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!