Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Wrap-Up

I don't think anyone would argue that 2008 has been a year to remember, for good and for bad. For the most part, I feel more than ready to kiss this year good bye and see what is waiting for me in 2009. It's been a big year with big moments, big stress and big emotions. While in general the feelings I'll associate with this year of my life cannot be pinned on particular moments, I was trying to think of the best and worst of 2008. I'll spare you the anxiety and frustration I have felt this year in the form of the worst days and give you instead my best five days of 2008. In chronological order.

April 4
- The day three little letters were tacked onto my name. Granted, the first few hours of the day found me more nervous than I think I've ever been before. But the rest of the day, starting with the minute I started my defense presentation, were amazing. I enjoyed my defense, that time-honored ritual in which you walk into a room a lowly grad student and emerge a Ph.D. I loved having my mom and step dad there to cheer me on as well as to take us out for a celebratory dinner and some much needed letting loose.

April 19 - My surprise Girl's Night (+Deano) on the town. Di and then-pregnant Geb flew to Tampa to surprise me as a congratulatory gift for graduating. Di and I realized pregnant women make the best designated drivers but have the appetite of someone who's been drinking heavily. And it was awesome that Deano could be there. It used to be no guys allowed but that became impractical when we started marrying off. But usually it's Paul (Mr. Geb) that gets to witness the spectacle. This time, Dean got to be an honorary "Girl" for the night and he had a blast.

July 19 - Our weekend getaway. My birthday present from Deano: a hotel room in downtown St. Pete along with tickets to the Rays game and the MC Hammer concert afterward. It was an all around perfect day, you can read all the details here. But what wasn't in the original post was something else that happened that day. I got a text message while at the game that my two cat friends had finally trapped the limping wounded kitten I had found two days earlier. McLovin would turn out to be my best birthday present and definitely one of the best things to happen in 2008.

September 7 - My last full day in Paris. At the start of 2008 I would have never guessed I would have spent a weekend alone in Paris. But we never know what life is going to throw at us. And even though I was terrified I'm so glad I did it. That Sunday I felt like I belonged in Paris. I went to the little bakery next door to my hotel for un pain du chocolat (a chocolate croissant) for breakfast. I took the ferry to Musee d'Orsay. I went to la Tour Eiffel and l'Arc de Triomphe. Yes, I felt like a tourist at these places, but my little bit of French, and my increasing confidence at using it, left me feeling like more than the average American floundering among the French. And my dinner! Not only was the braised lamb and mashed potatoes to die for, but the cute, flirty waiter and his willingness to speak French with me while resorting to English with the other tourist patrons was a major coup.

November 4 - Of course. Totally predictable, but I would be seriously remiss to leave it out. Now that the euphoria of that day has passed, I will confess. I almost voted for John McCain. Dean, another ardent Obama supporter begged me to vote for McCain. Shocked? Well, until November 4th 2008, every single candidate for major office that I had voted for had lost. Like any devoted baseball fan I was willing to take one for the team. But in the moment it counted, I went with reason instead of superstition. Hope instead of fear. That day in the lab we had the cable news feeds on the internets, listening to interviews of voters and their experiences and how they felt casting the most important votes of their lifetimes. I was so proud to be an American that day. We were both crying after the announcement. This unlikely candidate, who we both followed from the beginning, had won it all. I put my voice out there, and it wasn't always comfortable. But it was all worth it. Truth be told, I'm still giddy. And our next president is a big reason I feel good about 2009.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas from the Crazy Cat Lady and her Elves

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Perhaps the alternate title should be, She's Finally Gone off the Deep End.

Either way, Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Catblogging - Indignity

Sometimes if I have a funny cat picture, I share it on Fridays in solidarity with fermi's Friday Catblogging events. But I won't commit.

Last Friday, Deano noticed that Nellie's tail had a mysterious wound on it that looked bad. It was about the size of a dime, and was matted with fur. Despite the fact that I am nearly thirty, I did what I always do when I am unsure of how to proceed. I called my mom. Of course, I was expecting Mom to tell me to keep an eye on it and if it gets much worse think about taking her in. Instead my mom said, "I think you need to take her in." Because I didn't know where this wound came from, and because Nellie is eight years old and overweight, my mom was concerned about feline diabetes. In people, an early warning sign of diabetes can be sudden abscesses, wounds incurred by loss of feeling in the extremities (e.g. the tail, my initial thought was Nellie accidently burned herself sleeping too close to the radiator), and wounds that are slow-healing or not healing at all. Of course I panicked. But I decided to keep a close eye on her over the weekend and avoid taking her to an emergency vet unless things looked really bad.

Luckily, one of my first days in Providence I met another cat lady who has four cats and two are special needs so I asked her to recommend a regular vet and an after hours/emergency vet. She recommended a cat only clinic downtown that she warned "wasn't cheap." Despite the warning, I went with them anyway. For six years I went to a low-cost vet for routine procedures, but three different vets at that clinic had mis-diagnosed Allison's eye goop for herpes virus. Only the fourth got it right (blocked tear duct from infection as a kitten on the streets). For McLovin's amputation I went to a cat only clinic and despite the cost, he received exceptional care, and I enjoyed fantastic customer service.

I kept an eye on Nellie over the weekend and made an appointment for Tuesday since Monday was going to be awful at work. The vet there was outstanding. She was very friendly and not at all judgmental about Nellie's weight (I've also experienced the occasional chewing-out for not keeping her slimmer), but admitted she was "on the chubby side", which was always a challenge in a multiple-cat home. She said she thought the wound looked like an infected bite and that a diabetes screening wasn't a bad idea at all, especially since Nellie has never had any blood work done. Then her and the vet tech took Nellie into the other room to get her "all fixed up". When they brought her back to me, her tail was shaved and she had been fitted with a cone!!! The vet said that after getting a closer look at the wound, it definitely looked like a bite and that she'd call me in the morning with the diabetes results. In the meantime, she was put on a course of antibiotics. Poor thing - it wasn't even her fault and she has to suffer this indignity. Someone is in trouble, but it's tough to say who it was.

When the bill came I was in utter sticker shock. First, I thought they would simply do a blood glucose test like Patti LaBelle does. Instead, they did a full work up. But based on the pre-surgery blood work they did in Tampa for McLovin, the bill was still twice as much as I was anticipating. And I thought I was estimating liberally. Dean had a shitfit over the phone when I got Nellie home. But said it was worth it when he saw our poor girl with a lampshade and a shaved tail. And given the light tone of this post, you probably deduced that there were no signs of diabetes. ALL her blood work looked great.

Last night, I was snuggling our wounded one, scratching all her spots since she can't do it herself while she purred wildly, I remarked with mock bitterness that Nellie's blood work would just have to be my Christmas present this year. Immediately, Deano shot back, "watching her wear that damn cone is mine."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Different Kind of Christmas

For the first time in my life I am not spending Christmas with my parents. I'm not going to Minneapolis at all for the holidays. There were many reasons I made this decision. I will tell you the biggest reason. In years past, Dean's dad flew to Florida for Christmas, so I didn't feel so bad that while Dean didn't get more than a couple days off around the holidays (he never built up the seniority to take the time required to make a trip North worthwhile), I was a grad student and could take off for at least a week without batting an eye. This year I would have had to leave Dean by himself for Christmas. He swore to me that it was okay and that I should go to Minneapolis to be with family. He quit his job in Florida and took a lesser job here so that I could have this opportunity. It hasn't been easy here for us these past three months. But the whole time, Dean has been amazing and reminded me that we are in this together. And he's absolutely right, we are. Which is why I won't leave him for Christmas.

Sure, it's just a day. But every year on that day, I go to visit family and friends and think about that fact that after being together nearly nine years, Dean and I have spent exactly one Christmas together. It was our second Christmas, when Dean came with me to my grandparents' house. I can't imagine how foreign it must have felt for him to spend Christmas with people other than his own family. I still haven't even spent Christmas with his family. So this year, I'm excited to spend it with him. I'm not sure how it is going to go, we don't have a tree*, we're not going to exchange gifts**, and there probably won't be much open if we want to get out of the house. I'm not sure if I'm going to cook a fancy meal or if we'll do Chinese takeout and a movie with the Jews. But I know I'm not going to sweat it. There WILL be eggnog and it WILL contain brandy. Maybe we'll make our own crazy Christmas tradition, or maybe I'll book my tickets to Minneapolis 364 days early. But I owe this Christmas to Deano and I can't imagine anywhere else I'd rather be.

* We have attempted to have a Christmas tree only once. Our first year as cat owners, when we had only Nellie, I bought a 3 foot tall fake tree. Nellie not only managed to knock it over, but while we were sleeping dragged it into the hallway, dropped it outside our bedroom door and began howling, much like she does when she "hunts" the stuffed socks Dean's mom makes for her. I can only imagine things going downhill from there.

** We decided on this when we realized there was absolutely nothing either of us wanted or needed. Dean is notoriously difficult to shop for, and I gladly sacrificed a gift from him to me in exchange for not having to think of something nice to get him. Don't feel bad, trust me, it's much better this way.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Maybe I'll Get One for Hanukkah

My job has been keeping me sufficiently busy that Dean has felt compelled to help me in the kitchen lately. He's usually very good about keeping the living room picked up and doing the laundry. Thus far he has also been in charge of putting the dishes away but lately he also wants to help with other kitchen tasks which has forced me to loosen my death grip of control over all things kitchen. Which is probably a good thing.

Last night, after I made a huge pot of vegetable beef soup, I put Dean in charge of ladling the soup into single serving tupperware containers for freezer storage so the soup can be used for a couple quick dinners and lunches over the next two weeks.

Deano, parceling out soup: "Ugh, this takes so long."

Me, washing the dishes: "I know, but there isn't much of a way around it. Besides it saves so much time to be able to grab them out of the freezer when we want one or two."

Deano: "This would go a lot faster if you had a bigger dreidel."

Oy. He's still learning.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

8 Days in Bed, 3 Days in Boston

Another post that begins with my apologies for being MIA. I had written my last post earlier and posted it when I had a rare moment of lucidity last week. But I haven't really visited or kept up with the rest of you for several days. I had a pretty good excuse, I think.

Last Saturday (the one BEFORE Thanksgiving), I came down with the flu. And it wasn't the flu where you think you have a flu but is probably a bad cold that is still miserable but a cold nonetheless. I spent the majority of 8 days in bed with a fever of 103. I don't know about you, but when I feel like I'm coming down with something, I always look at the small silver lining that maybe if I have to stay home from work I can surf the internets all day, or finish whatever novel I haven't spent nearly enough time reading. But this. THIS was 8 days of teeth-chattering chills to the bone alternating with cold sweats and not really being able to do much else but think about how completely awful I felt. I couldn't go to work at all Thanksgiving week, and we of course didn't leave the house for Thanksgiving. And the evening after that, Deano and I had to miss a social gathering at my new boss's house. We were most upset at the last part, me because I'm still trying to make a good impression and Deano because he was desperate for more social interaction than a deleriously feverish wife, four cats and the landlady upstairs.

Sadly, we had planned on actually doing something fun for Thanksgiving weekend. At first we talked about going to New York City for the Macy's parade and Christmas shopping but planning for a weekend in New York is more than a little daunting and it didn't quite get done. In retrospect maybe it's a good thing that we didn't have to try to cancel an exhorbitantly-priced hotel room in the Big Apple. When we failed to make those plans we discussed a day trip to Salem or Newport. But neither of those could happen because I couldn't even make the transition from sweatpants to slacks let alone climb into a car. So instead, my doting husband waited on me hand and foot, ran errands, and assumed all cat duties for the week. Whatta guy. As for Thanksgiving dinner? McDonald's. And my lack of appetite caused me to opt for a Happy Meal.

On Friday I was very tempted to force myself to go to Boss's house for the dinner, but Deano had me on lockdown because the whole time I was sick in bed, the prospect of giving a talk in Boston this Tuesday was looming large over my head. That's right, the only thing worse than being immobilized by a nasty virus is experiencing it while knowing you abosutely must be somewhere to do something important in a short period of time. Ugh.

Luckily, just when I was beginning to believe that God DOES exist and was punishing me for my agnostic post a few weeks ago, things turned around for me on Sunday. By Monday I was able to attend the start of the conference in Boston, I gave my talk on Tuesday despite a hoarse, pre-pubescent-male-sounding voice and yesterday I rounded out the conference with a marathon day of sessions and beer/wine socials that kept me from getting home until midnight. The Providence to Boston commuter train, while awesome for shopping and sporting events, is an evil nightmare when it's 10:30 and you just want to be with your family. I'm beat and actually chose to forgo the last two days of the conference in favor of getting back in the lab. Usually these things are mostly good for trying to get jobs anyway. I've got one of those.

Lastly, the one good thing that came out of my 8 days in bed and 3 days in Boston was a deeply grateful feeling that I am still in academia. My boss was genuinely worried about me and my health. My lab mate gave an account of the group meeting I had to miss where Boss gravely announced I was very ill and went on to describe his own experiences moving to New England from a warm climate. Everyone sent emails checking in on me. And, well, conferences always have the effect of bringing co-workers closer together. My labmates that attended the conference all came to my talk and cheered me on. I haven't disliked my first two months here, but after this past week I finally feel like one of the group.