Thursday, February 26, 2009

Behind as usual

So it is now day 2 of Lent, and I have no idea what I am giving up/attempting to do for it. I'm trying to come up with something more meaningful that giving up chocolate/ice cream/pop/etc, which seem to be my standbys. I have a lot of personal issues I need to work on, especially ones that haven't made a lot of progress since attempted new year's resolutions, but I am leaning towards doing something else.

It was actually brought up by Tim, although I am not sure he knows it. I've been really worn down the last few weeks. It's been showing at home--I'm having lots of digestive and sleep issues again, which is how my stress usually manifests. I made a comment to him about how I couldn't go to bed one night that I was feeling particularly bad--I had dishes to wash, rooms to clean, papers to grade, and bills to do.

He said that I need to go easier on myself. And it got me to thinking: maybe he's right.

I'm working two very demanding jobs, we have a sixteen month old daughter, and Tim's busy with work and school. It's sort of amazing we are fed and clothed on a regular basis. Maybe instead of trying to squeeze more things into less time, maybe I need to ramp down instead.

I had planned all sorts of potential things for Lent: really focusing on diet/exercise, working to keep the house up more, trying to reconnect with friends and family that I haven't seen in a while, and generally trying to better myself through reading and reflection.

Those are all positive things. And they are all Lent-appropriate. But I have to say that I think it might be too much.

That is counterintuitive for me. Lent is always about sacrifice; how is going easier on myself a sacrifice?

I think it is because being easy on myself will be a struggle. It is not how I am hardwired. I have programmed myself to hold myself to unattainable standards; it is something I worked hard on during my therapy sessions a few years back, and it is something that I have found myself relapsing into.

So, I think that is what I am going to try. It will have the added effect of making me more introspective and aware of my thoughts, and it will probably mean more frequent blogs. No promises on how successful I will be. But I think it is worth a shot.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

time flies...

Sorry, sorry. I didn't realize that almost two weeks has gone by since the last post. Being this insanely busy is both good and bad. It's good in the sense that I don't have a lot of time to stew about negativities. It's bad because I also don't have time to talk about the good things.

So, in a nutshell: my paper from my first lab got accepted today! It's in a no-name journal, and there are a few minor revisions, but we're finally getting that out there (almost three years later...). Really, we had gotten decent reviews from some good journals, but it seemed like there was always one reviewer that killed it. So, at least it's out there somewhere.

Also good: I had a great time last week with the lab. My PI bought us all tickets to an orchestra concert being put on for the university. We had dinner and drinks beforehand. It was really a nice time. It reminded me again of how a change in lab environment makes all the difference.

Also also good: we though Sophie was coming down with chickenpox last weekend. It had been going around daycare, and she had only gotten her second booster shot for chicken pox the week before. She started with the upper respiratory thing and then developed spots on her trunk. I was panicking as to how we were going to keep her home for a week. But then the spots disappeared, and we were good. Talking to my pediatrician friend, apparently it's pretty common to get a small area of rash after getting the vaccine. Thank god it wasn't full blown chicken pox!

Bad: we are currently moving back into renovated lab space in the department. This has been a total pain in the ass, and it has prevented me from getting any real work done.

Also bad: teaching this weekend college class. Let me clarify--I like the actual class time. I enjoy teaching. But the prep and grading is killer. I'll take a picture of the stack of grading I have to do before the next class and post it. It's insane. I spend about 3-4 hours grading per assignment, and this week I have three labs, a homework, a quiz, a presentation, and a paper assignment to grade for each of my 27 students. While I am trying to do revisions for my paper. It'll be awesome.

Also also bad: snow. I am so done. Let's just leave it at that.

But in all, Sophie's good, Tim's good, the house is a wreck, I desperately need to go grocery shopping. Things will continue to be nuts for the next several weeks at least. But, once this class is done in April, the lab is moved in, and the snow is no longer falling, I think things will be much easier.

And I'll try to be better about posting. Till then, adios!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tired but good

I do have a "golden weekend" this weekend (yes, I am not back on the wards yet, but I think this term still applies to my lifestyle at the moment). For the non-medicine people, this means that I technically have both days off in the same weekend. I do have a mountain of grading to do, but I don't have any scheduled "work" per se.

And, it is valentine's day. Now, Tim and I haven't celebrated that in at least ten years, maybe more. When my parents kindly offered to babysit Sophie on Saturday so that we could go out, both Tim and I thought, "no, it's going to be crazy at all the restaurants, and we'd don't celebrate V-day..."

But then I thought about my growing to-do list. So, we reached a deal: mom and dad are going to come up and watch Sophie, they're bringing some steaks, hopefully we'll get more of the fam together. And I am going to finish painting my bathroom. Romantic!

I am looking forward to a weekend off. It's just been really rough teaching plus doing lab (and writing the grant, up till a few weeks ago). I need a break, and painting sounds like way more fun than everything else we've been busy with.

I also made another decision last night: we've been staying in during the week because we're worried about how Sophie will behave in public. Last night, I said heck with it. I was leaving the VA late, I hadn't eaten all day, there was no food at home, and we haven't eaten out in almost a month. So, I called Tim and told him we were going out. With Sophie.

We had BOGO coupons at Panera, and we hadn't tried the one that just opened by us yet. So, the three of us went out. And it was fun! I got Sophie a cup of broccoli soup and a turkey sandwich, not knowing what she'd want. She didn't care for the sandwich, but she devoured the soup! I brought her bib, cup, and spoon from home, so she figured out what she needed to do to eat. And she loved the little highchair that pulled right up to the table. It wasn't very busy, so she could look around and not being intruding on anyone. I tore up some bread, and she figured out how to dip it in her soup and eat it herself. All three of us were shocked at how well it went. I don't know that we are ready to branch out to anything more involved, but Panera gets an A.

Afterwards we went to Kmart (it was close) looking for a chair for Sophie. She's just a little too short to get in and out of her little tikes chair on her own. I was thinking of something soft for her, but we found a plastic outdoor kid's adirondack chair that is perfect. And it was $7. Awesome.

Sophie was really well behaved in the store--other than needing to have me put her chair down every 50 feet or so in order for her to sit in it.

We got home a little after 7, so there was time for playing, and then it was Sophie's bedtime. I think both Tim and I were surprised at how easy it was to go out with her, as long as we stayed in her comfort zone. It made me feel much less claustrophobic. Hopefully we'll be able to get out even more often now.

Of course, I'm back to being an insomniac for some reason. I haven't been sleeping well, for no reason, and it's wearing me out. That's another thing I'm hoping to remedy this weekend.

But, I'm also hoping to finally get to pictures. I can't promise you a time, but I'll do my best.

Tomorrow is my silly MSTP winter retreat, which means I need to throw a poster together today. It also kills my day until 7 PM tomorrow. But, I still haven't graduated, so I need to suck it up and deal for a day.

Back to experiments for now.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Living in Ohio

My mom forwarded this to me. Too appropriate for what I am feeling right now!

Aug. 12 - Moved into our new home in Ohio. It is so beautiful here. The hills and river valleys are so picturesque. I have a beautiful old oak tree in my front yard. I can hardly wait to see the change in the seasons. This is truly God's Country.

Oct. 14 - Ohio is such a gorgeous place to live, one of the real special places on Earth. The leaves are turning a multitude of different colors. I love all of the shades of reds, oranges and yellows, they are so bright. I want to walk through all of the beautiful hills and spot some white tail deer. They are so graceful, certainly they must be the most peaceful creatures on Earth. This must be paradise.

Nov. 11 - Deer season opens this week. I can't imagine why anyone would want to shoot these elegant animals. They are the very symbol of peace and tranquility here in Ohio. I hope it snows soon. I love it here!

Nov. 20 - Leaves continue to fall in all their brilliant colors. I have raked most all up and redeposited them in my compost pile for next spring's mulch. What a great place. I love it here!

Dec. 2 - It finally snowed last night. I woke to the usual wonderful sight: everything covered in a beautiful blanket of white. The oak tree is magnificent. It looks like a postcard. We went out and swept the snow from the steps and driveway. The air is so crisp, clean and refreshing. We had a snowball fight, I won, and the snowplow came down the street. He must have gotten too close to the driveway because we had to go out and shovel the end of the driveway again. What a beautiful place. Nature in harmony. I love it here!

Dec. 12 - More snow last night. I love it! The plow did his cute little trick again. What a rascal. A winter wonderland. I love it here!

Dec. 19 - More snow - couldn't get out of the driveway to get to work in time. I'm exhausted from all of the shoveling. And that snowplow!

Dec. 21 - More of that white shit coming down. I've got blisters on my hands and a kink in my back. I think that the snowplow driver waits around the corner until I'm done shoveling the driveway. The Asshole.

Dec. 25 - White Christmas? More freakin' snow. If I ever get my hands on the son of a bitch who drives that snowplow, I swear I'll castrate him. And why don't they use more salt on these roads to melt this crap??

Dec. 28 - It hasn't stopped snowing since Christmas. I have been inside since then, except of course when that SOB, "Snowplow Harry", comes by. Can't go anywhere, cars are buried up to the windows. Weather man says to expect another 10 inches. Do you have any idea how many shovelfuls 10 inches is??

Jan. 1 - Happy New Year? The way it's coming down it won't melt until 4th of July! The snowplow got stuck down the road and the shithead actually had the balls to come and ask to borrow a shovel! I told him I'd broken six already this season.

Jan. 4 - Finally got out of the house. We went to the store to get some food and a goddamn deer ran out in front of my car and I hit the bastard. It did $3,000 in damage to the car. Those beasts ought to be killed. The hunters should have a longer season if you ask me.

Jan. 27 - Warmed up a little and rained today. The rain turned the snow into ice and the weight of it broke the main limb of the oak tree in the front yard and it went through the roof. I should have cut that old piece of shit into fireplace wood when I had the chance.

Feb 23 - Took my car to the local garage. Would you believe the whole underside of the car is rusted away from all of that damn salt they dump on the road? Car looks like a bashed up, heap of rusted cow shit.

May 10 - Sold the car, the house, and moved to Florida. I can't imagine why anyone in their freakin' mind would ever want to live in the Godforsaken State of Ohio...

Friday, February 06, 2009

Moderated

Well, I do feel a bit better after venting in the last post. I don't take back anything of what I said--that's really how I feel--but it sounds awfully ungrateful. It's easy to come on here and use a blog as a venting tool. Really, I think that's how it started in the first place. But while I have lots of daily struggles, my life is nowhere near as tough as many other people's.

For instance, yesterday one of the secondary faculty members in my department died suddenly. He was in his fifties, was very fit, biked to work every day, and had never had cardiac issues. But apparently he biked in yesterday morning (the temp was -5 when I came in, not counting the wind chill), made it to his office, and collapsed. His student found him and tried to revive him, but we don't know how long he had been down.

He has three kids, two in college and one in high school. I've known him in passing for about 10 years--I worked with him first when I was doing undergrad research in the department. He's always been friendly and helpful. And in one day, he's gone.

I have a real problem with death. Losing people close to me is one of my biggest fears. And this is one of those stories that really makes me scared. To lose someone who is health conscious (he's a doctor and a cardiac researcher!) and apparently healthy only makes me worry about people who are neither. My dad had a heart scare about a year ago. He's still here, thank goodness, but he has way more risk factors for a cardiac event than this professor did. My whole family is a walking mess of risk factors--both sides of my family have family histories of heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, plus obesity. Both of my parents are smokers. And while I can't point fingers about a sedentary lifestyle, their diet and exercise could be better.

I don't want to lose my parents in their fifties. And I know statistically that's not common. But as the years go on, it becomes more and more of a possibility.

And I'm rapidly approaching thirty. My diet is pretty good, but exercise has been non-existent for me. And I've had borderline cholesterol since I was tested at age 6. I know that I've been trying to work on exercise and my weight for personal reasons, but I need to do it for health reasons too. I don't want Sophie worrying about me in 25 years the way that I worry about my parents.

It's just one of those tricky gray areas. We are all so stubborn--and if you tell us to do something, we'll do the opposite. It's all about control. It's a theme in my family--whoever has the control has the power. I won't get into details about people's personal issues, but let's just say that most of the damaging patterns that exist in my family have to do with people trying to maintain power in relationships. That's another discussion.

But as someone training for a career in medicine, what is my job? As a daughter, I want to tell them what to do. As a future doctor, I feel like it's my responsibility. But I also know that they KNOW what they need to do. I don't want to resort to the usual guilt trip. It's the reason so much dysfunction exists in both my immediate and extended family. I'm trying to break out of the guilt rut, so saying things like, "If you loved me, you'd . . ." or "Don't you want to be around to see Sophie grow up . . ." aren't the ways to approach it.

It's the same with me. I know I need to somehow create the time and energy to take better care of myself. I've worked hard to stop the destructive patterns I had been a part of. Now I need to reverse the damage. And I'm trying.

But if you just passed me on the street, you may not realize I'm trying. I think it's the same with my family. I see them, I see their actions and habits, but I don't read minds. Maybe they are trying. And again, who am I to throw stones?

It would be different if I thought my parents didn't know the danger they were in. But I know they know the risk factors. I know they know what they need to do. And I just have to pray that they won't be leaving this earth anytime soon.

So, this comes back full circle for me. I am stressed. But so is everyone else in the world--these are stressful days. And I can't mentally check out every time as a coping mechanism. Things happen in life, and I don't want to take my blessings for granted. A big part of those blessings is my family. God forbid we should ever lose someone as suddenly as this professor who just passed away, but no one can predict when it is their time. So my job is to make the most of it with my family and give as much of myself to Sophie and Tim in case something were to ever happen to me.

You just never know.

So, thanks for letting me rant. I'm still overworked, underpaid, and quadruple-booked, but that seems to be what it will be for a while. I've just got to do the best with what I've got.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Tapped out

I've been meaning to write for a while, but I haven't had it in me. I'm on empty. Beyond empty. And I don't really want to talk about it.

I'm just emotionally dried up. And everything seems to aggravate me in new ways.

Take, for instance:

-the snow we got yesterday, which was supposed to be an inch and turned into nearly a foot.

-the constant trips to the doctor's offices to take care of Sophie.

-the incessant emails from my chemistry class with questions about fifth grade math and not chemistry.

-the way my to-do list keeps expanding without ever crossing anything off.

-how I work my butt off, doing two jobs plus trying to be a mom/wife/co-CEO of a household, only to be ahead by $6 at the end of the month.

I just wonder what it's all gotten me. I am adamant about not carrying revolving debt (only a mortgage), and yet I watch as those around me get rewarded for making bad financial decisions. Sure, let's bail everyone out! Want to go on a nice vacation, but not pay for it? Go ahead! Have three mp3 players but want another one? Why not! Want to buy a house but can't afford the debt? We'll forgive your loan! And I've been trying to stash away what we have for college and retirement, only to watch our savings be cut in half over the last year.

We drive cars with 120k and 160k miles on them. Our phones are years old and barely work. I wear holey socks on a regular basis (ask my family...) I cut coupons and shop sales. And yet, I feel like we are no farther ahead than people who just do whatever they want. I do have sympathy for people who tried to do the right thing but got laid off, hit by a bad situation, etc. It's not those people I am mad at. It's people who have no personal responsibility and never feel like they have to. They feel entitled. I know a graduate student who leases a BMW because he wants to drive a nice car. He goes into debt more every month, but he says he'll just declare bankruptcy when he's done. Awesome.

And I'm not immune from my own criticism. There are definitely financial decisions I wish I had a do-over on. The difference is that I've found ways to make up for those bad decisions without putting the burdens on others. If I had known the housing market would tank, would I have moved? Heck no. Yes, I love my house. Yes, my commute has improved markedly. Yes, we got a good deal. But would I do it again? Heck no.

I'm a responsible person by nature. I always have been. That's why I'm working towards getting a good career, saving my pennies, and putting everyone and everything else first.

But you know what? It's no fun. And sometimes, it downright sucks. And I wish I could go out and blow money on a flat-panel TV (or a finished basement). But I know how I would feel after I did that. And it's not worth it at all. My job is to be a role-model and a provider for Sophie. Yes, our TV is broken--the IR sensor doesn't work, so the remote doesn't work. But I'd rather get up and change the volume and put money into Sophie's savings (or in this case, not put a TV on a credit card) than have a fancy new TV that I watch three hours a week.

Trouble is now that I have such a saver mentality ingrained in me that I feel downright guilty when I spend even a little money on myself (forget the big stuff). I save up my play money every week and occasionally buy myself lunch at work or a cup of coffee. But that's it.

And I've talked to people, and they say, "Take a day off! Do something for yourself!"

I wish I could. But then I feel guilty. I already see how frustrated Tim is on Saturday nights when I come home from teaching. He's had Sophie all day, and he is not in a good mood (you should have seen him tonight after taking Sophie to the ENT). And it's not that I blame him--she's a handful. But I'd trade places with him in a minute. I'm not teaching as a hobby--I'm doing it to bring in money (albeit a very little amount). And when I've spent all night Friday and all day Saturday prepping and teaching, and I have a mountain of grading (plus more lesson plans) to look forward to, I'm not too sympathetic to his plight.

And maybe that's what I like the least about who I am right now. I used to be patient and sympathetic. I haven't been lately. Tim works and goes to school; I work two jobs. And we have Sophie. We're both exhausted, but we are doing what we have to do.

Having Sophie is not something I regret. It has completely changed my life (and our budget), but I do think it is worth it. Part of the problem is I put myself last before I had her. Now there is even less room for my needs.

And forget upkeep--my house is a wreck, I haven't touched anything like pictures in ages, and the piles of papers are overtaking my desk. Thank god most of our bills are autopaid online--who knows what is buried under the stack.

I just can't keep giving 110% to everything. I'm busting it at work to try and get things done (and make a good impression). Teaching has totally taken over more of my time than I ever anticipated--I think I am averaging about $5/hour at this point. I haven't really cooked in a long time. And please, don't look in my shower. It's just wrong.

I know times like these come and go. And I know that all of the snow we've gotten this winter has only made me feel more frustrated and claustrophobic. But all I want is a break. I'd even take Sophie and Tim with me, as long as there were no other obligations to my time. I like spending time with the two of them. I don't get to give them my undivided attention as much as I should.

But life won't slow down. If anything, things are building. I can feel myself shutting down--it's my version of safe mode. I completely emotionally disconnect from my world and just get things done. It gets me through the tough times. But it's not healthy.

I've gone into safe mode for so many different reasons over the years. I'm just worried that I am needing to do it more and more frequently. I don't want to mechanically march through my life. I want to enjoy it. But if I stay emotionally plugged in for much longer, I'm going to melt down.

I see this perfectionism/procrastination cycle in myself. For instance, it's Thursday night. I still have a ton of grading to do, and I'm only about halfway through my lesson planning (well, maybe less than halfway). I know I can't get done what I want to by class on Saturday. So what am I doing? Procrastinating. I'll stay up late tomorrow night and get up early Saturday to finish what I can, but when I hit the deadline, I have to accept whatever I have at that point.

Stress is really taking its toll. I'm not sleeping again. My immune system has been crap. And I feel agitated all the time.

I do know that this won't last forever. I go through phases like this, and I swear I have some type of snow-related Seasonal Affective Disorder. I get my first weekend off next weekend, and I am hoping to get caught up on my life to-do list. This will help me regain some control and brighten my mood. For now, I just need to vent. And maybe try to actually sleep tonight.