Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Eve

It's already been a day (and a week) of ups and downs. Tuesday was a good day at work (minus a few frustrations): drew bloods myself on rats successfully, figured out a problem I've been having with my Western blots, and did a steroid knee injection on a patient (with supervision, of course). Wednesday involved a nice lunch with a friend but not a lot of sleep and a ton of anxiety, due to my sister's surgery.

Jen is doing much better today and should be discharged soon. I'm scheduled to take the evening shift with her, but that may be complicated. This morning, Sophie woke up vomiting. This is the second time since she's been born that she's thrown up--she did it once when she was six months old, and that's it. We've made up for it with respiratory stuff, but the GI's been pretty good (she didn't get that from me).

It hasn't been bile-y vomit--no need to go into a ton of detail, but I think it might be more that the house is dry and she has some drainage that is making her gag. No fever, she's very active and wants to play, and she just seems...fine.

Tim's going to stay with her tonight while I'm with Jen, just to be safe. He's not heartbroken about missing his family's Christmas--for once, the drama has been on his side of the family and not mine. We're really playing all of Christmas by ear. It all depends on how Jen and Sophie are doing.

I think Jen's surgery was even more serious than any of us expected. They actually took her top jaw, moved it forward, rotated it, and pulled it down in the back. They also did some work on her septum and lip, and they actually had to move the facial nerve a bit. She'll permanently have plates and screws, and she can't chew for six weeks, but since they didn't have to do the work on her lower jaw, she doesn't have to be wired shut.

I guess she is night and day compared to yesterday. I didn't get to see her yet, but I can't wait to spend some time with her. I was very relieved to get the update that things are going well. Not that there is anything I could've done, but that didn't stop me from worrying.

So, it may end up being a bit of a chaotic Christmas, but I think in a way it's really working to reinforce what's important: spending time with family. I'm looking forward to mass tomorrow to get back in tune with the reason for the season, but prioritizing around what is best for family makes Christmas seem even more important. As my mom said, this is one year. Next year we can be back to the usual. For now, we'll try and see extended family when we can, but if it can't happen at the big events, we'll make some personal visits over the next week and try to catch up.

It's been a good but exhausting week, and I'm sure that will continue for the next few days. I just want to say Merry Christmas, and I hope that this holiday brings you together with the people that are important in your life.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pictures, part 2

So I am even FARTHER behind in the picture department than I originally thought. I went to update the computer, and I haven't taken pictures off since August. Oops.

Lots happened between then and now, so I'll just give you two pics for now. One is from Halloween--I actually didn't have a lot of success with the posed pics this year, but here's the best of those:

And one from yesterday, before we went to dinner at my friend's house:Looking over the pictures, I can't believe how much she's changed over the last few months. I really need to keep up better. And it's not going to get easier with two (and then med school, and residency, and fellowship...)

Pictures, round 1

Way behind on blogging (as I am with most things in my life right now), but I did finally get scans into the computer. Here are a few of the pics from the recent ultrasound (minus the money shot, but trust me, it's a boy!) Some of them are grainy, thanks to the scanner I am using, but you get the idea.

I would like to introduce you to Joshua Timothy...

2-d ultrasound, profile shot.


Hard to see on this image, but the right and left feet and toes.


These views always look a little creepy, but it's as if he's looking at you (you can see the eye and nose openings).

I didn't realize we'd get a 3-D ultrasound, but once the doc came in, he just started getting pic after pic. Totally amazing. He didn't print them all, but it was so cool to see. This is the left hand (look in the mid-right bottom area).


In this one, you can see both his arms covering his face. You can just see his nose and mouth. He had his arms covering his face for most of the visit.

This is a 3-D profile, looking at the left side of his face. You can see his arm, hand, shoulder, ear, nose, and eye. This was even clearer on the screen when we were there, and the doctor could rotate the picture for us. Totally amazing (a word we used a lot).

The doctor kept trying to get us a clear face forward shot, but the baby kept moving his head. That's why the face looks a little elongated. But you can see part of his face, abdomen, and his leg curling up.

The doctor got some other shots, including this absolutely astounding reconstruction of the spine. He rotated it so you could count every vertebrae and rib. We were pretty cheesed at having to wait two hours to be seen, but the tech and doctor spend an hour and a half with us, so that made up for it. We saw the organs, including multiple amazing shots of the heart beating. I wish they took video here. I could watch it over and over.

There's lots to talk about regarding the baby, including my personal feelings on finding out it was a boy. That may have to wait till later this week when I have some time at home. For now, I'm going to head to the other computer to upload Sophie pictures (I haven't done it since before Halloween...)


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Big ultrasound news

After waiting two hours to be seen, we got to see pictures of the baby. And it was totally worth it. I have a dinner to go to tonight, but I'll scan some pictures later. The big news is...

It's a boy!

No doubt about that one, either :)

Monday, December 07, 2009

Focus

I am completely distracted today. Sophie is home sick with a fever and nasty cough. However, I am not distracted because I am home with her. I am distracted because I am NOT home with her. My mom was kind enough to come up and watch Sophie so that Tim and I could go to work today. I have complete faith in my mom--she did deal with five different sick kids over the last thirty years. It's that I want to be the one home taking care of Sophie. I'm her mom.

Yesterday actually brought me a lot of comfort--I hope it did for Sophie too. Just being still and doing nothing but being with Sophie helped me get my priorities in line a bit. Sophie, Tim, and I never really made it out of pajamas. Tim and I took turns holding Sophie and taking care of her. That's the entirety of what we accomplished yesterday. For as bad as I feel for Sophie when she is sick, it's so wonderful to be able to take care of her and know that she wants to be snuggled and comforted. All she wanted was to be by Tim and me.

And then to be able to call my mom last night and have her come up today--it reminded me why it's so nice being near family.

I have a ton to do this week at work, as does Tim, which is why we asked my mom to come up in the first place. But being here completely goes against what I remembered is important yesterday--family. I know Sophie is in good hands. I want them to be my hands.

This has been a serendipitous week for me. At the same time that I've been debating what I personally want from my life, I've come across a lot of papers and editorials talking about women physician scientists. The theme is that they are funded much less frequently than men (although when they are funded, they are funded for more money). The fundamental question is: are women funded less often because they are not capable, or is it because they are choosing not to pursue the same path as men physician scientists? Overwhelmingly, the consensus has been that it is choice. The fact that funded women are funded at a higher amount than men would suggest that they are equally competent, if not more so. All of the personal accounts seem to suggest it is a choice made by women to have a career that allows them to also have a personal life.

I see myself moving toward that trend. In college, I had every expectation of completing my MD/PhD program, getting a high powered residency/fellowship, starting a lab, and striving to be successful at a well respected academic institution.

I've seen myself change. My personal lab experiences have led me to move away from wanting to fund and run my own lab. Starting a family has made me re-evaluate the goal of a career. Do I want to be the best, to receive recognition from people in my field? Or do I want to do well but be content with a smaller contribution to my field?

Part of the reason I chose to do an MD/PhD program in the first place was to set myself up for option #1 above. I told myself that, as a clinician, I could help individual patients, but as a researcher, I could change the course of a disease for millions of people. Yes, that is a naive statement, but fundamentally, I think it is true. The issue is that most research isn't geared towards breakthroughs. People pick a problem, or a protein, or some small piece that they want to study and be the expert on. They publish, they get funding, but only rarely is it important to anyone outside of their niche. True valuable translational research is hard to do. It doesn't always work. And you have to be comfortable moving to whatever technique you need to do to answer a question. It's tough. But it's important.

Of the three labs I've been in, my current project has the most translational value. Even then, it is years, maybe decades, away from actually impacting patients. IF I could find a way to do more translational research, I might consider running a lab. But right now, despite my earlier desire to help millions of patients instead of a few thousand, I'm leaning towards clinical practice.

And if clinical is the way I want to go, getting the absolute best residency/fellowship is less of a "have to" and more of a bonus. I don't want to take a step down--I'm currently in a top 25 med school, and I'd like to stay around there ranking-wise for residency. But do I need to do the absolute best? I don't think so. I need to be trained well. But if clinic is my focus, my patients won't pick me based on where I did residency or fellowship (ok, some might, but most won't). I'll attract patients and find jobs based on my skills and my referrals.

It all comes back to my goals. If I wanted to follow my original path and be a well recognized lab, I would go for it. I'm stubborn--I'll try anything if I have my heart set on it. But I know the sacrifice that would take. And I'm not sure that the personal satisfaction of research can equal the satisfaction I get from my family. That's just me.

Having said that, I also couldn't give up a career entirely. That's also me. I've said it before--more power to stay at home moms, but that's not who I am. I want a career, and I love science and medicine. As long as I can have a family life and a career, I want both.

I understand I have a little under a year left of the PhD, two years of med school, three years of residency, and probably three years of fellowship left. A lot can change in that time. But for where I am right now in my life, I feel as though I owe it to Sophie and baby #2 to try and balance family and career as much as I can. If that means staying near family for a while, that's fine. I know people do residencies with kids in cities where they know no one. I give them a lot of credit. But if I have the option to stay in Cleveland for some of my training, I'm not going to turn it down just to tell people that I did things the hard way and succeeded. A lot of people don't have that option. I'm lucky enough to be someone that does.

I still think the best chance for us to move out of town is for fellowship. Depending on what I decide to specialize in, moving may be the only option. That's still at least six years down the road. We'll see where I am in my life then. Having moved a lot as a school age child, I can tell you that wherever we move, I want to get a job there. I don't want to be yanking kids out of school every few years to find another place for training/employment. There's another reason to not have a lab--I'd like some control over my geography.

Anyway, Tim and I had a few conversations this weekend that went along with the idea of focusing on what is best for our family. Maybe I'll get to those sometime this week. It was just a very clarifying weekend for me. I feel like I'm more sure of what is important and what is not.

And one of those important things is home sick. But I'm trying to focus on how appreciative I am that we have family that can take care of her, how important it is that I finish what I need to do in lab so I can move on with my training, and how quickly today will go.

I may not have accomplished much physically this weekend, but mentally, it was good for me. Now, if I could have an equally productive weekend with my to-do list, I might someday be caught up!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

On a more upbeat note...

I can't credit the source of this pic, since I got it through an email forward, but I thought it was funny:

How Pumpkin Pies are Made:

Monday, November 30, 2009

Oh my god, this cartoon is so my life right now. It's courtesy of my weekly pregnancy emails from babycenter.com. I had an absolute meltdown (ok, it was all mental, but a meltdown none the less). I woke up Thanksgiving morning and couldn't find any clothes that fit. The pants were ok, but all of the shirts hugged all of the wrong places. I must've changed outfits ten times.

I finally settled on something non-maternity, but it still obviously showed off my growing belly. Since I carry most of my weight in the stomach/hips/rear area anyway, I was definitely borderline between the "is she pregnant?"/"did she gain weight?" areas. Seeing as how I have almost ten years of serious body image issues, this is not a good place for me to be.

I got over it and was doing ok until Tim's cousin came after dinner and said, "oh, I totally forgot you were pregnant until I saw you!" She was trying to be nice, but it put me over. I sucked it up and smiled, but that didn't help my mood.

Yes, I am 18 weeks pregnant. Yes, I've gained a few pounds (still less than five, thank goodness). But I'm not ready for my body to be changing. And my wardrobe is definitely not ready. I have some way pregnancy pants that don't stay up yet, and I have two pairs of dress pants that have kindly been handed down, but I am otherwise between clothes. And about 95% of what I bought with Sophie is shorts/t shirts/tank tops. Not good for a winter pregnancy.

I know I will feel better if I invest in some decent maternity clothes. However, it is not in the budget (and definitely not when 50% off is still $20 per piece of clothing!). I am going to start hitting thrift stores soon, but with none nearby (and even less time to go shopping for them), I need to improvise.

I am happy to be having a baby. I am not happy to be pregnant. I've never felt glowing/radiant/full of life like all of those women's ads suggest. I feel frumpy and huge and sick all the time. The end result is totally worth it, but I could fast forward through the pregnancy and be fine. Even 16 hours of labor with three hours of nonstop pushing with a failed epidural is better than pregnancy. At least that is over in less than a day.

I am trying to enjoy it. We will hopefully find out the sex next week, and I should feel the baby at all/more regularly in the coming days (I'm not sure what I've felt so far is baby). Those are all positives. I just needed to vent a little bit about the negatives.

I know I am going to have to accept that I am getting bigger. I went through this when I was pregnant with Sophie. Once I am as big as a house, there is less doubt about what caused it. But for now, it's just a tough transition.

Also, I did not accomplish nearly anything on my to-do list over the break, but I am working on it. More upbeat posts (and hopefully pictures) to come in the near future...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Why do I always do that?

So, I of course posted last time about how I was feeling more human.

And then I had almost a week of feeling like garbage. Maybe I'll just keep my mouth shut the next time I'm feeling well :)

Thursday it was nausea and dizzyness, Friday was better, and then Saturday it returned and worsened. Saturday night I started getting a headache, and Sunday it turned into a migraine. All I can take is tylenol, which does nothing, so I dealt with it as best I could. I got less than an hour of sleep Sunday night. Of course, that made the migraine worse, and I was forced to stay home and try to take care of it with rest as best I can. At its worst, I was dizzy and nauseous to even sit upright. Good times.

I've still got a bit of the dizzyness and nausea, but the headache is down to more of a tension type headache. I didn't sleep well last night, and the more time goes on, the more I think my lack of sleep is worsening how I feel. That seems obvious, but I've coped on 3-4 hours of sleep a night for about two years and done ok. That just may not be compatible with this pregnancy. I don't know how I am going to sleep better, but I have to find a way.

Today will hopefully be a short day--I'm waiting for some antibodies to arrive, but after that, I'll hopefully be able to leave a little early. Maybe I'll get a nap in--we'll see. I also have a huge to-do list that is calling my name...

Hopefully having Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday off will give me a chance to do some housecleaning (literally and figuratively). I'll try to catch up on pictures and everything else if I can. Have a happy turkey day!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Umm, surprise?

I have all of these things going on right now, but I noticed that all of them need one tiny piece of information that I haven't told you about yet.

I'm pregnant. Surprise!

Ok, in no way was this a surprise. First, I'm 16 weeks 3 days today, so I've known for some time. Second, this pregnancy was completely planned. Third, it happened the first month we tried (which I guess was the only semi-surprise of the entire thing).

I had my 16 week visit this morning, and things are good. The results from the first screen a few weeks ago (an ultrasound and a blood test) were that we are in the lowest risk group possible for Down's syndrome and trisomy 13/18. Very good news. The baby was very active on the ultrasound a few weeks ago (yes, much to Tim's chagrin, there is only one baby. I'm thrilled about that). So far, so good with everything they could check.

I have been wicked sick up until last week. That's partly why the posting has been sporadic. I've had constant nausea, and I'm exhausted. And I couldn't tell you why I was sick and exhausted. So I just didn't post much.

The nausea meant that I didn't gain any weight until last week (thanks, a whole week of restaurant food...). And it's only about two pounds at this point. I'm fine with that, my doctor's fine with that, and it's not like I didn't have a whole bunch of energy reserves before I got pregnant.

Just last week I started feeling almost human again. And this week, I am hungry. ALL THE TIME. There are still a lot of foods that don't sound great, and no food cravings yet. But I am always starving. I'm not eating constantly--no need to make up for lost time on the weight gain--but if you put food in front of me, it's gone.

So why the wait to share the news? Well, I told my boss right away, and she suggested we keep it a bit quiet for a while. This was partly because she figured it wasn't anyone's right to know--if it doesn't affect my progress, people shouldn't care. Partly it was because of the issues I had with Dr. B last time (who is still on my committee). And partly it was because things can go wrong early on. Unlike Sophie, we told all the family right away this time. And I was actually ok with the idea of just putting it out there at work as soon as we knew. But, waiting was fine too.

Since there is such an overlap between the blog/facebook/work life/real life, it hasn't been easy keeping it on the DL. I told the entire lab a few weeks ago at lab meeting, and word has slowly been moving around since then.

I'm not ashamed of the pregnancy, and I'm fine with people knowing it was planned. We had a several month window between the end of grad school and the beginning of med school, and that's what we aimed for. We hit the beginning of that window (I'm due May 2nd). It won't impede my grad school progress. And I'll be able to finish maternity leave before I go back to med school. It's all good.

So now I can explain to you why my moods are swinging everywhere, why I'm tired all the time, and why we now have to go car shopping. No, we won't be moving this time (thank God!)

I'll try and catch you up on some of the more topical stuff in the near future. It is nice to know that I can speak freely now without worrying about slipping :) The last ultrasound didn't give us very good pictures, but we have the anatomy ultrasound on December 9, so I should have some pictures then.

Just wanted you to know Bucky's good (Baby Under Construction, same as Sophie was), Sophie's thrilled, and Tim and I couldn't be happier. Sophie's new thing is walking up to me, lifting my shirt, and saying, "baby come out?" She's sung Bucky songs, given kisses and hugs, and now has a thing for baby dolls that she can dress/change/feed/push in a stroller. I think she'll be a great big sister :)

Friday, November 13, 2009

I guess I was due

I haven't had a real bummer of a day in some time. Tim said he really can't think of any since I left Dr. B's lab over a year ago, so I guess that is a good thing. Yesterday, I guess I was just due for one. I'm feeling a little ill (I think it's more from traveling than an actual illness), I'm tired, I miss my family, and I'm just generally feeling burnt out.

So, I guess that is a predisposing condition for feeling bummed. Then I got an email about a proposal I had written, and it was (not so nicely) rejected. Not the end of the world, but added to how I was already feeling, it just put me over the edge. Tim was working late, so I didn't get the chance to talk to him until late last night.

It just wasn't a good day. Talking to Tim made me feel much better, but there's something about feeling down that just makes the world seem tougher. Anyway, I feel better today. It helps that I am going to be home tomorrow. Salt Lake City is beautiful, but without a car, I'm feeling a bit trapped. There is nothing even close to walking distance by the hotel, so with the exception of Wednesday night (which I will recount to you when I get time), I've been stuck in the hotel alone every night. This is also the longest I've been away from Sophie and Tim since, well, ever.

One more long day in lab, and then it's a long day of flights tomorrow. But at least I'll get to (not) sleep in my own bed! Yeah, apparently insomnia doesn't stay in Ohio for me...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Salt Lake City

I'm in Salt Lake City this week, and my computer has decided to connect to the internet for the first time this week! Not sure how long I'll have it, but just wanted to say hey while I had the chance. Hopefully I'll have time for a full update in the near future.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Come hear me speak!

I gave two versions of my talk today to school groups, but if you want to come out, here's the deal. And not that all the below info doesn't have the real contact info on the web, but just not to advertise personal info too much, that junk has been removed.



Speaker Series Schedule 2009-2010

BioMedTech’s Speaker Series features interactive presentations from leading experts in the field of biomedical technology and engineering. Check back for more up-to-date information.

Saturday, November 7, 2009 at 12:00 PM – General Visitors
Topic: Diabetes: Causes and Consequences
Presented by Kate X, Bridgette X, and Chep X, Ph.D. Candidates, (my school).

In recognition of American Diabetes Month, graduate student researchers will engage the public in understanding the causes and consequences of diabetes, specifically diabetic blindness and heart disease. Students will utilize hands-on demonstrations to explore the anatomy of the eye, simulate vision with diabetic retinopathy (blindness), and observe the fat-sugar-protein ratios in common foods.

Presentation is free with paid admission to Great Lakes Science Center. Space is limited. No reservations required.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Hooray for shots!

I got my seasonal shot on Friday, and I found an H1N1 clinic that is giving the injectable dose tomorrow for Tier 1 groups. Both Sophie and I classify as Tier 1, so we are preregistered and good to go for shots tomorrow. Tim's family has had at least two (maybe more) confirmed cases of swine flu going around. We actually cancelled dinner with his family last night just to be safe--his cousin was home from work for three days with flu, and his aunt wasn't feeling well. Better to be safe than sorry!

And now, I'll have both flu shots before I travel next week. I feel much better about that. Unfortunately, Tim isn't in the high risk group, so he has to wait a bit for the H1N1. His company is doing flu shots next week at work, so at least he'll have that.

I never thought I'd be so happy to get two shots in one week. But I am!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Another note

On another note, I'll have updates from Sophie's big 2-year-old birthday party last week (I'm trying to figure out how to do short videos from longer videos), and I'll have some Halloween pics soon too. It's been wicked busy at work, and Tim's been working late for a project, so I haven't had a lot of time this week. More complete update coming next week, I promise!

Note of the day

Just saw this on Yahoo, and thought I'd pass it along--my last comment about flu shots, I promise (and I finally found someone that has them--I'm getting mine today!)

When moms get flu shot, baby benefits too: study

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Travel

I just booked a trip to Salt Lake City for work. There's a collaborator there who is going to teach me a technique that will hopefully help me finish up my project. The city looks like a beautiful place, and the university overlooks a large, undeveloped expanse of wilderness. I won't have time for sight-seeing, since the whole point of the trip is to get as much work done as possible, but I'm excited that I get to venture out to a new city.

It reminded me of another trip that involved lots of travel and not a lot of sight seeing:
It's been over three years since Tim and I drove with my sister to her new job in California. Yes, the white dots were the stops; we foolishly attempted to drive from Cleveland to Amarillo, Texas, in one day. I guess it wasn't an attempt--we did it, but it wasn't fun. And Missouri is still dead to me. The rest of the trip was nice (except for the emergency stop in Gallup). We visited family in Phoenix, and I really loved how beautiful the Southwest was (but man, it was HOT!).

Someday, I'd like to fly out to New Mexico and drive around the west/Southwest. I don't see too much of a need to see the middle of the country--I'm sure it's nice and all, but I do live in Ohio, and it didn't seem that different. Someday, when I make non-student money, Tim and I actually have vacation time, and our current/future children are either old enough to enjoy the trip or are out of the house, we'll take a long vacation. A girl can dream...

And my sister's still out in CA, although she's thinking of going even farther west. What's farther west than California? Japan. Yep, she wants to teach in Japan. No matter what you think, we are genetically related--she's the adventurer, and I'm the homebody. I just live vicariously through her adventures, and she gets to hear about poopy diapers and time outs from me. Maybe that's why she wants to move farther away...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mis-information

I am somehow now involved in an online pissing match with someone I don't even know on Facebook. It started off that a mutual acquaintance mentioned he was unsure about the swine flu vaccine. By the time I saw the post, a person had posted that the swine flu is made up and the vaccine is more dangerous than the disease. I tried to nicely state that, scientifically, that isn't the case, and she went nuts. I'm so tempted to ramp things up--there's been so much misinformation about the vaccines that I almost lose it every time I hear people spread lies. But, I've decided to just stop checking Facebook for a while. I'm trying to be the calmer, if not better, person.

Just last week, I was driving home, and this stupid shock jock radio host (who I only listen to in order to get traffic reports on the tens) had on an osteopathic practitioner (disclaimer: I have no inherent problems with osteopaths) who claimed that cancer was a vitamin imbalance, modern medicine does nothing for disease, and the flu and H1N1 vaccines were completely unnecessary and even dangerous because of the link between vaccinations and autism/other diseases (which she didn't elaborate on).

First, that autism link is anecdotal, and clinical trials have not shown a correlation. Second, she used bad statistics to say that more people will be hit by lightning than die from swine flu. While, at the time, about 300 people had been confirmed to be killed by H1N1 in the US (that number has risen), if this becomes an epidemic, that number isn't static. As another caller pointed out, that's like saying that since AIDS deaths in the early 80s only killed a few hundred people, it wasn't a public health concern.

I'm still thinking that this H1N1 won't be a massive killing machine, or at least not much worse than seasonal flu (I believe the statistic is that 36,000 die from seasonal flu every year--I'll try to confirm that), I think it is completely irresponsible to fear monger about the ingredients in the vaccine. Give people the proper information and let them decide for themselves! I'm on the list for both the seasonal and the H1N1 shots here. I can't make anyone do anything, but telling them that they'll suffer harm from the inert ingredients is unconscionable. Misinformation makes me crazy, and yet it is such a huge part of what I see every day. I'm lucky enough to work with well educated, scientific minds (for the most part). People are generally rational. Not the case in most of the rest of my world.

I feel that whole cliche, "with great power comes great responsibility." I'm lucky enough to have received (and I continue to receive) a medical education--I feel as though it's part of my job to stop the flow of bad information. I just can't take it too personally when I'm not successful every time.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Busy, busy, and an update coming soon, I promise. Till then, I've been pretty skimpy on the pictures. Here's Sophie's school picture, which we just got back today. And they were able to photo shop out her black eye--hooray!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The general ick

Long time, I know. It's tough to get out of the habit--weeks go by, and I feel like there's nothing so important that I need to blog right now, but I also don't want to just rehash the same old stuff that's been going on every day. Right now, I'm recovering from a disgusting GI thing I've had for the last week. I've been a little off for a few weeks now, but Sunday I was very faint, pale, and dizzy. Then Tuesday night, things erupted (not in a good way), and I had to stay close to a bathroom yesterday. Today I can at least sit upright for more than a few minutes at a time, but I don't feel great. Sophie and Tim had a little touch of it, but as usual, my GI system reacted much worse than theirs.

This whole illness thing has continued to make me realize how nice it is to have family in town. Poor Tim and Sophie have had to fend for themselves food-wise for a few weeks, and although Tim's been doing as much cleaning and maintenance as he can, I had fallen way behind on things like dishes. Sunday night my parents, Jen, and Joe came up. They played with Sophie, they brought steaks to grill and potatoes to mash, Mom washed all my piling-up dishes, and they generally took care of things so I could try to not puke. It was amazing.

Sometimes it's tough to be so close to family. Thank goodness the drama has been pretty calm recently, but that is a very stressful thing when you are a short drive away. At those times, I'm a bit envious of my sister in California, who realistically cannot be expected to fly out every time something goes bad. But really, 99.9% of the time, I love it.

There are the obligations to all the family events (for both Tim and my sides)--which can be very enjoyable, but there are some weekends where all I want to do is relax. That's not a good excuse for missing a graduation party or something similar. Tim and I have instituted a few guidelines--for instance, if we don't get a direct invite via mail/phone/email/etc, then we aren't obligated to go. Posting something on a fridge or sending something to my parents (and expecting it to get to us) aren't enough. We've been married since 2002, and almost everyone is on facebook--there are plenty of easy ways to get a hold of us. There are some exceptions--picnics are almost always word of mouth, and Tim's family is small enough that very rarely are invites sent for anything. We do our best for those. But, if we get an invite, it goes on the calendar, and we do everything to be there.

I do feel like we are busy almost every weekend. We had talked about going into Pittsburgh this weekend to visit a few friends and see the zoo/museums, but between me feeling crappy and the G20 summit, that visit will have to wait. I am going into work on Saturday for a few hours--I took yesterday off to be sick at home (I actually tried to come in but didn't even make it on to the highway), so I'm going to make up some experiment time. Which I don't mind at all--one weekend here or there is nothing like what it used to be!

I do have pictures and things to post at some point. However, I consider the day a success if I shower, go to work, attempt to eat, and get Sophie fed. If I have to crash at 7 PM (which I have), so be it. I can't add anything to my to-do list until I am feeling a bit better. I'll try to blog when I can, but again, no promises. I will hopefully do better than once or twice a month. But we'll see when this bug lets up.

Added: so I reread this and realized I got totally off topic. I'd blame the bug, but I have a habit of that when I am healthy. Anyway, my point was that it's been wonderful to have family around to help, and it's going to be tough to leave for residency. I don't know what the future holds yet, but if there's a way I can have the career I want without having to move, I would definitely consider it. That decision is still years away, but it's going to take some serious convincing to get me to leave willingly. Either that, or I have to pack up my family and move them with us. I'm thinking that's not so likely :)

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

One of those days

Lots of fun things to talk about from last week--my sister was in town from CA, and there were lots of family outings together.

But for today, a little venting: why have a schedule if you don't follow it? I am doing PET scans today, and I was supposed to be doing them tomorrow. We've been on the schedule for weeks--it was told to us that we HAD to be on the schedule to reserve scanner time. We obeyed and have been very diligent about updating the schedule as needed.

Yesterday, I met with the PI and the student that are collaborating with us on the PET study. The student has a class in the AM, so we had to work out who would help me in the mornings. We set everything up, and I was done with that meeting by about 10 AM.

At 11:30, I get an email that they want to move experiments to Wednesday (today) instead of Thursday, citing that there is another group who will have animals ready on Thursday. This group has helped me with catheters in my rats, so I felt obligated to move.

Trouble is, there was a dissertation defense from 11-12, and I leave for the VA at 12:15. So in 15 minutes, I had to completely move experiments around. I luckily had someone that could fast my rats for me at the proper time, but I had to get in super early to make solutions and everything this morning. And since things were changed at the last minute, the student who usually helps me had other commitments for most of the day.

This means that the experiments have been totally disorganized. Apparently our transmission scan didn't work, so we'll try that again. Hopefully the emission scans are working or else we have to scrap all of the experiments. It's been nuts trying to get everyone on the same page. And this is only the first rat of the day!

I'm a planner. I like being organized. I set out a schedule for myself for the week and try to follow it as best as I can. Changing things at the absolute last minute (especially when using the schedule has been harped on so frequently) is absolutely aggravating. Still, I am the lowest person on the totem pole, so I suck it up and deal.

Oh well. Hopefully the next animal will go more smoothly. For what we are paying to do these studies (not to mention the time commitment on my part), I'm going to be pretty ticked if these experiments don't work because we got off schedule.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

SOS, DD

I know that it isn't very exciting to say that I am sooooo busy all the time, but that's the way life has been. Tim's been extremely busy the past month or so for work. When he's not out of town, he's working 14 hours days or weekends. I don't really like blogging about him being gone while he is actually gone (call me paranoid), and it's not like I have a ton of free time to do it then anyway.

I don't want to complain too much. In this economy, I'm thrilled he has a solid job, because Lord knows my stipend wouldn't cover the bills. And in a few years, I am going to have long hours and call, and he'll need to cover everything at home.

And I have been getting a lot of help. My sister has stayed with Sophie and I a good chunk of the time. Having two sets of hands makes things way easier. I've said it before and I'll say it again: single parents should be sainted!

I've been doing the morning daycare run every morning so Tim can get in early, and I've been doing evenings as often as I can so he can stay late. And when he's traveling, I'm that plus on call for daycare issues. I feel for Tim though--the other day he asked if Sophie still remembered him. She does, of course, but what a sad thought!

So, if Tim's busy, that means I'm busy. And once Sophie goes to sleep, I clean, I prep for the next day, or I help Jen study for chemistry. Not a lot of time for blogging, pictures, or the like. It's hard enough finding time to go grocery shopping.

I wish I had some fun reason to have been away from blogging for a few weeks, like an exciting trip. But no. Just busy. Tim and I are trying to find a weekend to get away--we both need it--and we've actually been looking for a few months. The first opportunity we have is in mid-September. We'd like to get back up to his parent's camp before it sells. I know Tim will really miss the camp once it's gone, but I also know it's too much for his parents to keep up with (and we sure don't have the time or the money to do it). Tim needs to say goodbye to it.

Otherwise, things are going the same as always. Originally the fence was delayed due to the survey, and then the survey got moved up, so we should have posts in next week and netting in the week after that. I can't wait! The survey was yesterday--the property line is a little closer to the house than we originally thought, which is fine, but Tim's been way overmowing into the easement. Hopefully a smaller yard will cut some time off that.

I'm still attempting a garden. I've gotten one hot banana pepper and a few sprigs of parsley out of it so far. I did get "deered" again last week, but it wasn't as bad as the first time. I'm out of bean plants now, and the deer ate a few more pepper and tomato plants, but it's not completely decimated like last time. I'm hoping the fence helps some. We'll see.

My friend from Pittsburgh is coming in for a visit this weekend (yay!), and we're dogsitting my friend's pug while she's in Italy for a meeting (so jealous!), but otherwise life should slow down soon. Tim's big project is over after this week. Of course, he'll just move on to the next project, but I am hoping it is less all-consuming. His bosses haven't exactly been modeling good work-life balance, with the emails at 1:30 in the morning and the constant updates. I hope that gets better soon too. I'm beginning to hate his blackberry, and if I would've known that installing the wireless internet at home would just encourage him to bring more work home, I'd think twice about it. As long as this isn't the new norm, I can deal.

I will hopefully get to pictures and the like sometime soon. My sister is coming in from California next week, so I'll try to get some whole family shots. And I'll work on being less sporadic. I do like blogging, but some other things have to come first when life gets busy!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Try your luck

On a more fun note, I'm in favor of promoting blogs that I enjoy, as well as sharing the opportunity to win free stuff. Head over to Sarah's blog at Ghost World and check out her giveaway! Sarah is a much less sporadic (and much more cohesive) blogger than I am, so I am sure you'll find her site very interesting.

As a fun fact, she and I were actually grappling with similar decisions many moons ago related to the MSTP programs we were in. She opted to take a master's degree and go back to med school. I opted to join a second lab. She's now in her last year of residency, getting ready to start a fellowship next year. I'm in my third lab, hopefully aiming to start my third year of medical school next year. Which means I am five years behind her, training-wise. Guess who made the better decision there? Yeah, I know, don't rub it in.

But, she did introduce Tim to the best shrimp and cheese grits he's ever had when we met her in North Carolina, so the least I can do is direct a few people her way :) Good luck on the giveaway!

Balls

Our fence has become the talk of the neighborhood. Once we knew it was going in, Tim started clearing out some of the scrub bushes that line the rear of the backyard. I helped a little with sawing some of the taller branches, but he's done it almost entirely himself over the last few weeks. I have gardening, and he has this :) His cleaning out brought two of our back neighbors out. They are both retired older men, and they love to come and chat (I think Tim's actually spent more time talking to our one neighbor than he has actually clearing the debris--the neighbor is quite chatty!)

Our rear neighbor saw Tim piling and bundling branches, and he offered to shred the branches in his mulcher and split the mulch. It was an unbelievably kind offer--the mulcher is quite a bit of manual labor. Tim's helped him when he was home, but this neighbor actually took care of most of the branches. Our other rear neighbor commented on how this is now the best the yard has ever looked. I guess the previous owners weren't much for landscaping (which was obvious by the amount of brush that had overgrown).

Both of those back neighbors have always been very nice, and they also completely understand why we want a fence. It would be useful for any house with a dog and a baby, but they also know there is another reason: our neighbors.

Our side neighbors are a real handful, and both of the rear neighbors have few kind things to say about them. We've tried to be polite since day one, but there are definitely several behaviors that bug us. Here's a non-exhaustive list:

-they have three dogs. BIG dogs (near 100 pounds). Two dogs are left in their back (fenced) yard to bark all day. They are also let into the side fenced area at all hours in the night to bark (which is less than ten feet away from our family room).

-their one dog escapes within five minutes of being put out. Almost every time. Which means we see them walk through our yard every day to get the dog. Another rear neighbor (who is a little off) brought the dog over a few weeks ago and threatened to call the police. I wish she would have.

-their third dog is old and nearly blind. Since she can't keep up with the two younger dogs, they let her out in the front yard. Unsupervised. She will walk right over to our front yard, squat, and poop. We'll say, "Jesse, go home. Jesse, GO HOME! Jesse, . . ." Sometimes the neighbors are standing in their driveway, see this, hear us telling her to leave (which she doesn't, since she's also nearly deaf), and just lets it happen. We don't let Macgyver poop in the front yard, and yet there are piles of dog turds everywhere.

-They have three kids. The kids are friendly, but they absolutely have no boundaries. They walk (and bike!) through our back yard and front yard constantly. And they don't just stick to walking along their fence. They walk within a few feet of our front window, and they walk through our back yard by our back steps. We've talked to our neighbor about it. He said that they walk to school, and they stick to the fence. We grudgingly said they could walk along the fence, but we didn't want the neighborhood kids going through.

-In the winter, you can follow the tracks from their garage, through our yard, jumping into our snow piles along the driveway (and knocking it back into the driveway), dragging their sled behind them. Now, we do have sidewalks. And we try hard to keep them clean. Instead, they just walk through the middle of our yard. They don't even try.

-They ride their bikes in our driveway. They once asked Tim if they could color with sidewalk chalk in our driveway (last summer, before Sophie could even crawl). Tim said that once their driveway was totally full with chalk, then they could ask again. We didn't hear back from them.

-They are those people who just let their kids go and figure the neighborhood will take care of them. They ride in the street and don't look for cars. They yell and scream. And then the parents stand on the front stoop and scream for them to come home.

-And let's not even talk about the fireworks on the fourth of July. The ones they blow up right next door until the police come. The ones that are so big they shake the windows in our house. We've given up--we just leave and come back late.

Now, they do try to be friendly. They'll wave and talk. Tim ran into the woman neighbor the other day, who mentioned how nice the yard was looking. She asked if we were getting a fence, and Tim said we were. That was that.

Last night, we were out playing with Sophie after dinner. We talked with the rear neighbor for a while, and the side neighbor came out right as Sophie starting tantrum-ing. We waved and went inside. We went to the store, came home and gave Sophie a bath (she peed on the potty for the first time too--yay!), put her to bed, and Tim went out to put the garbage on the curb.

He had been gone for a while, so I came out to check on him. He was just coming back into the garage with a very strange look on his face.

"Is everything ok?" I asked.

"I'm almost done. Wait until you hear this," he said.

He came back in a few minutes later, still wearing the same strange expression. I asked him what was up.

"I was out putting the garbage out, and [neighbor man] came over to talk. You'll never believe what he said."

"Uh oh," I said, "this is never good."

"He mentioned the fence, and he said, 'hey, I've got a favor to ask you. My kids use your yard every day to walk through to get to school. Could you put a gate in the back part of the fence? Then they could keep using the yard. I'd pay the difference between the gate and the regular fence. If not, I'm going to have to put a gate in my fence.' "

"No he didn't!" I said (along with a few other choice comments). "Who in their right mind thinks they have the right to ask that! First, he just admitted that his kids trespass every day. Second, does he not think we are getting the fence to keep people out? Third, why would we want a gate there? We'd have to leave it unlocked, along with the gate in the front of the fence, so they could walk through. Which negates the privacy aspect. And all I need is to let Sophie and Macgyver out, have the gate left open by one of them, and then the baby or the dog gets out!"

I was seething, and Tim was slowly coming out of being stunned and getting angry himself. I could barely talk. Why would someone even ask that!!! You have to have a lot of . . . guts. . . to think you have the right to infringe on someone else's property that way!!!

Tim had been too shocked at the time to respond to the neighbor's request, but his thoughts were the same as mine: no freaking way.

I already know that their dog will escape, and he'll probably end up in our yard a few times. But they can climb over their fence to get him. And if he can jump their fence, he can jump ours too. But if I see a kid in our yard once the fence is up, I'm going to lose it. After hearing this yesterday, it makes me want to fence our front yard in too!!!

I am still flabbergasted about this. On what planet do you think this is ok? I think we've been very polite--maybe too polite--with everything else. They have apologized when we've brought their jailbreak dog home, but they've never done anything to prevent him from getting out again. I know a lot of our neighbors think of us as these "young kids." Too bad--we own this house, it's our yard, and we're not going to be doormats.

Tim plans to tell him no the next time he sees him. If I see him, I may tell him no along with a few other choice comments. The fence is going ahead as planned in the next few weeks. In my opinion, it can't happen soon enough! Tim was joking that we need barbed wire on top to keep kids out. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but I do wish we could afford a six foot vinyl fence instead of a four foot chain link.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Soapbox

I actually had a few moments of free time, and I was perusing the interwebs when I came upon this article. If you skip past the first weird question, the next one was something I feel very strongly about. That subject: thank you notes.

(climbs on soapbox)

What happened to the thank you note? Seriously. We got a very nice thank you note a few weeks ago from a friend of mine who was recently married. Tim and I were both so pleased to get a heartfelt, personal note that we thought about sending a thank-you-for-the-thank-you note.

Should a good thank you note be such a rarity? I remember being 8, and my parents forced me to sit down for a period of time every night until all the thank you notes for my first communion gifts were written. I carry that duty through to today--I made sure everyone who got us a gift for our wedding shower, wedding, baby shower, Sophie's first birthday, and Sophie's baptism got a thank you note. I'm not saying they were works of art, but they were heartfelt and personal. And I made Tim write a few too--he had about 1/10 of the number I did, but I thought it was important that he was involved.

I can't tell you how many times we've gone to events, brought a gift, and never seen a thank you note. We're still waiting for a note from 2002--Tim was the best man in the wedding, and we never heard a thing. That isn't the only time a member of his college group didn't send a thank you note. There are several family members close to me that are also repeat offenders. I just think it is a slap in the face. It takes less than five minutes to write a thank you note. These people shopped for a gift/card, came to your event, spent time with you, and you can't even acknowledge them?

There are also those who write notes, but write one sentence and think it's good. To get a note that says, "Dear Bridgette and Tim, thanks for the money, love (x)" from an eight year old is one thing--I'm just happy they sent a note! To get the same note from a recent graduate, or a married adult, is something else entirely. It doesn't need to be a novel, but could you at least attempt to write something heartfelt?

Here is my personal rule: if there was an invitation for an event, then there should be a thank you note. Examples:
-weddings
-showers of any sort
-bachelorette parties (I'm ok if this is just in the wedding note, but it should probably be separate)
-large family birthdays/anniversaries (anything with a party--first birthday, 50th anniversary, etc)
-baptisms/first communions/confirmations/etc
-graduations

A few additions: births (no invitation, but definitely should send a note for a baby gift), deaths (morbid, but any gifts should be acknowledged), etc. And if the event should have had an invitation, but traveled by word of mouth, that counts too--send a note.

Basically, the only time I don't write thank you notes is for birthday gifts and Christmas gifts. I really should write notes for them, and this year I am going to try harder to do so. But these times it is usually immediate family only giving gifts, and they usually understand if you don't send a note. However, we've gotten gifts (especially for Sophie) from extended family and friends, and I actually feel really bad that I didn't get thank you notes out this year. That one is on me. Hey, everyone has room for improvement!

I mean, my sweet 84-year-old grandmother sends a thank you note for absolutely everything. I'm trying to move towards that. I was a little creeped out for a while--both my grandfather and my grandmother passed away within days of receiving my thank you note for my birthday gift, and that made me want to stop sending notes for a while. I'm just going to tell myself it was a coincidence.

I just think a nice thank you note makes such a difference. I've actually had a few comments from some of my aunts that they always appreciate that we send a note. I know I am more generous with gifts when someone consistently sends a note back. And I get a bit resentful when I know someone never sends thank you notes for anything. It makes me want to stop giving.

I know people are busy. TRUST ME, I KNOW!! But if you were blessed enough to get a large group of people who care about you to buy you (or someone you love) a wonderful pile of gifts, take the time to write the notes! Word gets around. I can promise you I am not the only person who feels this way. I hear the grumblings about how so-and-so never sent a note.

(climbs off soapbox)

That is my pet peeve for the evening. I just read that article and thought about how many times we had not been thanked. I really try hard to just move on from it. I've never NOT given someone a gift because I never got a thank you note, but I have thought about adopting a "three strikes and you're out" policy. We have enough friends and family that have had wedding showers/weddings/baby showers that a few people are already on the list. Ultimately though, it's about celebrating people you care about. It's also about being polite. Although I think thank you's should be mandatory, it would also be rude for me to go to an event and not bring a gift. So for now, I'll settle for this little public service announcement. And trust me--if you send me a thank you note, I'll remember that for next time and you'll reap the rewards :)

Monday, August 03, 2009

Momentum

When all you got to keep is strong
Move along, move along like I know you do.
And even when your hope is gone
Move along, move along just to make it through.
-"Move Along," The All-American Rejects

The hardest part of getting out of a funk is changing the way I think. It's so easy to keep becoming more and more pessimistic with every little thing that goes wrong. For me, I let things build. I keep pushing things farther below the surface until the pressure builds and everything explodes. When that happens, I take some time to regroup, and then I keep moving.

It's not that I keep moving because I don't want to face things. It's because I all too easily get stuck analyzing life, and then I think myself into a hole I can't get out of. Plus, it's not as though I have the luxury of locking myself away for a few weeks to think. There are plenty of things in my life that take daily maintenance. Some of those things are enjoyable, some are not, but all are important.

My strategy for coping the last few weeks has been to slowly change momentum. I've put the brakes on the pity party, and I'm starting to move back in a positive direction. This is obvious in all aspects of what I am doing--and it hasn't been easy. The first step is naming the problem. For me, this means accepting that things aren't going the way I want, and I have the major responsibility for that. Take my recent backsliding into emotional eating. That's on me. I could've chosen to cope other ways. But I recognized it was a pattern I didn't want to accelerate. I stopped self-medicating with food, and I am slowly working to undo the damage that's been done. Sudden stops and starts just make things worse for me. I know that I can't change things in a day, and I'm willing to give it some time.

In the same way, I'm trying to salvage my deer-stricken garden. I replanted some fast growers, like beans and peas, and I'm cultivating what I have left. I also put up a 4 ft tall plastic fence. That helps. We are going to get a real fence in the next month or two, but that isn't a result of the deer incident (believe it or not). It's something that we've been pricing and saving for over the last year-plus. We finally found a contractor that we trust, that came in under the number we're willing to spend, and who has a payment plan that will work with our budget. We have to get the survey done first, but the fence will be in by the end of the summer. It's mostly to keep tabs on children and dogs (keeping ours in and the neighbors' out). It will hopefully help with next year's garden as well--an added perk.

I'm trying to strike a better balance too. Work will always be there, and I've had a very busy few months with that. I have been better about trying to enjoy what time I get outside of the lab. Most of that time is spent feeding/chasing/bathing a toddler. Although I know I get several hours a night and two days every weekend that are technically "free," very little of that time is spent doing things that are relaxing.

I've been balancing that by trying to make time to see people. We took Sophie down to one of my high school friend's house to play. A friend from work and I have been trying to hit garage sales, and I had a nice lunch with another friend from work last week. We went to the local Home Days festival. We've been spending a lot of time visiting family. It give us a chance to be social with other people (and maybe get a few extra pairs of hands to help with Sophie). It really makes the weekends fly by. A lot of the house to-do list has gone undone (it's been weeks since I primed the spare bedroom, and I still haven't painted it yet). But I think it keeps us saner.

Overall I'd say I'm in a much better place than I was a few weeks ago. I really appreciate all the notes from people who touched base to say they were thinking of me. I don't want to just wash over what I was feeling a few weeks ago--I really was having a tough time. But I do want to say that I only get to that low spot on very rare occasions. I really am happier much more often than I am bummed. The stress is a constant, but how I deal with it depends a lot on what is on my plate at the time.

Life will continue to be very busy in the near future. I will try to find time to post more often. I'll also try not to just post when I need to vent. I actually resisted the urge just the other day, which may be a story for a later time :) I'm just going to keep trying to be aware of my mindset and keep the momentum moving in a positive direction.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The straw

I've had a rough few months. I've been avoiding the blog a bit just because I don't want everything I put on here to be negative. I'm trying to keep perspective, as there are so many good things I have going on in my life. But this morning, I broke. It's been a series of alternating large and small catastrophes, and although this morning was a very small issue, it just opened the floodgates for me.

Things that have been on my mind:
1). Family stuff. I talked about some of it a bit before, but there is much more to the story. There are two ongoing issues with my family. One, the one I mentioned in May, is doing better. There is another issue that is getting worse. I don't want to talk about either right now, but needless to say, I think about them a lot.

2). The car. It started with the $1400 worth of work, followed the next day by the deer accident. We are having my car fixed as we speak. But, $1400 for the original work, $500 for the insurance deductible, and another 1200-1600 before winter, and my 130k mile car is becoming a money pit. As I said before, everyone has said that it should run forever after this. All I have to say--it better.

3). Work. I had my thesis committee meeting last week. It went ok. At the end of the meeting, my chair said that it had been my best meeting, and that he could tell how enthusiastic I was about the project. That's a stark contrast to how the meeting actually went. First, it went for two hours, when it is only supposed to go for one. Second, my old boss was there, and things were tense. He stopped me on every slide and questioned everything from how I worded sentences to why I didn't do my calculations a certain way to why I wasn't focusing more on the experiments he wanted done. He's a diabetes guy, and we are a cardiac lab, so he wanted more endocrine and we are focused more on the heart. Despite having a ton of data for a six month span, he wasn't satisfied with a single slide. And, in exactly the same way it happened in the old lab, the committee let him go to town. Not a single one of them, not even the chair, stopped in to redirect him. I got grilled by him for two hours. I wasn't shocked, but that meant that the entire meeting missed the forest for the trees. Instead of focusing on what I had done, it focused on what I hadn't done. That makes it awfully hard on me to talk about my work.

4). Work, part two. Really, the lab is a million times better than it was when I worked for my old boss. But I am swamped. I have the experiments I was planning to do, plus experiments that my committee wants me to do. And I have a ton of papers I need to read. It's just off the hook busy. I really need a little time to collect my thoughts and plan out experiments. I don't have any in the near future.

5). Sophie. I love her dearly, I do. But last week she was sick, which compounds with the general toddler tantrums we've been dealing with. I stayed home with her on Friday, and against my better judgment, I took her to the doctor. She had an upper respiratory virus, no ear involvement, and her lungs were clear. So basically she has a fever and a cold. Since taking off work adds to the stress of #3 and #4 above, it wasn't fun. I really feel bad complaining about her--I know she's just a baby, and can't help it when she feels bad--but she's been more than a handful recently.

6). Sleep. Or lack thereof. I sleep terribly to start with, and all of the stress has only made that worse. I'm getting 3-4 hours in a good night, and a lot of that is interrupted sleep.

7). Food. I am not happy to say this, but I've really fallen back into using food as comfort the past few months. And it shows. I've gained about 5 pounds since May. I've been trying so hard to work on what I eat and how much exercise I get, but every time a new stressor pops up, I start eating again. I can't explain it if you've never struggled with it. It's like an out of body experience. I'll be eating and not even realize it. All of a sudden I snap out of it, look at the food in front of me, and wonder how much I've already put down. I've started relearning some of the strategies I used in therapy a few years back. The last thing I need is to redevelop my eating disorder.

8). Personal issues. There is one other major thing I am struggling with, but I don't want to put it up here. It's a big topic of debate, not pitting Tim and I against each other, but we're each struggling with how to make the best decision with the information we have. We're fine, don't worry. But talking about the unknown really messes with my control issues.

So none of these issues, or some of the smaller ones I am dealing with, are life threatening. I've been trying to just get past them one at a time. The money issues have been painful, but I've tried not to fall into self-pity too much. I look around at what other people are dealing with and try to be grateful for what we do have.

And then, times like this morning come about. To move away from using food as comfort, I've gotten back into my garden. We had planned to build a big garden this year, but it didn't happen. I got a late start on my seeds too. But, Tim's mom gave me a few plants, and I bought a few plants on clearance this past weekend. Those added to some little seedlings I did have were really starting to grow. I had a pepper plant with about 6 green peppers that were almost ready to pick. I had a nice banana pepper on its way. My tomatoes were really starting to plump up. I had beans, zucchini, squash, and a few others starting to fruit. I pruned and fertilized them last night, and I was looking forward to my first harvest in about a week.

I woke up this morning and looked out the window. The deer had completely decimated my plants. They stripped the pepper plant of every single fruit and leaf, leaving only a few empty stems. The banana peppers were gone. All of my zucchini, squash, bean, and pea plants were gone. More than half of the tomato plant was eaten. I was left with one little tomato, a few herbs, and a bunch of empty stems.

I just lost it. Gardening has been very cathartic for me. I get to plant and nurture, and I actually get to see results. Plus, I had been looking forward to saving us money. For less that $20, I was planning on a big harvest. Now, I have one sad tomato. I don't even like tomatoes! I planted them to make some salsa with my peppers and herbs. And now I'm stuck without any of them.

I know that losing my garden isn't the end of the world. But it was the one small hobby I had, and the one thing that I could do and see a yield. And now it's gone.

That just drained me. As I was driving in this morning, I could feel myself going into survival mode. I disconnected from all of my emotions. I gave up.

I hate when I do this. I'll put on the happy face at work or out in public. I'll do whatever is needed of me. But I am completely emotionally vacant. I show no pain, but I can't enjoy things either.

I've gone into survival mode many times in my life. I think there were entire years that I spent just getting by. It's not fair to me, and it's not fair to people around me. And now that I have a daughter, it's not fair to her. I need to find a way to stay emotionally plugged in. I just don't know how.

I'm not going to replant the garden. There's no point. It's now mid-July, and I got a late start as it is. We had wanted to get a fence this year. We had saved up money to pay for it. The teaching I did at Hiram, the clinical trials I started last year--all that money had been banked for a fence. And now it's gone into the car. I hate borrowing money, and I won't do it unless it's for a basic necessity. The mortgage is the only debt we have. But this morning, as I stared at the plant wasteland caused by destructive deer, I wanted a fence almost more than I've ever wanted anything.

I told Tim that the fence had to come in under a certain number. With all of the fence contractors we've interviewed so far, none have hit that number. And then the car fell apart. So we thought about putting the fence on hold.

Now I want to put one in tomorrow. It's not logical--the damage is done, and putting in a fence won't make my plants magically reappear.

And I'm not proud of it, but for one painful second, I understood the elderly woman who beat a deer to death in her garden. I would never, ever harm an animal, but for a moment I saw how someone could go over the edge. After the deer incident with the car, and now with my garden, I would be much happier if I didn't see one for the rest of the summer.

The garden was the straw that broke the camel's back for me. I don't know now what I'll do in terms of a hobby. Sad as it may be, the garden was something I could do myself, after Sophie went to bed, for just a few minutes a night and a few hours a week. Without it, I lack another stress release. I know a lot of people get it from exercise--I've never been one of those people. Ever. And I've tried. Exercise just gives me time to ruminate on my thoughts. Gardening was very zen--I was able to just tune out the world.

I don't know how I am going to get out of this funk. I can't take any time off work. And even when I do, that just means I catch up on cleaning and other things around the house. Not relaxing. I need to find time to catch up with myself. But when I do try to take some time, I spend most of it feeling guilty that I'm not spending time with Sophie. I don't get to see her near as much as I'd like, especially during the week.

I'm not sure where to go from here. But for now, survival mode is going to have to be the plan. I have obligations. I can't just pause life until I get myself together. I'll have to figure it out as I go.

Friday, July 10, 2009

My lucky number

Well, the estimate to fix my body work from the deer collision is $1400. That's exactly what I spent the day before the deer to get my struts replaced. I guess that is my lucky number (or unlucky number) this week. It looks like we do have to pay the deductible, which isn't great, but for how much was damaged/out of whack with my car, $500 for the deductible is better than paying out of pocket. This thing gets driven until it dies though!

Funny--there are at least four of us at work in need of cars or actively car shopping. We keep joking that maybe we need a group discount.

But again, in the big scheme of things, this is painful but not a killer.

Actually, there was a very good article on Yahoo today about how people respond to adversity. You can read it here. I read Laura Rowley's articles fairly frequently, and they are usually pretty interesting. It really gives some good perspective on an internal versus external locus of control. I'm pretty resilient by nature, so even though I might sulk for a minute, I generally move right into action/response. I fully believe that everything happens for a reason. I try to figure out what the lesson is in everything, and while sometimes I can't find anything useful (and just have to let those times roll off my back), I have found lots of learning opportunities in my life. There's one advantage to constantly making mistakes--I almost never make the same mistake twice. I just find new and different mistakes to make :)

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

A habit of speaking too soon

The last post was upbeat and positive. I'm trying hard to see the good in things and not get bogged down in the bad. But I feel like the universe enjoys mocking me, and the last few days have been proof of that.

Friday was a few sets of bad news. Some of it involved news my parents have received, which while serious, is not something I want to go into here. Another part of it involved my car. I like my car--it's a 2002 Honda Civic with 130,000 miles on it. It's been good to me. Other than brakes, tires, a battery, and oil changes, it hasn't needed anything in nearly 7 years. But it has been making an increasingly loud and jarring rattle over even the smallest bumps, so I figured I was due for some work.

I got an estimate a few weeks back from a mechanic that didn't sound too sure about what he was doing. I decided to take it to a dealer to really figure out what the problem was. I dropped it off on my day off Friday and waited for the news. It wasn't good. The dealership charged me $60 to tell me my car needs $4300 worth of work.

My jaw nearly fell off. I don't think my car is worth $4300! They didn't have the parts in stock (which is rather shocking for a Honda dealership, I think), and I was more than happy to find a third opinion.

I had the annual MSTP retreat this past Monday and Tuesday, and it was over an hour's drive from my house. Monday went fine, but a series of events caused me to miss the second day in order to have my car fixed.

I took it to a farther mechanic (closer to the old house) who I trust much more. They were very kind, but the news was not good. Just getting the car drivable again was $1400 (after they gave me nearly $500 off in discounts). I have four bald tires, which will cost about $400 in the near future, and I need a timing belt and other scheduled maintenance. If I don't, I run the risk of burning out my engine. I need about another $1600 total in work, putting the cost at $3000 to keep my car running.

This is extremely tough on our budget. It's about two full paychecks for me. We had budgeted for some car costs, but nothing like this. I feel a bit selfish posting about it though, especially knowing what other people close to me are going through. It wipes out our savings, but we're not in danger of losing everything.

In addition to the car issues, my work computer is dying on me. I did a bunch of work for my upcoming thesis committee meeting over the last week or so. I tried opening the big file I had compiled, and my computer wouldn't recognize it. I tried laying the file off to a jump drive to put on my big computer, and it wouldn't recognize it. And of course, this is the one file I don't have a backup copy of. I spent all day today trying to redo it, and I'll spend all night on it too.

And then, to top everything off, Sophie, Tim, and I went out to get ice cream to at least put a positive spin on the day. Tim was driving my car, and he hit a deer. The deer unfortunately broke a leg and likely won't make it, and there's body damage to my car in several places. We're all ok, thank goodness, and there is nothing Tim could've done to avoid it. But considering our insurance deductible is $500, there goes more money we weren't planning on spending. If it had been Tim's truck, we wouldn't get it fixed, considering the body damage he already had. But with the money I just sank (and will continue to sink) into the car, we need it to last another 5 years, and I can't afford to have rust start to eat away at my car. So, more car work it is.

I really like being positive--I do. But if this past week is what I get for being optimistic, I might be better off calling the glass half empty from here on out!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Weeks fly by

I would love to say that something super exciting has been happening the last two weeks that has prevented me from blogging. Maybe an exotic vacation or something? Unfortunately, that isn't the case. I've just been extremely busy, (before) sunup to (after) sundown. I have a thesis committee meeting on the 15th of July, so I am trying to tie up a bunch of loose ends while still moving ahead with some of my typical research.

Sorry, nothing more exciting than that. I've had some weekend fun here and there, but that has also been equally busy. Work hard, play hard.

I haven't loaded pictures off my camera in months, so I'm way behind on that. My garden is still in small seedling form, so that's a few months behind. I have worked on a few money to-do's, like saving us about $70 a month between the satellite and cell phone bills. Of course, I am anticipating an over-$1000 car bill when I take it in to the dealer on Friday. We've been saving up for it, but that isn't going to make it hurt any less.

Tim and I have made a lot of money decisions in the past few weeks. He's not getting a raise this year (company-wide policy), and my stipend is set by the school. So, we're trying to do more with less. Cutting some bills has been a start. We have agreed that we need to spend on two big things: my car, as mentioned, and a fence. We've been having a lot of neighbor issues this year. We both think that with Sophie being very mobile, a fence is a near must. It would be great for the dog too. We're pushing the deck back at least another year or two, and his truck needs to last a bit longer. But a fence is a must.

I haven't had the time to be as good about deal shopping as I have been in the past. My cousin and I went to the West Side Market last weekend to get some fresh produce, which was fun, but I haven't been doing much beyond basic survival shopping. I actually am almost out of shampoo, which is unheard of! I do have enough toothpaste to last years, though.

It's just been a matter of priorities. When I am at work, that takes everything I have. For the few hours when Sophie is awake and I am home in the evenings, she's it. And then when she's in bed, it's house maintenance and more work until I go to sleep. That's just the way it has to be.

Weekends are a nice break, but I feel like that belongs to Sophie as much as I can give. She's such a little person now. And for every time she looks at me and says, "No momma, I do!", there's another time when she sings "I love you!" from the next room over. I can't believe she's going to be two this fall. She's getting so big! And I would've never guessed she'd be so stubborn and independent:) Not like she doesn't have two parents who are the exact same way!

So, sorry about the blog gaps. I am thankful that I don't have the life stress at the moment that forces me to come online every day and emo-dump. There is always day to day stress, but the monumental, crushing stress has been happily non-existent recently.

I'm going to keep on chugging away here. If I do get a break to do some pictures or otherwise something fun, I'll do it. Otherwise, look for things to be a little quiet until after my committee meeting on the 15th. Have a happy fourth of July!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Technology

My MOM is now on Facebook. How fun is that! I have been teasing Tim mercilessly that he doesn't have a facebook, but now he is officially less hip than my mom :)

I'm actually not a huge Facebook junkie, but it's a great way to see what everyone is up to. I started out on myspace but don't follow that at all anymore. Facebook lets me see people's updates and lets me drop a quick line if there is anything new. I'm not really into all the applications you can run, but hey, if it keeps people happy, whatever.

Random post for the day, I guess!

Monday, June 15, 2009

A needed break

Sorry I've been so MIA. Actually, I guess sorry is the wrong word. I needed a break--from everything really, not just blogging. It's not that I love to leave people hanging, but my life isn't always fit for blogging. Sometimes it's too boring. Sometimes it's too personal. Lately, it's just been too busy.

I filled you in on the visit to the camp over Memorial day week. Very nice, minus the terrible GI ick I had. The next week, I had my yearly physical with my internist (necessary for Tim's health insurance). I actually hadn't seen her in two years, since my prior year obligation was filled by having Sophie and seeing my OB constantly. So, two years without a real doctor's visit--it didn't seem that long, since I have regular bloodwork done for other reasons. My internist is ok--she's friendly enough, but I am unimpressed with her medically. I told her about my insomnia and she suggested an herbal supplement I had never heard of. Fine--except when I looked it up, it has been labeled as dangerous by multiple reputable health offices. Strike one. She took a look in my throat and noted it was red. I told her that I've had allergies, but I've been taking zyrtec religiously, and my throat still hurt. That'll be strike two in one minute. The only thing she did suggest is that I see a dermatologist for a mole check. I also told her I was due for a tetanus shot, so I got that as well. My bloodwork showed that I am mildly anemic with a low phosphate level, but I was told to eat more dairy and protein and have my bloodwork rechecked in a few weeks.

I got home from her office Thursday afternoon and felt a little feverish. My tetanus arm hurt like crazy, so I figured that was it. Friday I was in early to do more imaging experiments, and midway through the day, my throat started swelling up so much I could barely swallow. I figured it was my rat allergies breaking through the zyrtec. By Friday night I was feverish and shaking. I thought it must be the tetanus shot. I popped a bunch of motrin, grabbed two comforters to sleep (despite the fact that it was a warm evening), and crashed.

Saturday morning I woke up feeling terrible. I was so weak I couldn't walk. I was dizzy and shaking uncontrollably. I felt nauseous, and my skin and hair hurt with the slightest touch. I took my temp: 102.4. It took me about ten minutes, but I slowly crawled downstairs to call the doctor. It was 8:30, and they couldn't get me in until 10:15. I tried to wash up and change as best I could--I almost passed out trying to shower--and my sister drove me to the doctor.

I saw a different internist than my usual. When I got there, the nurses were concerned I was going to faint. I heard a lot of "wow" from the nurse--wow, you're pressure is really low; wow, you're heart is really racing; wow, you're fever is really high (over 103). I told them that my daughter's day care had a note about strep going around. A side note on this: my daycare constantly has health alerts posted. I had only taken Sophie in once that week--Tim had been doing daycare duty because of my crazy schedule. Plus, Sophie didn't have strep. So when the doctor noted my red throat at my physical on Thursday, strep didn't even pop into my head. But now that I had all the symptoms, I let the doctor's office know.

They did a rapid strep test. And as soon as the doctor came in, she said, "wow, you're positive for strep!"

Shocker. I guess very few adults that they see are actually positive for strep, and most of those aren't positive on the rapid strep. She gave me a prescription for z-pack, told me to take motrin regularly, and she told me that if the swelling in my tonsils didn't decrease by the next day, she'd call in prednisone for me.

That Saturday was a total wash for me. Thank goodness my sister was up. She and Tim did Sophie duty the entire day. I was barely able to walk to the bathroom. I did start to feel a little better at the end of the day, and my fever broke sometime that evening. By Sunday I was able to walk and function some. And I was mobile just in time to get in early Monday morning for work.

Another problem was that Sophie started getting fussy for Tim and Jen on Saturday. She didn't have a fever, and she was eating well. She wanted to play and run, so I thought maybe it was teeth or something minor. By Sunday night she was running a small fever, but Monday morning she didn't have one when she woke up. I was worried about strep, but since she had been exposed for well over a week without symptoms, and she woke up in a good mood without a fever, we took her to daycare on Monday. Of course, daycare called Monday afternoon--she was running a fever again. Tim was able to get her in for a late appointment. Sure enough, it was strep. I picked up her amoxicillin that night, but she had to be home for 24 hours after starting antibiotics. I understand the premise of this. However, all of those kids in daycare had already been exposed for over a week. Even some of the teachers had come down with it. If it is already a known risk, and she has no fever, what is the point of keeping her home?

Anyway, we followed protocol and kept her home Tuesday. I had imaging experiments, so I couldn't stay home. Tim's been good about going to get her when daycare calls, and we wanted to leave some vacation days in case she gets sick later this year. Thankfully, we do have family around who are wonderful about helping out in situations like this. My mom came and watched Sophie during the day, and my sister came up after her class let out to be another pair of hands. It worked out really well.

Sophie was totally fine by Tuesday. She went back to daycare Wednesday, and Tim and I were back to our crazy schedules. It's been long days for me the past few weeks because of the imaging experiments. I've got another long week this week (early mornings especially), but then things should be back to a more regular pattern next week.

Since I've been down with GI/strep, which adds to my insomnia (and anemia, apparently), and I've been working long days, I though we needed a weekend off. It's rare that we actually have the ability to say that. There are usually multiple events every weekend that are near-mandatory. And if we aren't booked with outside events, our to-do list usually fills up the rest of the time.

Instead, we shirked the list and decided to have some fun. My mom was out of town for the weekend, so my dad and sister came up to watch Sophie Friday night. Tim and I got dressed up and went out to one of our favorite Italian restaurants. We had a gift certificate there that had been sitting around for quite some time, so we decided to use it. It was absolutely wonderful to get out. It's one of the few actual "dates" we've had since Sophie's been born (nearly 20 months ago).

On Saturday, we decided to go to the zoo. It's only about 15 minutes from our house. We bought a family plus pass, which gives us reciprocal membership to the Akron and Pittsburgh zoos for free, as well as lots of other zoos. It also gives us one free guest pass every time we come. For $88 a year, it is money well spent--especially for having an extra pair of hands! In two visits it will be nearly paid for. And it gives us the ability to spend a few hours at the zoo without feeling like we need to see every exhibit to get our money's worth.

Sophie seemed to like it. I think she liked the dogs and cats the most--they were hosting an animal shelter fundraiser, and Sophie loved all the puppies and kittens! She also liked the monkeys and the other animals. We didn't make it up the big hill to the main primate/big cat/aquatic building, and we didn't do the rainforest either. Items for another time!

It was a great day to be out. We got home in time for Sophie's naptime, and we all crashed too. Sunday I went to church, and I did some tasks while Sophie took a nap. Afterwards we went to my parent's house--I had planned to just drop off a few things I had borrowed, but my dad volunteered to babysit while we ran to Sam's Club. There was dinner ready when we got back, and my mom was back from her trip by then, so we hung out for a bit, Sophie got her bath, and then we headed home.

Tim and I both agreed it was a much needed rest period. I especially appreciated it this morning, when it seemed like everything that could go wrong did. Had I been exhausted, I think I would've been really agitated and stressed. Instead, I enjoyed the long walk from my parking spot up the hill (I left my gatecard in Tim's truck, so I couldn't get into my parking garage). I was able to let the experimental hiccups pass. It's a Monday thing, I swear.

It'll be another long day today, but I think I am more prepared for it. Tim and I are already talking about how we can relax next weekend while still getting some things done. I promised him one full day to do whatever he wants for Father's Day. He wants to tinker around the house, so Sophie and I will hang out all day. Other than that, we'll probably try to see our dads this weekend. I'm hoping there will be some time to work on my garden, but otherwise I am just letting things happen.

No promises on anything exciting to blog about the next few weeks. I'll try to get caught up on pictures sometime soon, but I'm just going to try to leave as much off my to-do list as possible. I think I've earned a little rest at home.