2010 off to a good (weird) start

Rob and I are feeling pretty good about our recent decision to stay in Vermont.  With this decision came an almost instantaneous relief.  We had both been feeling enormous pressure about the seemingly endless series of temporary living situations that academic life had thrust upon us.  Now that we feel as if we can settle down here, we can get to the business of living our lives.

What does it mean for us to delve headfirst into our lives?  Well, for starters, we feel like our friendships can be deeper and more intimate.  If we are staying here long-term, there is less to lose by developing strong bonds with our friends.  It’s not that we took our friendships lightly prior to this point, but certainly we may have reserved ourselves in one way or another, as a way of bracing for the impact that leaving our friends would undoubtedly exert.

It is still sinking in that we are really actually staying here.  It’s a foreign concept to us that we get to stay in our house—and that our house is really our home, and not just a temporary stop on a neverending journey.  We got a couple of house projects underway to reinforce the permanence of this—we are having our leaky roof replaced, I painted Holden’s room (finally), and we are thinking about buying living room furniture.  We currently have no living room furniture—only $10 folding chairs and pillows thrown haphazardly on the floor.  I think I will feel more like a grown-up when my house doesn’t look so much like a college dorm room.   We had neglected to accumulate large items like furniture prior to this not only because of space considerations, but because it’s too much trouble to move large items from place to place.  We’ve always owned next to nothing so that it’s easy (er) to pick up and go.

I have wanted for quite some time now (pretty much since Holden was a few months old) to re-commit myself to an exercise routine.  When I was pregnant I took weekly yoga classes and felt enormous physical and mental benefits.  After Holden was born, I only attended a few yoga classes.  Transportation has been (and continues to be) a really big issue.   Yes, I know I can exercise at home.  I have a yoga mat—I could do yoga at home.  I also have a treadmill.  I can run and not worry about subjecting myself to our current run of sub-zero temperatures.  But you know what?  I am the most disciplined about exercise when I commit to a structured class.  That’s just the way it is for me.  Maybe the fact that my day-to-day work situation lacks so much structure requires that I seek structure (this is what you do and how you do it) in my exercise.  I started looking into classes and found a fusion dance class that meets on Sunday nights for an hour.  It would be late enough that Holden would already be in bed and I wouldn’t miss any time with him.  And it would also mean that I could have unrestricted access to the car.

Oh, the car.  We are paying it off.  We weren’t due to finish paying it off for another year and a half, but we decided to go for it and just pay the sucker off since the interest isn’t tax-deductible anyway.  And without that car payment, it is oh so tempting to screw ourselves over by committing to another, new car payment.  We are still in the “thinking” stage of car purchasing.  The fact of the matter is that it is exceedingly difficult to be a one-car family.  It actually worked out OK when we were still living within walking distance of work and when I wasn’t working myself.  But now we are 20-25 minutes from work and our work is not in the same town as H’s school.  For the past few months, a typical Monday was this:  The 3 of us pile into our car.  We drop H off at school.  I drop Rob off at work, then I go to work.  I leave work, pick up H.  Rob goes to the rock gym after work.  I feed H dinner, get him dressed into his PJs, then drive back into town with a sleepy H to pick Rob up from the rock gym.  We come home and H passes out.  We recently revised our Monday routine so that we all come home together, and Rob leaves for the rock gym after H is tucked into bed for the night.  This has worked out much better.  Problem solved.  Except—problem not solved.  Whenever we get a call from H’s school that he is sick (which is almost every week with chronic ear infections), one of 2 things happens: 1)  We BOTH leave work, pick him up, take him to the dr., then go home, or 2) One of us leaves work, picks him up, takes him to the dr., goes home, then piles a sick H into the car for the drive back to town to get the remaining parental unit from work.  Either way sucks.  Both are fraught with interruptions to our work.  And because of all of the extra trips into/out of town, we are actually using MORE gas than we would if we each had separate vehicles and didn’t have to make so many return trips to town.  The other difficulty is that I go into the lab 7 days a week.  So this weekend for example, I would go into the lab and leave Rob at home with H and no car.  On Saturday after I got home from the lab, Rob took the car to go skiing and was gone all day.  So then I didn’t have a car.  Notice that there is no time to do things like go grocery shopping.  All of our tasks must be completed serially, rather than in parallel.  It is inefficient and frustrating.  And I hate it.  But I also hate the idea of being a 2-car family.  Am I going to be a total yuppie if we give in and get a 2nd car?  Am I just being pretentious to begin with in thinking that we are doing something good by being minimalist?  But how minimalist are you really being when the situation necessitates so many extra trips?  Ugh, so here’s what we decided—-we are keeping tabs for one month—each day, we are going to record whether or not having a single car was inconvenient for us during that day.  If, at the end of the month, having one car was inconvenient for more than 50% of the days, then we are getting a 2nd car.  And if we get a 2nd car, I can take an exercise class whenever I want.  So that is good.

It’s also good because (drum roll)——-I am starting to be involved in clinical research that requires me to have better transportation.  I am going to start working with kids in a before-school program one day a week.  The program begins at 7:10AM and the earliest H can get dropped off at school is 7:30AM, which means that I wouldn’t be able to get to work without the generous offer of a colleague to come pick me up and take me to the school.  Public transportation is not an option.  Sorry, but I am not sitting on a bus for an hour and 20 minutes EACH WAY.  Rob actually took the bus a few times right after we moved into our house and it was hell.  It was just too long, mostly because it involved a one mile walk on each end of the trip.  Public bus systems don’t work quite so well in areas that have wildlife such as moose or bear.  They just don’t.

Enough car/transportation talk!   As I mentioned above, I am getting involved in clinical research.  This is kind of crazy to me.  I am actually running subjects this coming week.  I put my feelers out there, and this opportunity more or less landed right in my lap.  At most, it could blossom into a major career change or significant training experience that will lend momentum to my research.  At the least, it will be an interesting view into how human subjects research is conducted.  I lose nothing either way.  So I am pretty stoked about it!  And the best part is that the project is part of a large translational grant in which I am already involved.  The piece I had been working on relates to animal models of ADHD and examining the impact of aerobic exercise on multiple indices of functioning.  I have also been training in the molecular core of our university to examine changes in protein expression (of specific receptor subtypes) following aerobic exercise in the animals.  Now I get the opportunity to see how the exercise interventions in the ADHD children affect functioning in the same tasks I use in my rats.  How unbelievable is that?!  I get the chance to see the full spectrum of the research:  from bench, to animal model, to clinical intervention.  It is VERY RARE for a researcher to be involved in this many levels of analysis.  I feel lucky and fortunate that I get to participate, although I also realize that I am participating in all of this because I actively sought out these opportunities.  It helps that funding is poor right now, that people don’t have the staff to run the studies, and that I am a dumbass who will stupidly volunteer and overcommit herself to all sorts of crazy shit in which I have no real expertise.  You have to start somewhere, I suppose.

I also begin teaching a course in another week and a half—no big deal, right?  It’s a course I have never taught before, so I have a ton of prep to do from scratch.  The university still hasn’t sent me a teaching contract, so I must threaten the HR staff that I will not show up for the first day of class until they send me a contract.  I still don’t even have a clue how much (ahah, or how little) I will be paid.  The last time that I taught (Spring of 2008, while very pregnant), I was responsible for 2 courses.  For 2 months, I was only paid for one of them because they screwed up the contract.  I won’t be allowing them to get away with that again.  Especially, when I consider the ridiculous amount of money the university makes—-I calculated my salary as a percentage of the total tuition derived from my 3-credit courses of a couple years ago.  I got paid 6% of the total tuition charged.  6%.  Wow.  What are they (the university administrators) doing with the rest of the money, besides awarding themselves large and undeserved bonuses?  (NOTE TO READERS:  NEVER BECOME AN ADJUNCT PROFESSOR.  IT’S A RECIPE FOR STRIFE AND EXISTENTIAL CRISIS AFTER EXISTENTIAL CRISIS).  At any rate, my work situation is in flux.  I am committed to certain projects (like teaching) that I would walk away from if I could, yet I am also exploring new territory with the clinical research.  I think if I am open to new things, I can keep evolving, and with time, cultivate a body of work that is distinct, cohesive, and important.  This is a long journey, indeed.

Time for bed.  More posts on Holden in the future, I promise.  I keep hijacking his blog…

January 13th, 2010 9:49 am

Remember I have a second car seat if you make a car decision.

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