Tuesday, October 30, 2012


All essential clinical personnel made it in yesterday so I stayed home and worked on my grant in the basement, trying to ignore the thunderous elephant stomping and banshee shrieking noises from upstairs. I got a bit done, but was distracted by the constant internet news stories about "battering", "hammering", "slamming", that was quickly approaching. The total shut-down of transit and later highways and bridges drove home the fact that this was really happening. We were right in the middle of the "cone of uncertainty". We got out our flashlights, brought everything valuable up from the basement, filled the bathtubs, found candles.

Water started leaking into the boys room right into B's crib. Fortunately we noticed it well before bedtime and moved them both into the guest room and set up pots and buckets. They took it in stride.

Despite my complaints about living inconveniently close to work, the upshot of living in the city is the lack of isolation during major storms. Though it seemed like it should be deserted outside, when G went out to walk the dog at 8:30, there were lots of fellow dog-walkers and he told me the neighborhood bar across the street was hopping. 

Proving that my anxiety was mostly NOT weather related, I managed to sleep like a baby through the howling winds and rattling trees. I woke up a few times and noted by the hum of the fan and the static on the baby monitor that we still had power. I woke up to L crying at 5:20 in the morning and picked him and assessed the house. Just some water in the buckets and pots.

Later, B and I went for a walk to stave off some crankiness and assess the damage in the neighborhood. I could not believe what I saw.

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not a tree down, a window smashed, or a jack-o-lantern out of place. Stores & restaurants were up and running. Cars were filling the roads, and dogs and kids were venturing out. The river was ominously high, but overall, we were so so so amazingly lucky.

Unfortunately not everyone was as lucky. Hoping for minimal lives lost and a speedy recovery for the bruised and battered Jersey shore and Manhattan.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Storm Surge

So this whole storm thing has thrown a major kink in my productivity. The kids will be home today & tomorrow at least. Even if I do make it to work, I think I'm going to be pulled for clinical duties. That's what I get for being the only attending that lives within a mile of the hospital.

 I was so anxious I couldn't get to sleep last night & then woke up crazy early,  feeling all nauseous and gross (like you do when you don't sleep at all). Not about the storm, but about my grant! How's that for f-ed up priorities? But unless they extend the deadline, I'm kinda screwed here. I got feedback from my mentors Friday & Sunday and despite much of the grant being the EXACT SAME stuff they said was "good" in the original submission last year, they tore it completely apart. My suspicious that they were being soft on me because I was, actually, 40 weeks pregnant (and prone to contractions) when I submitted last time, are true. Also, a tech was supposed to run a bunch of assays for my prelim data this week, and they closed the entire university (except for essential---i.e. medical---personnel) so that isn't happening.

Maybe the NIH will end up under water by tonight?

Friday, October 26, 2012


I'm at a great point in the grant-writing process...really in the zone and enjoying the work. Its the sweet spot in between trying to start up and getting burnt out. I've managed to get a lot done during working hours, by cutting out all non-essential meetings and projects and delegating some lab work. I was sick last week and exhausted, falling into bed at 8 or 9 pm most nights. This actually jump-started a really good habit, because going to bed that early means waking up around 5ish. Instead of trying to work at home, I've been getting ready and coming to work by 7 or 7:30 (instead of 8:30-9).

This has many advantages:
   1) The simple fact that more time=more time
   2) Getting to work before most others=no distractions
   3) More complex---leaving home before the morning struggles with the kids=much more mental energy and willpower.

As typical for his age, B has been quite challenging. The defiance, stubbornness, and whining oh lord the whining. Dealing with that for an hour and a half in the morning leaves me spent, and not at all in the frame of mind to jump into work when I get to my desk. On a more long-term note, we do have to streamline our morning routines because it is ridiculous, but for now, I'm using the avoidance technique.

The disadvantage of leaving early---the whining from G. He complains about how much longer it takes him to get ready and how late he got to work. But I don't honestly think my  leaving early has anything to do with that. I can (and will) write a whole long post about how his inflexible morning routine is ruining my life hampering our productivity.

Back to work...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Friends we haven't met?

I'm trying something new...more frequent, shorter, and less edited posts.

B, who was establishing himself as so so very shy suddenly pulled a 180 on us. Now he's downright gregarious. Not just talking constantly to us, which he's always done, but obsessed with meeting new people. Everyone, from the 1 year old at the playground to the guy delivering our pizza gets "What's YOUR name? My name is B!" Its so fun to watch, though sometimes (for us introverts) a bit uncomfortable. Not every sullen old guy on the bus wants to talk to him, nor do people who are briskly walking by want to say "HI!!!!"

Last weekend we went to a nearby small park. There were two families with a few kids apiece there together already. Four of the kids were older than B, 4-5 years old. B was playing happily in the play structure when one kid yelled "Hey D, lets play hide and seek". Well never mind that we had never seen or talked to these kids, B heard "D" as "B" and his eyes lit up. Mommy I'm going to play hide and seek. I thought he meant with us---he loves when I crouch behind the slide and he "finds" me and gets a big hug. But no, he wanted to play with the older kids!

They ran to the other end of the yard and B trailed behind yelling "Where are we going!" repeatedly. Finally one of the kids turned to him and said "NOT YOU! We don't know you!"

Ugh. G and I looked at each other and cringed. My heart just about broke for my friendly yet sensitive little guy as all the exclusions of my past (and present) rushed back to me.

What do we do?  Tell him not to talk to strangers or to play only with the kids we know? Remind him that not everyone is a "friend" despite that our words over the years have led him to believe that "friend" simply means "child close to his age"? Explain about nice people and not-so-nice-people?

Well, he's only 2. He didn't even notice what they said, and he ran around with them for a few minutes and came back to play with us. We didn't have to say a thing. For now.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


The pressure is on. I have a big grant deadline in...gulp...three weeks. And I'll let you in on my shameful secret...I haven't started writing. Well, revising, really, its a resubmission. But a substantial amount of re-writing is required. And none of it is done. Its a "career development" grant, so it also requires letters of recommendation and mentorship letters...all of which I'm expected to "draft" (i.e. write) and I haven't done those either.

The thing is, I just haven't been able to carve out the time to work on this. I'm doing a lot of experiments for preliminary data, some of which are quite promising and should strengthen the application (yeah!), but they are worthless unless I have a well-written proposal in which to showcase them. But the bulk of my time is spent in meetings, clinical duties, and other projects that just HAPPEN to be coming to a head at the same exact time (and you can't put off live human or murine subjects for your convenience). So my work days are full.

That leaves the rest of my time, my "free" time. Evenings and weekends, early mornings. But after getting home & taking care of dinners, bedtime, & chores from 6-9pm, I'm done. I've tried working and just can't get anything substantial accomplished.  I could probably push through late nights & less sleep for a couple of days, but sleep deprivation for days/weeks is not feasible for me and would probably backfire as I'd be less productive during the day. Plus I'd be a total bitch.

Weekends are even more impossible these days. It is really hard for either of us to manage both boys on our own...they are just both at a very difficult physical and emotional stage. So we try to stay together as much as possible. Yes, G could give me some time to work if I asked for it, but it would require a level of forethought and planning I haven't yet applied to the problem.

But the grant isn't going to write itself, and hours aren't magically going to appear in my day so I need a strategy. I've come up with a few options and I'll see what works best:

a) 8:30-9:30 PM weekdays. this would involve cleaning up & making lunches AS we're eating dinner, but may be doable most days. Also I am pretty braindead at night.
b) 5-6AM weekdays. if I go to bed at 9 or 10 I should be able to get up and mornings are a good time for me to focus. its just so disgustingly early. And sometimes L wakes up before 6. Its a crap shoot. I'd hate to get up and settle into work and have to feed him breakfast instead (if I'm still in bed, I can roll over and let G take care of it)
c) 2 hour time slots on the weekend. this could work but needs to be very carefully & specifically planned & re-planned and reminded about for it to actually happen. Ideally this time would be in the morning or late afternoon (times that are better for me, motivation-wise). Having time right after lunch would be stupid, for example, I'm in a big slump then & I generally avoid intellectual work.

Any other ideas? Inspiring stories of grants written in 5 days and funded? Time Turner I can borrow?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Everything and nothing at all.

So so much to say that I haven't been able to prioritize what to write about...hence the silence. I decided to just write a little bit about each and expand in the future.

Little L: Is walking, weaned, ONE year old! Bittersweet this milestone. Its funny because he is still so physically tiny (the same weight as our friend's 5 month old!), and it seems plain wrong to switch from bottles to sippies, and brush his teeth, and have him in the "toddler room" at daycare. He's walking like an absolute super star, climbing, going up & down stairs. Strangers are astounded and I'm having to frequently explain that he's small for his age, not some sort of baby genius. Already he's starting on some toddler dramatics (he's learning from the absolute best!) and can cue the tears on demand when he's thwarted from whatever mischief he's up to (generally involving putting his food/toys in the dog bowl/recycling bin/toilet). But after every few minutes careening around the room, he orbits back for a quick sweet snuggle, only to launch again.

Big Brother B: More beginnings and endings. Daytime potty training happened, and he's loving his big-boy underwear. Seems to have shot up an inch or two overnight. The new shoes we bought (a whole size up from last year's shoes) are looking snug already. He can actually count things up to 5 (he could recite numbers to 20, but never actually got the counting until now). Got obsessed with the solar system after reading some strange book from the library and knows all the planets. So so quick to anger, eleventy-billion times a day he is shouting NOOOO! complete with fist clenching, foot stomping and throwing things over such heinous crimes as being asked to sit on the toilet, getting off the toilet when done, putting shoes on, taking shoes off, taking a bath, getting out of the bath, being offered food, not being given cake and ice cream for breakfast, etc...He is smart. So smart...in the bookish way. He remembers things, knows things, that kids his age may not know. But he's on the slow side for basic life skills---he can't yet use a fork or spoon, drink from a cup, dress or undress himself. And anything he can't do he refuses to do...easily frustrated, he will immediately say "I can't do it. Help me". How to get him over the fear of failure, to learn to try and try again?

Me: Hanging in there. I feel completely overwhelmed at work. Overwhelm generally leads to paralysis for me, so... yeah. I've got a big grant deadline approaching and I'm uncharacteristically behind.

I love fall weather, the crisp cool mornings are so energizing. But the shortening days remind me that soon I'll be coming home from work in the dark. There was a tinge of winter in the air this weekend, and I'm dreading the days we can't just send the kids out into the back patio while we're trying to work in the kitchen, or run to a nearby park when they get their cranks on. Winter with tiny ones can be tough.
Physically I'm always tired, despite getting enough sleep most nights. Migraines are coming back as my periods are returning, after a couple of years reprieve. Can't get my allergies under control despite oral antihistamines, nasal steroids, optical antihistamines daily. May have to break down and use that damn gross neti pot contraption that everyone is raving about.

Emotionally, the anxiety and occasional sadness keep bubbling up despite my efforts to suppress them. I have blamed sleep deprivation, infertility, pregnancy, nursing hormones, etc... etc... but I'm currently at baseline for sleep & hormones so I have nothing to blame. I think its just me. I'm still lacking motivation for anything beyond the basics in life. The general response to this is "be kind to yourself", which sounds so nice, but I'm not entirely sure what it means in practical terms. Relax? Shop? Eat? Drink? Veg? Those things sound nice and ARE nice in the moment but leave me empty after the fact. Sometimes the best thing for me when I'm a bit down on myself is to push myself to meet a challenge---which involves giving myself a kick in the ass initially; could this be the best "kindness"? I had to quit my ballet class to take B to swim lessons for a few weeks, and now I can't remember why I liked it so much. The weather is perfect for running, but I can't seem to bother. I've got a whole cabinet full of fabric I bought in a fit of motivation to sew things---including fun cartoon material I got in spring to make PJ shorts for the boys and several different patterns for making myself tank dresses---shorts and tank dress weather is over. I haven't ready a book in months, I started our last book club pick two days before the meeting and obviously did not finish (it was boring). Went to the meeting anyways, though, not missing a chance to get away for a couple of hours.  

G & I are falling back into our old pattern of going our separate ways once the kids are in bed. We talk, but its 100% about the kids, logistics, household maintenance type stuff. At the end of the day I don't have the energy to "work on our relationship", and I sense he feels the same way. I used to wonder how married couples "grew apart" when they clearly spent so much time together. Now I totally get it.

I realize this all sounds incredibly depressing, but honestly I still think I'm pretty damn lucky, and I often do feel a deep sense of contentment with my life. I am maturing---growing---into this new and bigger and deeper stage in life and these are my growing pains.