Wednesday, March 26, 2008

My disappearing act

You'll never believe who I met in person last night: David Copperfield!!!

Long story short: my dad knows a VP at the University of Akron who gave him sweet seats to the David Copperfield magic show. My dad couldn't go because of a business trip, so he gave Tim and I the tickets, and my mom watched Sophie.

Well, these seats were sweet--orchestra, row F, dead center. It was crazy! Now, Tim and I are both magic skeptics, so we weren't expecting much. And because we were so close, we had a pretty good idea on how some of the tricks worked. Then again, there were a few times when we looked at each other and thought "how did he do that?"

For the grand finale, he needed 13 random people from the audience. They picked people by throwing big silver beach balls into the seats, and whoever had a ball at the end came on stage. Guess what? I had one!

They brought us onstage and had us sit in two rows of seats. Then they lowered a curtain, made us disappear, and then had us reappear up in the balcony. I can't tell you how they did it, and I myself am not even sure on some of the specifics, but I guess it was a pretty cool effect for those in the audience.

After the trick, we audience people got taken behind the scenes to a little "debriefing room". We watched a video of how the effect looked to the audience at a similar show, and then we were asked not to tell the secret. After that, David Copperfield himself came in the room to talk to us, and we all got autographed 8x10 pictures as a thank you! It was unreal.

Poor Tim though--they only told the family members that the disappeared people would meet them in the lobby after the show. Well, the whole debriefing thing took about 20 minutes, so he was freaking out a little bit. When they did bring us back, everyone else's people were there, but I couldn't find Tim. I was calling for him, and then I walked all around the other lobby areas, but he wasn't around. We were both wigging out a little when we did finally meet up. He had my coat and purse, which had my phone and car keys, so I knew he hadn't left yet. It was still a little unnerving though.

Overall, it was a pretty fun time. I don't think I would've bought tickets on my own to see David Copperfield, but for free, you can't beat it. And Tim and I needed a night out. Actually, what we both needed was a nap--Sophie's been awake most of the night for the last two nights--but this was a close second.

Anyway, I thought I'd brag a little about my cool disappearing act :)

I've got Easter pictures and more fun stuff to talk about, but I am busy off my butt today and for the rest of the week, so I'll try to squeeze it in when I can.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Bawl alert

Ok, I just finished reading this article. I think it is interesting and enlightening, but it also made me cry the whole time.

When a baby is destined to die.

Happier stuff later today or tomorrow, I promise.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

An Open Letter

Dear Winter:

In case no one has told you, spring officially starts today. So I'd really appreciate it if we didn't have any more snow. Days like yesterday, where it starts out in the upper 40s and then becomes cold and snowy, leaving 2 inches of heavy, slushy snow over everything just in time for rush hour, are not cool. And that forecast we have of about 4 inches of snow overnight tomorrow night? I think that violates some sort of spring no-snow contract. I've had more than my share of snow this year. And what's with the whole "average snowfall" thing? If Cleveland's average snowfall is 60 inches, and we've had above average winters for the last five years, aren't we due for a below average one?

In fact, we had the record-breaking snowfall winter a few years back of over 120 inches of snow. In order to average out to 60 inches, does that mean we get a winter with no snow? I'd be down with that.

I know that school-age kids love these crappy winters with lots of snow, below-zero wind chills, and icy roads because then they get off school. But for those of us that have to drive to work, there are no such things as snow days. And it really gets old needing to drive five miles an hour through unplowed roads. So let's let up, ok?

I'd like some sort of promise that we are not going to get another late April snowstorm. Yes, I still remember 2005 where we got a gigantic snowstorm on the 26th of the month. It took over a year for our trees to recover from all the lost limbs. And it had been in the upper 70's a week earlier on my birthday. So, no more teasing, ok? When spring is here, it's here.

I'd really appreciate it if you'd honor my request. Otherwise, I think I am going to have to flee the snowbelt and move to Florida. And they have bugs the size of your head there. So I'd rather not.

Thanks very much,

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Since nothing has worked for me this week, I'm taking today to attempt to get organized. I need to have two papers to hand in to my committee in two weeks--the one I wrote with my old lab is pretty much done, and the new one is crappy and will take a while. I need to make an hour presentation for endocrine grand rounds in a few weeks. And I need to find a journal article and make a journal club presentation in a week and a half. Since I haven't had time to do any of these things, today is the day.

And that's good, because I am totally exhausted. I swear, if I didn't know better, I'd think my thyroid isn't working. Today especially I've been in a mental fog like I've never experienced. It literally feels like the same fogginess you get when you've had a lot to drink--it's hard to concentrate, I can't get my eyes to focus, and I literally feel like I'm going to fall asleep. It almost made me worried to drive this morning. And I've gotten more sleep than usual the past few nights, so that shouldn't be it.

But since my mom has Hashimoto's, as do most or all of her six sisters, and my grandma had thyroid disease needing surgery, I get my TSH checked every year. And I'm always sort of borderline high, but it's in the upper limits of normal. So really, that can't be it. Although I'm due to get it checked again in June, so we'll see.

Of course, the hypochondriac in me sees symptoms whenever something weird comes up. Pale, rough, dry skin? Check. Hair loss? Check (but that's normal post-pregnancy). Cold sensitivity? Check (but I've had Raynaud's for over a decade). Muscle stiffness/pain? Check (again, not unusual for me). Constipation? Check (but my GI system sucks). Bradycardia? Not really, but I've always had a slower heart rate. Weight gain? Well, no weight loss, despite trying, so we'll call that one a maybe.

Now, I have no hoarseness, no decreased reflexes (I'm assuming), and no myxedema. And I've always been tired. So I'm guessing I'm probably just coming down with something that is making me all head-foggy (although I have no congestion or pressure, which usually precedes illness for me). I think all the stress is just catching up to me and wearing me out. That's probably what's killed my appetite too.

But see how easily I can slip into the hypochondriac stuff? At least now I can talk myself out of it too.

It's just been a stressful few weeks. Sophie got really sick last week. It was Wednesday night/Thursday morning. She usually sleeps through the night, so when she woke up crying at 1 AM, I thought maybe she had gas or something. When I picked her up, she started vomiting. She was retching so hard her little abdomen was heaving. I felt totally helpless--I held her, and when she stopped vomiting after about half an hour, she was starving. I tried feeding her, but as soon as she swallowed, she'd start vomiting again. I gave up on that and just held her. I didn't want to lay her down--she'd start vomiting as soon as she was horizontal, and I didn't want her to aspirate it. She didn't have a fever, and she didn't have diarrhea, so we didn't know how sick she really was. We both decided that, after about two hours, if she started vomiting again, we'd call the doctor and see if we needed to go to ER.

About 3 AM or so, she just passed out. It was the saddest thing--she was so upset, so tired, so hungry, and so exhausted from vomiting and crying. I sat up in the bed and kept holding her most of the night because it seemed to be the only way that she was comfortable. That, and then at least I could tell she was breathing.

If an adult was just throwing up without a fever or anything, I'd let them go. But to see little Sophie heaving and being so uncomfortable--it was horrible! But at the same time, I didn't want to be that mom that freaks out every time their kid has a cold. I knew that if she had a fever or started having a lot of diarrhea, I'd go to the ER. But she was still having wet diapers, and after a few hours, she could drink fluids, so I just wasn't sure. I planned to go to work on Thursday (despite not sleeping) because I trusted my mom. Sophie had kept a 7 AM feeding down, so I thought she'd be ok. Well, then she vomited (although less violently) at 8, and then again at 9. She looked much better than she had in the morning, so I didn't know what to do. I figured we'd see how things went. My mom took her down to her house, and I knew I could always leave work and get her if she got sick again.

Well, just after my mom left, I started having second thoughts. I called the nurse line at my doctor's office, and after waiting on hold for half an hour, she thought I should bring Sophie in, just to be sure. Of course, they wanted to see her in less than an hour, and it's half an hour down to my mom's. And I hadn't showered yet. Luckily, my mom had just gotten home, and she turned around and came back so I didn't have to go down to get Sophie.

The doctor checked her out and said things looked ok. She only had a little temperature of 99.5, and she looked much better. He said it was probably something viral and she'd be fine in a few days. And of course, she never was sick again. I felt a little weird calling the doctor's office to get her in, but I figure better safe than sorry. It didn't help that I had read a story the day before about a three year old who got sick and was dead within 36 hours. I just wanted to be sure.

Really, I have to say that those few early morning hours were some of the scariest of my life. It's so frightening when a baby is sick--they can't tell you what's wrong, or where it hurts. And I couldn't do anything other than hold her while she was heaving so violently. It was just awful.

Luckily, she's been much better. Good thing too, because with Tim being out of town this week, I know taking care of a sick baby by myself would be terrifying. Luckily, my mom's been a huge help, and Jen's been home for spring break, and she's been staying overnight with us. I really don't know how people raise babies without family nearby. I don't think I could do it. I'm not great about making really close social connections with people that I feel like I could leave my sick child with them. I'd probably have to, if we lived far away, but I'm glad that at least for the first one, we have lots of help.

Anyway, sorry for the long and rambling post. It's really hard to keep a train of thought today. What I really need is about a three-day-long nap, but that's not happening in this lifetime.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Things have been totally crazy round here recently. I'll give you the low down later, but so far today:

-My road to work was totally shut down, and the detour wasn't marked. So I took a back way, and when I tried to cut back to my road, it was STILL closed. So me (and everyone else in the city of Cleveland) had no idea how to get to where we needed to go. It delayed me over an hour.

-I remembered my breast pump, but forgot all the attachments. So I haven't "emptied" since about 9 this morning. And I have a few hours to go (like 3 or 4). And already it HURTS!

-My plasmid DNA prep sucked. Our cuvettes grew legs and wandered off, so after spending most of the morning hunting down another set, I learned that instead of getting 350 ug of DNA, I got 3. And I used a damn kit! This is why I do things my way.

-I am running an agarose gel in the hopes that my DNA readings were off, and I really do have more DNA than it shows. But that's been a disaster so far. And I'm not hopeful.

So, my experiments are a disaster, my day's been a wreck, and Tim's going out of town for four days, so I'm on my own. And Sophie is getting over being sick (more on that later--one of the scariest moments of my life).

I am totally, utterly, and unfailingly disastrous today. I mean, really: even with how close I (hope) I am to finishing my PhD, I really thought about just walking away and being done with it today. It's been that frustrating. And it's not even 3 PM!

Honest to God. I am in waaaaaay over my head.

Not two minutes after I posted this, Ming came in and said that our grant didn't get funded, and of this instant, we have NO MONEY! Not even enough to order CO2 tanks for our cells. Not enough to use the P-card to get supplies. Nothing. I'm hoping to get more info on that soon. Like today hasn't been fun enough already.

Seriously, I must've hit a squirrel or something on my way into work today, because the universe is really pissed at me. There's got to be a reason!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Happy thoughts

I was perusing the blog this morning, trying to decide if there were topics I wanted to talk about other than some of the drama going on in my life. I'll get to that. What I noticed is that I've been very overwhelmed, and overwhelmingly negative, since I came back to work.

And that's not me. Ok, it's me in the sense that I am feeling very overwhelmed. That's true enough. But life is not all negative. In fact, much of my life has been joy. It just seems like many of my blog posts have been venting--I haven't had the time to post when things are making me happy. And I don't like that.

So, despite how my days have gone recently, I just wanted to say: yes, I am exhausted, overwhelmed, totally and completely emotionally drained, and ready for a long vacation (even though I don't have one coming up), but I am doing ok.

In the spirit of at least posting an informative update:

-I had my thesis committee meeting on Tuesday. It went about as I expected: good in some areas, bad in others. My advisor didn't throw me under the bus, as is his habit. I didn't get any lectures about not having everything finished (almost like they understood I just had a baby--almost). They did, however, do a full reversal on what they want me to finish before I get my PhD. At my last meeting, they told me to work out the kinetics, write it up, and send it out, and then I've got my two papers (if my old lab gets that one published) and I'm done. Tuesday they decided that even if I get my two publications, my newest project may not have enough to be a full thesis, so they want a mechanism. That sounds simple, but it so isn't. My boss and I had talked like a mechanism would be a totally separate PhD project for someone. And now they want me to add it on. That realistically means I've gotten set back a year for med school, best case scenario. I was angry, but polite. And that's all I'm going to say about that.

-And oh, by the way, my grant support is up in September and my boss told my committee he can't afford to pay me. But they still want me to stay.

-My mom and I went to see "Wicked" Tuesday night. Of course, that is when the giant ice storm came through town. We saw a ton of accidents just going up the 5 miles on I-77 we took to get downtown. It was really frightening--I tried not to freak my mom out, but I hate driving in crappy weather. It took forever to get there, by the time we got there the garage was full and we had to park outside, and the weather was horrid. But, all things considered, we were only five minutes late. We missed part of the opening song, but so did a lot of other people. And we had already listened to the soundtrack--we knew what was going on. I have to say--the musical was fantastic! I haven't seen a show in a long time. My mom loves the Wizard of Oz, and I think she really enjoyed seeing this other side of it. We both agreed that it was everything we had hoped for!

-I'm currently trying to bust butt to get things done. In addition to wanting a mechanism for my project, my thesis committee also wants: a copy of my paper with Frank's lab, a written manuscript of my current project in three weeks, and also the completion of all the bacteria work, assays, Western blots, and IPs so that we can have another meeting in a few months. So, I'm swamped. It's hard for me to even know where to start. I'm taking a brief break now, and then it's back to the grind.

So that's the update for now. I am very overwhelmed with work, and we haven't lost any of the other drama (house stuff especially) that's been going on.

But last night, when I was rocking Sophie to sleep (the third time she woke up), I was just very peaceful. She's such a gem. When I get the chance to just shut everything else out for a while and hold her--it's a complete cure for me. I just need to let things go. I've pretty much given up on keeping up the house--I figure people will understand--and I've got to find a way to balance all the demands at work with all the home stuff. I know neither work nor home is going to give me a break soon. Maybe I just need to accept that things aren't going to be the way I want them. The balance may come in the future, but for now, both work and Sophie need 110% from me. And I've got to find a way to give it.

Really, I know how blessed I am, and I thank God every night. We have all of the essentials of life (food/clothing/shelter), plus loving families, our health, and decent jobs. I know I like things perfect. And things are currently far from perfect. But I get so down on myself when I feel like I'm not living up to my own standards. I've got to get back to a place where I prioritize what really matters. When I die, people won't remember what journals I published in, how clean my house was, or how often I cook. They'll remember me as Tim's wife, Sophie's mom, people's daughter/sister/aunt/cousin/friend. That's what matters. And I've got to let the rest of it go.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Nothing terribly deep

I'm just trying to blog as an attempt at preventing the blog-less stretches from getting too long. It's totally possible to let the dry spell last a week, then two, then three, etc. I'm off the hook busy, but here's what's happened in the last week:

-The biggest news is that my brother and sister-in-law are pregnant. I wanted to make sure that was public knowledge before I blogged about it. I'm still in shock, mostly. I didn't figure they'd have a baby for another year or so, so I was totally taken off guard.

It's happy news, don't get me wrong. But I'm in that baby-rearing phase where I want to rent a giant neon sign that says, "Don't do it!" Well, maybe that's a little harsh. But I'm definitely telling everyone I know that is on the should-we-or-shouldn't-we fence to wait a little while. I'm so totally overwhelmed on a daily basis that I wish maybe we would've waited some more. But then we wouldn't have Sophie--and I wouldn't trade her. It's sort of a puzzle, I guess, as to whether I would do it the same way over again.

I just feel so unprepared, and I thought that really, Tim and I prepared pretty well. We saved for five years, we read all the books, we took all the classes. And we still feel like we weren't ready! But maybe we would've had an easier time if we would've flown by the seat of our pants. If I am anything, I am an over-preparer.

-So besides the baby news, everything else is pretty minor. I've got my thesis committee meeting tomorrow, which I don't figure will go well. Mom and I have tickets to see Wicked tomorrow night, and I am totally pumped about that. Tim and I saw the tax man Saturday morning, and between buying a house and having a baby, we should get some refund money back. Other than that, nothing exciting.

It's so amazing to me that I can feel so busy all the time and yet have so little to say!

Oh, Sophie did get her four month shots on Thursday. She's still a giant baby--95th percentile--but she's consistent. She's about 17 pounds even, and she was almost 27 inches long. I think this weekend we'll have to move from 6-9 month clothes into 9-12 month ones. Unreal!

The doctor did give us the go-ahead to start solid foods (although I still have a hard time considering rice cereal and baby food as "solids"). We gave Sophie her first little bit of cereal Friday night, and it seemed to go over pretty well. Of course, it also went everywhere. A lot of that was me--I forgot to put the bib on her until after her first spoonful. And apparently I didn't have the bib on very well. Judging by the cereal experiment, it's a good thing we went from eating over white carpet to eating on tile!

I've got video (from my camera) of Sophie's cereal experiment. I'm not sure how to post it, but I may try that later this week.

I'll try to update after my committee meeting, but it may not happen until Wednesday. I go from my meeting to the VA to Wicked. And somewhere in there, I need to go vote. I need to make sure Dennis Kucinich is no longer my congressman. (Yes, that Dennis Kucinich. The little gnome that keeps trying to run for president and sees UFOs). I'm not too picky about the rest of the primary election.