Tuesday, August 4, 2015

This is home

Growing up on a farm near a claustrophobic little town, I ran as fast as I could out of there after high school. Much to my surprise, I only ran to the nearest city for college, but it worked. City! I loved it for the first year or so. Then I wound up with my own apartment in a big old house that had been split up. It was the oldest house for miles around and had originally been at the center of a big estate so it was on the highest hill around. It was 27 steps up from the garage (aka carriage house) to the front door. Sitting in my living room I looked into the third floor windows of the apartment building next door. The best part about that apartment was the giant yard. If anywhere reminded me of Tatania's bower, it was that oasis. So much green, lovely flowers, big old trees, it was awesome. Back there I could pretend I was out somewhere with no neighbors for miles around for up to 10 minutes at a time. Then someone across the street would shout or kids from the next block would come screaming by on their bikes or there'd be a car crash.
Since we've been together, the spouse and I have wandered a great deal. In the last ten years, we've moved ten times and lived here for three of those years. Nowhere before has come close to being ours. Some of those changes have been good, a few very sad, but hardly any nostalgia. We took a picture of us with the kid in her baby bucket when we left the apartment where we lived when she was born, but I have no idea where it is now. We would have stayed there if we could have but the place and the people weren't worth cobbling together work until a real job opened up at the time. In pictures I have to guess the age of the kid to tell you where we lived then because the places are meaningless, hollow, just wherever we had landed.
I've noticed that folks either want a job and that takes them to a place, but they don't let it become home most of the time because they know they're chasing the job wherever it takes them, or they are attached to the place and will take whatever work there might be to stay, sometimes to the point of starving during unemployment. Complex place-work relationships seem to be the norm these days with so many people unmoored or feeling tied to a place.
I've been trying to see what I think about this place we live now. I mean, it's been a good three years here. We've built a good niche in the community and have improved our little corner of it. But when the moment of truth came, we didn't choose to stay and take the work this place offered. We decided on chasing the dream job (spoiler: dream 1 didn't work out so there has been frantic job searching while I've mostly stayed pretty chill that the right job will appear). I guess I'm not sure if that choice means this place isn't worth fighting for, or if all that wandering has meant we are no good at recognizing a great place when it's right under our noses. At any rate, here we are, at an end and a beginning.
It's further interesting to have a job interview where the employer really wants to be sure you want the place as much as the job. I get that rural healthcare is hard because since most folks train in cities, they get used to cities and want those amenities, so rural places are a pit stop used only to get enough experience to get the city job that's always been the goal. I believe I've complained about it as a patient. We've been here three years and I've run through five primary care providers (and the ob I liked has also left) and I didn't have one for the first 8 months we were here. Still it's strange to have the "why this place?" question weigh so heavily. I have to decide how honest an answer to give in the second interview - the place meets my minimum criteria of a pizza place, grocery store, school, and job by far and it even has a dealer for our quirky little car, or I could try to capture the intangible "I think this may be my place" gut reaction I had when I visited the town. I'm a very private person. In almost no interviews have I mentioned the girls early on. In one, I got asked "so you live with your parents in Town then?" and I laughed so hard. So I explained that no, none of my parents are in the "we" who have lived here three years. For this second interview, my family is asked to come so my spouse can also be on board with this move and this place so hopefully we stay for years to come. Strange to think of an employer who wants an employee as invested in the place as the job, but yet that's the kind of place I want to work, where when they say they're committed to quality rural healthcare, they mean it.
I just hope we have time to get ready to move if this job happens since I'm likely to start right away.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Poof

During one of my rotations, I worked with the physical therapy department on a resource about medications that suppress the vestibular system for them to share with doctors when managing mutual patients. While attempting to review the literature (it's slim) and then designing a table of medications relevant, I often imagined the little circular deal in cartoon form saying, "Help! Help! I'm being suppressed!" 

(Nitty gritty aside: if we are retraining the body and the vestibular system so the patient feels not dizzy while doing ordinary things, suppressing the vestibular system is bad because it prevents the development of compensation, so while the meds help a dizzy person feel better in the short term, it hinders their ability to get better in the long run.)

Anyway, the vestibular system is what should help keep a person in balance. Fluid, little crystals, all that jazz with technical names I could bore you with. The cool thing about this particular type of dizziness that happens when the rocks get into the wrong place within the ear, the kind treated by PT that we can kind of manage with medications but not really and the side effects are big, is that the PT works very suddenly. One minute the world spins and then the patient is guided through some fancy falling in just the right way, and the world is right again.

Poof.

6 or 7 weeks ago, I was reaching into the closet for something at the back, diagonally from the far side of the open sliding door. I whapped my head on the frame of the closet and was immediately super dizzy. I thought it would go away, and it got better, but not much. I could barely move my head without getting super dizzy and sometimes a bit nauseous. No bending, certainly no bending and then getting up quickly or repeatedly (say to pick up the thousands of blocks on the floor and return them to a bin), no quick turns of the head to see Little Monster scaling the coat rack moments before it started to tip toward a table covered in books and no darting to rescue her, or picking her up from the floor when she tipped the thing over and banged her knee again.

After about 2 weeks of the dizziness, I went to see a doc and got referred to PT, but then had another 10 days to wait before the appointment. After just that first session I felt 60% better and I picked up the floor of the garage for 25 minutes before I nearly threw up. Then after the second session, I was miraculously all better.

I mean it's one thing to read the literature and hear from experts that the "poof" moment happens, often even when treating this condition. It's another to suddenly feel normal again, to remember what normal was like and to experience it again just like the memory. Whoa.

I think that "poof" sensation is what we are conditioned to think will happen if we've experienced infertility and/or a loss and then start parenting. It is certainly a lie we get fed and a myth we need to dispel. I must admit I was sure this "poof, now the dizziness is gone!" might exist for some people but based on my experience, I doubted it would work for me. I'm never so lucky as to have things go smoothly or simply of as expected. But then it did.

Maybe I will try being less jaded in the future. Mostly I plan to remain cautiously open to miracles and "poof" moments.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Of monsters and bedtime

Friday morning, the spouse and Kid went off to some science-y adventure or other early on. I was still sleeping on the couch when they left after a long night attempting to sleep and failing. At about 10am I was awoken by Little Monster crying upstairs. I figured she would tromp down any second to announce she wanted seeral for breakfast. Eventually she arrived, still sobbing and dragging her blankets. We have a "no downstairs blankets or pacifiers" rule and she had both so I figured she must be really upset so I hugged her extra tight.

She told me "I have a bad dream. The monsters scare me. Then the dragon come flying around and it carry me away." I hid my shocked face, because seriously, whose 2 year old says stuff like that, and how did they sneak her into my house and why does she look so much like my aunts? Then we talked about it until she had settled down under her blankets next to me on the couch. I let her watch all the princess movies she wanted because she seemed feverish and yanked on her ear so I suspected yet another ear infection.

Then at noon she perked up and demanded food. She ate a vast quantity of food and then demanded another hot dog upon learning the berries were all gone. The rest of the day she was pretty close to normal but at "nap time" she had a fit about being alone in her bed and wouldn't sleep anywhere, despite being staggeringly tired. Bedtime rolled around and I knew big measures were needed to convince her to sleep at all.

So I told the girls about Monster Spray. You spray it around the room before bed and it keeps all the monsters out. (Some pharmacy in North Dakota made all the pharmacy news blogs a while back selling the stuff. Smart. I bet theirs smells nice.) They settled in for stories with my spouse and I dug out a little spray bottle, one I thought was broken and wouldn't spray even if there were water in it (why do we have so much junk?), loaded it up, and then sprayed around the room twice for good measure. On the second pass we discovered that the bottle still works eventually... Whoops. Saturday night I sprayed the room again after stories, because routines are always wise.

Sunday night after we put Little Monster to bed on time for once (after a 1.5 hour battle, but still before we officially crossed the line into "whoa it's late"), the Kid finished her stories and bedtime routine and seemed to be staying put in bed after a half hour. Then she snuck downstairs and asked me if I would use the Monster Spray on their room.

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
Rent
Utilities
Phone/internet
Health insurance
Car loan
Credit card
Student loans
Car insurance
Car operations (oil changes and fuel etc.)
Groceries
Snacks
Entertainment (aud.ible, DVD rental)
Toys
Music
Clothes

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