Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

Monday, April 29, 2013

I've come to talk with you again. Once again, it's about 4 am and I am WIDE AWAKE, this time, courtesy of pseudoephedrine. Once again, song lyrics and music fill my brain. I have always loved Simon and Garfunkel, ever since I was a little girl. Some of my first memories of music are of my dad listening to Simon and Garfunkel tapes, and when I was about 6, he made me a mix tape (old school!) with tons of Simon and Garfunkel, Cat Stevens (before he was Yusef Islam), and a lot of other stuff. I played that tape until it died, and kept it for longer after that. 

Anyway, here I am, sitting in bed, listening to the sound of silence (literally). I have been battling what in thought was allergies since Thursday evening, but it has seemed to declare itself as some kind of virus. Worst sore throat of my life, exhaustion, malaise, headache, some low fevers, and joint pain. I'm sure some of those symptoms are whatever the hell autoimmune disease I have complicating things. 

I spent the weekend hanging out, relaxing, and babysitting in the very swanky Rittenhouse Hotel on Saturday and Sunday nights. The job was super easy and involved sitting in a hotel room with a sleeping 10 month old on Saturday, and sitting in a hotel room with a sleeping 10 month old (who screamed in my ear for a bit when his momma left), and then a sleeping 2 year old (who fell asleep listening to Coldplay and kept adorably requesting "Scientist" on repeat... good thing I love that song). I had a 5 year old for a bit both nights, but he just laid in bed and played Angry Birds on my Kindle and requested stories about my cats, which is great because I love telling cat stories and most of the time, people think I am crazy when I tell them. (5 year olds don't judge.)

And now the work week is upon us. I contemplated staying home tomorrow, but since I am going to feel disgusting no matter where I am, I might as well go to work. Fortunately, I don't have any meetings or obligations tomorrow, so I can stay in my office (with a door!), drink tea/coffee, and try to move as little as possible. 

I am seeing my rheumatologist tomorrow, so hopefully if there is something to be done about this mess in my sinuses/throat, I can get that taken care of. I am bummed because I just got a letter telling me that my doc is leaving the practice in July. They're replacing her, but I really liked her because she actually gave a crap and listened to me and tried a treatment, despite my inconclusive lab results. If she's staying local, I may follow her. We shall see.\

Anyway... I am going to try and get some sleep... or contemplate life, the universe, and everything. Either one.
- A

In Which We Bring Up This, That, and The Other Thing

Friday, April 26, 2013

It's Friday! Hurrah! This week has been kind of ridiculous, and the general consensus (of my group of friends, anyway) is that people in general this week are acting like absolute idiots in various and sundry ways. As a friend of mine who henceforth shall be known as Pamoushk said, "This is the month where I weep for humanity, and by extension, myself. People are just being stupid at both the real and abstract levels." It's true. I don't know what is going on. Mercury is not in retrograde, so it can't be that (not that I'm super into astrology, but I kind of believe that things go sideways when this happens). Perhaps solar flares, or Earth's gravitational pull, or... I don't know, barometric pressure is screwing with people's ability to not act like complete and utter morons. Whatever it is, it needs to stop because I don't know how long I can go on repressing the urge to smack people upside the head. As I said to Pamoushk, "Everyone in my life is being absolute fucking moron, except for you and some select other people, all of whom get gold stars. Everyone else gets hit in the head with a toaster."

Emily sent me this yesterday, and it's very apropos:

That would be so useful.

Anyway, wanton stupidity aside, things are okay. I had my interview on Wednesday for Penn's post-bac program, which I think went pretty well. I got there a little early and sat in the waiting room with three other people who were interviewing, as well as 2 current students who were interviewing for their committee letters. I was reminded, once again, how terribly awkward interviews are. I swear to God, it's like the admissions committees finds the most awkward group of people they could possibly find, throws them into a room fitted with close-circuit cameras, and watches what unfolds. Add typical interview stress to a bunch of people who largely don't know how to interact with other humans and man, it's reality TV waiting to happen. Sometimes I wonder how these people will talk to patients, considering they can barely make conversation with people with whom they already have something in common. I also wonder how people in my age bracket can be such terrible communicators in general, but if I ponder that for too long, I start to get the urge to hit people in the head with appliances, so I will leave that for now.

The interview was scheduled from 2-4, but I could not for the life of me figure out what we were going to do with all that time. As it turned out, they usually have to cycle the applicants through the 3 or 4 people doing the interviewing, which is what takes so long. Since there were only 4 of us, though, we all essentially got to go at the same time, so I was done by 3. I interviewed with their main adviser/admissions coordinator, who was very nice, despite the fact that she didn't know how to pronounce a lot of medical/biological terms (Ex - Autonomic became "autotomic" which doesn't even make sense, but whatever). We talked about my undergrad and grad experiences, my "med school and MCAT plan", goals, courses that I could take at Penn, when to take the MCAT, and "how this time would be different". She answered a lot of my questions, and I found out interesting things, including how I can't participate in any of the linkage programs because I got a C in undergrad (well, 2 of them) and Penn doesn't allow people with C's to apply to link to any med schools (I can apply separately, just not through the linkage), and that I need to take 6 courses before they'll write me my med school committee letter, which is annoying because it definitely means that I need to start in the summer in order to get everything done in time. It wouldn't be totally terrible, because I could start with one class this summer, and almost all of the classes are at night, so I can definitely still work if I'm taking one class. Then I could go full time in the fall (although I might toy with the idea of working through it if I can... which is kind of crazy).

The admissions committee is supposed to meet today, so the interviewer said that I should know fairly soon about a decision. Of course, that decision (if it's an acceptance) means that I have a decision to make about what I'm doing. Temple, my first choice program, doesn't start interviewing until May and continues to interview through July (despite the fact that their program starts in August) so I definitely won't know what is going on with Temple before I am supposed to start a summer class at Penn. I did email Temple to ask if they knew whether I would be offered an interview, because at least if they tell me "no" then I can move on with my life. If they tell me "yes" then I can make a better decision about Penn... sort of. SIGH. Even though I hate when people use hashtags in an inappropriate manner (that is, not on Twitter where they mean something), this would be a time I would say #postbacproblems or #applicationproblems. Pamoushk, who is apparently featuring prominently in this blog post, very wisely said, "May is next week. Obsess next week about this." Might as well obsess or worry about something that's going on this week. Obsession priorities. They're a thing.

 So, moving on. I've been thinking about what I'd like to do with this blog, aside from document my crazy adventures and frequent ranting. I started thinking about things that I talk about doing, either jokingly or seriously. For example, Ken and I have joked for years that we were going to write a cookbook called "Can you Put Sh*t in a Pot?" because our favorite recipes involve very few pans (fewer dishes!). As such, I'm going to start the "Can You Put Sh*t in a Pot?" feature! I'm going to try for one recipe a month, because we haven't been trying many new ones lately, but maybe this will be a good way for us to do that, too. In addition, since so many people and things in my life are being utterly disappointing in myriad ways, I'm going to start featuring things and people I consider to be exceptionally awesome. Sometimes these will be people I know, or things that happened to me, and sometimes I'll write about people in the news/current events. I think that focusing on the positive, amidst all of the bitching that I do on here, will be good.

And also, I will be blogging along with Story of My Life for her "Blog Every Day in May" challenge! I think it will be fun to have a blog post with a topic, and it will hopefully help me get back into the swing of writing on a regular basis. And of course, I'll probably also post some of the normal stuff that I post (rants, daily activities, etc) as well, but at least once a day, we'll have an update here! Exciting stuff!

So, the rest of the day looks to be pretty low-key here. Possibly drawing blood in the clinic if the patient ever shows up, picking up a bone marrow sample to be processed in the lab, and basically doing chart review and other miscellaneous tasks. I have to cut out of the office a bit early because I need to get over to the Drexel Center City campus to pick up my letter of recommendation from my thesis adviser, drop off her thank you card, and walk her letter across the street to Drexel's post-bac program office. I also will probably need to make sure that they don't immediately set the letter on fire or throw it out the window, seeing as they seem to do that with everything that I send them. Then tonight, I'm seeing my friend Jenn for bar food and some adult beverages, both of which are much needed after this week (and will probably be even MORE necessary after dealing with Drexel and traffic).

Ugh, the traffic. The traffic this week is insane because it's the weekend of the Penn Relays, which means that not only are there even more people driving into the city, but that there are more people parking in my off-campus lot, more people on my shuttle, and more people milling around on the sidewalks being obnoxious. They set aside an extra SIX FEET of sidewalk for these people to stand around outside the fields, and yet everyone insists on running/walking/standing in the space where non-relay people are trying to exist. And of course, no one knows where anything is, people don't know how to drive in the city, and everything is just essentially a giant clusterfuck of stupid. Thank God it's only one weekend a year.

ANYWAY, the weekend is full of errands, house chores, and babysitting for me. The (young-ish) grandmother of my piano students is getting remarried on Sunday, and I was asked if I would babysit the 10 month old and 2 year old cousins during the rehearsal dinner on Saturday and the reception on Sunday. I might also end up with my 5 and 8 year old students, but probably not. Essentially, I am going to sit in a hotel room at the Rittenhouse Hotel and entertain small children for a few hours each night, so I'm pretty excited. They also go to bed at a pretty decent hour (like, 7:30) so I might be able to get some studying in! Also... money is good.

And in closing, I'd like to share the two following memes that I feel explain my life a lot:

This might be the story of my life in a single sentence.

It bothers me that this doesn't say "I've", haha.

Be on the look out for the new features and the post-a-day challenge that starts next Wednesday!

Happy weekend, all!

- A

In Which I Discuss Things That I Do Not Understand

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The things I do not understand are varied and many. For example, some things I do not understand but will not be discussing in this post are:

  • Quantum physics
  • Fly fishing
  • Why the platypus and other monotremes exist
  • Dolman sleeves
  • Gaper delay
  • Golf
  • The luge
That is by no means, an exhaustive list of the things I don't understand that I won't be discussing in this post. Maybe this will become a running feature and someday, I'll get to talk about monotremes. We all have goals.

Anyway, today is one of those days where I can't wrap my brain around the crazy/random things that I encounter in the world. I'm not particularly tolerant of wanton stupidity, illogical behavior, or blatant denial of reality in any form and on any day, but most of the time, I can shrug it off and file it under, "Wow, that's dumb" and move on. I guess my file has gotten too full and now, all of the stupid is spilling over into my life and I can no longer ignore it.

For example, why the hell is faxing still a thing? It is 2013. The first fax was patented in 1843, and the commercial fax was available in 1964. We have email now. We have phones that take video. We can replace someone's heart valve through a catheter in their leg, for pete's sake, and yet we are still using fax machines. A large chunk of my afternoon today has been spent standing in front of the fax machine, walking back and forth to the fax machine to check on it, listening to busy signals, checking numbers, and throwing out "fax failed" forms. Finally, after 5 tries, the damn thing worked, but seriously, I do not understand how we are still faxing things. Scan it, email it. THE END.

I also don't understand how doctor's can book out three months in advance or more. I just realized that I'm seeing the dermatologist next Friday, and I had totally forgotten because holy hell, I made that appointment over three months ago! And that's with the general dermatologist! If I had wanted to see the hair dermatologist (yes, that's a thing), I would have had to wait OVER A YEAR. Dermatologists must work about 23 minutes a day, once a week. Seriously. Thank God there aren't any dermatologic emergencies (aside from, I don't know, all of your skin falling off?) that require immediate assistance, otherwise, we'd all be screwed. I would have liked to get this allergic rash thing taken care of three months ago, though.

I don't understand what the IS department at CHOP actually does. I call them pretty frequently, mainly because things break if you LOOK at them the wrong way here, and every time I call, I get a "work ticket" opened and it's sent to God knows where because IS doesn't handle whatever my issue happens to be. Unless you need a password reset, I'm pretty sure that the IS guy just routes your problem to some other vague department. At least they can reset passwords pretty easily...? (Related note: I think I'd shoot myself if I had to sit at the "Password Reset" station.)

I don't understand people who can't use the "reply all" feature in email. I think you should have to take a little quiz every time you hit the reply all button. "Do you need to send this information to 285 people on this email list?" "Did you mean to click reply all, or do you just want to send your response to one person?" It could be like when Gmail says, "You've written "I've attached. . . " in your email but have not attached any files. Send anyway?" That's always helpful... unless you're trying to explain how attached you are to something, then it's just annoying. I also feel that if you have a college degree, you should probably know how to use reply-all in an appropriate manner. Apparently, this is not the case.

I seriously do not understand why people cannot just be honest with one another. I abhor lying, and not only because I am terrible at it (as I have said before). There are few things in live that I believe to be universal. Don't be an asshole, don't hit children or animals, and don't be dishonest. I guess everything can kind of fall under "don't be an asshole" but whatever. I especially can't stand when people who I love and care about are dishonest with me, especially after I have expressed how important honesty is to me. I especially, especially, can't stand it when I have been nothing but honest with someone and they turn around and decide that it's okay to be passive-aggressive and manipulative when a friendship is nothing if there is no trust. I just seriously do not understand it.

I don't understand how people can continue to make horribly bad life decisions and then act surprised when their lives fall apart. I don't understand how people can seem so together in one arena, and completely unable to handle their shit in every other one. I am baffled by how people manage to screw up even the simplest of tasks, and how vehemently people will deny the reality that is in front of them and replace it with one they've concocted from God knows where. I also don't understand people who WANT to be lied to. That somehow confuses me even more than BEING lied to. To effectively say, "No, I don't want to know the honest opinion of my friends and family who obviously care very deeply for me and want only the best for me, because I'd rather just pretend that I'm right and there are no alternatives to my opinion or plan," makes absolutely NO sense to me. None.

I also don't understand the weather in April. What the hell?
And I seriously don't understand monotremes.

- A

Hold the Insomniac All Night

Monday, April 22, 2013

So, my brother's college a cappella group, "8 to the Bar" has this arrangement of "Insomniac" that they've done since I was in college, and I love it. 

I don't love when it's 1 am and I have to be up in 5.5 hours to go to work.

I am writing this on my phone, having recently taken some Benadryl in the hopes that I will pass out, but not be so sleepy that I can't wake up at 6:30. We shall see. Fortunately, I can work from 9-5 instead of 8-4 if I need to, but I much prefer leaving at 4 for traffic purposes.

Ken and I were both kind of insomniac-ish tonight, but he seems to have passed out mere moments after taking the Benadryl. While we were both up, though, it was kind of nice to talk about life, the universe, and everything. Unfortunately, a lot of life, the universe, and everything is full of people acting stupidly and making poor life choices all over the place, so I am left wanting to throw something out a window. What is fortunate though, is that I have an amazing husband and wonderful friends who make me feel more sane when the world and some of the people in it make me feel like I am going to commit a felony.

When I am not typing on a spastic phone keyboard and there isn't a 19 pound cat laying on me (and it's a less ridiculous time of day/night), I will expostulate some more about the various stupidity that I have encountered recently. (Let's face it, that will probably happen this week at work, haha.)
Anyway, my Benadryl is starting to kick in (yay!) and the purring kitty is having a soporific effect, so I am going to work on getting in a couple of sleep cycles. Go, delta waves, go! Get some REM in there!

Yeah, I'm cheering for my brain. It is beyond bedtime.
- A

In Which I Feel Like a Terrible Person

Friday, April 19, 2013

I think it's fair to say that this week has, by and large, been ridiculous and terrible for a lot of people. I can't even pretend to understand what the people of Boston are going through. Much like everyone else, my Facebook feed started going nuts on Monday after the initial bombing, and it hasn't really quieted down since then. I know lots of people who have friends and family in the area, and I know some acquaintances that live there, so obviously that's scary. The media is constantly posting updates, practically minute by minute, and people seem to be glued to various news outlets. People are obviously shaken by the events, and everyone is posting about how horrible the world is, etc.

And then there's me.

I heard the news from a friend whose husband had told her about the bombings. I read an article or two, surmised that it was (obviously) horrifying and terrible, and also that no one knew anything other than "holy crap, bombs went off and people are injured and/or dying". With that, I closed the news and decided I would try to shut it out as much as I could. No one knew anything yet other than the obvious, and I didn't want to focus my day on following every blip that the media released. I've reacted quite similarly to the news since then about the shooting at MIT and the subsequent manhunt that is going on in Boston at this moment. Obviously, bits of news have filtered through my newsfeed, so I'm not completely in the dark over here... but if I was, I don't think I'd mind.

It makes me feel horrible that I'm not glued to my TV (or because I'm at work, some live internet feed of the news), and that I'm not collapsing into a sobbing mess, terrified about how horrible and scary the world is. I'm not trying to determine how people could do such a thing. I am not sure I can even imagine how absolutely petrified people are in Boston, being told they can't leave wherever they were when the lockdown was started. Instead, I've been trying to figure out why I can't seem to feel these things that everyone around me seems to so easily access.

When the bombings happened on Monday, my friend Colleen mentioned that one of her friends does disaster planning and management for a company, and said something to the effect of, "You know, like... here's a bridge, what's everything that can go wrong with it and how do we help people if it does," kind of a thing. I responded, mostly jokingly, "I do that every day. It's called anxiety, and no one pays me for it." It's true, though. I may not be thinking about everything that could go wrong with the bridge I'm driving on, or what I would do if someone started openly firing at people in the grocery store, but every day, I am managing micro-disasters in my head and making contingency plans for contingency plans. If I let my thoughts wander to everything abstractly terrible that could possibly happen to me, I'd probably never leave my house. It's already a struggle some days to not think that the world is ending because of something stupid in my own life that doesn't affect society at large; if I actively contemplated how many different ways I might die simply by going about my every day life, I would have to be committed.

A quick example of how quickly I can catastrophize something. Last Friday, I said to Ken that sometimes I'm afraid that I shouldn't go back to school because we'll be going from two incomes to one income, and while we've lived on less than his single income before, it makes me nervous. I have a lot more expenses than he does (b/c I have a lot more educational and credit card debt, although thankfully way less credit card debt than most people), so I had mentioned that we might have to shift "my" expenses to the joint account. In the worst combination of poor communication on his part and my tendency to internalize everything in the most negative way possible, I soon had decided that no, I couldn't afford to go back to school, and that I was a horrible person for having educational and credit card debt and not being able to have a significant chunk of savings built up. My options became:

1. Go back to school, screw us financially, make Ken resent me, after which he'll leave me, and then I'll be alone, poor, and then I'll die.

2. Don't go back to school, resent Ken for the rest of my life because being a doctor is the only thing I've ever wanted this bad ever, subsequently ruin our marriage, at which point I will be alone, poor, and then I'll die.

Clearly, these are super rational thought processes. (insert eyeroll here)

This meltdown took just under 24 hours to resolve, and involved me lying in bed and crying for most of Friday night until I fell asleep, and then refusing to leave the bed the next day until 2 pm when Ken said, "Alison, you can't just lay in bed and be sad all day, we have to go grocery shopping." All that to say, something as inconsequential as going back to school can lead me down the spiral of doom to "dying alone, most likely in a ditch", so thinking about the fact that random people like to blow up other random people for no good reason isn't going to help me get through my day. When I went to Israel in 2011, there was a day we spent traveling near the security fence/apartheid wall, visiting bus stop memorials, and generally talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Despite the fact that any time during the 10 days we were traveling in Israel, I could very well have been a victim of some crazy attack, that day was the worst for my anxiety because I was being forced to think about how terrifying it is to live in a place where, really, at any moment and in any place, people might be trying to kill you simply for existing. And now, it's happening here, in our country, in places where we usually feel safe.

You can call it avoidance, and that's probably what my therapist would call it, but I simply do not have it in me to face that fear. I'm the kind of person who hides under my kitchen table when things go sideways. (No seriously, the first time I took my MCAT, I hid under the kitchen table the night before. I also hid under the table before I left for Israel, but that was because I was afraid to travel on an international flight). I would not be able to leave my house, let alone work or be a normal 27 year old if I entertained these thoughts. In high school, I was so anxious that I couldn't leave my house or drive after dark. I was convinced there was someone in my back seat, ready to murder me, so I pulled over and checked multiple times while driving anywhere. I moved out of Philadelphia because I was convinced I was going to get mugged or raped (little did I know I'd get mugged on a bus in the middle of the day in 2013). If I think about everything that can go wrong, I will literally cease to be a functional human being.

But because of that, I also can't seem to access the moderate emotions of sadness over such a scary event. I can understand, intellectually, why people are scared and sad, and I think that those feelings are totally healthy, but I can't get to them myself. If I open that door a crack, it will come flying off the hinges and so will I. I feel like a terrible person because I seem so unaffected. It's not that I'm heartless, I swear. I feel sad for the people who lost their lives and whose lives are so dramatically changed forever now because of the actions of these bombers. I am scared on behalf of my friends who live in Boston, and for my friends who have friends and family who live there. I am globally disappointed that we live in a world where things like this happen. None of that has made me cry. The only thing that made me tear up was hearing that runners who had finished the race picked up and ran to the hospital to donate blood for the victims. What made me emotional was not the sad, scary, things, but knowing that hundreds of doctors, nurses, EMT's, policemen, firemen, and even completely medically untrained people ran towards that chaos to help people they probably didn't even know. Maybe that means I'm put together wrong, I'm not sure. What I do know is that the best that I can do right now is acknowledge how broken this world is and try my best to move on in spite of the anxiety that is constantly bubbling under the surface.

And on that note, I am going to leave my office, go get a haircut, and eat pizza tonight with a friend. Sending love and comfort to those who need it. XO

- A

In Which I Start to See the Sun

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The alternate title for this post was, "In Which I Start to Think About Maybe Embracing the Chaos, or at the Very Least, Learn to Coexist in a Semi-Peaceful Manner with It," but that was really long and cumbersome, and honestly, we all know that I will never really embrace the chaos, and I don't like to lie (mainly because I'm really bad at it... also because lying is wrong). Anyway, not only has it not snowed or been ridiculously and unpleasantly cold lately, we have (for the most part), been seeing sunshine. Legit sunshine! Friday was kind of a rainy disaster, but April showers bring May flowers or something, and semi-related, at this point, my Mom-Mom would ask, "What do the May flowers bring?" and the answer, for those who care, is PILGRIMS! (Duh.) Our family loves puns, so at least now you know I come by my own love for terrible puns honestly.

SO, back to the whole sunshine thing. It's nice when it's sunny, and sun means warmer temperatures (which are good), but that means that everything starts blooming... which looks pretty, but makes me want to die, or at the very least, be placed in a medically-induced coma until spring has sprung fully. My allergist's office is so busy that they had to open the practice on Saturdays just to fit everyone in. I feel like every year is an "unprecedented year for allergies" and that "the pollen counts have never been higher!" but this year... man, it is gross out there. Despite all that, I'm glad that we seem to have fully moved into the spring season, and before you know it, it will be 90 degrees every day and I'll be complaining about how I pass out all the time (yay dehydration and orthostatic hypotension!).

So yes, actual, literal, sunshine has been seen, and since things couldn't have gotten much worse in the last two weeks unless I had burst into flames or gotten hit by a bus, it's not surprising that the metaphorical sun is peeking from behind the clouds. My back is almost back to normal, thanks to a Medrol Dosepak and Flexeril, and I haven't encountered any foods that made me violently vomit while driving my car (or otherwise). Also, no one has stolen my identity (that I know of) and no one has assaulted me on a bus and taken my wallet, so I think that I'm definitely on an upswing here. I did find out last week that I was rejected from Florida Atlantic University's MS program, but since I had decided that I would only move to FL (or MD, for that matter) if I didn't get in anywhere up here, I kind of didn't care. Also, the fact that I had an interview for Hopkins, coupled with the invitation I recently received to interview at Penn for their program really made the entire situation of being rejected from a state university more baffling than painful. My Penn interview is next Wednesday from 2-4, so send good vibes if you have a minute!

Also in the "things that make this week better than the previous two weeks" column is that I found out last night that I was accepted into Barry University's accelerated MS program! I don't know why they randomly sent me an email at 8:30 at night on a Monday to tell me this, but it was welcome news all the same. I read the email, didn't believe what I read, read it again, and as Ken and I were sitting on the sofa, eating dinner and watching a DVR'd episode of Chopped, I said, "I just got accepted at Barry..." and continued to reread the email because I wasn't quite sure I was reading it correctly, haha. The weirdest thing about all this is that I'm pretty sure that I never sent them my application fee and that one of my transcripts was missing... but hey, I am not arguing with an acceptance! I should have more information in 2-3 weeks when I get my acceptance packet in the mail, but for now, it just feels great to know that no matter what, I will be back in school this August.

This is great... and also terrifying. My brain is kind of doing this:

When I started this whole process, I honestly wasn't expecting to get in anywhere. I'm not sure why, but I just figured that the admissions adventure was going to repeat itself as it had in the past (spend money and time applying, maybe interview, get a pile of rejections, cry). Now that I actually have somewhere to go, regardless of what happens with any of the rest of my schools, I have to admit that yes, this is happening. I am going to do a post-bac and reapply to med school and (hopefully) go back to med school. In fact, it's so happening that I had to check "get into a post-bac program" off of my life list. Craziness.

This also moderately complicates our already-complicated housing situation. As of May 22nd, we have to tell our apartment complex that we're moving out of our apartment at the end of our lease, which ends July 22nd. We had planned on moving anyway, so that's not really a problem. The problem is that we don't want to move into another complex because for what we're looking for is too expensive in the southern NJ area. We don't even particularly want to stay in NJ, and depending on where I get into school now and for med school, would want to possibly move into the Philly suburbs at some point, but Ken isn't certified anywhere but NY and NJ (he's submitting his stuff to get certified in FL, PA, and MD, haha) and even if he was, it's a little too risky to move into PA when he doesn't know if he has a job there yet. (This wouldn't be a problem if NJ didn't have that pesky law that state employees have to live in the state.) Even if I got into one of the Philadelphia schools that I applied to, we'd probably stay in NJ at least for this year. Anyway, we don't want to move into a complex and so we're looking at privately owned condos, duplexes, houses, etc. The problem with that is that landlords don't want to lease a property to someone in May when they won't be getting their rent and such until July. We're prepared to give our first month and security deposit now, but that's still not enough to sway most landlords. That was stressful enough by itself, since it was looking like we'd be telling our complex that we're leaving before we know where we're going, but at least before Florida was back on the table, I figured we would be able to go out and look at places in late May/early June and know where we were moving. Now we have to wait until I hear back from at least one of the Philly schools, otherwise we might end up leasing something up here and then finding out, oh crap, we're moving to Florida (which would be less than optimal).

Hopkins should be getting back to me by the end of this month, and my interview for Penn is next Wednesday. When I applied at Penn, I had submitted my application for the Summer I start, which is apparently May 20th (which I didn't know when I applied). That is way too soon for me, as I'd like to work at least through June and hopefully July. Fortunately, I can defer my admission to another term. Summer II starts July 1st, which is better, and the Fall term start is August 28th. I was leaning towards at least starting in Summer II, but Pam told me that the courses offered for the program are both 12 weeks, which means I'd have to start Summer I, or defer to the fall... which is annoying. I would just go ahead and start in Summer I, but that's kind of like... TOMORROW, and annoyingly, I'm not eligible for CHOP to reimburse my tuition until July 23rd (a year from my start date). Who knows? All that to say, since Penn is operating on the assumption that I want to start on 5/20, they should probably tell me pretty quickly after my interview whether I've been accepted. If I get accepted at Penn, then Florida is off the table because again, we'd rather not move this year and potentially (probably) have to move again the following year for med school. Penn is my second choice program, as I'd rather go to Temple, but Temple doesn't start interviewing until May... schedules are complicated and they stress me out. I guess this is the point where I should say, "but I'm trying to embrace that chaos!" but really, I'd like to put the chaos on a bus and send it away to Abu Dhabi, and then possibly hide from it under my kitchen table. (Note: I didn't know Abu Dhabi was a real place until like, 3 years ago. That's kind of embarrassing but also wildly funny to me.)

So that's the up-to-the-minute on the school adventure. Work is going pretty well, and I am getting lots of positive feedback. It does make me sad that I'll be leaving here in August, but I know that it's the right choice. I feel kind of bad because lots of people have been telling me how great it is to have me here. Twice this week, I've been told, "Alison, you just get stuff done!" Hopefully someday, I'll back at CHOP, but I'll be a med student or maybe even a resident... or an attending?! A girl can dream, right? Right. We'll go with that.

In other news, I went to a book signing last night for Andrew Solomon's Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity. I had seen Andrew Solomon interviewed on some evening news show, like 20/20 or Dateline or something, and I knew that I wanted to read his book. It seriously did not disappoint, although my one piece of advice is to definitely read it on an e-reader of some kind because the book is MASSIVE. It's just over 900 pages (although the last 200 or so are sources and such), and it's only in hardcover currently. Carrying it in my Kindle was much easier than hauling the actual book around, although I did acquire a copy of the book for the signing. The book is fascinating, and is the culmination of 10 years of research about families dealing with exceptional children who are vastly different from themselves. It includes chapters on autism, deafness, dwarfism, schizophrenia, transgendered individuals, prodigies, and more. It is beautiful, heartbreaking, joyous, and absolutely changed the way I look at my own upbringing, my parents, and how I might want to parent my own potential children one day. I would basically recommend this book to anyone who has parents, haha. It earned a place on my Top 20 Books of All Time list, which I admit, started out as a Top 10 list, and then had to grow... and I suspect it will continue to grow forever. I just bought another book by the same author, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, and I can't wait to start it. I should probably also finish the other three books I'm reading but... what can you do?

That's about all of the exciting news from here. I am very ready for the weekend, even though it is going to be busy. Tonight I actually have no plans, which is glorious. Tomorrow, I have a stupid training from 10-12, and some random meetings, and then I'm (finally) getting my hair colored and my bangs trimmed at 5:30, after which I am meeting Lindsey for pizza. Saturday is going to be a flurry of activity in the morning, including cleaning and picking Victoria's dog up from the kennel and dropping her off at their house (they're coming back from a cruise, but not until late and didn't want to pay for another day, which makes sense). In the afternoon, Colleen is coming over to hang out and watch Downton Abbey, and then that night, I'm having a bunch of girls over for a Slumber Party party (like... a Tupperware party but way sexier, haha). Ken is being expelled from the apartment for the evening, but he's going to hang out with Levi, so I don't feel too bad, haha. Then Sunday... more cleaning/laundry/errands, and then dinner at The Pop Shop with some friends. Whew.

And on that note... I'm out. Keep looking for the sunshine, all.

- A

In Which I (Try To) Look to the Positive

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Whee, still alive! After the insanity that happened last week between Monday and Wednesday, I had said that if I were to suddenly burst into flames that I wouldn't have been surprised. Fortunately for me, I didn't burst into flames, fall down any flights of stairs, get hit by a bus, or anything else that would have been totally par for the course last week.  

Unfortunately, I did manage to get a cold, and since the weather warmed up a bit, everything decided that it was time to bloom, so the pollen counts were (and continue to be) through the roof. Despite being heavily medicated year-round for allergies, my sinuses felt like they were going to explode. A combination of Aleve Cold & Sinus, Benadryl, and using the Neti pot (on top of my regular Allegra, Singulair, Zetonna nasal spray combo) got me through it though, and now I'm back to my baseline, semi-sniffly, self. I did have some possibly allergy-related adventures this weekend (more on that later), so let's get to the recap.

Thursday was the book signing at the Philadelphia Free Library with Mary Roach, which was lovely. Pam and I went to the Kite and Key, a pub near the library, for dinner and drinks beforehand, and Jenn met up with us. Food was good, beer and cider were lovely, and the waiters were decent too. The signing was pretty packed, but we found three seats together towards the middle of the auditorium (and yes, we climbed over everyone to get to them). Mary (we're on a first name basis, obviously) was being interviewed by Anna Dhody, a curator at Philadelphia's (super cool)
Mütter Museum, and the talk was great. It was funny, informative, and very entertaining. Afterwards, we got our books signed and took some photos. Mary was exactly like I would imagine her to be; warm, friendly, goofy, and basically awesome. I want to hang out with her, just because she seems like a cool lady. Here's a shot from that evening:

Mary and me! We kind of look like we could be related... maybe?

Fun times were had by all, Jenn didn't get a parking ticket even though her meter was over, and I didn't get assaulted on the PATCO train on my way home, so... win! I did feel pretty terrible from my cold on Thursday and Friday, but I survived (although I did kind of want to post a public apology to my coworkers who had to listen to me blow my nose for 8 hours straight). Friday night, Ken left for NY and I spent the evening doing GRE practice, eating pizza, and watching DVR'd TV.

Saturday, I popped some drugs and took the GRE. I was worried that I would be blowing my nose through the entire exam and be "that annoying girl that everyone wants to kill". I was not that girl, but I did develop a lovely, dry, hacking, cough that persisted through the exam... so I was that girl, instead. At least the testing centers provide noise-canceling headphones now, so no one had to listen to me if they didn't want to. The test itself was pretty good, although the first math section was really hard and I had marked some questions to go back and answer and at the end, I ran out of time, so they were blank (which is dumb). The verbal sections were easier than on the practice tests, and the essays weren't terrible (but the prompts were pretty stupid, as per usual for standardized testing prompts). They changed the way the GRE is scored since the last time I took it (in 2007) so I was confused by what my score meant when I got it (164 verbal, 149 math, both out of 170), but ETS provides a handy-dandy conversion chart online, so I think I got somewhere in the neighborhood of 1320-1340. I somehow scored in the 99th percentile for verbal and in the 50th percentile for math, which is super unbalanced, but oh well. In the end, only 2 schools that I applied to needed my GRE scores, and they're in FL, so I don't really care, haha.

After the GRE, I went home and spent the rest of the weekend in bed, essentially. I read, caught up on the DVR'd stuff, watched some movies (Minority Report - Pretty good, Kill Theory - Absolutely horrible, although that wasn't surprising), and willed my immune system to get itself together. Ken came home on Sunday and we went to Zinburger for dinner, which is a new wine and burger bar that opened in Cherry Hill recently. Even though we had to wait 45 minutes for a table, it wasn't that bad because they text you when your table is ready, so we went down to the Barnes and Noble to walk around for a bit. The food was great, and there's a mural of cows on the wall, haha. I had purposes stopped eating before I was full, given my recent history of having stomach pain/nausea after meals. We left and I felt fine, but while we were driving home, I started to feel really nauseated. Ken asked if I needed to stop somewhere, but I thought I was starting to feel better... and then I really wasn't feeling better. As I was trying to find a place to pull over to possibly throw up on the side of the road, my body decided that no, I was going to throw up now. In my car. While DRIVING it.

NB - I do not recommend vomiting in your vehicle ever, especially not while operating it.

For about 2 seconds, I was convinced we were going to die, but I successfully navigated the car into a Burger King parking lot, where I sent Ken inside to get copious napkins and a cup of water. Meanwhile, I continued to violently vomit out while leaning out of my car and fortunately no one drove by and asked if I was okay (because clearly I was not and I was little busy and also didn't want to field questions, haha). I managed to extricate myself from the car without completely getting stuff everywhere, and thankfully, I had two Target bags in my backseat. I ditched my jacket, cardigan, and jeans (yes, I took my jeans off in a Burger King parking lot, I am that classy), threw them into the bag, and tossed it in the trunk. After cleaning up the car, we drove home. Interestingly, after throwing up, I felt completely fine and like nothing had even happened. As we were driving home, I was thinking about what the hell could have caused this, and I remembered that a few weeks ago, we were out with some friends and almost the exact same thing happened (although I was at their house and not in their car, thankfully). I had eaten a burger that night as well, and in fact, the meals had been nearly identical. Since red meat, cheese, french fries, and bread in general don't bother me, the only thing that was left was the avocado that had been on my burger.

INTERESTINGLY, there's this thing called latex-fruit syndrome, where people with latex allergies also have allergic reactions to foods that have proteins that are similar to rubber latex. Avocados, among other things, are on that list. Now, we're not exactly positive that I have a latex allergy, but I did get hives the last time I used a band-aid with latex in it (when I had my surgery... that was fun) so it's a possibility. I guess there are about a hundred other reasons why I violently vomited both of those times, so I plan to ask my allergist about it tomorrow at my follow-up appointment. I'll be sure to keep you posted.

Then, as if Sunday weren't already fun enough, I somehow managed to aggravate my back by getting into bed. Apparently, I am 90 years old. I don't know what I did, but something made my back absolutely freak out on Sunday night. I have a history of back problems ever since I slipped and fell out of the shower, herniated two discs, and fractured my spine in 2008 (Note: This is why you should always put a mat in the bottom of your tub, no matter how old you are!) I didn't know I even had done anything until 2010, because the immediate pain had been treated by a doctor with some muscle relaxants and steroids. Finally, after 18 months of pain, I got an MRI and surprise! I had 2 herniate discs and while the bone wasn't still fractured, it looked like it had been at some point. I did PT and eventually got an epidural injection to help with the pain, and since then, I've been pretty pain-free with the exception of a few days here and there (which to me, falls under the category of "normal").

But then Sunday.... it was like I had been transported back to 2010 when I was in so much pain I could hardly move. I figured (hoped?) that it was a little muscle spasm that time, heat, and some anti-inflammatory meds would fix. When that didn't work, I added the Vicodin that I had been given last time for back pain. Nothing. Nothing was touching this pain that at its worst, has made me cry, and at its best, I can almost get away from if I lie very still, close my eyes, and focus on my breathing. It's never gone. I broke down and made an appointment to see my GP tonight, so I am hoping that he can quickly diagnose this issue and fix it. I have had enough of this!

So that was my exciting weekend. Monday and Tuesday were pretty unbearable between the cold and the back pain, although my cold symptoms were gone by Monday night (thank goodness for small favors). Yesterday, I saw the reproductive endocrinologist at Penn, and he (and his resident) were very nice. He totally supported my decision to forgo the Lupron this time, citing that the only real reason to go on the Lupron is for pain management, and since I'm not in pain, why would I need to do that to myself. He said that I will probably be just as symptom-free on the birth control pills anyway. Even if he had said, "Yeah, you should totally do the Lupron," I probably wouldn't have changed my mind unless there was some wildly convincing evidence that he could point to for why I should take it. We also talk about potential infertility issues, and while I do  have some strikes against me, he says that we shouldn't worry until we find out that we can't get pregnant, as he's seen plenty of women in my situation (endometriosis + PCOS) get pregnant the first month that they go off of the pill. He did seem a little surprised that Ken and I want to wait a few years before having kids, but he wasn't pushy about it. I guess when your job is to get people pregnant and you have a patient who says, "Nah, I'm good for now," it can be a little confusing, haha. In any case, I'll definitely be going to him for PCOS/endometriosis problems in the future, and definitely if there are problems in the conception department (way farther in the future than potential PCOS/endometriosis problems, haha).

In other news... Ken and I picked out new glasses frames, which is always exciting. I usually have the hardest time in the world picking out frames, but this time, it was really easy. Here are my old frames and new frames for comparison:

Out with the old...

... in with the new!
The "old" ones are still wearable, and I'll keep them around because I do still like them. I just wanted something a little different and a little more neutral. There's still the teal/turquoise in there, because I just can't help myself, haha. I also tried on the same Kate Spade frames with a light green on the inside of the frames, but my heart belongs to blue.

Anyway, I am going to go so I can get to my doctor's appointment and hopefully get some good drugs. Enjoy the sunshine, everyone!

- A

In Which I Have to Laugh or Else I'd Cry

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

If there is ever a time in my life where I think that Murphy's Law doesn't exist, please point me to this week in history. It is days like today, and weeks like this week, where I remember something that my high school, AP Psych teacher said to our class. He was recounting a story in which he worked in a mental health facility on a locked ward, and how some of the patients were absolutely ridiculous. (There was once a patient who was convinced that my teacher was JFK and sang "Happy Birthday Mr. President" to him and started removing her clothes whenever she saw him... and no, my teacher did not look ANYTHING remotely like JFK.) Anyway, he said, "You have to laugh or else you'll cry," and it's something that's stayed with me for a long time. When things are so bad and crazy and weird that you can't imagine them going any worse, you have to laugh or else you'll cry. Today was one of those days, and this week is definitely one of those weeks.

After Monday's excitement (and I use that term LOOSELY) of discovering that my social security number may have been stolen to file a fraudulent tax return, I figured that the rest of the week would be relatively calm. Maybe some work drama, like ridiculous spreadsheets that are so big they require tape and an arts and crafts project:

This is inappropriate spreadsheet design. This is also only a THIRD of the spreadsheet.

Or maybe some health or family issues, nothing crazy. Today, I left on my lunch hour to go to my therapist's office in Center City for the appointment I made after I had my "my body sucks and my health sucks and I hate everything" meltdown on Thursday. I take the bus there because it's cheaper than a cab and just as fast (or slow). I got there, had my appointment, grabbed some tacos at Chipotle for lunch, and ran to catch the bus as it was approaching. The bus was crowded, as it often is in the afternoon, so I was standing in the aisle near the back, trying to jockey for a seat. As I started up the steps to the rear part of the bus, an older guy stood up and blocked my path, and was crowding into me. There wasn't anywhere for me to go on this stupidly crowded bus, so I was trying to maneuver around this crazy person who seemed intent on either groping me, falling over, or both. At the next stop, he bolted off the bus, and I assumed that he was just some crazy guy who was a big weirdo. Another passenger on the bus said to me, "I think that guy was trying to steal your wallet," so I looked into my bag. Lo and behold, no wallet.

Now, my bag is big:

So, I looked around in it for a few minutes and made sure that I wasn't just missing it. Sadly, I was not... it was gone. I immediately called my bank and canceled my credit cards, then got my personal and joint debit cards canceled. Unfortunately, the jerk had already charged $76 on the joint account (after not being successful with the personal account b/c hey, it's the day before payday and that account is LOW right now), but I was transferred to the fraud department and the claim has already been filed to get that $76 back. I should have my new debit cards within 2-3 days, new credit cards in 7-10 days, and the money should be back in our account in 5-7 days.

I feel very lucky that nothing bad happened to my person, and that I wasn't injured or assaulted (any more than almost being groped, anyway), and that my checkbook, car keys, work ID, work phone, and personal phone were all okay. I feel really stupid for not realizing what was happening, and for not saying something to the effect of "What the hell are you doing?" when the interaction seemed so weird. I'm also glad that even though he DID steal money from our account, he only got $76, and it'll come back to us. He charged it at Rite-Aid, so I'm pretending that he really needed food and medications for his children, and not that he bought $76 worth of cigarettes and pseudoephedrine drugs to make meth or something. It makes me feel better if I think about that (probably made-up) scenario, so I'm going with it.

I'm also really lucky that I have so many friends who, upon finding out about this ridiculous turn of events, offered to drive me home, come pick me up from work, lend me money for lunch or money to get home, and offered their general support for how much this week has sucked. I can only imagine that tomorrow will be better because at least my wallet can't be stolen because hey, that already happened. I'll probably take the train to work unless Ken wants to get up and drive me into the city, and then tomorrow night, I'm going to a book signing for Mary Roach's new book Gulp: Adventures of the Alimentary Canal with Pam and Jenn, and Pam made me promise that I'll let her buy me a drink before the signing tomorrow. I think I'll take her up on it, because I could seriously use one, haha.

This weekend, I'm taking the GRE on Saturday (lame) and also getting a new driver's license, because I totally love spending my free Saturdays in the Motor Vehicle Commission waiting for a terrible photo to be taken. Ken will be in NY from Friday night to Saturday night, so I plan to just study, relax, watch movies, and pretend that my life couldn't be made INTO a terrible, Lifetime, movie right now.

At the very least, I have to imagine that I'm due for some good luck and some good news soon, so maybe I'll hear something good from my post-bac program applications. Until then, breathing in, breathing out, and laughing (or else I'll cry).

- A

In Which I Contemplate my Identity

Monday, April 1, 2013

This sounds like it's going to be a deep, philosophical, post, and if I didn't have to take the GRE in 5 days and fold 173 loads of laundry*, it might turn into that. Instead, all I have the brain power to do at this point is relay the events of my day and tell myself that sometimes, you have to laugh or else you'll cry.

It's April, which means it's almost Tax Day, and for most people that is either cause for celebration (Yay! We're getting a return!) or dismay (Boo! We owe money! Or we aren't getting a big enough return!) Lots of people rage at the government (although I guess that's every day, not just tax day) and papers are pushed from one pile to another. For the last... 10 years or whatever that I've worked, I've always filed my own taxes for free online using TurboTax or H&R Block's free filing for the 1040-EZ form, but since Ken and I were filing as married people this time, we figured we should hire a professional... so we did! About three weeks ago, we took our pile of papers into his office and wished him luck. He was super nice (and recommended to us by a friend) and after a cursory look, said that we probably were going to break even. We were bummed, but excited because, hey, we didn't owe anyone anything. Whoo hoo!

Last week, the accountant called and said that he had good news!  We were getting a return! A nice return! He had found some extra credits and such that we were eligible for, so we were excited. We originally had owed NJ $45, but then I found the second page of my tax return from CHOP which had the (really annoying) city wage tax for Philly on there, so our debt of $45 turned into another couple hundred in the return. Hooray for us! Today, we emailed the accountant our signed authorization for e-filing and we were ready to wait for our money.

Then the accountant called me again. He had a question about my social security number and wanted to make sure that he had it correct. I called him back and confirmed that yes, the number he had was correct. Then he said that we had a problem, because there was already a tax return filed with my social security number. After a quick check with my parents to make sure they hadn't accidentally claimed me or something, it was decided that either:

1. Some accountant or tax payer somewhere had mistyped their own SSN and filed it under mine by mistake, OR

2. Someone had stolen my SSN


The rest of the afternoon was spent filling out forms for the IRS so I could basically say, "Hey, please file my return, but someone else has filed a return with this SSN, so you might want to check that out." I also remembered that oh hey, my passport has been MIA since July 2011, so perhaps I should finally get on canceling that. I am 99% sure it wasn't stolen, but who knows, maybe that's why my SSN is somewhere else in the world. Interestingly, but probably not related, my Gmail account was hacked last week or two weeks ago. In any case, today was really not fun. On the bright side, our return can still be filed, but it has to be done so on paper, which means it will take longer for us to get our refund... but oh well, as long as we're still getting the money, I am okay with that. I also requested copies of my credit reports because if someone has my SSN, I'd like to ensure that they aren't massively screwing up my credit. For whatever reason (that I would like to believe is entirely unrelated to my SSN being used somewhere by someone who isn't me), I couldn't access my credit reports online through the Annual Credit Report website, so they have to be mailed to me (lame), so I should have them in 2-3 weeks. SIGH.

When I wasn't handling that issue today, I was going through the world's worst designed spreadsheet in the history of spreadsheets everywhere and attempting to create forms in our online form designer. Basically, the entire day gave me a headache, and then I had to come home and interview via Skype for the program at Johns Hopkins, which I don't think I will go to even if I do get accepted because it was WAY more expensive than some of the programs up here. I suppose we'll see, and if it's the ONLY place I get in, then yeah, I'd go... but man, I did not want to spend that much money on this endeavor.

So yes, someone may have stolen my identity. I wish I could tell them that they really should have picked someone better. Someone with less debt, perhaps... and fewer health issues. Trust me, you don't want to be me, random person in the world. Speaking of health issues, I am 99% sure that I am refusing the Lupron... at least for now. I'm sure my doctor will not be thrilled, but he doesn't have a uterus at all, let alone mine, so he doesn't get much of a say in this conversation right now. If I am in excruciating pain and such in three months or six months or whenever, I'll consider it... but for now, I'm leaving things as they are, staying on my OCP, and praying that it helps. For once in its friggin' life, my body should do what it's supposed to do... or at least some reasonable facsimile of what it's supposed to do. I am thinking of trying to see a PCOS/endometriosis specialist at Penn, but we'll see if I can get in to see one before 2017.

Anyway, I have to get back to the laundry and quantitative comparisons (the bane of my existence), but let this serve as a reminder to all to check your credit report and file your taxes.

- A

*May be a slight exaggeration

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