Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Yesterday was my first day back at work. I had planned to spend Sunday night getting organized. Unfortunately, we had a strong thunderstorm come through about 5 o'clock. It only lasted a few minutes, but when it was done, our yard looked like this:
Yep, that is our fence under that tree. And it also took down the power lines behind our house. Our power doesn't run off of those lines (the people behind us likely won't have power for days--there were at least 5 different trees down over the stretch of power line behind our neighborhood). But, we had to be careful--with wet ground and a wet tree touching both a power line and the fence, it's possible that the fence was electrocuted. So we didn't get too close.

Our power went off at about 5:30. We had another storm roll through about 9 PM, and although there was a lot of lightning and rain, the wind wasn't too bad. It was enough to knock another big branch down, but that likely would've fallen anyway.

The power stayed off until the next morning. It had been 91 degrees on Sunday--that, plus rain, equaled hot and sticky. I wasn't too worried about comfort--I was worried about the 150+ ounces of frozen breast milk that might thaw. Had the power not come back on, I was going to take the milk to work with me and freeze it there.

Ahh, work. I was trying not to take the crazy storm and falling trees as an omen. I got up Monday morning and actually had Josh fed and Sophie ready to go ahead of schedule. We got to day care--and found out day care had no power and likely wouldn't for 3-4 days. So, it was back home with Sophie, and my sister had a two-for-one baby day on her first full day of watching Josh. Luckily, she was an ace and wasn't in her car driving back to California by the time I got home.

It was a crazy day, and today is another one. Our power went out again, I had to take Tim to work since we dropped my car off at the dealership last night, daycare was still out so Sophie was home again, Josh had his 2 month visit and vaccinations, Tim's dad came over with the earthwork contractor to plan the deck, and then I had to go to work--all by about 9:30.

And I won't go into my feelings at work. The sense of abandonment is less now than with Sophie--probably because I've been through this once before, and also because I've been into the lab quite a bit during my "leave". I am very frustrated that the first time I got revisions back from my boss was 4:56 PM on Thursday--as in, one business day before I was supposed to come back into lab anyway. But, I am trying not to focus on that. I just want this stupid thing out already.

I'm just glad I'm not superstitious, because falling trees and power outages might otherwise be enough to convince me I shouldn't go back into work just yet.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Family history

It's funny--there are so many things in life that I take for granted or ignore completely. For instance, take my family medical history. I took histories on every patient I ever saw at my VA clinic, and yet I know only bare bones basics about my own.

My GI system has a long standing history of not cooperating. Things have been acting up again recently, and it wasn't until I was talking to my mom that I realized how much of a history I have. I don't want to put all the gory details out on the internet, but one of my immediate family members had their first precancerous lesion found by colonoscopy at age 35. By the CDC/American Cancer Society guidelines, I should have been screened ten years before the age at which the first precancerous polyp was found, or age 25. I'm now 30.

It was suggested that I get a colonoscopy in 2002 after I spent three days in the hospital with GI issues. However, with the insurance we had at the time, it would have been extremely expensive. So I didn't get one.

The GI issues I have seem to come and go, and I know the scary symptoms (melena, hematochezia, etc), but I also know things can happen quietly. I do not think the current issues I have are at all related to cancer (and I've had the same issues for decades), but maybe it's time to get checked.

I don't know why I am so hesitant to see the doctor, and when I do go, why I'm not more proactive. I ask when I have questions, but I am not a fan of medication or procedures on myself if I can help it.

I guess part of me is happier not thinking about my own chance for disease. I know there are some things I need to watch for. Breast cancer is one: my great grandmother died of it, and my grandmother had it as well. Thyroid disease is another: it is very prevalent on my mom's side of the family. And I know things like heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity are also fairly common on both sides of my family.

Knowing all this, why am I not more concerned with preventable factors like losing weight and getting more active? I guess the answer is that I am concerned, but I am also overwhelmed. I have so much mental and emotional baggage tied up with my weight and body image that it isn't as easy as just going on a diet and starting a serious exercise program. I start making steps in the right direction, but in a very short period of time, I start sabotaging myself without even realizing it.

I need to make progress in that area. I need to make it more about my health than a number on the scale. And I think I need to find out if I'd be covered by insurance for a colonoscopy. It's probably something I need to do sooner rather than later.

First, I need to sit down with both of my parents and do an extensive family history. It's time to find out what other surprises are out there. And I'm the oldest--if I do this now, when the time comes for my sibs to start getting screened, they'll have all the information they need to be informed.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Change of pace

I decided it was time to spruce things up a bit. More posts to come soon, but let me know if you have strong feelings on the design one way or the other (easier to read? harder to read?). I can change things accordingly. I read my blogs through Google reader, and I don't think this changeup affects that at all, but I want to make the actual page as easy to read as possible. Plus, it's a little more upbeat :)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Worth the read

I like to pass around articles of use every now and again, and this one really struck me. I think the title says it all:

Why American Workers Need to Toughen Up

Really, I don't think my generation (or the ones on either side of it) have had a lot of adversity. The feeling of entitlement is one of the main things I want to avoid passing on to my kids. Even in my own personal experience, people who were given things don't appreciate them as much as people who have to earn them. This was extremely obvious in college (I worked seven jobs and paid every cent of my college education, and the few subsidized loans I took out are in my name). I knew that my scholarships depended on my GPA, and I worked my butt off. There were plenty of people who had college paid for them by their parents, and in most (but of course, not all) cases, they were much more likely to worry more about the social experience of college than the academic one.

This is also true in my graduate education. There are some people who have been handed their PhDs, either by virtue of a lax set of requirements in their chosen departments, or by joining labs where the projects have already been worked out and they are nothing but a glorified technician. They get their degree (much faster than I have gotten mine), but I have seen first hand how they then flounder in either a postdoc or a position.

I have been blessed with much in my life, but I try never to feel like I am entitled to anything. Even with this stupid PhD, I remind myself that I'm not entitled to it just because I've been around so long or suffered so much. As much as I wish some days (ok, most days) that they would waive the requirements and just let me graduate already, I understand that I have to pass the standards like everyone else.

I want to provide for Sophie and Josh, but I don't want them to feel entitled. I read an article here about how to raise them without entitlement, and we'll see if I can do it. I don't want to manufacture false adversity for them. But I also don't think it's too much to ask them to work for some of the things they want. I'm talking more about things like a car when they turn 16--we had to have a job and have six months of car insurance saved up before we could take our driver's test. But I think even school age kids can pitch in.

I hope that I figure out a way to accomplish this before Josh and Sophie are too old to learn the lesson. Some days it is so tempting to just give in to get some peace and quiet, but I know that boundaries will help them in the long run. Josh is too small for boundaries now, of course, but Sophie isn't. We're trying, but we are definitely not successful every time. I guess we are learning how to be parents--no amount of studying can prepare us for every test.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I could talk about the ongoing lab drama (nothing new), or how behind I am in general life stuff (very), but instead, I want to talk about something a little lighter. And probably genetic. That is routine.

Josh apparently has started a routine. Last Monday, here was his routine. He got a bath, and then he was chill and happy:

Then he ate, took a nap in the swing, and had a poop. And I mean, a poop:
That is an out-both-sides, up-the-back, leaking-on-the-changing-pad poop. So, it was into a new outfit for him.

This Monday, he got up, I gave him a bath, and then he was chill and happy. (No pics this time, but you get the idea). He ate, took a nap in the swing, and then:
Yep, another blowout. And he hadn't had one since the previous Monday.

So, my child is also a routine-loving person, like myself. However, this is one routine that I think needs changing.

He did change it up today by peeing all over me, the changing pad, himself, etc. I hadn't had one of those since just after he was born.

Seriously though (or maybe not so), this lab stuff is a huge stressor and consumes a lot of my daily energy, but life is good otherwise. Josh is colicky, and he is still crying several hours a day, but it is getting better. And, he slept for five hours last night, which was just awesome.

And, my cousin had her very adorable baby boy on Monday, so he and Josh will be exactly seven weeks apart. My cousin and I were three months apart, and it was always nice having someone close in age to play with at family gatherings.

And my sister came home from California today--hooray! She has graciously agreed to live with us and the colicky baby for the summer. We'll see if the toddler or baby makes her change her mind, but for now, it'll be nice to have someone else (besides Josh) to hang around with during the day. I really liked the days my other sister and/or my mom came up to hang with me, so having my west coast sis around is sure to be fun.

The whole fam, minus my youngest brother (who is filling the role of California sibling at the moment), got together for dinner, bubbles, and sidewalk chalk tonight, and it was a good time.

(my pic of my brother and sister-in-law was blurry, but they were there too!)
It's the good times like this that I plan to remember, and not the terrible, stressful times that the past six years in my PhD have brought me. I can't say I'd redo the last six years, because then we wouldn't have Sophie and Josh, but there are definitely choices that I want back (say, deciding to stay in my PhD after Frank, my first boss, left in 2005). Oh well, I can't have them back, and I can only take things from today.

I don't like being negative, and I don't want to keep putting negativity out into the universe. I need to get through the paper and my thesis, and then I can get back to my life. Finishing med school won't be easy, but at least it is a defined period of time. After all, I do love my routine.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Once again

I'm back in lab tonight, and I will be back Friday and Saturday as well. After getting home late last night, I decided that I was more mad about this lab situation than anything. I will have come into work five days this week, in addition to all of the work I've been doing at home. And this is while I am supposed to be on maternity leave. I am supposed to be off for another two weeks. And yet, I think why I am really mad is because, although my boss is putting a lot of pressure on me, I have yet to receive any feedback whatsoever on what I've already sent her.

If I felt like my time was making progress towards me graduating, I think I'd be less bitter about it. Instead, I've been working on my paper during my entire maternity leave. And it sucks, because most of the time I am in work is time I could be spending with Sophie. She came home today, and the first thing she said was, "Mommy, you leaving for work?"

Already I feel like she needs extra attention, since we just had a baby, and instead I'm spending less time with her. It's like I have two full time jobs: I am home all day taking care of Josh, and then I work the minute I can.

And I don't mind the infant caretaking. It's a lot of work, but I'm much more comfortable with it this time. I just wish I wasn't splitting my time.

And since Sophie is third fiddle behind Josh and work, that puts Tim fourth, and me fifth. Not a good thing. Tim and I are coping ok (besides the occasional argument over whose turn it is to wash the dishes), but I've had three hours of free time (one to buy plants, one to plant them, and one to go out looking for planters with my sister). Ok, if you count a visit to the dentist (which I don't), I've had four hours. That's fine for now--I'd much rather have more time to spend with my family.

Sophie was home all last week, and other than a 2.5 hour trip to the zoo, we didn't do anything special with her. I feel bad about that. We were supposed to have family time, and instead my time was consumed with work.

I want to graduate--I am soooooo ready for this phase of my life to be over. But if my time over the last few weeks isn't actually progressing my paper, then why I am here? If this paper doesn't go out until I am back in the lab (which at this point, seems like a safe bet), I could've done this all when I got back.

Oh PhD, how I loathe you...

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Not where I want to be

So, I'm in lab. At 7 PM on a Tuesday night. And I will be here until at least 10, probably later. Why? Because every time I think I am done with experiments, I am not. Let me rewind.

I've been working on lab stuff since mere days after I delivered. I came into lab to run experiments about three weeks after I delivered. And on Saturday night, I was up all night long re-doing figures so that I could meet with my boss at 9 AM on a Sunday. I worked for eleven hours straight, no sleep, during a tornado watch/warning (the same one that killed 5 people in northwest Ohio). And this was a night that Josh was cooperative and actually slept well (Sophie did not--I think she was up 8 times that night). I pulled an all nighter, got into work before 9 AM Sunday morning, and didn't get home until close to 3 PM. And really, it was nothing we couldn't have done over email.

Part of the Sunday pow-wow led to this week's experiments. I have to re-run gels in a different layout so that we can get a pretty picture for the paper. The data collection is done--this is just for an image. So, running today, blotting/stripping/reprobing tomorrow, blotting/stripping/reprobing again (probably Friday), then blotting on Saturday.

Where is this so-called "leave" that I am supposed to be on? This is really getting out of hand. Ok, it's been out of hand. I want to graduate, but I'm burning myself out. Taking care of a newborn is hard enough. Last week, we had Sophie at home for "vacation." Luckily either my mom or Tim was home to help with both of them. But really, the entire point of maternity leave is to heal, rest up, and take care of a newborn. Josh turned six weeks old on Monday, and I have yet to take one nap while he was sleeping.

I am supposed to get eight weeks of leave. I was thinking this would be better than the six I got with Sophie. Not so much!! I have absolutely no energy whatsoever. I'm still flabbergasted that my boss thinks I should have all this time to be working. She has two kids--granted, she had them before she started her PhD (she didn't get her PhD until she was in her 40s). But still--it's a lot of work. I knew I'd have to be splitting time when I went back to work. I really think it is unfair that I'm splitting so much of my time now.

Unfortunately, there is no on to complain to that has any power to change things. The requirements for graduation are clear, and unless I get this paper out soon, there's no way I'll be on the schedule I set for myself. So, that's why I am here.

This sucks. I think my final verdict is in: the PhD was so not worth the time, energy, or emotional angst I put into it. I wish I had a do-over. But I'm too stubborn, and I've put too much time into it, to quit at this point. So, it's back to experiments and the paper for the rest of the evening.