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Archive for July, 2012

Signing out

This has been a pretty terrible summer.

Not in the sense that anything super tragic has happened, but it just hasn’t been great. I’ve been unemployed since May. And while the standard, unbelievably sexist line I have gotten is “it doesn’t matter! Your husband is going to be a lawyer! He has a job! You’re pregnant!” for our family, it does matter. I’ve been the primary breadwinner of late, so me being without work has meant us taking a financial hit. Despite helpful advice like, “just get a job!” I’m still out of work. This isn’t something we really foresaw – every career counselor I talked to assured me I was an excellent candidate for the jobs I was applying for, and we had planned on me moving to Helena in the spring and starting a job there. That’s not how it worked out. Then I swore to John I’d make money anyway, so I started nannying, and that job unexpectedly ended without enough time for me to get a new one before we moved.

Then last week I had a job interview.

Finally. It was something I was way overqualified for, basically the job I’ve been doing for the last year, minus about 90% of my responsibilities. It went terribly. The interviewer spent the majority of the time trying to get me to rescind my application because I was pregnant. (Which, yes, is illegal. But I kept getting the advice of “be honest,” and there’s not a lot you can do when you are being discriminated against). Probably realizing it was illegal for her to say, “you cannot have this job because you are pregnant,” she finally said, “well I can leave your name in for consideration if you want, but we are expecting lots of other applicants. Usually most people who apply for this job are retired.”  I left my name in for consideration mainly out of not wanting to give into her rudeness, and partially out of curiosity. I don’t think I would work for the company based on how I was treated regardless, though.

So we don’t have a lot of money right now.

Then there has been this week. This week (well, last Friday), I was told I either have whooping cough or bronchitis. The doctor didn’t run a test, saying that because I was pregnant she didn’t want to wait for results but start treatment immediately, just in case. Largely I feel okay, but hot, tired, and my chest burns. And of course there is the gut wrenching coughing, made extra uncomfortable by the fact that there is less room in my gut than normal. Every cough slams my uterus into my bladder, made extra tender by the fact that cough syrup’s main ingredient is citric acid – an irritating substance.

Whooping cough wouldn’t be a huge deal, if it wasn’t for the fact that my husband is taking the bar this week and we move this weekend. So at night I cough into my pillow, trying not to wake him so he can get a precious few hours of sleep, and by day I try to get my tired ass up to do something productive towards our move.

So over here, we’re poor, sick, unemployed, and stressed.

And of course, pregnant.

Which, of course, isn’t a cure-all. It’s not “who cares if you are unemployed and poor and sick? at least you’re pregnant!” because part of the reason I do care about being poor, unemployed, and sick is that I’m pregnant!

All this to say, blogging isn’t something I need in my life right now. I love writing, but the stress of “should I say this? Should I say that? Will this offend someone? Should I write more?” just isn’t something I need. Maybe I will resurrect this address one day, but I must say that I hate when bloggers just disappear, so I wanted to at least say good bye. My e-mail address will be the same so feel free to contact me.

Adieu.

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I have received a lot of well-intentioned comments on my being diagnosed with interstitial cystitis over the past few years. Because it’s a rare and unknown disease, most people didn’t know what to say, and quite a few of the comments weren’t what I needed to hear in the place I was in at that moment. I don’t begrudge people for trying, but I thought it might help to share a few thoughts on things not to say to someone with a chronic illness.

1. I would die if I had to live like that.

No, you wouldn’t. This one I might hate the most, because to me it sounds a little like “your life isn’t worth living.” You would adjust and adapt, and it might suck, but you wouldn’t die. Chronic illnesses can require a lot of lifestyle adjustments, particularly for ones that aren’t currently curable or treatable by modern medicine.  Significantly changing your lifestyle is by no means fun, but it’s not deadly.

What to say instead: That sounds really hard. How are you adjusting?

2. Have you tried acupuncture, this doctor, this herb, standing on your head, sleeping more, seeing an astrologist, drinking dragon’s tooth tea? I have a friend of a friend who had something like that and they did this so you should too.

Unless you are a trained medical professional in that area, or you, your spouse, or child have had this disease – do not offer advice. Particularly if the disease is incurable/untreatable, because trust me, the person in question has already researched every legitimate and baloney treatment out there. There’s a pretty likely chance that the friend of a cousin of a friend you are talking about did not have the same condition anyway. Granted, this isn’t limited to well meaning friends/family/strangers – my urologist suggested I try a lemon juice cleanse. *Facepalm*

What to say instead: What are you doing to take care of yourself?
Or if you are really pretty sure you have some good advice/know someone who does: “Would you want me to ask my cousin who has the same condition for some advice?” or “I’ve heard a little about this if you want me to throw some things out there to try.” But don’t force it.

3. At least it’s not _________ (cancer, typically).

This is a big one. If you read any of this, read this one. DO NOT SAY TO SOMEONE “AT LEAST IT’S NOT….” Here’s why:

You probably don’t have a good understanding of what they are going through. With IC for example, the pain and influence on lifestyle has been rated to be on par with having cancer or being on kidney dialysis, two things which we know aren’t small potatoes. And here’s the thing, you don’t know where they are emotionally with their illness. In my darkest moments soon after getting diagnosed, I wished I had cancer. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful I don’t and am not trying to minimize the pain of those who do. But in my head, at that time, cancer was either a) treatable, or b) fatal. When I was in the height of pain, the thought of living with that pain for the next 60 years seemed unimaginable. When I first went to the doctor with what I thought was a stubborn bladder infection that might need an extra dose of antibiotics, coming out with a lifelong illness that would never be cured was not a good feeling. Going for a screening months later that ruled out cancer, sure – finding out I didn’t have cancer then was a relief.

Here’s the other thing: you can’t compare suffering.  Yes, some suffering is objectively worse than others. But when your heart is full of pain – it is full. It doesn’t matter to you that you would be able to stand more pain if something worse happened, your heart still just feels full. You wouldn’t tell a mother who lost a child at least she didn’t lose all her children. You wouldn’t tell someone who lost their house in a fire that at least they don’t live in a war torn country. Don’t try to compare suffering, ever, in any circumstance. You won’t make people feel grateful for what they have, you won’t shed a happy light on the situation, you will only make them feel guilty for feeling bad for themselves. And sometimes, it’s OK to feel sorry for yourself.

What to say instead: How did you react to the news? Were you disappointed or relieved?

4. That sucks. Hey! Did I tell you about the annoying thing my co-worker did the other day?

Pretending nothing wrong is annoying too. Someone you care about just went through a huge life changing diagnosis (or is trying to find a diagnosis for a difficult illness). Even if you don’t “get it,” offering a little (or no!) pity and then just moving on isn’t helpful either. When I was diagnosed with IC, it was like being hit with a mac truck (says someone who has never been hit by any vehicle). My life would not be the same. My husband’s life would not be the same. I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to hold a full time job, if I could have kids, if I could ever travel to all the far off destinations I dreamed of, if I could ever eat my favorite foods again, go a day without debilitating pain, go an hour without having to find a restroom, or even just live a normal life. It was a big.f-ing.deal. And so I told my close friends, who ranged from sympathetic, to confused, to a little uninterested. When I’m with people I don’t know well, I play it off like it’s an annoying allergy .”Oh yeah, I just can’t digest acid properly so no beer for me!” But the truth is, it’s way more than that. (And the diet much more serious than some fad diet!) So it can hurt when people just ignore it too.

What to say instead: Hey, I’m really sorry about that. Do you want to talk about it?

In conclusion

If your words are well intentioned, you won’t hurt people by them. But please, don’t try to minimize someone’s pain or to over dramatize it. It won’t make them feel better. Be there to listen and offer love and support.

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I’m bored.

It’s been about 2 months since I’ve graduated. Since then there has been one official job rejection, one interview, and two “we should have something opening up soon and we’ll call you then” that I haven’t heard back from. It’s pretty discouraging and depressing, especially since we decided staying at home with a newborn is a priority and thus I’m not looking for any new full time positions. Even if it’s a choice I made, it doesn’t make me feel any less like a bump on a log.

When I was a kid and would say I was bored, my mom told me to go clean my room. I would reply that cleaning your room is boring too so that wouldn’t help the situation. Being an adult, I must say, my feelings haven’t changed. Cleaning is boring.

So what have I been doing lately? The week after graduation I took a week long intensive course to finish up my public health certification. John graduated. A few days after that, I started a nannying job that looked promising. It was only about 10 hours a week, but something was better than nothing! The kids were adorable and well-behaved. I really enjoyed it. A month later, though, the mom told me they had changed their mind about needing a nanny in July. I don’t think it was personal (though how can you ever really not think that?), because I’m sure they  would have communicated if there had been a problem. Unfortunately, I had planned on having the job through July, and mid-June I was unemployed anew.

Boo.

I was doing a little research for a professor that I had ben working on since last fall. The grant money, unfortunately, was dried up. But I was willing to work for free because it was a chance at a publication. I finished my piece of the research a few weeks ago and turned it in. The last I heard was a “Got it, thanks.”

So still unemployed, now with nothing to do.

I took to Facebook, begging anyone to hire me to do anything legal that didn’t require (much) manual labor. I got a gig housesitting. Housesitting is awesome and terrible at the same time. The amount you get paid is largely less than the amount of work you do. I think the general expectation is that you’ll move into the house you are sitting for, but because the couple forgot to mention they had a cat, my husband can’t stay there (allergic). And we didn’t want to spend 10 days apart, especially as they forgot to give me the internet password. So instead I’m going over there 2-3 a times a day to feed and walk the dog, water the garden and grass, get the mail, etc.

On the other hand, we get to play house for a bit. A dog to walk, a nice deck to sit on, a kitchen to cook in that has amenities like space and a dishwasher. The washer and dryer doesn’t work, unfortunately.

That gig ends tomorrow. Which leaves me doubly, triply unemployed. Helpful suggestions like “just get a job” will be ignored.

We move in three weeks. Don’t tell John, because that means it’s less than 3 weeks until he takes the bar. There’s much I would typically be doing, and things I keep think I should be doing – but none seem practical. “Ooh, I’ll sew some curtains for the new place! But wait, I don’t know how big the windows are or what color rug will buy. Guess that should wait.” Or “I’ll start packing up the stuff in the office! Oh, no, John is still using that room to study.” I STRONGLY believe that mess is not conducive to studying effectively, so I don’t want John to be studying for the biggest test of his life (no pressure, hun) in the nightmare that is packing a 512 ft apartment.

So I’m just bored. Bored, depressed, and unproductive. The real problem is boredom begets boredom (that and we’re just about broke.)  So while I think of the the thousands of things I could do with a summer of freedom (travel! hang gliding! fabulous hiking!) it seems that virtually everything, with the exception of reading and surfing the internet require a) money, b) not being prego, or c) someone who is likewise unemployed and free during the daylight hours to do them with.

So internet, I’m in a funk. What would you do if you found yourself suddenly unemployed and free of obligations? And completely broke?*

*No, we’re not completely broke, just obviously trying to save every penny we can. So suggestions of “cheap” entertainment like “go to a matinee!” do not count.

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I love summer.

I do. I know you look at me, and you think you are the kind of person that should not leave the house in the summer, and you are right. And being a nerd, the allure of the crisp air and sharp pencils of fall does have its allure. And spring after a long cold winter is indescribable. But summer holds its place in the front of my heart. I almost think that having summer as your favorite season is looked down upon – it’s not the most sophisticated season. It’s shorts and sandals, not long evening gowns and flutes of champagne to toast the new year. Call it uncouth, call it plebeian, I call it the best.

Summer is complete and total freedom. Freedom from school, freedom from the confines of blustering snow and scarves tied tight. You can leave the house outside without grabbing a coat, even at night. At least in Virginia, Montana still requires a sweatshirt most nights. It’s freedom to move, freedom to travel. In summer (well, by mid-summer) you don’t have to check the pass reports to see if the road is covered in snow. You just go. You can pick up and leave.

Life picks up and slows down and picks up simultaneously in summer. You can breathe deep. You can be free.

Today, enjoy being free. And remember those who aren’t. Happy fourth of July.

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John and I were thrilled to hear the announcement of the Supreme Court’s decision on the American Care Act. Well, were thrilled to hear CNN’s retraction of their first statement that the individual mandate was overturned. First because of the implications for our country, second because it is in line with our faith beliefs, and third for how it has already benefited our family.

Studying public health over the past few years has made me realize how important some of the provisions of the act are. We spend the highest amount in the world on health care per capita. And if I remember correctly from my public health classes, we spend some 5% of that on preventative care. As we all know, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Literally – it costs far less to prevent diseases than to deal with them after they appear.

So a bill that focuses on prevention and expands health care to people who can’t afford it by increasing who is eligible for Medicaid? Of course I am for it. Public health and social justice meet. Let’s all celebrate! Academics of how improving the health of a nation benefits everyone aside, the Catholic Church teaches that health care is a human right:

In our Catholic tradition, health care is a basic human right. Access to health care should not depend on where a person works, how much a family earns, or where a person lives. USCCB

(Regardless of where you live – so even if you live in a state like Florida where your Governor wants to turn down federal money, his own taxpayers’ dollars,  you still deserve it).

So I was excited it passed. Even the individual mandate part. Would I have liked to see a different system, such as a public option? Yes, I would have. But what baffles my mind is why more people aren’t for it. It’s about personal responsibility and not passing on your burdens to others – the Republican mantra! And I agree – we should be responsible for ourselves when we can be. Lots of people without insurance do not pay their medical bills, which raises the cost of services on people who do pay to make up the difference. Ironically, the people who are hit hardest are those without insurance. Their bills are significantly higher than when you have insurance. But when everyone has it, everyone pays a fair amount. No screwing each other over allowed.

I digress. The point is – Obamacare has already saved us thousands of dollars. When we started grad school we were 24 and required to buy health insurance. (How come no one points out that public schools already mandate purchasing health insurance?? Socialism!) After the ACA went into effect, we could go back on our parents’ insurance. John did for two semesters, I did for one (my dad’s plan switched and wouldn’t cover anything out here. Little loophole we need to fix, otherwise its really only providing coverage for people living in 100 sq mile radius of their parents!). It didn’t cost my father-in-law a thing to add John, and for my parents, I believe it was much less than what an individual plan for me would have cost.

This saved us about $2400. That might be small potatoes for some families, but that’s about what we have spent out of pocket on my health care costs over the past two years. It’s about 1/6 of what I made as an RA this year. It’s another student loan saved. It’s affected our lives, and we have really appreciated it.

There’s more, of course.

I like that the health insurance companies can’t charge me more because I’m a woman (though this was already law in Montana!)

I like that breastfeeding support, including lactation counseling and breast pumps, are covered by insurance, since that is something we plan on doing. Along with a bunch of other prenatal/neonatal tests.

I like that an insurance company can’t turn me down because of my health problems. (Though I still wish they couldn’t refuse to cover them! But that’s something to work on in the future).

Romney’s plan (the new one, not the one that was the example for Obamacare) centered around making sure people could a) keep their health insurance plan, b) not be turned down for pre-existing conditions, c) give states power. I’m sorry, but a) I never have been so in love with a plan that I would be devastated when it switched. Not to mention no part of the law requires anyone to switch plan. Especially when employers can still switch your plan whenever they feel like it anyway. b) That’s already part of the law. c) As above, I believe people have the same rights no matter what state they live in.

I like this plan. It has helped save our family tons of money. It focuses on preventative care, is in line with principles of social justice, and benefits women. A plan that’s top priority is not switching health insurance plans doesn’t do anything for me. I’m happy with Obamacare. I want to see it improved, of course, but I don’t want to see it disappear.

How did you feel about the Supreme Court ruling?

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