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!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Actual CVS purchase

As noted in the previous post, it's always important to have a plan B when deal shopping. You can look at the last post to see my proposed deal at CVS. Here's the way it really happened this morning:

Bic soleil razor refill: 5.99 (as planned)
Always infinity: 4.98 (as planned)
Vitamin water: 2.29 (as planned)
Colgate max fresh: 2.99 (not as planned, but close)
2nd always infinity: 4.98 (not as planned)

Total: 21.23
Tax: 0.64

$4 off $20 coupon -4.00
Always Free coupon -4.98
Bic IP coupon -2.00
Colgate MQ coupon -1.00
ECB -8.99 (a 3.99 and a 5.00)
OOP 0.90

ECB I got on my receipt:
Always x 2: 9.96
Bic soleil: 4.00
Vitamin water: 2.29
Colgate: 2.00

Total ECB: 18.25
New ECB - spent ECB - OOP: 18.25 - 8.99 - 0.90 = 8.36 in made money

So, I still made $8. Here's what happened: the always were labeled $1 ECB back, but I had this week's ad showing that it was $4.98 back. I had also read online that the limit was 2, not one, so I had that as a backup. They were out of this month's free vitamin D as well as the well care patches, so that was out. I found the soleil refill razors fine too, and those were properly marked.

The colgate max fresh regular toothpaste was properly labeled, but they were out. I looked at the ad, and it also showed a max fresh toothbrush and a max fresh toothpaste with mouthwash beads included on the sale for the ECB deal. I looked around, and both the toothbrush and weird toothpaste were in stock, but they weren't labeled as a part of the deal. I got the weird toothpaste because it was included on my coupon (and I love my battery toothbrush at home, so I knew I wouldn't use a manual toothbrush). So, that went semi-as planned.

There were plenty of vitamin waters, so that was fine. Ultimately, I had to get another always infinity pack, and I only had one "free" coupon, but considering it was free after ECBs anyway, it was a good substitute.

Since I had a few deals that weren't labeled as advertised in the circular, I was very careful to watch everything ring up at the register. Sure enough, they all rang up at sale price, all my coupons went through without a hitch, and all my ECB printed off. It's very important to check your receipt before you leave the parking lot--it's much easier to get things fixed if you go right back in the store. And since ECB print off right away, checking for mistakes is much quicker than waiting for rebates to post online (like at Walgreens and Rite Aid).

So, not a bad trip. I also got three new coupons at the bottom of my receipt: $3 off excedrin express gels, $1 off speed stick deodorant (which is on sale this week--this would be free for me), and $1 off photo processing. These are also tied to my store card, so I can't give them to anyone, but maybe I'll use them. We'll see.

Also, my reciept said "offer limit reached" on the always and the vitamin water, so they had limits of 2 and 1, respectively. I have one more available offer on the colgate max fresh and the bic soleil, so those are offer limit 2. The well patch is also offer limit 2 (not 5, as some people had said online) because I bought one last week and only have 1 left. I also often buy hershey bars as filler items, and if you buy 10 you get one free. I don't try for that deal, but I have 4 candy bars towards a free one (six to go).

Just thought I'd give you a walk through. And since this $4 off $20 coupon is good till Sunday, I may use it again for next week's deals. We'll see if there is anything I need. Rite Aid is already having a killer sale, so I may just do that. I'll work on getting that deal up for you by tomorrow night. It's complicated, but I'll explain it as best as I can.

Happy deal hunting!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

My laws of bargain shopping

Ok, here's my intro post into deals. There are many other websites that have been doing this much longer than me and are much more hard core about it. I'm just giving you my perspective. For me, good deals are the point, but I don't buy things just because they are a good deal. If I'm not going to use something, why buy it?

Here are my general laws for bargain hunting:

1. Be organized. I go through the ads/check online. Based on the deals, I go through my coupons and match up what I have. I also almost always have a plan B. Many stores run out of items, which I'll get to in a minute, so if I have a store coupon for $5 off a $25 purchase, I have to have a few scenarios that will get me to $25 in case my Plan A isn't in stock.

2. Know the stores. There is a CVS by me that is notorious for giving people a hard time for coupons. There's also one that isn't too much farther away that is well known for being pleasant and accomodating. It didn't take me too long to give the good CVS all my business. It may be a trial and error figuring out which stores are good and which aren't, but if there are people you can ask, do!

3. Don't buy in excess. This is a personal philosophy--I know many sites tell you how to get 100 bottles of robitussin to make money on deals. This is called "smash and grab", and it is why a lot of stores run out of big sale items. I may buy one or two of something, but I rarely buy more than that.

4. Be prepared for disappointment. Here are my experiences with things being in stock: CVS and Walgreens are generally ok (unless things are crazy on sale) if you go early in the week or late (after they've restocked). And, both CVS and Walgreens have monthly deals in addition to weekly deals, so if you can't find a monthly deal one week, you can try again. Rite Aid, on the other hand, is notorious across the country for running out of sale items by Sunday afternoon. So, unless you are waiting when the doors open on Sunday, be prepared for things to be out of stock. There will always be another opportunity to get a deal.

5. Know the programs. Each of the three major drug stores by me have different discount programs. At CVS, you have a store card that gives you sale prices. And their freebie system is Extra Care Bucks (ECBs.) The first time you shop there, you'll have to spend money out of pocket. But, after you pay, you should get your first batch of extra care bucks. These print out at the bottom of your reciept, and they are unique for your card. DON'T LOSE THEM!!!! They cannot be replaced (a change from policy in the past). They generally expire one month after you get them. They can be used on your next purchase like cash, and they can pay up to the full amount of your purchase before tax. They come in pre-determined denominations, so do your deals carefully to best use the combo of ECBs you have. And you almost always have to buy a cheap filler (candy, etc) to max out the ECBs.

At Walgreens, there is no card. There is a monthly Easy Saver booklet in stores that has both coupons and a list of Walgreen's rebates. There are usually a few monthly free after rebate items each month. The nice part about Walgreen's is:
A. You can use one Walgreen's coupon and one manufacturer's coupon per item.
B. You can submit rebates online simply by entering the info from your receipt--no UPCs or forms needed.
C. If you agree to get a Walgreen's gift card instead of a check, you get an extra 10% back.
D. Once you've gotten your first gift card (which takes a few weeks), you can have your next rebate put on the same card, which only takes a few days.

So, like CVS, your first purchase is out of pocket. Actually, your first month's worth of purchases are out of pocket. But after that, you just use your gift card and keep reloading it. Walgreen's also has a separate reward program called register rewards (RRs). It's usually "buy x of these, get y amount back in RR". These are not specific to you (no store card to tie them to), they can be used like cash on the next purchase, and if you do the same transaction again on a new receipt, you can get another set of rewards. Problems: you can't use register rewards from a specific deal to do that specific deal again--the computer recognizes the RR and won't print a new one. The RRs expire in two weeks instead of a month. And, many Walgreen's (including mine) only let you use one RR per purchase. I don't like the RR system as much as the ESR (easy saver rebates), and I think they are more work to plan. But, if you are into that, more power to you.

Rite Aid is my #3 stop. Again, there is no store card. They have a monthly rebate catalog as well (but be careful when you read it--some deals are marked only for specific weeks). They do rebates like Walgreen's, with a similar online system. But, you can only get a check (no gift card), there is no bonus (so you get the price of the item back, but no extra to cover tax, etc), and it takes a while to get the check. This also means that every transaction is out of pocket. Now, they do have some good deals on occasion. But, between the stock being very limited and no 10% bonus, it's got to be a pretty good deal to make me go. They are having such a week next week, which I'll get into in a future post.

6. Always check the limit on rebates. This is VERY IMPORTANT! There is nothing worse than doing the deal and finding out the limit for rebates was 1 and not 2. When in doubt, assume the rebate is limit 1. CVS will tell you the rebate limit in the ad, and after you do the deal, it will list it on your receipt and say, "offer limit reached." They do sometimes have a limit of more than 1, but be sure to check. Walgreen's and Rite Aid's free after rebate items are almost always limit 1. Some of their $1 back-type rebates (ones that give some, but not all, of the purchase price) are usually limit higher. But check before you buy!

7. Make money. So, here's the way you make money: stack the deals. Stack store coupons, manufacturer's coupons (MQs), and rebates to make the most money. If you check my deals, this is how I do it. I used to be happy getting things for cheap. Then, I wanted things for free. Now, I generally only go if I make money.

Don't get confused--no one is going to give you cash back at your purchase. It's money back in the form of ECBs or rebates greater than the amount you spent out of pocket (OOP). I'll give you an example in a minute.

8. Get the Sunday paper, and get freebies from web sites. This is how I get my coupons. Some people buy a bunch of ads. I very rarely do this. I check the ads on Sundays and see what the coupons are like. Some Sundays you'll get four inserts, some times none. There are websites to check in advance to see what coupons are coming out. It's also a good way to double check to make sure your paper has everything it is supposed to. And sign up for free samples--especially the Wal Mart ones. They often come with really good coupons.

9. Sign up on the drugstore websites. You'll often get emails for exclusive store coupons. There's a CVS one for this weekend, for example.

10. Share the wealth! The more people you talk to, the more ideas you'll get for deals. And then you'll also be passing it forward.

Again, these are just my rules. There are people way more into it than me. I'm not into the smash and grab. I make a stockpile for my family so we don't run out of toiletries, and I give away what I can. I don't want to be greedy, and I want to make sure someone else is able to get deals too.

So, how about an example? There's one here from a Walgreen's deal I did a few weeks ago. Here's a CVS one I am planning for this weekend:

CVS:
Always infinity pads 4.98
Bic soleil razor refill 5.99
Colgate max fresh 2.99
Vitamin water 2.29
CVS vitamin D 2.99
Filler 0.76

Total 20.00

$4 off $20 CVS coupon -4 (from email)***ALWAYS GIVE 1ST!!
Always FREE coupon -4.98 (from walmart sample)
Bic internet coupon -2 (internet printable)
Colgate MQ coupon -1 (from paper)

Total (pay in ECB/change) 8.02 (plus tax)

Total back in ECB:
From Always pads 4.98
From Bic razors 4.00
From Colgate 2.00
From vitamin water 2.29
From CVS vitamin D 2.99 (monthly deal, not weekly)

Total back in ECB: 16.26
Minus OOP: 8.02
Total made: 8.24 (minus whatever tax is)

So yes, I plan to make about $8 on this. I have a few backups: the wellpatch arthritis care are another monthly deal--pay 5.99, get 5.99 in ECB. There was a $1 MQ out there, but I already used it last week. This deal is limit 5, so I still have it available if I need it. I also have a FREE coupon for a refill of scrubbing bubble action scrubber (I emailed the company to tell them how much I liked it, and they sent me a free coupon). So I can use that too. I have a few other things I can use as well if I need to.

Now, this is doable at CVS because the $20 amount is before coupons are taken off. At Walgreen's, when they send out similar coupons, it had to be $20 AFTER coupons. This is harder to make money with, so I usually do my monthly ESR freebies with that coupon. Once those are up, I rarely make another Walgreen's run.

Next time, I'll post the sites I use to make my deals, with a little commentary on each. Hopefully, this is enough just to get you started. Happy deal shopping!

Mid-week thanksgiving

Sometimes spontaneous surprises are the best. My mom called Tuesday night and said she had bought a big turkey and needed a few extra mouths to help her eat it Wednesday night. Never one to turn down a home-cooked meal, I made plans to attend. I didn't know the rest of my family did as well.

It's usually impossible to get all of us in one place, even with weeks of planning, but last night was a total mid-week Thanksgiving. Mom, dad, me, Tim, Sophie, Jason, Kim (and baby-on-the-way), Jen, and Joe were all there. We missed Amy, but she sent us a video from California, so she was there with us in a way. It was so nice to see everyone and have a chance to catch up. We all have so many individual issues we are dealing with--it's rejuvenating to spend some fun time and just relax.

Plus, dinner was excellent. I don't eat turkey much, but the fixings were fantastic.

I was so exhausted yesterday. I had hoped for a nap at my mom's house, but Sophie didn't cooperate. She's been up at night every night since Saturday. No fever yet, but I'm worried we've got another ear infection on the horizon. We all had some GI stuff over the weekend (which contributed to Sophie's record of two blow out poops in one day of daycare on Monday). And she's teething. And she has a cold. So, it could be nearly anything keeping her up.

And Tuesday night, I was up till 2 AM working on my proposal. That ultimately didn't need to be ready for Wednesday. Geesh.

I'm still exhausted. But, I've gotten rather used to that feeling. I think life will be in major upheaval mode for the next few months. There's been a lot of tension with switching labs, which I don't want to get into. I still think I am making the right decision, but that doesn't mean I don't second guess myself on occasion.

Anyway, nothing earth shattering in this post. I'm still working my butt off, but hopefully I'll have some new pictures to post early next week.

Also, on an unrelated note, I've gotten several calls/emails/questions about doing the drugstore game and saving money. If there's enough interest, I can devote a whole post (or maybe a series of posts) to how I do it. I use a lot of help from other websites, which I can give to you, but you'll at least get my perspective on things. What do you think: would you like to hear about more deals?

More interesting posts in the future, I promise. For now, back to work.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Proud to be a Terrier

Things like this make me proud of my alma mater. And no, I don't mean three years of losses. Read below:

Tipoff: Hiram team shows signs of kindness
by Michael K. McIntyre/Plain Dealer
Friday October 03, 2008, 7:53 PM

The Hiram College Terriers football team had lost its last 26 games heading into its season opener against Gallaudet University last month. That's almost three full years of losses.

So during practice, Coach Bob Wolfe took time out from blocking and tackling drills to teach his players some new moves. Specifically, how to say "Nice game" and "Good job" using American Sign Language.

Gallaudet is a school for the deaf and hearing-impaired.

Gallaudet coach Ed Hottle, who is not hearing-impaired and learned sign language after he was hired in 2005, was blown away by the sight of Hiram's players using sign language during the post-game handshake, writing a letter of praise that Hiram President Tom Chema distributed campuswide.

"For the last four seasons I have been the head coach at Gallaudet, we have played some 40-plus games and Hiram College was the first school that has made any effort to communicate with our players following the game," wrote Hottle. "Coach Wolfe and his staff are to be applauded for taking time out of the precious few hours we have to coach the game and teaching these young men some true life skills. . . . For me, personally, it was wonderful to see."

Fittingly, Hiram won that day, 20-14, in overtime. And they took their next game against Kenyon.

The winning streak ended last week with a loss to Carnegie Mellon, but after the Gallaudet game, the Terriers will always be winners.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Firsts and lasts

It’s hard to update when I don’t know exactly what is going on. There have been a lot of “maybes,” possiblys,” and “I don’t knows,” in my life recently. I don’t have them all worked out yet. But I do know about a few milestones coming up.

For instance, yesterday was my last day of volunteering with the therapeutic riding program. I started in the fall of 2004 mostly as a way to work with horses without having to fork over a ton of money to ride. So yes, it started out selfishly. Over time, I came to love it for different reasons. Working with the horses was fantastic, but working with the kids was even better. I had my “regulars” for a few sessions (usually 12-week sessions, once a season). People would move on, or move up, and I got new regulars. I just loved watching the kids interact with horses. And over the period of several years, I got to watch how therapeutic riding changed the kids for the better. I have tons of stories I could share, but I’ll just tell you that it left me in awe.

I left TRP in June of 2007, figuring that being pregnant and walking around in the heat (in long pants—a requirement for the barn) wasn’t going to be a good time. I really missed it, though. After I had Sophie, life was just too hectic to come back right away. It didn’t help that lab was being so frustrating too—I was spending all of my free time doing stupid experiments that never worked. Tim convinced me in the spring that TRP was something I needed to find a way to work into my schedule, and so I rejoined the program in June 2008. I loved the summer session, and the fall session is always the nicest time of year. It was tough to go straight from the VA to TRP on Tuesday afternoons—I always seemed to have late patients. Despite the hectic rush, the hour and a half I spend at TRP is some of my calmest time of the week.

With everything happening in the lab over the last few months, I made the tough decision that I need to give up TRP. And so, last night was my last session. I just feel like I need to give everything I have during the week to getting my new project up and running. If there was TRP on the weekends, I may be able to let that slide. But, with Tim having classes two nights a week, TRP would limit me to only two nights that I could work late if I need to. I just don’t think I can limit my time that much.
Plus, when he travels, I have to find someone to cover Tuesday nights with Sophie, and that’s been a headache on several occasions.

It’s tough to give it up. But, I am hoping I can find something with a little more flexibility that will give me some “me” time.

Of course, in stark contrast to more “me” time, I have signed on for a first: I am going to be a college professor. Well, not really a professor, but I am going to be an adjunct faculty member in the spring. My alma mater needs someone to teach a chemistry 101 course as a part of their weekend college (accelerated semesters for adults). It’s 6.5 hours every other Saturday, and I’ll be the one solely responsible for teaching it.

I met with Colleen, my former college advisor, yesterday morning. It was nice catching up with her, although driving around campus was a bit too much déjà vu for me. We chatted about life in general as well as the teaching opportunity, and I am really looking forward to it. She couldn’t tell me about the pay, other than it will be something (but probably not much). I don’t really care much about the money (although I won’t turn it down). I’m excited about getting some teaching experience. I’ve got a few months to plan before spring semester starts. I’ve got to remember some basic chemistry, but it shouldn’t be anything mind-blowing.

So yes, I am giving up one time commitment for another. The difference is that the teaching is only on weekends. Since I only teach every other Saturday, it gives me the Saturday in between to grade papers and plan a lesson. And, I can still go into lab on Sundays if I need to.

I also had another first yesterday: when I came into the VA, I found out one of my former patients had died. He was in hospice, and he had an almost non-existent hematocrit when I saw him, but I remember him as being in generally good spirits. He wasn’t a cancer patient that “looked” sick. If you just talked to him, I don’t think you would have even known he was sick. And he was a younger guy, just in his 50s. While medically I wasn’t shocked to hear he had passed, emotionally I was a bit stunned. I guess that is something I am going to have to adjust to.

Another first: I had my first very-sick-looking cancer patient come in. He had multiple lung tumors that have spread to his bones, liver, kidneys, and (most notably) his brain. I really had to focus on what is important. He’s diabetic, so we need to control his sugars so he doesn’t suffer nasty side effects. But does it need to be perfect? Hardly. He unfortunately will not be around in 20 years to deal with long-term complications. That was a real priority shift for me. And he’s only 62—that’s the age of Tim’s parents. As if it needs to be said: if you are a smoker, stop!!!!

I’m hoping to have another “last” in the near future: my last day in Dr. B’s lab. Until I have everything officially squared away, I’m at least showing face in the lab. Monday he saw me for the first time in about a week. He passed me at least three times before he really stopped: the first time he was rushing to get coffee, the second time he breezed through the lab, and the third time he stopped to talk to Kim about her project for a long time and pretended I wasn’t even there.

He finally came by in the afternoon and asked where things were at. He wanted to know the status of transferring the project to the pharmacology woman’s lab. I told him that idea was dead. I then told him about the plan with M and C’s labs. He was very negative through all of it. He told me that if I wasn’t willing to commit to four more years of PhD work, then I should just take the master’s and go to med school. I tried explaining that we were going to be very organized making a proposal, and we were going to solicit my committee’s opinions before we went ahead with it. But I told him this is what I wanted to do. He said we were too optimistic and he didn’t think it would work.

After talking to him (for all of five minutes), I was peeved. Even seeing him now raises my blood pressure. I took a few minutes to calm down, and then I moved on with my work. He did make me second guess myself for a minute. But, as long as we can have a plan in place in the next week or two, I really think that switching to M and C’s labs will work out best for me. Besides, I’ve committed to teaching, so I’d rather stick with the plan. I would change my mind and go back to med school if I had to, but everything would have to fall apart at this point for me to do that.

Other firsts and lasts: Sophie isn’t all that far from her first birthday, which floors me. I really can’t express how quickly this year has gone. Pregnancy was such a slow, drawn-out period of time. As soon as she was born, life went into fast forward. I just can’t believe how much of a little person she is! She’s crawling, cruising, hamming it up for an audience, and soon (too soon) she’ll be walking. Unbelievable.

Along with her firsts come her lasts. I packed up all of the 6-9 month clothing from her dresser, and her 12 month stuff isn’t far behind. It was so sad to put away all of her adorable outfits. I had memories of her in each of them. And I also found some cute clothes I didn’t even know she had! As I pulled out the 0-3 month clothes to give to Jason & Kim pending the arrival of their little one, it was hard for me to remember Sophie even being that small (probably because she was out of the 0-3 month stuff by 6 weeks!).

And then, this morning, I dropped Sophie off as another baby was being dropped off. This was a wee tiny one—couldn’t be more than 6-8 weeks, max (and looked younger than that, but I know they don’t take babies under 6 weeks). As the baby cried, Sophie just gave it this puzzled look like, “What are you?” It’ll be interesting to see what she thinks of her new baby cousin in the coming weeks. A new cousin—another first!

Things have just been in so much flux lately. I guess dealing with firsts and lasts is a natural part of life, but I’m not sure I’ve ever had so many all at one time. I’ve been working hard to find my grounding, but I’m lucky if I can come home, cook something, take care of Sophie, and hopefully pay bills/buy groceries/keep the house running without collapsing. I think taking some time off will have to wait for a while, but I could really use a break.

Instead, I think we are painting again this weekend. In a weird way, that’s sort of relaxing for me, so I guess I’ll count it as “me” time. That’s a start.