Sunday, 27 October 2013

Stress Management (probably not recommended by therapists)

I have decided to leverage the power of social comparison to manage stress.

Therefore, I am alternately reading the blogs of a). people who appear to have the most boring lives imaginable and never really seem to DO anything (interestingly this does not stop them from writing about it anyway) and b). people who had something really terrible happen unexpectedly.

I even found one with both elements - a saccharine and cliche-filled few years of blogging from a young wife and mother, followed by a total crisis when her 31-year-old husband dropped dead unexpectedly. (Interestingly, her writing got much better after the latter event - it got right rid of all the cliches and the saccharine).

This has the result of putting my worries totally into perspective: it has the dual effect of reminding me that things might be stressful, but at least there are interesting things going on; and that I better enjoy it because actually overall things are pretty great and you never know what is coming down the road. Something terrible could happen at any moment, and has totally happened to lots of people, which really puts not being able to travel for Christmas (should my visa not come through in time) in perspective.

This is working great so far.

Other, more healthy ways to manage stress include social support (had a nice chat with Judith today), the gym and crocheting like a mad thing. Always very soothing. This will all work out somehow, presumably... and at least I'm doing things and nobody has discovered an undiagnosed heart problem!

Friday, 25 October 2013

I don't feel sorry for the stressful lives of the people in Brides magazine

I read part of a "Brides" magazine at the dentist office today. Apparently I should be worrying about shaping eyebrows and choosing a lipstick rather than about finding a place to live and getting a visa. Sigh.

(Also I should have started my fitness regime about three months ago).

Things I am actually worried about:
- if I apply for the visa now, will I get my passport back in time for Christmas?
- what if I beg?
- will the visa thing work out ok? What the heck am I gonna do if I can't stay in the UK with Del?
- is Pike going to give me back my damage deposit?
- how am I going to get rid of enough stuff to make moving on Dec 1st a reasonable idea?
- will I get proper credit for ANY of the papers I'm working on? (going to try and have this discussion next week so that should be fun)
- what the heck am I gonna wear for this wedding then?
- and a million trillion other tiny (and huge - i.e. photography and invitations) wedding details

Oh yeah, and there's the small matter of making a giant life change next year (bigger than usual, I mean) and being unemployed as well. 

However, things are moving forward on the "place to live" front. Hand-delivered my notice to landlords today and made them sign and date it, so no one can claim I didn't give proper notice. I went to see a place earlier this week - it is the studio apt of a deeply socially-awkward and extremely sweet French guy called Alex, who regularly spends three months in New Haven and then three in Paris. Almost positive I can have the place from Dec 1st - Feb, assuming he doesn't give it to the girl with the two cats (landlady is not big on cats apparently, so have a feeling I am safe there). He was super conscientious and told me about the dog that lives upstairs and walks around, and the fridge that uses electricity too fast if you turn it up. If those are the main problems, I think I am good. 

It's far away from work but Google Maps reckons only a 45-min walk, and it IS on the shuttle line. And I wouldn't have to share with anyone. Plus Alex might want my bed (might barter that one for Feb rent or something). If I can't have it, I want someone nice to have it!

Ooh, on the plus side though I'm on my last physio appt. My knee is so much better it's unbelievable. I can do almost anything without pain - it just twinges if I sit on my knees at the wrong angle (bad habit).  I can even run! Physio says come back in two weeks and they will officially graduate me (or whatever the heck they do). They have been kicking my butt every week, which I will miss in a way (like free personal trainers!) but SO happy not to need them any more.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

P.S. someone from the flat upstairs just went pounding down the stairs, saying in a very loud, very Gen Y accent, "I just want to get all of the property managers in New Haven together in a room, and like, just scold them!"

I heartily concur.

Merely psychosomatic... that boy needs therapy!

Wow, mom is right. Having a blog makes it MUCH easier to try and track down EVERYWHERE YOU'VE BEEN IN THE WORLD for the past ten years for a visa application.

Still not fun, though.

However, I have come to the conclusion that I should post more often.

Finally heard back from landlords. I sent an email to every address I could find on the webpage and someone FINALLY called me back. That is literally the first time that has happened since I first moved in. Usually no one answers the phone, and I leave messages into the void. Or no one replies to email, no matter how grouchy/carefully worded.

Anyway, the dude I talked to says he will only give me a lease till the end of May, June or July. Then I can find my own sublettor. "We can't leave a place in a prime location like that empty, and it is too much risk for us to then have to find someone else". Oh, okay then, please do let me take the risk instead, and charge me extra rent for it! Sounds great!

ummmm, no.

I haven't emailed them though, because I am having weird symptoms and I'm stressed I have tetanus. I know I almost certainly don't have tetanus, but I wish my neck and jaw muscles weren't so tight and my butt muscles would stop randomly twitching. It's almost certainly a combo of stress and psychosomatic symptoms, but still... no fun.

Anyway, I drafted an email but am loathe to send it because not sure what they will come back with. Technically lease ended on Monday. I've started the process of getting the sublet I looked at on Friday (for December 1st) but am looking at another tomorrow night. Guy from the first place sendtme a weird email explaining that there are tons of other people who want the place, so wouldn't feel too guilty about ditching on that as long as there's still lots of time till December for him to find someone else. Second place is miles away up in East Rock so much less convenient, but it's a studio apt, so no random Russian housemate. We shall see. This will all work out okay.... right???

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Forgot the other thing that happened this week, which was cutting my leg open on a metal fire hose connector thing sticking out from the wall at Beinecke Plaza and bleeding all over everything, then crashing the new Yale President's inauguration to find a bathroom to clean it up. Luckily the bathroom in question had a lovely first aid kit and I had Rebecca with me (physicians come in handy), but it was fairly unpleasant. Then the next day Rebecca made me go get a tetanus shot and that took up half of the day. On the plus side, I'm protected from diptheria and whooping cough for ten years as a side effect...

In which everything seems to happen at once

Things are going faster and faster and I'm just trying to hang on and cope as best I can...

Had a grant due this week that took over my life (as they tend to do) and pushed everything else aside for a while. The stupid thing is that it's for Yale, which doesn't work out that great in the grand scheme of things, life-plan-wise. Still, I never get these things anyway so it is probably moot. What happened was, I applied for similar funding last year - or tried to - with someone in London. One of my referees did not submit their letter and I couldn't contact them, so in the end the grant never went in. Horrible situation. Anyway, I agonized all summer about approaching the London person again - I have one more shot at Canadian postdoctoral funding as they give you two years after finishing - and finally got up the courage to email her. Sadly, she couldn't take on another person in her lab at that point. (Or else she thought I was an idiot and was just being polite - hard to say). She suggested a former student of hers as a back-up supervisor. The former student was interested, and we got most of it written - and then her institution said the salary amount would not be enough to meet the minimum standard for postdocs! (Note: the salary award would be more than I make now. Apparently British institutions are far more generous).

So there I was, with a grant but no place to take it up - and it was due in a matter of weeks. I asked a colleague at Yale what to do and he offered to take me on if I got the grant - but then we ended up totally changing the entire thing a week beforehand, and then four days beforehand I had a sudden epiphany about methods and rewrote the whole works once again. So the original idea was not to waste an opportunity to submit an already-written grant even if the location of tenure wasn't the best - and then we ended up basically writing two new ones anyway. Whoops.

Then the latter part of the week was crazy because we ran bucketloads of participants, mostly kids with ADHD and Tourettes, including one this morning (Saturday). Tiring. It takes a WHOLE lot of energy to get a twitchy, jumpy, bored kid through a long and boring EEG task. (And a whole lot of stickers for bribery purposes). We had one little guy with Oppositional Defiant Disorder - that was fun - and today's was lovely but VERY hyperactive. I think the constant injunctions to sit still were actually torture for him.

 I did manage to squeeze in a visit to the seamstress on Chapel Street armed with Mom's/Grandma's wedding dress. I was hoping she could alter it to fit me, saving a lot of trouble looking for a dress. Alas, the fabric is too fragile to alter (and my hips and shoulders are too big not to alter).

"It's too bad your mom didn't take better care of her dress," she told me. "Oh well, the lace is still lovely. It would make a lovely christening gown for a little girl!"

(and I'm thinking, hold up lady, they haven't even managed to drag me to the altar yet!)

I could use the lace to make a veil and it would be awesome, but not sure if it's worth the destruction of the dress. The seamstress did point out a lot of spots where it's torn and stained, though... she didn't think it was really wearable even if I was Grandma-sized. Still, it's really disappointing. Definitely would have been happy to give the ol' girl one more wedding outing. (The dress, not Grandma).

So yeah, now I have to add "finding a wedding dress" to my to-do list. 

I also joined a mentoring program this week through Women in Science at Yale, just for the heck of it, and now have two Ph.D. students from Public Health to mentor. Not sure how much use I will be as I've taken an EXTREMELY non-traditional route, but it will be fun to try.

But the main crazy stressor this week was housing. This is a long and stupid story, as so many seem to be.

Basically, the (jerk) landlords sent me a letter in September claiming to not have received September rent. It was quite a mean letter full of eviction threats. I called and emailed (I had sent the cheque mid-August) and nobody ever replied, so eventually I went in person, with printed evidence that the cheque had been sent in hand. However, because I was worried about these eviction threats, I also sent another, replacement cheque (with REPLACEMENT in large letters on it).

I spoke to the accountant, who claimed never to have received the original cheque but who promised to destroy it if found.

I'm sure you can see where this is going.

Three days later - bam, two lots of rent taken out of my account, plus a bonus extra lot of October rent (which I sent early due to the accusations and threats from September). She blatantly put through the original, "lost" cheque.

I went back in to discuss and she said it would be applied to November. Then, in passing, she asked if I was renewing the lease (ends at the end of Oct), or was I leaving? Well, no, I said, you've just taken November rent. But I could sign a lease until the end of February. Oh, no, we don't do short leases or month-to-month.

But the lease I signed says that's what happens.


But I will check if you can do a short lease.

So I sent several emails to follow up and finally got one back saying I could sign a six-month lease. I wrote back to say I can't do that as I'm leaving in February. I asked if they'd be willing to do that.

No answer.

Follow-up email, no answer.

So now I'm left totally uncertain whether they will try to evict me in November (for which they took rent via cashing the cheque when they promised not to) since the lease is up, or what. If they hold firm to "six-month lease or nothing' I am kind of screwed. So... ALSO spent the week on Craiglist looking for short sublets. I found a Russian dude called Nikolay who is willing to sublet from Dec-Feb. The place is tiny and furnished, so I would have to spend November downsizing and packing. Still, I would be free of ridiculous landlords who won't pick up the phone or answer email. (Never rent from Pike International). That said, I am a bit worried they would try to hold the damage deposit hostage, despite the fact this is clearly illegal in CT. Argh!

So yeah. Opinions? Current plan is to try once more with Pike to get some sort of clarification on how firm this "six-month lease only" thing is. Then, if they won't tell me or refuse to let me stay till Feb, I guess Nikolay it is. I could live without another stupid move, but if I have to I will.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Currently holed up on the futon drinking the Walgreens version of LemSip/Neocitran and making cool stuff out of crochet. (Christmas presents, if I can bear to give them away!) Caught some sort of horrible swollen-throat thing, probably from the kiddies at work. Tis that time of year.

Think I am finally over my bout of crazy-brain anxiety, which is good, but bad because there was a lot I should have accomplished. I just felt paralyzed. Very annoying. Thanks for the supportive comments, by the way, which I couldn't read at the time because I was worried about what they would say. Crazy-brain. Anyway, the wedding is sort of on the way to being planned in that we're busy contact registrars, applying for visas etc. Judging by Pinterest most peoples' wedding planning is taken up by much more fun things (then again, apparently envelope liners are a thing - "a skilfully lined envelope hints at the elegant invitation within!" - so maybe not).

I did manage to get one paper submitted thanks to my rock-star buddy at Regina, who spotted me some data and let me do the write-up for the first-author slot. No word yet, but just to have something submitted is huge. No sign of anything out of the postdoc, and in fact feel actively blocked by supervisor everytime I try to do something, so that sucks. I have told him I'm leaving at least, AND got my US visa extended, so two huge stressful things are out of the way. Currently applying for postdoctoral funding (that I don't really want due to location, but you can't NOT apply) and trying frantically to dig something publishable out of the terrible collection of EEG data I've been handed.

Del was over to visit for a few weeks, which went a long way towards dissipating stress. We didn't actually get all that much done but he is a calming influence. Plus, I guess it's harder to be crazy-brain when you're not alone all the time. We had lots of adventures involving transit (it turns out that to go to the outlet mall in Clinton, you can take a train THERE but there are no RETURN trains. There are literally no return trains from Clinton to New Haven. None. It didn't show up on Google Maps but I figured, there's no way there's NO return trains ALL night from an entire town, right? Wrong. Welcome to America. We had to take a train the wrong direction for three stops, get off, wait an hour and then take a train back the right direction. And then Del left his bag/wallet in the pub just as the train pulled up and it all got very exciting for a second) and went to the Pez museum! Bet you didn't know the Pez museum is in Connecticut.
Actually we did quite a lot of stuff. I shall post some photos:

New York, stayed in awesome hotel, ate scary American food at Virgil's BBQ with Del's best friend Kate, who happened to be in town from Edinburgh (!)

(that is some sort of bourbon milkshake on the right, if I remember correctly).
Went to Top of the Rock finally, saw the musical Matilda with Del's friend Delphine, who ALSO happened to be in NYC from Oxford, went out for BBQ yet again... good times.

Then the next weekend we went to Cape Cod/Martha's Vineyard because it seemed a shame to briefly be an East Coast girl and not have gone. Saw Plymouth Rock. Giant rock with date carved on it. Americans very excited anyway. Also saw a big ship and messed around the harbour for a bit. 
Went to Hyannis on Cape Cod. Stayed in the Princess Suite, which was basically a 70s porn director's idea of what a classy motel room should look like. Got to watch a large American dude throw a giant tantrum in the lobby upon check-in: he had wanted to propose to his girlfriend and somehow got the impression from the website that this place was an upscale hotel. Ummm...


So yeah, he was horrified and kept screaming, but as far as we could tell there was nothing actually WRONG with the room, it just... wasn't exactly classy/upscale. Funny but cringe-inducing. Saw him (alone) the next morning at breakfast down the street, confiding in the ladies at the next table his tale of woe!

Oh, and Del tried his first Slurpee at the most upscale Sev I've ever seen.

Oh yeah, this one was for Grace.

Always thinking of my dear sister.

Anyway, the next day we headed over to Martha's Vineyard - basically chasing the ferry schedule all over the Cape. With our usual sound planning we missed the one out of Hyannis (well, the cheap one anyway) and headed down the Cape - nope, missed that one too, better go to Woods Hole. In the end we got a way faster, cheaper ferry and a free parking spot, so all worked out quite well.

Twas gorgeous and the ice cream there was INSANE. Basically we just poked around the first town we came to and hung out on the beach - pretty sweet for September.

And since then I have basically been working working to catch up (and then being ill and undoing it all again). Anyway, tomorrow is Yale Day of Service, so going to go plant some trees or something in a community garden...