Wow, it’s been nearly 4 months since I last wrote.
So much has changed, for the most part, for good. I hope to share the birth story in a later post, but the gist of it is this: not too long after my last post I was done with being pregnant. I was considered full term and the midwife had said earlier that she’d only let me go one week over the 40wk mark. But before that I was SO ready to be done with pregnancy. I was tired, cranky, I wanted to sleep on my belly … and of course, I wanted to meet our precious baby.
I got checked somewhere near week 40 and was dilated to 5cm! I looked at the midwife, she said I was also 100% effaced, so I asked if I could go to the hospital and she said yes. Up we went. I had my mom with me, and of course, the Mr.
It took the rest of the day to complete the dilation, and I had some health issues which only surfaced then and there, but after pushing for about 5hrs, I met a healthy, hairy, cuddly boy. I didn’t gain weight in my pregnancy (weird, but does happen, especially to plus sized ladies like me), and my belly was gone super fast. The baby was over 8lbs and his cry was music to my ears.
It’s been a couple of months now, and things have gotten much sweeter. He’s a great baby, sleeps mostly through the night, but is not very patient when he’s hungry or when his diaper is wet/soiled. He makes us laugh like crazy, and I adore seeing the world through his eyes. Some of my worries were unfounded (I’ve never forgotten to change a diaper), while I’ve worried about tons of things I didn’t even think of (he’s rolling and loves sleeping on his belly, so I’m constantly checking to see if he’s breathing, also, trimming nails is quite a maneuver).
I’m enjoying motherhood more than I thought possible. We’ve been very lucky with the baby, and our parent’s ability to lend more than a hand. I’ve slept considerably more than I was told to expect (though I’m sure I’ll be going crazy soon when sleep regression rears its ugly head), lost a bit of weight (not a ton, so I’m still way over the weight I should be according to the BMI chart).
Our bug is adorable, funny, curious, and we call him our teenager, since he’s desperate to talk and walk/run even though he’s only a handful of months old.
I’m still not back on Twitter, but I am considering going back. I miss you all so much.
Around April of last year, I experienced a miscarriage. I was super sad for a few weeks, then I kind of resigned and continued to live life. My husband was very supportive and said we could try again after the doctor’s recommended period of rest.
Eventually we started trying, and for a couple of months nothing seemed to stick (I know, bad joke, but come on! think about it). I was about two cycles away from giving up and going to a specialist to see what was wrong with me. See, I was very scared because I was (am) overweight and if whatever was preventing a baby from sticking to my uterus was weight-related, I knew I couldn’t and shouldn’t do some radical diet where I could screw up my chances even more.
I have to say, I’ve been pretty lucky. When the miscarriage happened I got some of the symptoms, but mostly I just slept. I ate, bathed, and slept. I was out for a few days and oddly enough I could feel a kind of emptiness in my belly, that’s a bit difficult to describe. Even though I’d never felt the baby (the miscarriage happened around weeks 7-8), I could tell something was missing from my body.
The this winter, one night around 2am I woke up and decided to pee on a stick. I was pretty sure it would just turn out to be 1 line, but I needed to know right then and there as my period was due at the end of that week. I remember it was a Tuesday. I waited, and looked … and studied the stick. And then I saw a very faint pink line. Could it be? Was I pregnant again some 6-7 months after the miscarriage? I cried a little bit, and I have to admit, it’s been one of only two times I’ve cried in this pregnancy. I decided to wait one more day, do the test at work and see.
And I got a slightly stronger second line. It wasn’t as bright as the test line, but there it was. I called my husband and told him immediately. We congratulated each other and I decided to have a confirmation test the week after. I know levels of hCG are not a predictor (usually) of whether a pregnancy will continue on, but I wanted to know, I needed to see the test results. And I did. And the numbers were high. It was true. This little one was sticking to my reproductive organs!
We decided to wait until week 12 or so to share the news with our families. In the meantime, since I’m over 35, I had to get a couple of tests done, including the NTT and a genetic panel to test for a couple of common trisomies for geriatric ladies like me (I’m sort of getting used to the term). We had a scare when, around week 9, right before my first ultrasound, I started bleeding. I was alone that night and saw some spotting. I ran to the ER, was there until about 2 in the morning, and in the US I could see a big head with a tiny body and 4 little bumps. I sent the pic to the Mr and his reply was priceless. I kept him informed of everything that was going on. It looked like “old blood” or perhaps a polyp had formed … indeed this was confirmed by an internal exam a couple of weeks later. Hubs and I went for the 10 week US and were elated. But the best was seeing his face when the midwife put the probe over my belly and we could hear the drum, drum, drum of the heart. Hubs had tears in his eyes. That was our baby, active and alive.
The pregnancy continued on, and I had all my scheduled tests (including the AFP, a bunch of other blood panels, etc) and on we went to week 20. We had our second ultrasound. And OMG let me tell you, I went full physiology/anatomy 101 on the tech. My poor husband said we were just chatting like old friends and did so much talking, so fast, that he couldn’t keep up. The tech printed probably around 20pics, and we had proof of what the genetic panel had already concluded about the sex of the baby.
After, we made the announcement on social media … I wanted to wait for a bit to ensure that the results of all the tests came back OK. The reaction of friends and family was amazing and still to this day I get the warm fuzzies.
We’ve been to our babymoon which was fantastic and relaxing. And now I’m counting kicks. We’re weeks away from meeting this baby and while excited, we’re also pretty worried that we’ll screw things up. I know this is normal and that pretty much everyone I’ve met has said they too felt that way. I can’t help but feel that I will make some stupid mistake and that the baby won’t stop crying because I forgot to change a diaper, or I forgot to pump, or whatever. I know I’ll be super tired, beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. But I can’t wait to meet this little baby and give all the hugs and have all the feedings … and even poopy diapers ;-).
PS. This still means that I’m not back on Twitter, so I won’t be answering neither DMs nor tweets. But I greatly appreciate your concern, good wishes, gifts and support.
As usual, it’s been a hell of a long time since I’ve posted anything. Life in general is good. Some aches and pains that are par for my age. Lab is running, equipment is mostly working, people are getting trained, and lots, and lots of emails are getting answered.
I don’t know how exactly this happened, but in the last few months I’ve made it to the end of each pay period in the black. Like seriously in the black. I’m not talking thousands of dollars, I’m talking a couple of hundreds … but it’s added up. Enough that this month I was able to pay the last $407 to credit card #2.
You may or may not remember (or know, if you’re new), that in 2011 I started my post-academic journey by leaving the tenure-track and seeking opportunities as a staff scientist. That same year, just as I was accepting the offer for my first job, I learned that my dad had lost his job (due to the economic downturn) and 2 loans that I’d co-signed for came to bite me in the ass. All of a sudden my careful plans to be debt-free in a handful of years just vanished. You may ask: why didn’t you declare bankruptcy? Well, there is still a lot of guilt and stigma associated with that, and I felt a sense of responsibility that caused me to want to show my face, talk to the companies and start on a payment plan.
Since then I’ve liquidated about $30k in debt from my dad’s loans (which I’m sure he won’t repay because although he’s employed, he’s still barely making ends meet), plus over $10k in credit card debt. I’ve had two plastectomies (Dave Ramsey lingo), though I have opened two more credit accounts which currently sit at $0 balance.
But I still have my giant one, the one who caused me hours and tears to come to grips with. That one sits currently at $10,440 and some change. If I applied myself enough I could finish paying it before the end of the year, but there are some life decisions the Mr and I have made and they may make this more difficult.
What I can tell you is that I’ll be getting a tiny raise, which will go into my savings account each pay period. Thus far I’m operating on the salary I had back when I started this job in 2015, and the bits of extra money I’ve gotten as yearly raises, have gone into my debt repayment journey. I look back and can’t believe nearly 7 years ago I was drowning in debt and felt like I was deep in a hole from which I would never be able to leave. 7 years sounded like an eternity … and at times it’s felt like that, especially when I had that job from hell a couple of years back.
Emotionally, personally and professionally, I am in a better place than I’ve been in a looooong time. Just last weekend I was telling my husband that I moved back to the US in the summer of 2011 with my credit cards maxed out and about $600. That, and the prospect of my first paycheck a week and a half later kept me alive. I don’t know how I did it, but I was able to pay for food and transport in NYC, and was able to pay rent for a temp place, with barely a cent to spare. I compare that to now, when a couple of months ago my vacuum cleaner went kaput and I was able to order one from my local department store and go pick it up and have it paid in full that same day. I feel like a queen, a warrior. I have scars still, like my relationship with my dad is still so-so, and I feel like a recovering addict. I know a false step here or there could put me into the same place I was less than a decade ago. My savings are slim, as I’ve been solely focused on repaying stuff. And the Mr and I are finally moving in together after nearly 3 years of working on opposite ends of the state and seeing each other on weekends when we can. So, I know some of the little savings I have will be swallowed up by deposits and moving equipment and transport. I know I will recover, but it still scares me to contemplate that I may have to temporarily charge stuff to one of the cards that’s currently sitting at $0. I know I’ll pay it back, but it still makes me shiver.
Oh the things that inspire me to write these days. A vacuum cleaner.
I have two cats: murder cat and anxiety cat. They’re both adorable, cranky, and funny. And they shed. Like fuck they shed.
Turns out I’m allergic. Like bad allergic to them, though I’m more allergic to dogs.
Four or fives years ago my husband and I purchased this vacuum cleaner for our first rental right after the move from NYC. We’d gotten rid of the one we had in Canada, because we had no idea when or whether we’d end up staying in North America … and honestly it didn’t fit at all in our tiny trailer. Our newest acquisition had been a floor model, purchased for $20 at a flea market. I’d gotten us another one, but either my husband or our cat sitter would always end up dumping the filter. And after purchasing 3 filters in less than a year, I gave up.
That flea market vacuum cleaner lasted until two weeks ago. It was old to begin with and I’d sort of given it a new lease on life by servicing a couple of parts. But it wasn’t sucking, and if there’s one thing to know if doesn’t doesn’t suck, is that it really sucks. And one can only service it so much before it becomes a money pit.
I logged on to our local department stores, picked one with decent reviews, ordered it and picked up later that day. That thing can suck … and do it beautifully. I immediately threw away the old one, thanking it one last time for all the dust bunnies it gathered and freed us from for nearly 5 years.
I’m in love with my new vacuum cleaner. It’s more powerful than anything I’ve ever owned before and my goodness I can breathe easier.
The part that still surprises me is that I paid for it, in cash (well, debit card, but the money was there, available) and picked it up the same day. I didn’t have to wait until pay day or something else. I checked online, picked it, paid for it and that same day I was vacuuming away to my heart’s content.
It still surprises me how, even though I’m not totally debt free, enough of my budget is free to purchase something like a vacuum cleaner. A couple of months ago I took advantage of a huge deal I got on purchasing a sofa, a dream of mine for over two years since moving back to NY State. I bought it on credit in October and my Nov 1st it was paid in full.
I pinch myself, I tell you. I do, I really do. And this is just a taste of being more than middle of the way into my debt-repayment adventure. I can’t wait to see green, all green (well black) later this year. I’m giddy with excitement!!!
This weekend I had a powerful realization. I suspect it came to me because I’ve been following The Minimalists for a while now and they posted a link that, while a bit … esoteric for my taste, had a very interesting point.
It’s no secret that many of us, especially in the academic or academic-adjacent disciplines are in debt. Hell, there are lots of people from all other backgrounds in debt too. If you’ve been reading here for sometime now, you’ll know that I have talked about money issues, stupid decisions I made, and how very, very slowly I’ve been climbing out of debt. I feel as if sometimes my blog has migrated from disgruntled-doc-dom to a personal finance one. Maybe it will. Who knows. But the only advice I’d impart would be how to NOT go into debt and how I’ve been slowly climbing out of it the old-fashioned way (ie, I didn’t marry a trust-fund guy/man, and I didn’t take too many side jobs, it’s been all my tightening a bit my spending and sheer patience and consistence).
But anyway, 8 years ago when I finally admitted that I had a problem, I started paying close attention to my spending. Propelled by that, and by my lack of excitement about my postdoc, I jumped ship, became a staff scientist and haven’t looked back since. Now that I see it written there, 8 years since I first started plotting my exit from the tenure-track (hot damn!), it seems almost incredible. I’ve been at this debt-repayment business for nearly a decade. Part of it has been because just as I was ready to tackle my mountain of debt, I found out a loan I’d co-signed for a family member, wasn’t being pair, despite promises made, so I had to come to the rescue and pay that debt or face bankruptcy. I remember going to a financial planner’s office in NYC with my now husband and just seeing all the numbers laid in front of me. I was in a disaster zone.
Now, 6 years after, I look back and I still can’t believe it. I’m not close to being done, but I am closer that I’ve ever been. And I’m trying to make smart decisions and work hard to bring my credit up (back in 2011 I got a letter from my back saying the were worried that my credit score was like 572 or something). These days it’s near the 700s, but my goal is to bring it higher. Of course that takes time. Oh well.
Aaaanyway. So back to success. Upon reading the link from TM, something really clicked in my head. I’ve been paying off my debt, been changing (some, but not all) of my consuming habits, especially surrounding money and gifts. And reading those sentences about how we should examine what we call success, it tied all of my efforts and experiences together.
I realized that for a while now, I’ve been asking my husband to give me the gift of time spent together trying something new. He gave me a snorkeling kit and I can’t wait to use it. I’ve been trying to invest my time and effort into giving him experiences, from visiting sports halls of fame, to driving to new places, to trying new foods.
My mind went back to how I saw my parents and family define success. To how people around me viewed and evaluated and assigned success. I’m probably not the only person who’s family/friends/acquaintances have defined success to: owning a house, belonging and staying in a certain tax bracket, purchasing a new doohickey or doodad, traveling first class around the world, or staying at 4 and 5 star hotels, fine dining, fashion, etc.
There is nothing inherently wrong with any of those beliefs. It is fantastic to move into a new tax bracket and be able to afford traveling, or high fashion, or a new car every X amount of years, or the new iPhone. The issue becomes when those items become the sole source of our happiness. I think we all have a bit of materialism in us, and in a way it’s sorta healthy. A picture frame, an heirloom, jewelry, a set of postcards written by our grandparents … they all provide a connection with someone/something we cherish. But over-consumption seems to have taken over our lives. I know in my case it is still a struggle.
So, upon reading this list of items that help define, or redefine our happiness, I see this section that talks about how it’s a good idea to redefine what success means to us. It can certainly be something material, but I believe the true measure of success is when we can look around us and feel content. Not admiring a piece of jewelry, a fancy gadget, but instead our accomplishments, whether from academy or a hobby, or a side job. Happiness measured in the times we see and share special moments with our loved ones, be they’re related by blood or choice.
That helped me look around and take inventory of my current situation: I may not live in the most glamorous place in the world, but I have a roof over my head, two cats whom I adore, my car is paid off (even though it’s 14 years old and still has a tape reader). I’m in love with my partner and we travel and stay at modest places. Our tastes are similar. I wouldn’t call our taste fancy, elegant, or high society, but it suits our needs and makes us happy. Together, we make a decent living. We don’t have to go into debt to finance our lifestyle. If we can take a break, we do. If we can’t, we hope (and sometimes know) that our time will come.
I don’t own fancy sunglasses, or have a collection of elegant silverware. My husband doesn’t own a sportscar, thankfully he doesn’t have any vices except follow a couple of sports and engage in conversation with other fans.
Success to me, today, after experiencing need and crushing debt, means seeing and helping my family. It means spending time with them, even if it’s just watching a telenovela and commenting on how old this guy or that actress looks. I don’t publish much these days, but I live science through my trainees and their discoveries. I feel content in assisting them with either my hands or my brain, so they can become even more amazing than they already are. I don’t wear too many flashy brands and don’t care about mani/pedis every week (I do have 1 or 2/year), or the latest music.
I’m still a consumer. I’ll always be. But in making more intentional, and deliberate choices, I try to think about the bigger picture: do I need X or Y gadget for real? Or is it just for show? In trying to define a new normal for me, I’m finding success and fulfillment in who I am. I’m making peace with my errors and looking forward to a life better lived.
How do you define success?
Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure I didn’t make any resolutions for 2017. I did post the following back in 2016, so let’s see how I’ve done:
For 2017, I hope to achieve/do:
- Pay off cc #2 and pay off a good chunk of cc #3. Maybe get rid of my not-in-my-name-debt-but-still-paying-anyway. – Not totally done with #2, but slowly chipping away at it. Had a couple of unexpected expenses that set me back a bit. But overall, definitely better than last year and closer to my goal.
- Go on and spend some time with my students and pick up some of the cool stuff they do with their samples. Be better at troubleshooting stuff I’m currently not so well versed. Been doing LOTS of this.
- Get another good review. A raise too, maybe? YES and more YES!!! I’m definitely where I should be.
- Go to a workshop or conference … hopefully a high profile one. Did go to a couple of symposiums but nothing super high profile.
- Complete my emergency fund and finalize the rollover of my old retirement account into a new one. Gave up on this.
- Do our taxes before mid-February, and if possible, apply whatever refund I get to cc #2, or maybe #3 if I stick to my guns and pay off what I can but I’m scared of (my mind is really a work of … who knows, I’m a little kooky). The Mr and I got the surprise of our lives when we had to pay nearly $2000! That was a bummer. Thankfully hon’s savings came to the rescue. I was able to pay honey off a few months ago! Right after this unpleasant surprise I adjusted deductions and hopefully we won’t get a horrible surprise come tax season 2018.
- Go home for Christmas. And save money and not go through all my vacation time. Going home in about 4 weeks! And I definitely go through all my time.
- Definitely appear as a co-author, or at least in the acknowledgements. I simply can’t give this one up. Boo, I still don’t but I have been thanked by a couple of students during their defense. That’s a yay in my book!
- Go to the dentist and get a nice check up (after all, I do have dental coverage). I did and it went really well. Unfortunately my crown came off and had to do a complete tooth extraction. Boo! I got a bone graft and I’m currently hoping it did take and I’ll have an implant done early next year.
- Perhaps lose a few pounds. Gave up on this.
- Put some of the money that (hopefully) will become available once I’m closer to being debt free into either my retirement account or a high yield savings account. Didn’t want to be debt free.
- Develop better organizing and scheduling habits so I can try to be available (and efficient) on as many instruments as possible (I do have a lot of instruments under my belt … kinda scary). Still a work in progress.
- Cook at home more often and bring leftovers for lunch. Still trying to plan this out.
- Get to work earlier/leave earlier. Mixed success.
- Open a separate savings account, perhaps with a local credit union/bank and deposit some $$ I have that’s been sitting in my drawer for way too long. I did!!! And it feels awesome.
at the end of the tunnel.
That’s how it feels like. Last month I was able to completely erase the second debt my dad had piled onto my shoulders 6 years ago. Six years ago seems like an entire lifetime away. I was a completely different person. I was starting on my path out of the straight academic way and into staff-dom. I was ecstatic to be moving to NYC. Then the news that my dad had stop paying a loan I’d cosigned, lost his job, and couldn’t afford to pay it any longer … and that my credit score was taking a nosedive hit me. I felt like crap. I put so much guilt on my shoulders. I’d co-signed those loans when my credit score was in the 780s way back in grad school. I’d made some stupid money decisions and was up to my neck in debt of my own doing. The country was starting to get out of the recession and what should’ve been a moment of celebration became a prison sentence. It felt like that. I was carrying this massive ball and chain and I saw no way out.
I was able to work on a repayment plan that wouldn’t sink my credit score further down, but it would take forever. Back then I was trying to manage 6 debts on a $50k salary in NYC. I moved with roommates for the first time in my life. I didn’t take a vacation, didn’t … couldn’t visit my family. But somehow I made it through.
Then I switched jobs and with a bit more $ in my pocket and some mental clarity, I was able to start the debt snowball and begin to tackle my mountain of debt. I repaid and closed a overdraft protection account I had. That was my first debt paid in full. I started paying the regular minimum on those loans I’d cosigned for my dad … even though I should’ve insisted he pay for them. In the meantime my parent’s house, the house I grew up in, was almost foreclosed. I then buckled up and really went snowball crazy on my first credit card debt, an account I opened to get a discount on a dress for a friend’s wedding!!!!! (WTF was I thinking??). Instead of just having the store card alone, it came up with a major credit card company logo, which I treated as “free money” for a long, long time. I was $4k deep into that one. I finished paying it off last year.
In June of 2016 I paid the smallest of the two loans I’d cosigned. I rolled over that amount, plus the $ I was putting into cc #3 and applied it to the largest loan. That loan was just paid. It was cancelled. 0 debt. No more extra money going that way. I still can’t believe it. I’m still pinching myself.
I was well on my way to pay cc #2, which all that time I was contributing about 40% more than the minimum payment. At its worst I had it near the $4K mark. Right now it’s seating slightly below $3k. The closest I was to finishing that one up was some time last year, but then I had some car repairs due to a minor accident and some other things. I try to contribute to this card a few times a month. My hope is to lower the debt amount to somewhere around $500 so that my minimum payment will be super low, and I can get gazelle-intense into knocking down cc #1. To some people it may sound silly to do this, but I really like cc #2 (I know, it’s stupid, but it does have some cool benefits), and as I chip away (more like try to bulldoze the mountain of debt that is cc #1), I should slowly be able to pay off cc #2. Plus, I really want to insult Bank of America when I call to cancel it. I can’t wait (yeah, I know it’s silly, but I do have some choice words for predatory companies that go into schools to essentially sell debt to naive undergrads). Honey and I have no credit cards together … hell, not even a single account bearing both of our names (when we got married there was the slight possibility that I’d declare bankruptcy, so we didn’t merge our finances and created instead a legal provision so he wouldn’t carry those debts in case I became unemployed). So we may consider opening an account in both our names, with some cool benefits (we travel some for work and pleasure, so maybe a mile-earning one, or one from a place/company we use a lot, like certain airlines). But my main focus is to apply what was being diverted to not-my-debt #2 into cc #1, and erase that one. I thought I’d be done with it by March of next year. But it looks more like this time next year instead.
And that my friends, is why I feel like I’m finally able to see a teeny-tiny light at the end of the tunnel full of debt. Back when I was in my late 20s, and it dawned on me that if I didn’t do something to stop accumulating debt I’d spend my 30s paying back my debts, it finally sunk in that all those stupid money decisions I’d made in my early 20s would come to bite me hard. I remember, 10 years ago, thinking “ugh, I’ll be 36 or 37 when I’m finally debt free.” And it seemed so far away. Now 10yrs later it does feel like a lifetime ago. I could’ve done better. I can do better. I’m still buying clothes … mostly tops that I say I’ll use for work and eventually just use them once or twice to go to dinner or something and then start feeling guilty about that and donate them. So I have long ways to go still. But I’ve tried really hard to rein in my spending. I now finish in the black 98% of the time (the rest of the times it’s because I got careless and spent too much on eating out … my other weakness). I’m about to finish paying the very first laptop I’ve bought since 2002! I have food, shelter and decent health. My husband is paying for a car we got, and eventually I should take over the payments, as that was our agreement. And I’m very OK with that as even now I could take over the monthly payment (I am paying for insurance for the new one and my old beater). I’ve been extremely lucky with my old beater. It’s been paid off since 2008 and has only left me stranded once due to a dead battery.
Sometimes I dream of the things I could buy now that I have more money. I compare myself to former schoolmates and workmates and I think, gosh, I could be living better (which is totes stupid because I don’t have a horrible life … in fact, it is very kick ass thank-you-very-much). I’ve been exploring minimalism too, which has helped in controlling my spending some, and making better decisions when it comes to what I’m getting into my apartment. I was supposed to move this summer, but due to some unforeseen circumstances I had to stay put. I’m not a huge fan of the place I live in, but at least it’s clean and safe. To compensate for the having to stay put, I decided to reorganize my two BR apt. I’m still in the early stages, but the main bedroom is decorated in two tones and it’s simple but feels clean and quiet.
I want for nothing … in fact, my husband and I have started giving each other the gift of experiences. Now that we’re both employed, have some savings and decent health and no major money commitments, we really don’t have a need for more gadgets. We’ve decided to do cool things like go to places we’ve wanted to visit but never had enough time (or money, really) and done that. I like antiquing so hon has gotten me a cute thing here and there, but nothing worth more than $20. That or llama shirts which are my new favourite thing (seriously, llamas). For christmas I told him to find a cool place back home where I can snorkel. He’s still thinking about what to ask for the holidays, but thus far he’s coming empty. We’ve started to realize, very slowly, that because we feel like we are where we should be, at this moment in life, earning a living, we can focus on going places, exploring, enjoying local food and arts and culture. It feels so strange, but so gratifying. Like, we don’t have to spend a ton of money to have fun, we live in a place full of different (and sometimes quirky) festivals, our state has some amazing places to explore and we’re just beginning. I hope to write some more about our experiences with minimalism … or really, of being less into mindless consumerism.