duck, or “baba” for bottle.

She can follow commands, especially when it involves getting a toy or her shoes. She even tries to put her shoes on by herself (with no success, of course). She shakes her head “no”, she knows how to put things in a container (and put things away, thanks to Tim). She’s just such a little person—and her own person, that’s for sure. She wants to do everything herself!

Looking at last year’s Halloween and this year’s Halloween pictures, I’m astounded and a little sad. I’ve tried hard to be as involved with her life as I can. Goodness knows I’ve taken enough pictures that I shouldn’t have any trouble remembering her as a baby. But I can’t believe how much she’s grown. I am in no way ready to have another baby—if anything, having her has made me want to cherish our one-on-one time and keep it that way for at least a few years. But seeing that she’ll never be that little again make me sort of sad. I’m excited to watch her continue to grow, but I also miss the baby days.

Ok, that was my sappy time. Thanks for humoring me.

Anyway, I just wanted to say that there will be a time, hopefully soon, where I’ll be back to my old self (and hopefully a well-rested self at that). For now, I’m working through some of my issues in private. Don’t take it personally—I just am not ready to get into it yet. I’ll keep you posted on more of the basic day to day stuff as much as I can. For now though, back to work!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

MIA

I know I've been more MIA than usual recently. I am hoping this changes soon. I've just been so exhausted.

I actually did a screening visit for a clinical trial on Tuesday, and for the first time, I was not in the healthy volunteer group. It is an insomnia study, and I apparently definitely qualify. That was actually a bit of a shock--I know I haven't been sleeping much, but to quantitate it and have someone else tell me that I have insomnia was rather strange.

Basically, I have been sleeping about 4 hours a night for almost two years. A year of that was pregnancy plus the first six weeks home. The last year, though, Sophie's really been sleeping pretty well. I have not been. It takes me about an hour and a half to fall asleep when I go to bed. I get up at least three times at night, and it takes me about 30-45 minutes to fall back asleep. And I am always up before my alarm.

Some nights, I sleep and only get up once. Other nights, I don't sleep at all.

I don't drink caffeine or alcohol, I don't take medications, and I don't have other sleep habits that would keep me up. I'm just...up.

It's really started to affect me. I've always been tired during the day, but now I can't get my eyes to focus, I worry about driving, and I can't be still for more than a few minutes without starting to nod off (think seminars...)

And having to get up at 5 AM on mornings like today will become more of a regular thing in the new lab. I try going to bed earlier, but I just don't fall asleep. And so, it's 2 PM, I've been up for 9 hours already, and I can barely keep my head up. And I have a full day ahead.

I just can't keep living like this. The clinical trial is only 8 weeks, but if I feel better afterwards, I am going to talk to my doctor. I'm hesitant about long term sleeping medications, considering that one benadryl knocks me out for 24 hours, but I need to figure something out to get more sleep.

So yeah, insomnia plus crazy busy at work plus busy at home equals not a ton of time for blogging. Too bad, because I've had a lot of things pop up that would be fun to talk about, but by the time I have an opportunity, it just doesn't seem interesting anymore.

But life in general is moving along. My new project isn't doing what we expected, which could be interesting if it is a real result, or it will just be frustrating if it's an experimental error. Hard to tell with such a small number of experiments done, but I'll let you know.

For now, I may have to break a rule and go get some caffeine. I'm not going to be able to finish my day without it.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Pictures

I have about 50 Halloween pics, but here's a good one:
Compare that to Halloween last year:
My, how time flies!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Tabloids

I really feel like I am something out of a gossip magazine recently. My lab situation has never been private--heck, I blog about it on the internet--but I always assumed there was some level of privacy/anonymity about the whole thing. Recent events have served to remind me that this is not the case.

Take, for instance, the conversation I just had in the elevator. I ran into a professor who taught one of my classes my first year of grad school, and he also has a lab on the same floor as Dr. B. I haven't talked to him since I finished his class, just because I didn't run into him.

However, he serves on the MSTP steering committee, and as such, heard about my issue when G brought it up. Now, I was told basically that the steering committee meeting ended up with general support for me staying in the PhD somehow. That was all I knew.

Apparently, details of my project were discussed at this meeting (and, likely, personal opinions about my ability to be a successful graduate student). I didn't know the type of detail until this elevator conversation. Apparently, there had been debates as to specific lab mentors that would be an option, whether the project could be finished, etc.

I had assumed that I wasn't much more than a passing conversation. I guess not.

I'm not too upset about this--ultimately, the committee did decide I was worth keeping. Whether that was for my benefit or theirs is less clear. But it's strange to have so many people on campus be involved in my business.

I'm trying hard not to be paranoid now every time I see someone that likely knows the gory details of my situation. Believe it or not, it wasn't something I talked about much outside of this blog and at home.

Oh well. What's done is done at this point. I'm not really regretting my decision. It's more of a general feeling of discomfort about the whole thing. I'm now "that grad student that is on her third project because her other two labs bombed." So far, people have made it more about the labs crapping out than about my inherent abilities/shortcomings. But if this new project takes too long, I don't think much time would pass before the rumblings became more about me than my situation.

I know I shouldn't really care too much what anyone else thinks. Trouble is, you never want to burn academic bridges because you can never be sure where or when you might run into people again.

And, if you know me, I am all about minimizing drama. Sometimes you can't get rid of all of the crap going on around you, but I at least work hard to focus on what is productive and not what is just there to make me crazy. Over the last few years, I've even taken to not discussing any drama in my life that involves other people's personal issues. I'm trying not to propagate things. It doesn't always work, but at least I try. I just find another way to vent.

I guess I'm going to have to get used to being a topic of discussion (and not in the good "she got a paper accepted to Science/Cell/Nature" type of way). I guess I just need to prove that I am not the issue.

Happy Halloween!

I really love Halloween--I can't tell you why, but it's always been one of my favorites. We used to decorate the house with our scary school projects and cardboard cutouts (we had a life size cardboard glow in the dark skeleton with all the bones on metal punches so you could move the limbs around). We always got dressed up (in basically the same costumes). I was seriously a witch for like ten years in a row. Then again, some may say that I still am:)

I haven't decorated much, other than putting out Tim's parents' large electric pumpkin. Tim hates "Punky", as he is called, but I promised his mom I would give him a good home. I think he looks awfully cute on our front step.

I didn't carve a pumpkin this year, but we did get to take one home from Pumpkin Day a few weeks ago. That's a step in the right direction. I love cutting out all the pumpkin guts. I'm not super artistic in my carving, but I try my best. Maybe next year I'll actually carve one.

Sophie brought her costume to day care this morning. I didn't put her in it, but every other kid in the place had theirs on, so I changed her into in once we got there. I'm sure it didn't last long. It does look darn cute though. I'll get some pictures later tonight and post them.

In other news, lab is moving ahead. I have a ton on my plate. I'm writing my proposal for the new project, finishing up writing the old project, and I just sent my first paper back out for submission yesterday. Yes, for those of you keeping score, I wrote that paper two years ago. It got rejected twice, and then the postdoc/now junior faculty that is submitting it with me sat on it for a while to get more data. He's been a big help, basically taking on all of the submission and new data work, so I can't complain too much. But I was getting a lot of pressure from my committee to submit it. So, I tried to be as nice as possible while still saying "move it along!" I think it worked.

I've got an abstract due on Monday for this new project. It's difficult to do much without data, but I'm trying. I've also got to start thinking about my next committee meeting, and I'm also going to write for a fellowship that is due in January. So things will continue to be busy. I am hoping that by being very thorough in my proposal it will save me time and energy further down the road.

So, that's why I've been sparse. Sorry. Next week is going to be nuts, but then things should calm down some. Or at least that is what I am telling myself.

I'll post Halloween pictures later. I'm sure they'll be cute.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

That went fast

The birthday party this weekend went well. The big surprise was that my sister flew in from California for the weekend. My mom's birthday is the day before Sophie's, and we had a surprise brunch Saturday morning. By the time Amy flew in, everyone in my immediate family knew she was coming except my mom. We had all worked out an elaborate scheme so as to not make her suspect anything. For once, we all kept a secret! I almost slipped at one point, but I somehow made it to Saturday.

It was wonderful to spend the weekend with the sister and my fam. We were all exhausted--playing Guitar Hero until 2 AM Friday night will do that--but it was worth it.

The actual party went well. We had about 40 people show, which was more than I expected but how many I planned for. We actually didn't have twenty pounds of food left over, which may be a first for a family gathering. I was really touched that so many extended family members showed up. My house is a real hike for most of them. I was thrilled they made the drive.

I also dyed my hair Saturday night. My cousin and sisters did the actual dyeing/straightening. It's a reddish brown, which is a change of pace. A welcome change, though, considering I haven't dyed my hair since college. Now I just need to get it cut...

Without further ado, some pictures:
Joe, Amy, and Sophie chilling pre-party


Sophie and her own little cake


Sophie wasn't so sure about the icing...


Me, Sophie, Jen, Joe, and Amy trying to coax Sophie into trying her cake...


Joe, Jen, Amy, Sophie, and my dad.


Me post hair dye in Amy's glasses and coat--me being Amy for Halloween.


My cousin Heather, me, Jen, and Amy being shades of red to brown.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Rest

Can I just tell you that I have the best husband ever? I've been burning the candle at both ends (and then some) for over a month, and it's really taken its toll on my body. I was basically a walking zombie last night. After dinner, Tim took over Sophie duty and told me to catch a nap. I fell asleep at 6:45.

And I woke up at 8:45. Awesome.

In that time, Tim watched Sophie, gave her a bath, gave her a bottle and her antibiotics, and put her to bed. By the time I got up, everything was done for her!

Part of me missed my Sophie time. But I also realize it doesn't do her any favors to have a zombie for a mom.

When I got up, I finally had enough energy to tackle whole house cleaning. Tim took the day off work today to finish up, but it shouldn't take him more than a quick dusting/vacuuming because of everything we got done last night. I've got to go grocery shopping, pick up the cake and pizzas tomorrow, and buy some balloons, and we're done!

I'm working hard to finish up my new proposal for the lab, but I'm stuck on synthesizing some of my thoughts. I've got to get something hammered out by the end of today though. It's not like I can't keep thinking about it and change it down the road. But, as a fellow blogger of mine pointed out earlier this week, it's hard as a perfectionist to just let things be fine. I want it to be perfect the first time, especially since I want so badly to make a good impression on the new lab. But, it's a draft. Fine may have to do.

And, as I need to remember, I'm not in this alone. My last two labs were very fond of the island philosophy: every project is its own deserted island, with no connection to others. You were left to figure out how to survive, and maybe prosper, on your own. The new lab is much more collegial. I need to get used to checking in more and asking for help. It'll move things along tremendously.

I did not, unfortunately, fall asleep right away last night. Actually, it took me until about 2 AM to finally nod off. The reason? Mostly stubbornness. Part of it was the typical to-do list running through my head. But the biggest reason? My feet were cold. And it took me three hours to finally suck it up, get out of bed, put on some socks, and fall asleep. I kept telling myself I'd deal with chilly toes and fall asleep eventually. Seriously--how stubborn am I that I couldn't take 30 seconds to get socks? That's a metaphor for my life if there ever was one.

Anyway, despite only getting 4 hours of sleep overnight, the two hour nap did wonders. And, it let me get ready enough for the party that I think it's really doable to be done with things before people show up (not typical of my parties).

For now, I'm off to finish my proposal. I'll have pictures after this weekend, I promise!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Soon

I really will post a decent update soon, I promise. Things have just been hectic (as usual). I'm officially moving into the new lab this week, and Sophie's first birthday party is Saturday! And, she got her 4th ear infection since July this week, with temps touching 102.8 at points.

And did I mention I'm an aunt? I am! I'll let the proud parents post the first pictures, but I've got some cute ones sitting on my camera.

Hopefully, I'll have more pictures after this weekend too. In addition to Sophie's party, there's a big surprise this weekend. And no, it has nothing to do with more babies. Just to clarify. I'd love to tell you what it is, but you'll just have to wait!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Aargh

I was up before 5 AM this morning to be into work by 6:45 so we could start experiments at 7. And I get here and find out the animal center accidentally fed the rats, so they are not fasted, so we can't use them.

And, I have a stupid meeting here from 1-2:30, so I have to stay at work.

I WANT to be down at the hospital with Jason and Kim and my new niece, delivered late last night, but noooo, I've got to wait here till my meeting.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. I'm already not in a good mood. But I'm sure baby time later will change that.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What to say?

I'm in one of those times where I'm not really sure what to say. I'm feeling overwhelmed and anxious, but I also don't want to sound negative all the time. Then again, blogging is cathartic. That's why I started doing it many moons ago. So, I guess you'll just have to bear with me.

Monday was my first pseudo-day in the new lab. That meant that this past week has been very sleepless for me. Much of it was due to Sophie's cold. However, even more was due to my anxiety level. Sunday night I didn't sleep at all.

It's my own fault. I know I'm anxious, but nothing I have done has lowered my panic level. I've been trying to figure out why I am so freaked out about the lab. I like the PIs, I like the people, it's a good project, and it is back to a topic I really like. So, I don't think it is the lab per se that is causing me so much stress.

I think it is the decision in general. I am sure I would be even more anxious if I had chosen to go back to medical school. Deep down, I really do feel that switching labs is the best choice for me. But the actual change makes this entire nightmarish situation real.

On Monday, I had to admit that I wasn't goind to get a thesis out of Dr. B's lab. I had to admit that the last three years have been worthless. I had to admit that I would not be going back to medical school with my class. I had to admit that, best case scenario, I will have spent 6 years in the PhD alone, ten years total in the MD/PhD program.

Basically, I had to admit that things wouldn't work out according to plan.

This is extremely tough for me. I'm a planner, and I'm an overachiever. I've failed on both levels with this PhD stuff. People have tried to be very supportive--it's not my fault, I've just fallen into bad situations, etc. But isn't part of my job to get past all the road blocks?

I've spent a lot of time in woulda-coulda-shoulda mode lately. I should have moved when Frank moved. I should have switched departments after he left. I should have fought harder to not go into Dr. B's lab. I should have gotten off my initial Dr. B project sooner. I should have left Dr. B's lab a year ago.

How many more should haves will I have with this decision? I know I will have some. That's life. But I can't let them control everything.

There are three dissertation defenses this week that are from MSTP students. One is a woman in my class, two are men from the class below mine. And they are all going back to med school in November.

And yesterday, I went to a dissertation for a physiology grad student. And as I listened to him, I thought, "I deserve my PhD just as much as he does, but without the publications, I have no leverage." That was tough.

After spending most of the day in the new lab on Monday, I do feel a bit better. Like I said before, everyone is super friendly and helpful. I knew the technician from Bill's lab, back in undergrad, so that was like a flashback for me. And in general, the surgical techniques are nearly identical to what I did with Frank (just a much longer survival time), and the molecular biology techniques will be mostly what I learned with Dr. B.

They are cramped for space in M's lab, so for the time being, I go upstairs for procedures, etc, and I stay at my old desk in Dr. B's lab to read papers and work on my proposal. I will eventually move upstairs, which will complete the switch. But for now, I am in a state of flux.

I'm just having a hard time mentally adjusting. I'm a perfectionist--it's hard to swallow that the last three years have been for nothing. That feels like utter failure to me.

And I've got to work on balancing. For the next long time, I've got to give everything I have to getting this project up and going. That's fine, but I've worn myself out so much emotionally that what I really need is a break.

I'm nearly worthless at home at the moment. I'm so exhausted that a victory is coming home, scrounging for dinner, getting groceries, and putting Sophie to bed. I get very little else done. My house is a mess, we're having family over for Sophie's birthday in ten days, and there are literally mountains of crap on every table and flat surface in the house.

I'm totally overwhelmed by the lab stuff, totally overwhelmed by the house stuff, and just generally frozen and incapable of moving forward. I know I need to break things off into manageable chunks and work on them a little bit at a time. I'll get to that point. For now, I just need to make it through my day without having a total meltdown.

Things will get easier, I know. As I assimilate into the new lab, memories of Dr. B's lab will become less and less prominent. I'll get there. But I need my body to cooperate and calm down so that I'm in one piece.

So, that's me for now. I got almost 5 hours of sleep last night, which is more than I've gotten in one night in a long time--probably since August. Hopefully catching up on sleep will bring my sympathetic nerve tone back to normal. I understand that adrenaline and cortisol are useful in emergency situations, but I've been living it for a few months now.

And let's not even talk about what this stress is doing for my eating disorder. I've kept things mostly under control, but it wouldn't take more than a little slip to start that whole cycle up and running again. Regaining control of something and punishing myself for not living up to my standards--that was the definition of my eating issues a few years ago. I definitely don't need to go through that again. So far, so good, but I can't stop being vigilant. And for as hard as it has been not to slip into that pattern again, it goes without saying that my hope to bring my diet and exercise back as a priority has been pushed to the bottom of the list again.

Really, someday it'll be back to working on me. But I've got to get out of crisis mode first.

Anyway, back to work. I just wanted to let you know why things have been a bit sporadic for the last few weeks. Once I get back in a rhythm again, life should calm down. Right?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Real post in the near future

I promise I'll have a real, non-deal related post soon. I've got a lot on my mind that I'd like to share. But, I also didn't sleep at all last night, and I haven't slept well in a long time, so I'm not too functional today. Nothing earth-shattering coming, I promise. I'll talk to you soon.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Mixed results

Well, just to prove that I am still learning this deal stuff too, my Rite Aid deals didn't go as planned. I got there at 8:30, and there were plenty of cold supplies in stock. Problem was, my Rite Aid doesn't take internet coupons. This is probably something I should have known, but I do the Rite Aid deals so infrequently that I've never had to use an IP (internet printable) there before.

At least I asked before I started shopping.

I went to the next closest Rite Aid and asked if they took IPs. They said they didn't. I asked if she knew any area Rite Aids that did, and the cashier told me that it's Rite Aid's policy as a company not to take IPs.

Now, I know there are Rite Aids out there that do, because people have posted online that they do. However, mine don't.

So, I decided to do only a few of the deals. In my first transaction, I bought:

Triaminic vapor fan 3.99 (couldn't use my coupon)
Orajel cold sore brush 6.99
Tax 0.85
Total 11.83
SCR (rebate) coming: 10.98

And the orajel has a $1.50 mail in rebate (the link is on the previous post). So, I'll still make a little money. But I'll use both items.

My second store, I bought:
Comtrex cold medicine 3.99
Pediatric sinus rinse kit 4.99
Coupon on sinus rinse -1.00
Cherry chest rub (like Vick's) 2.99
Tax 0.93
Total 11.90
SCR coming: 11.97

And the sinus rinse has a $3 mail in rebate, so that plus the $1 off sticker that was on the box (a pleasant surprise) makes that run a money maker too.

I just didn't feel like doing more transactions for mail in rebates and other products. It goes back to me only buying what we'll use. The vapor fan and chest rub are for Sophie, since she can't have cold medicine. The rinse is something new we'll try. The comtrex is for us, and the cold sore stuff is for my sister.

I saw people getting multiples of everything and loading up carts. I'm sure they're making some money, but I just didn't think it was worth it. If it is for you, more power to you :)

The deal runs till Saturday. If they run out, you can always ask for a rain check, but that is sometimes hit or miss, especially with rebates that only run one week. I prefer not to deal with the hassle unless it is something I really want.

Good luck!

(PS I checked the sinus rinse rebate online, and the rebate is for packages that have 50 or 100 mix packs in it. Mine has 25, so I don't think it qualifies. But with the $1 off coupon on the box, it at least makes the deal free after tax).

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Rite Aid deals for 10/12

Ok, I am running behind today, but I wanted to get you the Rite Aid deal I was talking about. They are having a "feel better for free" sale starting tomorrow. There are a ton of cold and flu products available free after rebate. I don't know what the stock will be like, so you may want to get there early.

As always, Rite Aid is pay out of pocket, get a rebate check back later. You will have to pay tax out of pocket, without a rebate for it later. And all of these are limit 1.

I don't have time to get the whole list up, but go to the slickdeals message board here and check out the deal for the week. Here are the coupons I found to match up:

Triaminic: $2 coupon (little box in right corner of page)
Theraflu: $1 coupon
Advil childrens: $1 coupon
Nexcare cold sore treatment: $2 coupon
Neil med neti pot: $3 rebate (fill in your email, they'll send you the link)

Now, you need an original receipt for each mail in rebate. So you need to buy each of these in a different transaction in order to get all the mail in rebates. A pain in the butt, I know.

Sucrets: $2 mail in rebate (rumored to not be very reliably paid out)
Chapstick shimmer: free after mail in rebate in Sunday's paper
Orajel: $1.50 mail in rebate
Breathe again: $2 mail in rebate
Neil Med sinus rinse: $3 mail in rebate (just print the info from the web page rebate site)

I'm not going to get every free thing listed--I don't need them--but I'll let you know tomorrow how successful I was. Good luck!