Thursday, July 2, 2015

Summer money project update

Why yes, I did notice that it is well past Sunday, when I expected my weekly post to be written. What happened? I got a spot to take my last licensure exam last Thursday to test Tuesday, so I did nothing but study from the time I registered for the test until I took it. Currently I'm librarying to check my score, and I passed! License and job here I come! Wheeeeee!

Currently I am wrestling with my spreadsheet to output percentages properly that mean something useful and I have the budget numbers crunched and spending analyzed but not yet presentable.

Today was the first day with no home internet so that's been different. The library isn't open again until Monday so it will be a thrilling and screen-light weekend. 

Trends I've noticed in our spending is that it really didn't take into account medical costs outside of meds and that's awkward. We also have a serious eating out problem, but because we are eating from the stash instead of buying most groceries, the eating out plus grocery budget is not that far out of line. I also paid for a shirt I ordered some months ago. While comics aren't technically in the summer spending embargo, I decided books were, so my spouse is getting new fun stuff to read and I'm not, so that will need addressing eventually.

I also realized the lawn service wasn't in the budget today. Since a lawn mower would cost more than the lawn service, it isn't something we could cut expense-wise. With that, I think our budgeted items cover about 97% of our monthly income so I'm gonna look for any job at all to fill the gap until my real job starts, whenever that might be. 

I hate money. That's all. Hopefully next week will bring two money posts once I get the rotting numbers properly crunched.

Happy Canada Day yesterday! Happy upcoming American Independence Day! We had poutine to celebrate the former and we will have ice cream for the latter.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sneaky toddler

You know how every now and then, a story hits the news about a 2 year old found at 7am a couple blocks from home? Everyone gets so judgy about how awful the parents are for letting the kid escape.

We have to lock the doors at night now that Little Monster has her crib changed to a toddler bed. After she started climbing out a week ago we figured we had no choice but to convert it. Three days ago she was crying in the morning because she got into the kitchen, shut the gate (or scaled it and couldn't get back), and was trapped. Last night I didn't think to lock the back door...

This morning the Kid came in to report she had convinced Little Monster to come back in from outside. They both arrived 5 minutes later (with Fluffinella, whew!) and Little Monster's hands were icy. She was in the fenced-in yard for some time. 

Oh my.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Trigger warning

A few years back, I was on a committee with a representative of the university veterans' club. I think we were working on "student concerns" generally - about the 4 hour wait for the bookstore at the start of semester and cafeteria food somehow and lack of childcare on campus. She was very deeply concerned that syllabi didn't have trigger warnings, particularly a class that required students to attend a field trip to an international street market downtown. Evidently a veteran had a nasty PTSD episode attending it and had no way to get an accommodation to do something else - it was attend or fail the class, and the student hadn't realized what cultures would be represented or zie would have tried to opt out more forcefully. My response (in my head) was that if you came home with PTSD or just some general twitchiness, then the world is a trigger and no amount of warnings could keep you safe. I'm still not sure if that was as insensitive as I thought it was at the time, but I didn't say it then and I probably wouldn't say that now in such a conversation. Not that bluntly anyway. Fundamentally I think though, there's no way to predict even your own triggers so how could anyone warn everyone about potentially triggering content?

I decided to get an IUD a few weeks ago. I was indecisive, we were indecisive about additional biologic children, I wasn't home anyway to get one installed, so after my annual check-up I stuck with the pills for a few more months. I stink at staying pregnant on the off chance I do get pregnant so I had no interest in any surprises, plus with PCOS I would rather not ovulate if I can avoid it to hopefully skip some cysts.

So I got the pesky thing installed and then it quit hurting, and then it got all newly stabby so I had to go back in to have it checked. The strings were out of place some too. Then a date with Wanda the wonder wand for another ultrasound. I was trying to think through how many of those I have had over the years and I had no idea how many. Too many.

It was such an unpleasant experience. I was tempted to cry. I may yet remembering it. Mostly because it went just like the ultrasound for a miscarriage - friendly banter with the tech, "oh you managed to have a full bladder for the external part! Most people seem to misunderstand that part..." "I've done this a few times before," "how many kids do you have?" and then silence when we got to the part that might be medical evaluation if the tech commented. Knowing everything is probably fine is one thing, but the silence still stung.

Of course there's also the obligatory recitation over and over of my pregnancy history, to every rotten person involved (and why does this ultrasound require knowing if they were vaginal births anyway?). The peppy young gal who did my procedure seemed totally unfazed by it, which stings too. The most visceral memory I have from my d&c was coming out of anesthesia and hearing the docs and nurses discussing their holiday plans with their kids and it's not one of those things that gets less painful. I have that nightmare maybe once a month still.

Of course when my doc called with the results (she sent a message saying "I'd like to speak to you about the results" online... totally useless and just out to scare me) I was outside planting something with the Kid and my spouse didn't make an effort to find me, so we wound up with "I guess the report online says everything I would have, she can read that." Except the report isn't online for a number of days. I gave up calling back because then I would certainly have cried, and who cries over an IUD? That's outrageous! I feel so... diminished because such a supposedly simple thing is so fraught.

In May I visited with my friend whose three kids are the ages of the Kid and pregnancies 2 & 3 would have been. That was hard driving there alone to remember, and then just once when the oldest was reminding me of their ages. I don't think he remembered me much since it had been 2 years so he doesn't remember how very well I know his birthday - the day my blood pressure was up and my doc threatened to induce me, but then it settled down just enough I could loaf on my couch another 4 weeks until I went into labor on my own. After that first hour, it was fine, we all had a blast hanging out and playing and soforth. Not much of a problem. I had this fantasy that it was better now, that I was "over" infertility kicking my tailfeathers for so many years. Hah.

Usually I don't notice any more the families that look like I'd thought ours might. I went to a baby shower willingly (for 5 minutes) and I visited a newborn and didn't cry. When people announce pregnancies, I don't have to actively not cringe and I'm usually genuinely happy with no residual sadness lurking. I am ditching baby stuff left and right without trying to save anything "just in case." This might be everyone in our family and I might be all right with that.

But sometimes the trigger sneaks up on you. Pesky infertility. It will really and truly always be parenting through (maybe adoption,) infertility, and loss. There will never be an "after." Sigh.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Project Summer Budget Crunch

I'm currently in the midst of all the magical limbo that is "I have a job, probably, almost certainly, but not yet and not until... eventually..." and also packing/preparing to move a 20+ hour drive away. It's a great mix of excitement and yet all the uncertainty.

Noemi over at Not A Wasted Word is doing a stick to a budget challenge for the summer and I decided to jump in with a personal spending embargo for our family. Until the end of the summer (so probably the start of September but maybe just before, depending on if my spouse needs a work wardrobe revamp) we are buying no clothes (except I need a third sweater and my spouse replaced 3 pair of underwear), no music, and no toys. There will be some kind of weekly (during the weekend) post about how this goal was met. Not sure what this will look like yet, but here's a starter!

At the same time we are doing some heavy purging of things in preparation for moving. First we thinned our expenses down to the bare minimum. We are ditching our TV service, internet, and a monthly donation to a cause we are lukewarm about. That nets us almost $100 a month, but we are increasing our trash pick up to potentially double its current cost so we only save about $65 total. There was no other room in our expenses to cut aside from eating out, groceries, and driving places. Lucky for us, we have food on hand to last us most of a month if not two, so our grocery budget shrunk as well.

Today we cleared out Little Monster's clothes and shipped a box to a friend who is expecting soon (along with a box of cloth diapers and other baby miscellany) plus 5 grocery bags of additional clothes between the girls (but mostly hers). Then we boxed the first bookshelf and donated a full box. Tomorrow we will purge adult clothes and hopefully the Kid's as well. #whoneedsit

I'm thinking I will post our different categories of budget for the week as a percentage - did we meet, exceed, or undershoot our goals - in addition to the specific categories where we should spend zero. Next week at the latest I will post what portion of our monthly income is budgeted for each of these categories. It's depressing how tight we are in terms of budget and income right now so the clear solution is for me to get a job already... 83% of our monthly income goes to fixed expenses, not including car operations. When you include internet and phone, it puts us at 88% and the car is only for show. If we use 2 tanks of gas, we are up close to 93%. Sigh.

Monthly budget categories
Health insurance
Car loan
Credit card
Student loans
Car insurance
Car operations (oil changes and fuel etc.)
Entertainment (aud.ible, DVD rental)

Did I miss any budget or spending categories? Anyone suggest a tracker that might be appropriate? Tracking what?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


Things are about to be wildly different around here. I didn't match to a residency but the interview process was super revealing to me. I am very different than I remember myself being and largely in a very positive direction. I handle stress in a generally positive way day-to-day. I have systems and checks to ensure I get the job done. I can creatively solve any problem. Nothing shocks me or throws me off my game anymore. That's neat.

I've accepted a job that's a two-day drive away in a fantastic location to practice. It's super rural and quiet and beautiful and has all the rural problems that are unexpected - high teen pregnancy rate, lots of substance abuse, drunk driving and traffic fatalities are very high. The downside I see is a lack of diversity but that isn't the end of the world. I suspect that the nature of the job being so rural will mean few to no amusing anecdotes about work, so I expect there will be more cute kid anecdotes in the future.

In the process of accepting this job, I decided to turn down an offer to practice in the second best place (in my view) to launch my career. It was a bit wrenching because it would have meant we could have stayed here and the salary was maybe 15-20% higher, plus half salary until I got licensed. Instead we decided that the perfect job was too great a chance to pass up.

I'm stuffing my brain for board exams coming up in the next few weeks. Chasing down the last bits of paperwork to be eligible for licensure is exhausting. I can now tell you entirely too much about the right forms to use when ordering different kinds of medications. Hopefully it's enough. Happy thoughts for the G_d of Partial Credit to smile on me appreciated.

I wish there were a way to make transitions easier for the kid, but I know she needs to learn to cope. We can provide coping techniques but she has to use them herself. Tonight was her first big crying jag about moving and school ending and everything. I hope it won't be a nightly thing but I likewise wouldn't be surprised if it were.

Little Monster is a very sassy two year old but is so much better at directions and listening than the kid. It's funny to watch them together where the kid suddenly realizes she should also follow directions when she sees Little Monster in action (especially putting away dishes after a meal, when Little Monster will carry hers halfway to the kitchen,turn around, and say "come on sisser!"). Little Monster has discovered that talking can be at a different volume and is using either shouting or whispering/squeaking at all times. Often she starts a sentence quietly and then finishes with shouting.

Overall despite turning things upside down, it's been nice to be home. I was gone for the best part of January through the first week in May so it's been an adjustment. It's weird that it won't be home much longer.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Is this romance?

I got asked to edit a friend's romance novel a few months ago, so naturally I started thinking critically about the genre and its moments of unreality. Here are a few observations:

1. What's with all the fake marriages/engagements/etc.?

Only once in my life have I known anyone to consider a marriage for some reason other than intending to be married thereafter (so everyone else has gotten married because they luuuurve each other or were arranged to be married). In the case of the considered fake marriage, they didn't end up going through with it anyway. In my recent reading of way too many romance novels, I'd estimate about 1 in 15 is a fake marriage/engagement that becomes real and about another 1 in 10 is what I'll call an accidental marriage (amnesia/too drunk to remember/etc). I understand that it's more interesting if they met some improbable way but those odds are over the top.

2. What's with every conversation about ditching condoms including her saying "I'm on the pill" and almost universally him saying "it's been a long time since I was with anyone else so I'm clean?"

Two problems here: I really hope more women are using some contraception besides the pill than the only one in about 100 romances I can vaguely recall from the last year or so (implant, IUD, shots are much more reliable and require much less attention from the user). Granted it may be cost, but I really hope women are using something better than just the pill at a higher rate than that.

Secondly, STDs do not magically vanish just because you haven't had sex in a long time. They need treatment and you need to be tested to know you had them. HIV is silent until you are late in the disease and have AIDS. I am strongly in favor of the joint testing visit and the reading results together and then swapping in a new relationship before you ditch condoms. No heat of the moment "oh, everything will be all right baby" conversations should be accepted either.

3. Why are all the strong female characters so interested in being dominated by a guy, often a guy who is of a very different status in life (ie she's a lawyer and he's a welder or a farmer)?

In real life, women tend to attach themselves to folk of a similar level of education and status within the community. This big disconnect that is very common in romances just doesn't happen nearly that often. See: CEOs married to CEOs of other companies. I'm not saying it's impossible, just so improbable that it bugs me. Likewise you see a lot of the big, powerful man (usually physically big and economically powerful) rescuing a plain and simple woman from her drudgery.

I get the appeal but it's a nasty heteronormative trope that even the most successful woman wants a man to take charge of her life (or some part of it).

4. The "jerk factor" gets overcome all the time. He's a jerk, she ditches him, they get back together because he apologizes. I feel like this kind of story is great for telling women who are in an abusive relationship to give the abuser just one more shot because this time things will be different. That makes it dangerous to glorify it as the only way a relationship could ever work (he screws up, she forgives him). I worry that this story tells women also that they should be forgiving of any transgression. It makes women doormats to be traipsed all over. Dislike.

5. Where are the "we met on the internet" romances? I don't think I've read any like that in the last year (again I read about 100 to 125 different romances in that time) or ever. Yet I know quite a few people who met their spouse on the internet somehow or other (ranging from a random blog hop to twit.ter to internet dating sites). I imagine this will be a growing area but I'm shocked it hasn't exploded already. I've been on the internet the majority of days in the last 15 years so it follows internet hook-ups have been common and getting more common that entire time.

So why does it matter? Romances are the one genre where you can get published because they sell better than hotcakes. My spouse buys me a grocery bag of them for a dollar at the semiannual library book sale and there's always a vast quantity left over after the sale. Many women read romances, lots of them. The magnitude of the messages that get repeated is therefore high just because the same things are being said over and over again.

Just like the way little girls get the "someday my prince will come" story stuck in their subconscious after hearing fairy tales about the prince saving the princess a thousand times, likewise these story lines matter because of sheer repetition.

Can we do anything about this? No idea but I think knowing the problem is a good first step. At the least it gives us all a chance to critically consider what media we consume so we know when someone is selling us something we'd rather not buy - ideas included.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Life with limited internet

It is very strange to be without the internet at home. It's been a good break from being excessively plugged in but also hard because it means no video chatting with my babies who are far away.

It's really weird to not have access to any social media or news. I'm in this bubble where the only news I get is from the local paper that is usually in the break room, and even then, they really only cover local things (police officer killed in the line of duty, family of dead shooter says he was a nice guy and leave us alone, upcoming school events, etc.).

I caught up on blogs today and it blows my mind how out of touch I have been and yet how nice it is to read a physical book too. I'm not sure I properly remember the time before I caught up with friends online.

The big challenge is applying for jobs. On weeknights my borrowed internet at a neighbor's house is too slow for most online application sites, on weekends I am either busy or fed up with more applications. I didn't match but I'm not done scrambling for a residency yet, so it's hard to feel super driven to apply for things like I really should. Then again after the grueling residency application and interview process, I'm also a bit burned out on the whole thing.

It's a very complex experience trying to keep how much I miss home in check so I can remain functional on this rotation. It has all sorts of awesome opportunities and projects (that mostly require the internet to complete... hmm...) and I need to keep my head in the game. Everyone keeps asking if I miss the girls, and I never quite know what to say. If I think about it too long, I just cry, and it's awkward to cry at work or during a party, so I've been not thinking about it much, only crying every couple of days. I did a lot more crying my first rotation away and then was only kind of successful at getting my head in the game for my first rotation after winter break, so I know what I shouldn't be doing...

The other big thing I miss now that the internet is mostly unavailable is library downloadable books. My mobile doodad only connects to the interwebz over wifi and my borrowed internet is wired only so it means no new books for me. Given that I have a remarkable amount of time to read on this rotation (when I'm not working on projects or actually at work or theoretically studying for my boards) this is HARD. Luckily I have a heap of physical books I could be reading, but few have struck my fancy and there are no libraries or book stores here...

Next weekend I'm going to the city (6 hours away) and I am certainly going to get some new books, either digital or physical, so I don't get stir crazy and start hiking in ill-fitting shoes or something. Any suggestions? I'm interested in just about anything but especially sci fi/fantasy, romances that aren't awful, and non-fiction related to science or sociology or history (but not WWI) or maybe even parenting.