Thursday, July 24, 2008

Reconnecting and slowing down

I park about 20 minutes away from work now in order to save money. Depending on when I get in, I either park up a large hill (if I'm in early) or I park by the pond in front of the art museum (if I'm in a bit later). This morning, I parked up the hill. And I had a nice little walk. Things have been a bit tense in the lab recently--then again, when are they not?--and I've been having lots of anxiety in the morning before I leave for work.

This morning was perfect--nice temperature, mild breeze, blue skies with crisp white clouds. The walk from the hill gave me a chance to slow down and breathe. I walk past cute houses and townhouses, in front of little gardens, and then through Little Italy. It's really a good time to reflect and center before I head into work. Although my walk back up the hill at night is not quite as enjoyable (especially when the temperature is in the 90s), I think choosing to park far and walk has helped my anxiety.

I really appreciated the chance to take a beautiful walk this morning. I've been thinking a lot about money (as you can tell from yesterday's post). It's due mostly to the fact that we've had a month of unexpected expenses. Tim's truck needed a lot of work done to it, we've had lots of annual or semi-annual bills all pop up at the same time, and we've got to pay Tim's fall tuition bill. It all adds up to several thousand dollars. Some of it, like the tuition and some bills, we've expected. Others, like the truck, we hadn't planned for. And since I am a planner and a budgeter, I don't like financial surprises.

Hence the second job idea. I'm still looking into teaching/tutoring gigs (thanks for the suggestion Kara!), and I've been updating my CV this morning. I think something like that would be best. Teaching/tutoring would help with the money, true, but it would also add to my CV. And really, if I am taking time away from when I could be with Sophie and Tim, I want it to be the best use of my time.

We are very fortunate, and it is times like this morning when I have the chance to slow down and remember that. We don't have extra money for vacations or plasma TVs or the like. But we have a roof over our head, clothes on our back, and food on the table. There are many people in this world who aren't that fortunate. We work hard to live within our means. Because of my childhood, financial security is one of the things I value most. We've never carried a credit card balance month to month (unless it was a 0% balance transfer). I refuse to. I'd rather go without something (like the fence we so desperately want) than have a credit card balance.

That makes a lot of financial sense, but it sure as heck isn't easy. We've got mostly hand me down furniture (although his parents keep everything in beautiful shape), we've got cars with 110,000 and 165,000 miles on them, we don't take vacations, we almost never eat out, and the biggest splurges we have are usually for paint and supplies at the hardware store. I think moving last year was the biggest financial splurge we'll ever have. I'm not ready to call it a mistake--I love my commute, I love the house, and we could stay here forever. If I had it to do over again, knowing that the old house would take 10 months to sell and the real estate market would tank, would I move again? Probably not. But I still don't know if or when the real estate market would've let us make a move like this again. So who knows?

Sure, the bigger mortgage payment, plus day care, plus me losing $400 a month from my stipend, have all made the last month or two very stressful. But at least we don't have two mortgages anymore. And we can't save for retirement like we used to at the old house, but we also aren't having to carry credit card balances just to eat. It's all a balance. And not every month will be as tight as this month has been. And besides, that's why they call them emergency funds. We don't use them every month, but they are there in case we need them.

So I think if I got a job like tutoring that was very part time, brought in a little money, and also helped my resume, that's perfect. I don't want to spend my precious time on a job just to have more money. We are making ends meet (if we weren't, the second job would be mandatory). As long as we are making ends meet, and we have a way to get past the unexpected bills, we'll be ok. It may mean that there are many years before we can afford a fence, or a deck, or a vacation. But if giving those things up means that I can spend more time with Sophie and Tim (because I'm not working a second or third job), then I am ok with that decision.

I tend to get anxious when I feel like things are out of control. And I've felt that way a lot lately. I think trying to fix the money situation is my way of re-establishing control. But, once I've realized the deeper issues behind the anxiety, I can start to let things go. And days like today, where I get to take a nice walk and just breathe for a bit, go a long way towards helping my mental health.

Of course, getting finished with lab and moving on to med school would be the best prescription for my mental health, but there's only so much I can do to help that on a daily basis...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Second job

I'm spending some time today trying to find another way to make money. I've looked into plasma donation a bit (scary, since I hated giving blood and it's in a skeezy part of town), teaching (more on that later), being a subject for clinical trials (none around here need healthy volunteers), and other general work.

The issue is that I need to make decent money on either a very flexible schedule or a very set evening/weekend schedule. I was going to get a regular job, but between only making minimum-wage and trying to work out the scheduling, that doesn't seem realistic. If I'm only going to bring home $20 or $30 a week after taxes for two weekend or evening shifts, it's not worth it.

I know that sounds callous, but I need to make at least $10 an hour after taxes for it to really be worth it. Between a full-time job and a baby, I've got to get more bang for my buck. I mean, I do have a college degree and seven years postgraduate education. I can hopefully qualify for something better than McDonald's (and I can knock that because I work at McDonald's for a year in high school).

I thought about going back to waitressing, which pays well for good shifts. And the shifts that pay well are the ones I could do--evenings and weekends. Trouble is, most senior waitstaff fight for those shifts. I think I'd have a hard time getting a good shift right away. And I'd only be able to work very specific hours, which also makes it hard.

I also thought about teaching. Kaplan doesn't have any positions available at the moment. I could look into Princeton review, but it's been 7 years+ since I took the MCAT, so I don't know if they'd still hire me with so many other, less-removed medical students interested in teaching. I did well on my SATs and ACTs, but I took those over 10 years ago. So that might be a stretch too.

While searching for part-time teaching jobs, I did see that my college alma mater is looking for a lab coordinator for the chemistry department. My old advisor is actually the one doing the search. Since I'm not going back to med school until next summer, if there was any way I could do the lab coordinator job while finishing my PhD, I'd jump at it. But I don't think my PhD department would take that well--there was a similar issue with someone teaching at another university while still a graduate student, and all hell broke loose. Still, I may email my old advisor and see if she has any other suggestions. At least a teaching job would add to my resume.

Tim was thinking about asking around the local hardware stores to see if his construction experience could get him a decent position. Trouble is, again, scheduling. And he is still taking evening classes on top of working full time. Still, if he could find a place that would just let him work one weekend shift, it might not be all bad. As long as it isn't a conflict of interest with his current job.

Really, plasma donation is the best in theory. $70 a week for two brief stints, no schedule, no taking work home with you. But in reality, there is more to it than that. I'm keeping it on the list for now anyway.

I'm going to do a little more looking around. I may contact Princeton Review and my old college and see what's going on. And I'll keep looking at ads. At this point, I would be open to suggestions!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pictures, only two weeks late

Finally, Sophie's 8 month pictures (of course, she is turning 9 months old on Friday). I've had them for about two weeks, but hey, better late than never! Not bad for Wal-Mart pictures. And now, of course, she looks totally different, but I'll get new pictures up when I can.

Friday, July 18, 2008


I stayed home yesterday to help with some of the family issues. And I can tell you that yesterday was a vacation compared to what I came back to today.

Dr. B came by just after I got here this morning. I had emailed him and told him yesterday that I wasn't coming in because of the issues I was dealing with. I never heard anything from him. And considering I've taken almost no time off in the last few months, I didn't figure he'd have a big issue. Well, when he came by this morning, and he asked me how I was, I could tell right away he didn't really care. He never cares--he has no sympathy for issues occurring outside the lab (and that's not to say he has any sympathy for issues in the lab either.)

I could tell instantly he was in a bad mood. He asked me what my plan was today. I told him I was going to run samples on a Western today, blot them tomorrow, and in the meantime I was lysing cells to do an IP today and tomorrow.

He started with, "I don't know why you are wasting your time with IP when we don't even know if the antibody works. You should be doing simple experiments until you know the antibody works. You've been telling me for two months that the antibody works, but we don't know that for sure."

Here's the truth:
-I have had semi-working antibody for three weeks (not two months). True, I am working on minimizing my background to get clearer films, but there are obvious bands responding physiologically in the right location.

-When I first got bands, he was the one that told me to do a bunch of IPs. I wanted to do Western blots to make sure the bands were reproducible. No point in wasting hundreds of dollars in agarose beads if the Westerns didn't even work.

-He tells me to multi-task, I do. Then he yells at me for multi-tasking and tells me to slow down and do one experiment at a time.

And I am worn out from lab and life (I've been into work every weekend for as long as I can remember). I haven't taken a relaxing day off since Sophie was born. Yesterday was the closest thing to it.

And the lab had no money--we were told we can't order anything at all, and we need supplies desperately. Dr. B is convinced I can still go back in November, despite what I and my committee have told him. So he alternates between telling me to multi-task and telling me to slow down.

Oh, and the kicker this morning? "Kim has done two days of animal experiments, and her stuff looks to be working."

I like Kim a lot. But she's gotten a lot of help. She's working with two labs who do animals. She's had to figure out the protocol, but they do the actual experiments. And all they've done so far is hook rats up to a pump that has glucose, measured blood sugar, and then adjusted the external pump infusion rates. Do I think her project is more interesting? By far. Has she had more help? Absolutely.

I know Dr. B doesn't think much of me. He hasn't made it a secret. My committee and several other faculty I have worked with have given me a lot of encouragement, but it doesn't mask the fact that my boss thinks I'm a waste of space.

I didn't want this lab, I didn't want this project, and I definitely didn't want to work with Dr. B. But I had no choice. And I am trying to make the best of it. But all I hear is negative feedback, and I am feeling very defeated.

Why do I come in every weekendto do something I don't like, for a boss that doesn't appreciate it, when I could be spending time with my family? I guess I am just trying to prove that I'm not a failure. I keep hoping that I'll do something that will make him think I'm not a waste of space. But it hasn't happened in two and a half years, so why would things change now?

I'm so tired of getting beaten down. And now that I won't make it back to med school this year, I really have time to slow down. I could use a break. But if I took a week off, my boss would lose it. So for now, I'm stuck in this vicious cycle.

I'm worn out. Exhausted. And feeling like there's no such thing as winning.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Vague, I know

I've got more drama on the home front. Once I get the ok from my family, I'll try and update here. It's always something, I suppose.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I finally decided... go to the BBQ. See the previous post for background. Ultimately, it came down to "do unto others." And I'd like people to come to my stuff.

I gave Tim the opportunity to stay home, and he took it. So Sophie and I ventured down to beyond-Canton alone. Sophie slept in the car the whole way down, and most of the way back. It was a pretty drive--not entirely a wasted half tank of gas.

More people came to the BBQ than I expected. And you know what? Despite the fact that I maybe decided to go to the BBQ for the wrong reasons, I'm glad I went. It wasn't the most convenient location, sure. But I hadn't seen my dad's side of the family since Christmas, and I didn't realized how much I missed them. There were a few questions I had to field, but I tried my best and then changed the subject. Overall everyone was super sweet, and everyone loved seeing Sophie. She has grown so much since she was two months old!

We couldn't stay for more that 2.5 hours, with the long drive and Sophie's bedtime looming. But I did get to talk to a lot of different people and catch up. I hope I see them again soon.

It's hard. I've been bitter and aggravated this weekend. And when I'm like that, I naturally want to withdraw into myself. And my immediate family's recent issues make it even harder to go out and be social. But I feel so much better when I move past that and go see other people. After all, they are family, and they are there for you.

It is hard to make time. Heck, I see my immediate family completely together maybe two times a year, let alone seeing my entire extended family. It's tough to make time when everyone is busy. But maybe I need to work harder.

Expectations are premeditated resentments

The title is one of the first topics I heard about in Al-Anon. I had expectations of how my weekend was going to go. For better or worse, that isn't how it is going.

First, after getting soaked yesterday (my seats were drenched in my car from leaving the moon roof vented during the thunderstorm), I was in panic mode the whole way home. I left work later yesterday than I had planned, and I was aggravated that I'd have to rush to get home, pack up Sophie, and then leave for the BBQ. I called my mom on my way home, and I found out I was a day early: the BBQ wasn't until today (Sunday). Part of me was upset--this meant I had to switch around when we would visit Tim's parents to get the furniture--but the bigger part of me was happy. I had an entire evening I hadn't planned on.

Tim and I decided to get out of the house last night. With the weather, we couldn't walk outside, so we walked the mall a few times. It was nice to have a few hours with nothing going on.

Of course, I had to reschedule today. I went to 10:30 mass, since I didn't want to rush again (and going to noon mass somehow seems to kill more of my day). I got home, clipped coupons, went through the paper, and generally tried to get organized.

The expectation had been that I would pick my mom up at 3 today so that we could get to my cousin's house at 4:30-5. At 2, I figured I'd better call and make sure that was still the plan. I expected my mom to back out at the last minute, and sure enough, that's what happened. Her reason was that she hadn't been to mass yet, and she'd have to go to 5:30 mass. That's a true statement. However, talking to my brother, I had an idea of why she didn't get up to make it to a morning mass. I didn't have it in me to get into it. And it's not like I could change the situation.

I resented that I was now in the situation to make a decision about my cousin's BBQ. My dad was out of town, my mom was not going, I don't think Jason was going (although I wasn't sure), and the other siblings were out of the picture too. I didn't want to be the only "representative" of my family and constantly have to answer as to why no one else was there. I was also resentful that I was the one in my family that had the farthest to drive, and yet no one closer was going. And I resented that I had changed other plans around to make this BBQ work.

I still haven't decided if I am going or not. It's be easy to back out--technically, I was invited through my parents, not directly, so that always gives me an out based on etiquette. And I have a million other things I could be doing. But it is a family event. And there are always the picnic politics involved. And I shouldn't let other people's issues dictate my actions.

If it were up to me, no one else's decisions involved, and no ramifications, I wouldn't go. Seriously, almost a 2 hour drive, each way, during Sophie's nap times/feeding times equals not fun. But it's also so easy for me to always find an excuse not to go. And how would I feel if I planned something and no one showed up? Granted, I don't expect anyone to show up to my events. Even though I am less than an hour away from most of my extended family, they think Cleveland is another country. That's part of why we did Sophie's baptism at my parent's house: I figured very few would make the drive to our place.

So, ultimately, I have to weigh my reasons and decide what to do. And I'm trying to quell the resentment I have about being put in this position in the first place. My dad's family doesn't know about the alcoholism issues my family has been dealing with, and I don't want to be the one to explain it. Which means I have to make excuses. Which I don't want to do either.

I don't know. I'll see how I am feeling in an hour. Why do simple things have to be so complicated? It's times like this when I envy my sister Amy, who lives in California. There are no expectations that she comes to every family event. How could she? But living 1-2 hours away, we're on the bubble. Oh well, no one ever said family politics were simple.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Mental fatness

I'm having a "fat day." It's not that my weight is any different than it was yesterday, or the day before, or last month. Maybe that's a problem, maybe it's not. I know that my "fatness" correlates to how I am feeling emotionally.

Yesterday was aggravating--it was Friday, a beautiful day, and everyone was leaving early. And Tim and I had gotten my sister Jen to babysit, so we had a night out for the first time in ages. I had to stay till after 5 for an experiment. By the time I left, traffic was terrible. It's a 20+ minute walk to my car now (paying almost $80 a month for parking was one of the first things to get cut from the budget). And then it's another 20 minutes to the highway when it's busy. And then another 15-20 minutes home. So all said, it's about a 35-40 minute drive, plus a 20 minute walk, so about an hour door-to-door (still better than the 1.5-2 hours it would be at the old house).

I had just gotten on the highway and was moving nicely through traffic when I realized that I hadn't put my blots in the cold room. This royally ticked me off. First, I was already ticked that I had to spend yet another weekend/holiday in the lab. Second, it meant I had to go back to work for ten seconds to put my blot in the cold room. Third, I was ticked that everyone else on my entire floor had left early, so it wasn't even like I could call someone and have them do it. Fourth, it meant that I had to take the one night Tim and I were supposed to have free and go back into work. And fifth, I was ticked that I had to spend more gas and time driving around than I already do.

So I was pretty peeved when I got home. It's no one's fault but my own, which makes me even madder. Tim and I did get to go to dinner--we spent a gift card for an Italian place that we've had since 2006 (I told you we don't get out much). But we had to head straight for work after dinner. By the time we left work, I had about 15 minutes to stop at CVS and pick up some stuff, and then we headed home so Jen could leave before 9:30.

And then this morning, Sophie was fussy (we all have these nasty colds that Sophie brought home from day care). So I didn't get to leave for work till almost 11. And I'll be here till after 2, which puts me home about 2:45. Then I have to leave at 3, drive down to my mom's, pick her up, and then drive an hour and a half to a BBQ at my cousin's house. I don't really want to go--we'll see everyone at my brother's grad party in two weeks--but now that we have Sophie, it's one of those you-go-to-my-party-and-I'll-come-to-yours. My dad's gone, and Tim refuses to go, which is why my mom and I are car-pooling.

And then we promised Tim's parents we'd help them move furniture this weekend. We can't really say no--they are generously giving us their old bedroom set--but between work, the BBQ, and Tim's parents, my entire weekend is gone. I cleaned our bathroom this morning, and I have to wash dishes before Sophie goes to daycare on Monday, but I don't know that I'll have time to do anything else.

So, this is why I am aggravated. And it's the aggravation that is leading to my fat day. I'm feeling very out of control with my life at the moment. And it didn't help that it's 90 degrees, and every summer shirt I have is too tight. My weight might be back to pre-baby, but my stomach didn't get the memo. Nothing fits right any more. And I was hoping to work on the 30 pounds I has pre-pregnancy, but I haven't made a dent in that either. And I'm all bloated and hormonal. So, add it all up, and you get "fat day."

I figured I'm entitled to be "in a mood" every now and again. I've been really mellow with all the lab stuff and money drama I've had going on for the past few months. While I can stay mellow for weeks at a time, every now and then something makes me blow up a little bit. I'm sure I'll go back to mellow soon. But for today, I'm going to let myself be aggravated a little longer. It's not like there is anyone else in the lab this weekend that I might be disturbing.

As for my "fat day", I really do want to work on my 30 pounds of extra baggage. It's just so much harder trying to find time to eat well and exercise. I do the best I can--heck, I walk almost an hour every day just getting to and from my car--but Sophie is all-consuming, and she comes first. We try to walk in the evenings when we can. Unfortunately, the weather and life doesn't always cooperate. And I'm trying to meal plan. That way, Tim and I don't look at each other when we get home at 6 and try to figure out what to eat. Of course, last week I was gone Monday and Tuesday, he was gone Wednesday and Thursday, and we went out last night. So there wasn't a lot of cooking going on.

It all goes back to my eating disorder. My weight becomes an issue when I am feeling out of control with the rest of my life. It starts spiraling--I try to lose weight, but it doesn't come off as fast/much/consistently as I'd like. So I beat myself up, call myself a failure, and start all of the negative eating habits back up again. And that just makes things worse. I've been pretty good about not falling back into bad habits, but I haven't made any progress on the weight either.

I've got bigger things on my mind for now, like getting my PhD before I die, so the weight issues will have to wait for now. I've just got to take these "fat days" for what they are--control issues.

PS It's 2:30, my experiment didn't work, and there is a huge thunderstorm outside. And I parked 15 minutes away. With my moon roof vented. And I don't have an umbrella. Definitely been one of those days, I think. I'm going to give the storm a few more minutes (it's breaking up a bit on radar) and then make a run for it.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Catch-up post #1

Even trying to stay caught up, I fall behind! Such is life, I suppose.

So, item #1: my uber-bargain weekend. I starting scouring the local craiglist for baby items. My wish list: a jogging stroller, a toddler backpack (so I can carry Sophie, not so she can carry a backpack--she outgrew the infant one), and some toddler toys (preferably a little tikes table or easel). My total budget: $100 (all my play money I've been saving).

My first find: the little tikes table. It came as a set, but it looked like a good deal, so I went for it. Here's what I got:

two sippy cups, used once (the straw kind Sophie likes)

A big inflatable duck that goes in the bathtub so Sophie can't roll over or hit herself (both of which have happened in the big tub).

A Pumbaa toy that makes loud farting noises

The little tikes table and 2 chairs

A six-sided puzzle cube (just like the one she has at daycare)

A really nice wooden Sesame Street activity cube

A snack tray that clips onto our umbrella stroller or a car seat

Two unopened cans of formula, plus a $5 formula check

A TON of safety proofing stuff, most unopened. She said she bought a bunch of stuff to try around the house, but then lost the receipt and couldn't return it.

A shape sorter that makes noise when you put the blocks in.

A Baby Bjorn potty (a little early, but worth hanging on to)

A portable high chair (we left ours at Tim's parent's house, so we can keep this one at our place)

Two roller shades for Tim's truck

Everything was like new. Total cost? $55.

Second find: a jogging stroller. I wanted something with inflatable bike tire wheels so we can walk the gravel path at the national park by us. I couldn't afford the $200+ for a new one, so I kept an eye out. I had seen several on Craigslist, but they always went so fast. I got lucky on Sunday. There was a couple by where I work that offered an Instep Elite jogging stroller, used twice (they are having another baby and need a double jogger).

Regular price: $190 now (over $200 when it first came out). My price? $30. And it's like new--still has the little bumps on the tires that wear off after a use or two. And Sophie loves it.

I haven't had any luck on the toddler backpack yet. It's probably the thing we'll use least often--I wanted it for the trails up around Tim's parent's camp in PA--but if we don't find one, no biggie. And I've only got $15 left, so it'd have to be a steal.

And, my cousin and I discovered the Flower Factory, which has extremely cheap craft/home goods. I was good and spent only $7 (and $3 of that was for painter's tape), but the next time I go, I plan to blow whatever play money I might have left :) It was a great find.

Nothing like a nice bargain weekend to raise my spirits. Next post: Sophie's pictures, and the painted kitchen.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

For later...

I have all sorts of fun things to post, including Sophie's studio pics, my fantastic bargain weekend, and the new paint in the kitchen. But, I also have a 2 day MSTP retreat starting in 8 hours, and I haven't even packed yet (or mapquested where this place is). So, fun updates will have to wait until later on Tuesday. I'll be back later, I promise!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Trying to keep up

I'm trying to post at least once a week, just so I don't have one of those "oh-crap-I'm-so-far-behind" posts. I'm hoping things are looking up. Family stuff has calmed down quite a bit. I went to my second Al-Anon meeting on Monday, and I'm patiently trying to absorb what others are saying until I have my own thoughts sorted out. Lab is lab--there were issues with my June stipend, as expected, but hopefully we have that sorted out. And I also got an experiment to work last week for the first time in six months. I'm doing two more IPs at the moment, and I have my fingers crossed for them.

I'm super busy right now, but it's more of the day to day busy that the huge life drama busy I've had for the last few months. That's not to say life is drama-free, but whose is?

I'm picking up Sophie's pictures from the Wal-Mart studio today. Hopefully they don't suck. I'll scan them in and post them as soon as I get a minute.

And of course, being as preoccupied as I have been, I planned my experiments this week to take me to Friday. Except Friday is the 4th of July. And a day off. Or, it was supposed to be. Oh well. And I have to come in over the weekend to take care of my cells. I'll be gone Monday and Tuesday of next week for the yearly MSTP retreat, so my cells need food between Friday and Wednesday. And then Tim goes out of town again next week once I'm home from the retreat.

We keep trying to find a weekend to get up to his parent's camp in PA. But somehow, every weekend gets filled with stuff. I guess I can rest when I'm dead. So I suppose I should be thankful I'm busy?