Thursday, May 21, 2009

Peace of Mind

A rare glimpse of our problem child, Wrigley, at rest.

I am feeling good these days. Being able to say that at this stage in my life under these economic conditions is a triumph. Sure, I am busier than ever working, traveling, getting ready for the next move but I have peace of mind which is absolutely invaluable.

I don't think I was ever officially clinically depressed this past year, but I think if I hadn't used the tools I acquired recovering from my previous bouts it could have happened. A little over a year ago, I got my Ph.D. with no job offer in hand. This was discouraging since I had heard so many stories from professors about how easy it was to find a job once they graduated, how in demand physics Ph.D.'s were. I applied for a fellowship for my dream job in D.C. and got turned down for it almost exactly a year ago. I was disappointed, but never truly believed I could get it since it was only awarded to a handful of people each year.

The weeks without an impending job turned into months and I became distraught and withdrawn. I went on a couple interviews and the fit wasn't right. I tried not to take it personally, my advisor said I was too specialized. But nevertheless, I didn't want to talk about it with anyone except Deano, whose future was on the line as well as my own. That's partly why the blogging decreased. Talking to friends and family decreased too.

I accepted this current position knowing it was temporary, it would be tough, and the pay would suck. The result? I put my head down and worked my ass off, planning to stick it out one maybe two years and hopefully my time here would pay off career wise. So as you may imagine, this regimen still did not make me very happy. Sure I had Deano and the kitties. We spend every other weekend together as a happy family, while on alternate weekends he is scheduled to work and I rely on discipline to be extra productive especially in my competitive workplace. In this I found a little joy and a stronger bond with Deano via the age old "we're in this together" perspective. Our brief time together is spent not only traveling to minor leage ball parks (his passion) and awesome New England diners (mine), but also conspiratorially whispering about how weird it is here and what crazy things the Rhode Islanders do. But my overall feeling was that how things were going, the place I was in careerwise and geographically was making me miserable. And I didn't want to talk about it. I just wanted to get past it and close this chapter in my life.

I am trying hard not to build up my new job too much. But things have changed for us so much since the offer. At first, I wasn't sure if I was going to take it. Of course my first thought was that becuase the position was created from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, I had been called to service in my own little way by a president who was finally taking science funding seriously. But I had already started the application process for a permanent position on the periphery of science because I was so fed up with the hierarchy of the scientific community, especially academia. That's a whole other post that will have to wait until the frustration is a little farther off in the rear view mirror. But when Deano told me to take it without even thinking twice and my new group was so helpful and supportive I knew I made the right decision, the first one I can be sure of in a long time. I am sleeping better, I have a better temperment, less anxiety, and something to really be excited about. I feel more confident in my abilities after months of doubting myself. Sometimes I even tell Deano that I'm glad I didn't get the job the first time around. Living a consistently charmed life leaves you with less of a sense of appreciation. He doesn't necessarily agree.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

MB's Guide to New England Travel

Life has gotten busy. I know this has been happening ever since we left Tampa and really ever since I graduated over a year ago now. There is so much I always want to say, but I am severely lacking the time to sit down and say it. But I am trying my best. Since my book blogging idea seemed to have gone over like a lead balloon, I'll probably scrap that idea from now on, blogging about the books I especially like since the feedback on my review was good and it some seemed to have found it interesting and helpful.

It also seems like since I accepted the new position, there is all of a sudden an urgency in getting the things done that we want to do in the four months we still have in New England. Don't get me wrong, I'd rather have a busy spring and summer enjoying New England while we can if the alternative is fighting out another winter here! But what you've heard is true. The spring here is amazing, and much appreciated after a long, snowy winter season.

So for now, I'm going to group all the fun things we've done over the last month into one post. I don't really like doing that since I know I as a reader prefer short, frequent posts on other people's blogs to long, infrequent ones. But hey, sometimes you've just gotta take a few minutes to write when you can get them.

Last month my mom and step dad flew to Providence to visit us over the long Easter weekend. I knew it would be great to see them. Forever I had wanted them to see our apartment, and meet McLovin, our latest addition. Finding out about my new job just a couple weeks earlier had eliminated much of the underlying stress I had been experiencing since accepting this job, knowing it was only temporary. All this made for a fantastic time together.

My amazing husband was able to get us all tickets to the Red Sox - Rays game at Fenway on that Thursday afternoon. The weather was absolutely perfect and I'm happy my parents could see a little bit of Boston, where they hadn't ever visited. I hadn't yet been to Fenway, and I loved it. The running joke since then is a comment I made to Deano afterwards: "I LOVE Fenway! I just wish the Red Sox didn't play there." Sorry, Sox fans. But I'll never come around. For the most part, my Evan Longoria jersey t-shirt was ignored, until he hit a double, then a home run, then a single. After that I put my jacket on. Afterall, I'm still a non-confrontational midwesterner at heart.

While my parents were here we finally made it to Newport too. It was so much fun. We got there late because we took the long way (which pretty much took us through ALL of Rhode Island) and putzed around the downtown area (I have restaurant recommendations if anyone is going...) before finally taking Ocean Drive to the mansions on Bellevue Avenue. To be frank, I had no idea Rhode Island could be so beautiful. We live in a rather run down neighborhood on the border of Providence with another blue-collar suburb. And while it's functional, it isn't much to look at. But the coast line and the mansions were so amazing, we went back two days later when we found out the mansion tours operated on Easter (unlike many other local tourist attractions).

We really got into the mansion tours and even into learning about society life in New England during the late 1800s to early 1900s. I'd highly recommend spending time in Newport if you are in New England. And it's one of those places that are as cheap or expensive to visit as you want. There are very good, reasonable sandwich shops downtown and it costs nothing to just drive along the coast sightseeing. But there are also excellent restaurants and informative tours for a little extra.

The day in between the two days we spent in Newport, we went to Salem, someplace I had been wanting to see since learning we'd be moving to the area. I'm going to be frank. Salem is a total tourist trap. We had fun and learned about the history of the town and the Salem Witch Trials (and I bought an informative book on the subject). But the town seems awfully eager to exploit a rather dark part of American history and despite the Salem Witch Museum's message of the benign nature of "true witches" there was plenty of campy images of pointy hats, black cats and warts. Just a litte disappointing. We also visited their pirate museum which consisted of a bunch of mannequins dressed like pirates enacting out various "scenes" and a smarmy twenty something dressed as a pirate giving a tour. In predicabale fashion, he left us towards the end so we could conclude with a self-guided tour, only to have the bejesus scared out of us by a live pirate jumping out as us at the end. I wouldn't have expected less. But the real history of piracy in New England is very interesting (not to mention timely), and I'm glad I know more. Even if I do feel like a tourist. I do have to concede that we went there when it was raining and we were limited to indoor activities like museums and gift shops. I really would have liked to walk around more, even though the brochure seemed to indicate there wasn't a whole lot from the 1660's left in Salem to look at.

All in all it was such a fun trip. It was great to see my parents and see what they thought of this new place for us (it's a little different from Florida). The only disappointment was I really wanted them to get to know McLovin. It turns out he's still feral. The sad part is we NEVER have house guests, so we didn't know how he'd react to visitors. Here we thought we had done such an amazing job socializing him since he just acts like the other three around us. But he was still really shy around my parents. He came around a little towards the end.

Since then, Dean and I have taken two weekend trips to Connecticut. The first was to New Britain. If New Britain sounds familiar to you Minnesotans, it is because it is the home of the New Britain Rock Cats, AA affiliate of the Twins. The town itself wasn't terribly impressive (though if you find yourself there, you HAVE to go to Miss Washington's diner. Oh. My. God.) . But the stadium was nice and the game was a lot of fun. I got a Justin Morneau Rock Cats jersey tee and we stayed for fireworks after the game. I hadn't seen a fireworks display in a looooong time, but this one was really impressive. Plus, it was nice to be in a town where there were legitimate Twins fans. We are so saturated by Boston sports (hence the pushback on our part) that we forgot what it was like to be amonst our own people. And the people of New Britain know their Twins baseball.

We also went to Norwich for a Connecticut Defenders game. They are the AA affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. That was pretty fun too, though I must admit their gift shop was a disappointment. The stadium food there more than made up for it. Hnads down the best selection of high quality food I've sesen at a minor league stadium. Again the weather was nice. Instead of Twins fans, there were Giants fans. I was again reminded of how little I follow West Coast baseball, but oh well.

That's my travel log for now. I'm not sure where we're off to in the near future, but we are all booked up for a trip to Maryland next month to look at apartments. Courtesy of my new job. Eek!