Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Quiet

It is finally quiet in my house. Yes, I'm home. No, I'm not thrilled to be here. I was supposed to be at work in the morning, then at my clinical tutorial in the afternoon. Instead, I'm home with Sophie. Which in and of itself is not the problem.

We were supposed to get a huge snowstorm today. We did get quite a bit of snow, and most schools were cancelled. It looked pretty terrible in the morning, so my mom stayed home. I stayed home with Sophie and planned to re-evaluate things later on. Well, ultimately I told my mom to stay home and I called off from my clinical tutorial. My preceptor was very nice about it, as always. I, on the other hand, am not taking it so well.

I've been back to work "full-time" since the first of the year. I put "full-time" in quotes because I am averaging about a day off a week due to family stuff. Granted, I do go in most weekends, but that doesn't make up for it. I know I've posted ad nauseaum about my supposed flexibility in the PhD versus Tim's real job. And let me state that I am not upset at Tim for having a real job--his pays the bills, mine doesn't come close.

But I am really upset with having to miss so much work. I will be the first to tell you I don't like my job, but I am also the first one to say that I hate being unprofessional. I made a commitment to both Dr. B and my clinical tutorial preceptor to work, and I want to work. I want to be done with the PhD and go back to med school. Heck, Dr. P, my clinical tutorial preceptor, could very well be my boss someday. It is important to me to maintain a positive professional reputation. Ditching work constantly doesn't help me with that.

Granted, I have a four-month old at home. Dr. P seems to be very understanding of that. Dr. B isn't, but I don't expect him to be. Heck, poor Kim in the lab is going through another miscarriage, and he hasn't let up on her at all. I knew the initial work-family transition would be tough. But I thought I'd be fine.

Well, for the first time, I'm thinking that those people who said that there's no such thing as balance are right. I love Sophie dearly, and when it comes down to it, she'll always be #1. But as long as she is healthy, happy, and well-cared-for, I think I should be able to work too. I've always multi-tasked. I thought this would just be a matter of finding time to be a mom and a student/employee. Well, I've found the time (mostly by giving up sleep), but I haven't found the balance.

I know--I was naive. But to me, I've made a commitment to my program, and I can't just ignore that now.

This sounds so selfish, even as I am typing. I really can't tell you how much I love my daughter--no amount of typing can accomplish that. I just wish I could find a better way. Maybe it's working nights and weekends (more than I already do). I don't know. There has to be a better arrangement.

Even when I am home, I can't get things done. My thesis committee report was due today. I had it 90% written when I came home yesterday. Last night was way too hectic with a fussy baby to get anything done. I had planned to finish it this morning in lab. When I had to stay home, I knew I had to find time. Considering that when Sophie's awake, I don't get five minutes to eat or pee, I knew finding the time would be tough.

Finally, she fell asleep about 3, and I just sent the report out a few minutes ago. Thank God for quiet.

I guess what I feel is that I don't have quality time for Sophie or work. When I'm with Sophie, I'm constantly thinking about how I am going to find time to take care of the house, catch up on work, and maybe eat/pee/sleep. When I am at work, I am constantly having to manipulate around family issues. It's not fair to either work or Sophie to be so divided. And forget about having any hobbies or "me" time. I'm lucky if I get to have a grown-up conversation with my husband once a week.

I just wish I could get a handle on things. There have been so many women that say you can have it all. That might be true, but I haven't figured out a way yet.

But I do have to say: watching Sophie sleep so peacefully makes me feel like I have a little piece of heaven here. I hope that I get things more figured out as she grows up. Hopefully she won't know what a mess I am right now.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Is this a joke?

You know, it's true. There are times in life when if you don't laugh, you'll cry. This has been one of those weeks.

The deal with the house: Thursday morning, Tim took off work and went over to the old house to meet the mold removal guy. There were a few spots of mold under the roof in the attic that the buyers were super concerned about (even though we had been told by a professional that it wasn't a concern), so Tim had one of his business contacts send a guy over to professionally clean it. In the meantime, Tim was moving some of the last big pieces of furniture over to the new house. The plan had been to take the last bit of furniture out of the house over the weekend so that, when the house transferred this Friday, things would be totally taken care of.

Of course, after the mold guy left and Tim had unloaded the furniture, the realtor called. Apparently, both of the buyers had been married previously, divorced, and then remarried. The woman had bought a house with her ex-husband, but after the divorce, she no longer lived there. I guess the ex-husband let the house go into foreclosure. Now, none of this had come out until the private mortgage insurance company ran the application and found out that they had been the ones to insure the foreclosed house. Once they knew that, they denied the application for PMI. Apparently that got back to the lender, and then the lender pulled the financing.

The crappy thing is that the lender pre-approved these people, which means they should've had to document income, and there should have been a credit report. Whether the buyer had no idea about the foreclosure, or whether she knew and just thought it didn't affect her is unclear. Still, that would show up on a credit report. These people were preapproved, not just prequalified, and they had already gotten the loan ready to go (heck, we were supposed to close in less than a week!)

Basically, they had one shot to get someone to cosign the loan. They couldn't find anyone. I guess their families said, "If you can't afford to get a house on your own, don't buy one." So the deal fell apart.

I have to tell you, when Tim called me Thursday afternoon to tell me, I was too flabbergasted to be upset. This deal has been such a gigantic pain in the butt from day one. I just figured we had gone through all the crap by this point--we were less than a week away, and the buyers had applied for the loan over a month ago. I had already set up the utility shut-off (which I have to remember to call and undo today). I just figured that their realtor had been so pushy--they must have everything on their end done to feel superior enough to push us around.

I'm still in some shock. The house has already been relisted. Instead of moving the last of the furniture out, we spent Friday night and all day Saturday moving things back in. We didn't move all of the furniture back. We left the heavy dressers, the sofa, and the dining room set at the new house. We just strategically placed things and put some of the decorations back up.

And now, we wait for new buyers.

The whole thing is just so surreal. And there is so much other stress going on right now--my committee meeting is in a week (and will be horrible, I am sure), Sophie's teething and miserable, my GI system is absolutely horrible, and I am totally off schedule and out of whack. I almost showed up to my friend's son's first birthday party a week early! I knew it was Sunday from 12-4. Sophie was being so fussy that I emailed my friend and told her I didn't think we'd be able to make it. She emailed back and told me it was the following Sunday! Thank God--I was all ready to pack Sophie up and go. I would've been so embarrassed!

That's not me at all. I am uber-organized. I have everything in my planner. But I've been so completely thrown for a loop over the past two weeks or so that I don't even know what day it is. Yesterday was a real wake-up call for me in that sense. I figure I need to slow down and scale back--I'm feeling so out of control of my life. Problem is that the next few weeks are still going to be crazy. I keep telling myself this busy-ness won't last forever, but it feels like it is.

And the craziest part? Sophie is four months old today. Where did that time go?

I just want to slow down, but this is the worst possible time for that. If anything, I need to be ramping up to finish my PhD and get moving. But all I want is a vacation. I've only been back two months--it's a little early to need a break!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Quick update

Things have been busy. I'll fill in the blanks later, but in the last week:

-My dad went to ER with chest pain, and he was in the hospital for several days. He's only 51, but his brother (who is a few years older than him) just had quadruple bypass surgery three weeks ago, so heart issues run in the family.

-We found out today that the buyers of our old house can't get financing. Long story, but basically even though they were preapproved, there is a past credit issue that just came to light now. If they can't get a cosigner, we can't close in a week, and the house goes back up for sale.

-Generally, I'm having a lot of stress/anxiety issues with things, and today it decided to take a toll on my GI system.

-Sophie's had several spells of extreme fussiness recently. She isn't due for another growth spurt for a while, but she doesn't seem sick either. She sees the doctor in a week, so we'll check it out then if it doesn't get any worse.

-I have a thesis committee meeting on the 4th of March, and still nothing is working.

You know, I don't know what I did to offend the universe, but I'd like one thing to cooperate in my favor in the near future.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The haircut

I meant to put this up when I did it, but things have been busy. In the midst of all this house drama (which is still ongoing, despite apparently being semi-resolved last week), lab stress, and general feelings of inadequacy, I decided it was time to do something positive. I had been planning to cut my hair and donate it to locks of love. The original thought was to wait until April or so in order to have my 10 inches for Lock of Love and still have enough left over for it not to be too short.

Well, on Saturday the 3rd, I decided heck with it. I had Jen straighten it, and my mom chopped it off:

There's the straightened version


Almost 20 inches long. That should leave me plenty left over, right?

The pigtails.

The first cut. Can I change my mind?


Too late now!

Sophie wearing my pigtails. A vision of the future, maybe?


The final product (hey, it's not perfect, but what do you want for 11 o'clock last night?)

It definitely took some getting used to, and I think another couple of inches would make the adjustment easier, but I do have to say: it's drastically cut down on the amount of time I need to get ready in the morning. And it's just hair. It'll always grow back.

I wanted to do something different, and I guess this is my pseudo-rebelling without any real consequences. I've even got some red-brown hair dye I may try out in the near future. I just wanted to do something a little light hearted in the midst of all the stressful stuff. And I feel like it helped.

Unfortunately, some poor child is now going to be stuck with my hair. Hopefully Locks of Love can treat it and make it more manageable somehow.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A clearer explanation

I've been pondering my earlier post, and I think I know what I am feeling: I hate doing things that I'm not good at. Actually, let's take that even a step further: I hate doing things that I am not the best at. This goes way way back in my childhood. I played sports, but I was never any good at them. Therefore, once sports stopped being fun and became competitive, I quit (that, and being catcher on my softball team made me claustrophobic).

On the other hand, I liked music, but I never loved it. However, I was good at it. So, even though I didn't like it, I took private lessons and did solo & ensemble contests and whatever else went along with it. I finally quit playing the flute in college, after private lessons and recitals and everything else got so stressful. I liked playing in the band--I never wanted anything more than that. But I did it because people said I was good at it.

I feel like I am not good at my PhD. I've felt this way since I started in Dr. B's lab. I was so encouraged at science and research throughout high school and college. That's why I kept with it--I got good grades, I had teachers and professors who nurtured my interest and gave me positive feedback, and I had a mentor in my first bench research experience that made me feel like I could do anything.

So, needing to be the best at what I was good at (boy, how things change), I decided to do both an MD and a PhD to give me the best edge in science. The MD, as I've mentioned before, was more of an afterthought.

Since coming into this lab, all I've gotten is negativity. It has gotten better in recent months (or maybe it's stayed the same, and I've changed). But all of the negative feedback has really made me question why I am doing this. It doesn't matter that everyone I know is getting the same kind of feedback, that I'm not the only one struggling. It means I'm not good at it. And that makes me want to give it up and go back to something I am good at.

And that is clinical work. My clinical mentor is the polar opposite of my lab mentor. Despite my feelings of inadequacy, all I've ever gotten from my clinical mentor is positive feedback and encouragement. He reminds me a lot of the first research mentor I had in that sense. He makes me feel like I am good at something. And that makes me want to work so much harder.

That's really it. I've never been one that is encouraged by failure--it doesn't make me want to try harder the next time. It disparages me. It makes me want to go back to something I am good at. Maybe that's weak, but that's me. I hate conflict. As long as there is at least one thing in my life that I think I am still good at, I am willing to let go of the things I'm not.

I look back at what I've enjoyed in life. That's the theme: doing things for which I am appreciated, recognized, and encouraged. I don't need a parade; it's as simple as being labeled a helpful volunteer at the therapeutic riding program (which I miss desperately), or having a patient say they really enjoyed having their appointment with me that day, or having someone go through my photos and telling me I took some nice ones. It's just positive encouragement--that's all I need.

So I guess my issue is this: since having the baby, I feel even less good at lab that I did before, if that's possible. And I haven't gotten any positive encouragement, either from experiments working or from something as simple as having my boss tell me to "hang in there." That's all I need to hear. Just tell me to keep trying, and I will. But hearing things like, "why isn't this working? It used to work. What did you do?" over and over doesn't help. I don't care if that's how he treats everyone else. That's not what I need.

And I feel so lost as a mom too. Now that, I know, comes with the territory, and it concerns me a little less. But still, afternoons like today, when she just cries so shrilly and nothing I do makes it stop, make me feel useless. Ultimately, her gas (or whatever else it was) passes, and she smiles and coos at me whenever I look her way. That makes it worth it. For all those clueless moments, I do get some encouragement when she smiles for me.

So for as much as having Sophie has messed with my career goals, I feel like ultimately she is so much more important that having to spend a few more months in lab. And I do resent having to be the one to stay home all the time, but even that feeling fades. For now, Tim's the breadwinner, and he needs to do everything in his power to keep work happy. Maybe someday one or both of us can work part time. But for now we need to take what we are given.

And really, for as tough as lab has been, there is so much else in my life that I am thankful for. Sure, there are periods of stress--for instance, I hope to never have to go through the misery of selling a house again--but we are so blessed in so many other ways. If getting through lab is the toughest thing in my life, I'd say I'm doing ok.

Two nights, and the rest of my life

Let me give you a little insight into the last two nights we've had here:

Sunday night:
8:00 start bedtime ritual
8:45 put Sophie to bed
9:30 Sophie's up, I feed her & rock her back to sleep
10:30 Sophie's up, Tim rocks her back to sleep
11:00 Tim & I go to bed (earlier than usual)
11:30 Sophie's up, I feed & rock her
2:00 Sophie's up, I feed & rock her
5:00 Sophie's up, I feed & rock her
7:00 Sophie's up, I give up trying to sleep

Last night:
10:00 Start bedtime ritual (we thought starting later might get her to sleep through the night again)
10:30 Put Sophie to bed
11:00 We go to bed
3:00 Sophie's up, feed & rock her
5:00 Sophie's up, feed & rock her
6:00 I wake up to a huge wet spot in the bed--the dog has peed in the bed, and I'm laying in it.
6:30 After stripping the sheets, Tim curls up with a comforter, and I go sleep in Sophie's room
7:00 Forget it, we're all awake.

Now, with each time Sophie gets up, it's usually a diaper change, a feeding, and some rocking. It usually takes about half an hour. And then I've got to try and fall back asleep, which usually take another half hour (if I fall back asleep at all).

And today, I am home with her. This is good and bad. It is good because I always like seeing Sophie. It is bad because: 1) we're supposed to get 8 inches of snow, which is why I told my mom to stay home, 2) I have a required symposium and student lunch I have to miss, and 3) I feel like I haven't been giving lab my full attention, and this isn't helping matters.

I really think I underestimated how tough this was going to be. I'm not totally naive--I knew we were in for a lot of sacrifices and adjustments. And I wouldn't trade Sophie for anything. But I am shocked at how much having a baby has changed my life. I saw so many other people do it. I've done so many things in my life people said I couldn't do--I didn't think this would be different. But oh, it is.

Really, even since I was pregnant, lab has gotten less and less of my attention. At least while I was pregnant I still got some things done. Now, I haven't gotten anything done since I've been back. Part of that is what I have tried hasn't worked, and that always brings me down and makes me frustrated (and less motivated). But a big chunk of that is because I've had to give so much of my time up to taking care of things at home.

Having my mom do day care is a huge help--there have been plenty of nights where Tim or I have run late, and she's always willing to keep Sophie a little longer. But on days like today, I've got to stay home. Now, it's not that I love driving through eight inches of snow--I hate snow driving more than anything. It's that I feel like I've given up my aspirations. There's a good chance I'm not going to be able to finish my PhD this year because of all the time I've had off. That puts med school back a year later than I wanted. I just want to be done in the lab so much. I've pretty much decided that I don't want to do bench research again--or at least not for a long time--and I want so badly to get back to the clinical stuff. The fact that having a baby may set me back really makes me sad.

I'm just so close to being done. This has been a total crap topic of a PhD project, and the fact that I may finally be able to finish it really makes me want to just be done. But all of the stopping and starting messes with my experiments. And that makes everything drag on.

I've just had a really rough morning. Like I said, I wouldn't trade Sophie for anything. But maybe the perfect mix of a career and a family really isn't possible, much like that highly touted myth of research plus clinical life seems to be a fairy tale. I just am so torn up about it. I got very defensive when Tim's grandmother suggested that I should be a stay at home mom now. Why would I go through all this school and training just to stay home? Is that the best I can do for myself? And yet, there was this part of me that said: why have kids if you are just going to put them in day care? I always assumed there was a happy medium. And maybe there is. But I have yet to find it.

Friday, February 08, 2008

So much better

The last few weeks have been uber-stressful. The bulk of it has been the issues involved with selling the house. These buyers have been a huge pain in the butt throughout the process, and after the home inspection came back, things moved from irritating to plain old abusive. They wanted us to fix the mold in the attic. We are--we've got a professional guy doing it (someone Tim knows) that should cost us much less than the $1400 their guy wanted. The other issue was the pest extermination. We set mouse traps (and never caught anything), but they said there was an "insect infestation." First off, we've never had bugs. Second, they didn't tell us what type of bugs, or where, or what they saw that made them think we had bugs, so even if we called an exterminator, they'd laugh at us.

We told them to get rid of the pest contigency. They were being pains. We told them to get it inspected specifically for pests, and then we'd fix it if they found anything. No word back. Finally, this morning, our realtor called and said that their realtor knew a guy who'd go through it for $50 and fix anything he found. Finally!

So now we just need them to sign off on the mold stuff, and we are good to close in three weeks. It's been pretty stressful--at any time, they could kill the deal by saying, "no, we won't compromise". That's why we've been so hesistant to move furniture or do anything else. And we've been on pins and needles waiting to hear something back. Now that things seem better, I think we're in the clear.

It's really been amazing how much this house stuff was taking a toll. Despite the other sources of stress in my life--experiments not working, being totally exhausted from lab and baby, a house that is in total disarray--by far the most stressful thing has been selling this house. But in three weeks, that will be over, and life can get back to as pseudo-normal as it's ever been.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Exhausted

So I have all sorts of things to talk about, but I am totally and completely wiped out. The last few weeks have been off the wall. There are some fun things, some day to day things, and some introspective things that I've been adding to my mental list of future blog topics. But that's for another day. Today, here's a Sophie picture from the Super Bowl, and that's the best I can do: