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.