Thursday, June 20, 2013

Working Through Illness

One thing you have probably noticed is that I'm illness prone. I have a nice little laundry list of illnesses that plague me. Luckily I've learned a few tricks over the past couple of years that have helped to get me through the day as much as possible.

1. Let others know I'm sick.

  • This can also work against you, but since I was open from the beginning about the illnesses that I have, I have had no problems my entire work career. Some of my medication can cause drowsiness, others can caused more bathroom breaks, and I am also prone to migraines (which can make staring at a computer screen all day a little hard). So when I let others know I am not feeling well, they tend to give me a little more time with specific projects. If something is time specific they will find someone to split responsibilities with me.
2. Tell my mom.
  • My mom is an angry woman LOL. She WILL not put up with my sick excuses so she will either force me to go to work or guilt me into going to work. While this may not work for some people and it has created many a raspberry behind her back from me, it actually forces me to decide if I REALLY am too sick to go into work. She will know when I'm really bad when I literally can't get out of bed (which luckily is less often then in the past).
3. Take mini breaks at specific times.
  • I am a night owl by design. So early mornings is my least productive time. So usually I will get to work, check my email, decide what is important, organize my day....then take a break. I spend time checking my personal email (not on the work desktop) and reading the news. I will also look at some work related e-newsletters for fun. After that I get to work and hit my stride, break for lunch and get back to work until I leave. This allows me to stretch my legs and reduces eye strain and feeling overwhelmed. If I'm really feeling sick I may add additional breaks and sit outside a little for some fresh air.
4. Drink lots of water
  • I have noticed that when I'm sick I am easily dehydrated which makes me feel worse, so I have a cup in my office just for getting cold water. Its really helpful and its healthy.
5. Telework
  • I am lucky enough to be able to work from home occasionally. So if I'm very sick or feel like it would be unsafe to drive the 25 miles to work, I will work from home. I will usually take small naps throughout the day and tend get the majority of my work done at night. I will check my emails and texts for urgent matters. But I will usually sleep in late but work longer into the evening. I don't necessarily like working from home because I don't have an office so its harder to stay focuses and productive, but I've worked it out somehow.
My number 6 is probably the weirdest one which is why I chose not to really make it like the above. But I do like to kid-geared snacks to brighten my mood. This could be Goldfish, Gummy bears, Fruit Roll-ups, Teddy Grams, etc. They are fun to eat and not always the best for my diet, but tend to help me feel better. Improved mood = improved health outcomes (sometimes, lol). I will usually snack on these throughout the day. Its important to create small portions, otherwise you may end up eating a whole bag of Goldfish before you know it!

So hopefully my little list was helpful. Its getting better. But there was a time when I missed, A LOT of work so working through it is important.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Today was one of those days that was originally set to be a GO GO GO day. I had meetings set up, papers and analysis to do, and just general daily job tasks. But, today turned in to a very slow and unproductive day, which means using sick hours. I had a specialist appointment with a GI doctor. He told me I may have IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) but wants to schedule a colonoscopy anyway to ensure there is nothing else as well as a blood test before hand. My dad was not so happy to hear that information, my mom is used to my issues and was like "oh well that sucks" and well my boss is just happy that hopefully I'll get some answers soon.

In terms of my paper, I am on the fast track now. I was worried that maybe I wasn't ready but after talking to some people I had to realize I spend WAY too much time in my head (or what I call Negativetown: The Vast Wasteland Abyss). I am trying to stay focused and positive. Lets see how long that lasts.

In POSITIVE news, I do enjoy the new summer interns we have in the office. Its weird being so much older but they get my weird humor. I don't feel so out of place like I did with my original coworker, though I enjoyed them as well. I think I was intimidated because they were so much ahead of me. The environment is just different. But I do miss my old coworkers. Also, on Thursday, I will be looking at houses near campus. They have a Live Near Your Work program where they give out grants to full time employees who buy homes in various areas around the University or Hospital. I'm hoping to take advantage of it before I (potentially) start school. *crosses fingers* But in the meantime I'm looking for an apartment to move into. I need my own space and its just time. If only it weren't so stressful. Someone HELP!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day

I just wanted to send a very quick Happy Father's Day to my dad. He is one of the people that got me interested in health when I was younger and I love to talk about the latest news or research in the medical field or public health with him. I am also the youngest AND only girl so I AM the offical daddy's girl. So my brother's and I took him to Nandos Peri-Peri for lunch, gave him some gifts and hung out for a little. My brothers got him some UnderArmor gear and I got him a very nice card (if I say so myself) and a CD because he LOVES music. He was really happy and couldn't stop smiling. He has always been a great dad and always a constant in my life despite my parent's separating and then divorcing when I was younger. Only thing hes waiting for now is me to get my PhD and for one of us to give him some grandkids. HA! That's not going to happen ANY time soon.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Stress Debts

Before my December graduation, that looming fear of student loan repayment kicked in but "luckily they won't be due until June", I thought. How VERY wrong I was. I had planned to pay off a $500 personal loan and $500 credit card I had with my credit union from my previous job at the USDA. I figured I could pay those off in 6 months easily with my new job including my car payment, insurance, transportation costs, food, and incidentals. Once again, how very WRONG I was.

First I was hit with a mysterious pain and swelling in my right wrist which required 2 separate doctor's visits and an xray, a routine visit to the dentist which turned into a not so routine visit and need for a filling, as well as trip to LA to visit my boyfriend after receiving my tax return. Well, as my medical bills increased and the price of the trip increased, I realized I was paying more catch up with bills than I was at paying off my debt. I continued to pay the minimums until I could get my money back from the dentist's office....only to find out that they would not be covering 2/3 of my bill and though my out-of-pocket cost skyrocketed. In order to not have my bills sent to collections (I was NOT willing to ruin my credit), I paid off all of those bills.

Then shortly after returning from LA, I got an email saying that my first student loan payment would become due soon. "Um, wait I thought I had 6 months." Well once my loans were sold, things changed and either I failed to pay attention or I never received the information. Either way I was NOT going to ruin my credit with paying late. At this time I was also trying to lose weight and went to a Weight Management Center at Hopkins. I actually got a Groupon for this which was a full work-up and meeting with everyone for $300 which was a drastic discount. I went, started on supplemental foods (which once again came out of pocket) and hoped insurance would cover it. Only to find out later that they didn't cover that center but one at Bayview. Woops. So no recouping my $300. Keep in mind I did read my policy and it stated that it would cover one nutrition meeting/visit a year and any subsequent ones would be on a case-by-case basis based off your need. They never specified it had to be a specific facility. Bummer.

So between mounting medical bills (this including my medications for another condition), I was officially living paycheck to paycheck and struggling to pay everything off. Then in March, I got another email saying, yep you guessed it, another loan was due. Out of my 3 loans, only one would give me the full 6 month deferment. According to various calculators, I made too much per month to qualify for any of the repayment plans. So I continued to struggle and my debts continued to spiral. 

I had tried and failed at maintaining well thought out budgets because new bills would appear, new repairs for my car would crop up, my unhealthy spending habit due to my illness would crop up. So about 2 weeks ago I was able to apply for Income-Based repayment for my student loans since my last loan would take my loan payments over the $400 mark a month. Now I get to pay $0 for 12 months. 

So currently I'm using the Dave Ramsey Baby Steps. I'm actually paying off my credit card and adding money to my savings for an emergency fund. I'm technically doing step 1 and 2 together. I am paying the minimum on my personal loan since it has a lower interest rate. Once I have 1000 in my savings and pay off my credit card, I will finish paying off my personal loan and then that money will go directly into saving for a house and paying off my student loans as well as starting a retirement fund at my job. Even if I get accepted for the PhD program, I wouldn't start until next fall, thus I would lose out on a lot of the benefits I get as a full time employee currently. I do not want to lose out on those due to debt.

Its an ongoing process and I'm always adjusting my budget but I finally feel like I'm on the right track. Ask me in a couple weeks if I feel the say.
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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sick? Say goodbye to productivity

I have been getting increasingly sick the past couple of days and I'll spare you horrid details but lets just say...eww. Today I TRIED yes TRIED to work from home. The option to telework has truly made life easier for me. But today was NOT one of those days. I won radio tickets, went to pick them up and came home to basically live in the bathroom.

At this point, I doubt I'll actually be able to use said tickets. But its nice to finally win something for once.

But back to the task at hand. Which is basically getting nothing done. I eventually had to email my boss and let her know I was going to use the rest of the day as sick leave. I mentally am not all here. The fact I'm coherent enough or have the energy enough to write this post tells you a lot.

I would like to say I am one of those people that can work through their pain but I am NOT one of those people. I tend to wade in it like its a half filled Dora the Explorer kiddie pool. I'm working on it. I actually can work in very short spurts depending on the illness. But considering I can barely manage to stay still, it's truly difficult to focus in the state I am now.

On top of that its hot, I'm poor, and I'm hungry but afraid to get sick again. Gatorade has become my best friend. I have way too much to do to be sitting around like this.

So how do you deal with productivity levels and sickness? Any tips? Horror stories?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Research Questions Make My Head Hurt

So yeah today was surprisingly humbling. Being in a room full of interns that are at least 4 years younger than me and far more prepared then me, was scary to say the least. I really hadn't formed my question well, though I did have a decent literature review.

Luckily, I was able to work with my mentor/adviser/new best bud Caryn who is already in the program. She gave me some pointers and she helped walk me through my thought process in order to better come up with my question. I was honestly having a hard time with working through it through email. So it was good actually talking with her.

Part of me feels like maybe I should wait another year after this experience but it was all constructive criticism that was necessary. I surprisingly took it a lot better than I thought, probably because I already knew how ill prepared I was.

I will say I am EXTREMELY proud of the interns for their level of preparedness and I can't wait to see what they do with their topics.

Top things I learned today:

  1. Do not take criticism personally. They are there to help you.
  2. Practice makes perfect. Being told the majority of your life what to write makes coming up with your own topic that much harder.
  3. Never buy school food. Why exactly did I spend 3.25 on a bag of gummy bears and 2.75 for a PB&J sandwich?
  4. Make eye contact! I'm getting to the point where I'm really struggling with this when conveying my message. I have to look people in the face more when I am talking instead of only when they are talking.
  5. Getting free things is fun. Thank you Panera for the free smoothie.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Tomorrow is another day!

Tomorrow I officially start my research paper. I have a question, dataset and literature review but tomorrow we work on some of the statistical analysis and hashing out our topics. I'm nervous. I am not only the oldest but will be the only person who will be submitting my paper. I am also the only full time employee. The others are summer interns who will be turning their topics into posters that they will need to present.

Luckily, I already have experience with STATA so that should cut out some of the "wasted" time learning a new program. The only problem is that doing this paper is on top of my full time job and studying for the GRE again. I'm so NOT excited about that.

Pray for me. LOL


Hi everyone,

My name is Paulette and I am a 24 year old Research Assistant at Johns Hopkins. I work on mostly on health disparities and diversity & inclusion at hospitals. I graduated from UMBC this past December with my BA in Health Administration. I decided to skip my Master's and will be applying to a PhD program here at Hopkins which is due December 1st.

I still live at home (eww) and I have two older brothers and a boyfriend. My boyfriend and I are long distance but going on 5 years. Hopefully he'll be moving out here soon and I'll be able to lean on him during those mental breakdown grad school moments that everyone talks about.

I'm hoping this blog will help me to stay focused during this application process and keep my life in perspective. Lets see how THAT goes.