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So Much Has Happened

Since I last posted (April, Merlin's beard), so much good has happened. I've found my niche in my job (not as in, "I've made lots of friends," but rather, "I've become accustomed to working alone."), our homebrewing has taken off and is yielding great results, friends and family have gotten married, announced pregnancies, and bought homes. Steve and I have been on vacations to NY and Atlanta, and on day trips around the PA area - we're in a good place.

And now, Donald Trump has been elected president.

Republicans control the House and the Senate.

The open Supreme Court seat has not yet been filled by Obama.

Republicans control all three branches of government.

The government can do nothing to erase my past happiness, but, if it can fulfill even half of Trump's campaign "promises," I think there's a good chance that finding future happiness will be difficult.

Dramatic, I know. But that feeling is no less real for me right now then the eye-rolling that future-me will have re-reading this.

But consider: Conservatives/Republicans may advocate for a small government, but how can you decrease something that is in every aspect of our lives? Infrastructure, research, global trade, the economy, civil liberties, human rights... The government has a role to play in all of it. I think of all the progress we've made over the last eight years - marriage equality, a woman's right to choose still being her choice, an imperfect implementation of socialized medicine, a path out of the Great Recession, strong diplomatic relationships with countries that deserve them and more cautious alliances with those that don't - and I can't help but wonder if this one night, this one monumental election, will undo all of it.

I hope I'm wrong. I fear I'm not.

And yet, the cynical side of me won't rest. We are obviously a nation deeply divided; we have been for a long time. But with Trump's win, we now know how we are divided, the ratios of it. The majority of our nation are racists, misogynists, rape apologists, homophobic, and xenophobic. The majority of our nation is controlled by fear and resistant to change.

Fine. So be it.

Let's sleep in our bed, America. This is who we are, and this is who we want to continue being for the next four years. Okay. Let's do it. Let's take a snapshot now, and another four years from now, and let's compare. If we're better off, great. And if we're not...

I told you so.

What I Wouldn't Give for a Rewind Button

Tried to join in to a conversation across cubes today. Didn't work. Feel like an goddamn idiot. Wish I could disappear.

Hello stress, my old friend.

I don’t know what it is about today. Maybe it’s just this whole transition. I’m almost a month into my job, and I don’t feel very competent at it. I haven’t been assigned much of anything, though I’ve been assured (repeatedly) that the work is coming. The few assignments I have had have gone fine, but I haven’t gotten into the nitty-gritty of anything yet. I’m having pretty consistent (one or two per week) anxiety dreams about inputting change controls, which is my main job responsibility that I haven’t had to do yet. I spend my days planning vacations, or reading, or Facebooking on my phone.

I haven’t made any friends here yet. I don’t think my coworker likes or respects me, professionally, though we’re just fine personally. The talkative women are cliquey, and the people in the cubes near me are quiet and swamped with work. I’m lonely. On top of this, I haven’t been given a permanent cube. I’m using a “rented” cube, where I can’t lock up my purse, or store my laptop overnight, or personalize to make it feel like somewhere I belong and want to be. I’m not used to this.

It’s difficult for me to interact with others. I lean toward introverted, so it’s hard to start relationships. I don’t remember how to make friends. I’m awkward and I say the wrong things. I spend the 25-minute ride home berating every weird thing I said or uncomfortable moment I felt, realizing that both are probably imagined and/or immediately forgotten by anyone else that may have witnessed them.

I’m trying to transition all my benefits over, and that hasn’t been easy. I’m a financial moron, and don’t understand what the best moves to make are. There’s weirdness with my HSA, confusion regarding my traditional vs Roth 401k accounts… I’m trying to learn what these things are and how they’re used, how much I’ll need versus how much I have. I think I’m in a good spot, but I still feel unprepared for my future.

I feel financially overwhelmed. We want to redo the basement, take a trip to Europe, eventually have kids (ugh – don’t even want to think about the costs of this step right now), and I just don’t know how I can afford it. How we can afford it. And this on top of tuition, which may or may not be reimbursed by my new employer.

There are some good things. Not having friends, combined with my unfamiliarity with this area, means that I haven’t been going out to lunch, which is friendly to both my budget and my waistline. I’m exercising every day and our wine-making hobby is going amazingly well. I’m going to donate blood at the end of the month.

I know the moaning is temporary. I’ll settle into a routine and adjust to my new space. My new life. It’s just hard, sometimes, to focus on the good.

Honeymoon Synopsis

Life has been so busy lately, and I'm neglecting my journaling - both physically and electronically. I know there's at least one or two more entries to make in my honeymoon travel journal which, in retrospect, I should have done while traveling (Merlin knows we had the time...), but didn't because... I don't know why. Maybe I didn't want to accept that it was over yet. Maybe I still don't want to accept it, as I keep dreaming of Mexico and warm places and whales and whale sharks.

It was a largely perfect vacation. The weather was gorgeous. In the mornings, it was in the high 50s/mid-to-low 60s, which meant that all the Baja natives were in long pants, long sleeves, and coats, while all the tourists were in maybe long pants or leggings and t-shirts (maybe light jackets or hoodies). Because the Waxmonsky's hooked us up, we had a Member's Breakfast every day, which was a buffet with slightly fancier items. We also got access to the Premium Bar, which was like all the other bars, but with better liquor (and better quality drinks). The resort itself was great. There was a bit of an issue with chair saving, but we managed to snag prime spots on the beach or by the pool on the days that we wanted. The pool water was cold in the main pool, warmer in the adults only pool, and either cold or scalding hot in the hot tub. Didn't matter - we enjoyed every part of it. There was no ocean swimming, as there was a pretty severe drop-off and the tides were dangerous. We dipped our feet, however, and did some quality swimming elsewhere in the ocean.

Our adventures were exciting and amazing and unbelievable. I'll talk about them in order of my preference, starting with the lowest.

4) Ziplining was pretty cool. I'd never done it before, and the guides had the entire process down to a science. They had been working together for a while, and you could tell that the entire point of their operation was to move people through this course as quickly as possible. There were some longer, uphill hikes to negotiate, but they weren't too strenuous. Some highlights for this adventure were the longest zipline in Mexico, where you go down facefirst (hence its name, the Superman) and reach up to 60 mph. Another highlight was the new Pendulum Drop attraction. I was the first of our group to do it. I was strapped into a harness and told to jump off a cliff five stories high. What a rush! It was terrifying, but physics were on my side. Still felt like I needed a stiff drink afterwards.

3) Booze cruise and snorkeling. This was very fun. We took a bus to Los Cabos, then hopped on a large boat. We saw the Arch, a colony of sea lions, and some whales! Finally, whales! We saw them breaching, and I got a good shot of a tail. We drank, then donned snorkels and fins and hopped into the water for an hour of snorkeling. Steve and I were in the water for about 45 minutes and, alas, I got sunburned. Fortunately, this was later in our trip, so I wasn't miserable for long. On the way back to the marina, there were some kitchy games for people on their honeymoons (woo!), having birthdays or anniversaries, etc. We saw some pretty cool fish, but nothing stunning.

2) Nature walk and camel ride. This gave me a "Is this really my life?" moment. We did a short nature walk along a canyon and saw a roadrunner, which is this tiny bird that eats snakes half at a time. The other half hangs out of its mouth until the half in its gut is digested. Cool, huh? After the walk, we rode camels! Steve and I shared a camel. It was nothing terribly special - a 15-minute, low-energy walk along the Pacific side of the Baja Peninsula. But the weather was perfect, the breeze was refreshing, and there were whales jumping in the distance. It was magical. And then there was this amazing Mexican food when we got back. Fresh-made tortillas, which turned into fresh-made quesadillas. Cactus salad, amazing beans, some spicy/sweet beef dish, arroz, and - be still, my heart - mole. Stunning food. Probably the best food we had during the trip.

1) Swimming with whale sharks. This was the best adventure I've ever been on. It took us forever to get to La Paz, which is to the north on the Sea of Cortes and where the whale sharks like to come and nom on plankton in the shallows. We split into two groups, donned wetsuits, grabbed fins and snorkels, and got on the boat. It took us maybe 10 or 15 minutes to find our first shark, and when we jumped in, it was on top of the damn thing. It was terrifying in a good way. They're just so big, but so graceful and beautiful. From then on, it was pretty much non-stop sharks. I got to do pretty much every jump, and swam alongside of them, I swear to the gods, within arm's reach, for several minutes each. It was exhausting work; swimming really takes it out of you! And near the end of the tour, we got to swim with a manta ray, the first one spotted in the area for two years. There was more Mexican food after this, and then we stopped in Todos Santos to see the Hotel California on our way back. It would've been really cool to spend more time in Todos Santos. I guess it's like a little arts and music city, and it had a bunch of shops and bars, and a ton of character.

I'm sad we had to leave, but I suppose brevity is what makes vacations like that so sweet. And it ended very, very well, besides:

I got a new job. 


The Deluge Begins

I applied to eight jobs today - six in DE and two in PA. Unique resumes and cover letters for each one. It was exhausting. What's the point of submitting a resume if you just need to re-enter everything into the company's own format?

I still haven't been given a termination date yet. I don't think we'll be getting them until January. The rumor is they'll be coming down January 4. Either we'll be told to go and given 48 hours, or we'll be assigned to the "transition team", who will clean out labs and ship work to Iowa until March 31, when our site will close down for good. I know being part of the transition team is wise financially, but emotionally, I'd prefer a clean break.

And wouldn't it just be wonderful if one of those eight job applications (though it's more like 11 or 12 at this point...) came through for me?

It's weird, being in competition with my coworkers. Some haven't started the application process. Others have. One of my coworkers reminds me strongly of the over-achieving student after an exam. He wants to look at my resume, have me look at his resume, talk about what companies he's applied to and where have I applied, and oh, he couldn't find much at this one company, but his brother knows a guy who knows a guy, and he might be able to pass his resume around. I want to play this closer to the vest - the less my coworkers know about my job search, the more likely I am to get an interview.

I feel like something has to come up, but it's at times difficult to focus on the positives. I guess I can take solace in the fact that I'm off for the next two work days, and the days I have worked this week have been no where near 8 hours. At least Christmas will be low-key. And productive.

The End of American Innovation?

Or the media flying into fits of dramatics?

I'm not sure which. It's certainly the end of something - the end of DuPont in Delaware, a state so saturated with the family's history that they could rename it "DuPont" and very few people would care (or possibly notice). Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself.

On Thursday, we were called into the auditorium and addressed by our VP. There was some difficult news to deliver, he read from his phone. DuPont is ceasing all R&D activities in Delaware, including Wilmington at the ESL and Stine-Haskell in Newark. And just like that, several hundred jobs were lost. For context, DuPont employs approximately 54,000 people worldwide and planned to cut 10% of that before the merger with Dow becomes official at the end of 2016. We were told not a week before that soy was in a good position, that the prospect of R&D staying operational was good, that DuPont brought the seed and the genetics that would complement Dow's more chemistry-based business.

Apparently not.

More context. About 7,000 people in DE are employed by DuPont - 600 at Stine and 2,500 at the ESL. I'm not sure if all the ESL employees were canned (though I know all the Stine ones were), but still, that's at least 800 highly qualified research scientists now flooding the market. Terrifying times, to be sure.

Several people were offered relocation packages to Iowa, where they're now going to base the ag business. And by several, I mean 30. Some accepted, some are still thinking. I wasn't offered, and even if I had been, I would not have taken it. Apparently the package they're offering is very generous, but a question was asked after the announcement was made: could our VP guarantee that the Iowa jobs would last one year (i.e. past the merger's end date)? The VP said there was no way he could know, that it would depend on the state of the business and the strategy they're pursuing. Business-speak for no. That's a long way to move for something that's uncertain. And to Iowa, of all places.

This means strange times for me. I've applied to about four jobs already - some contract, some permanent; some close to home, some in Newark, DE. I'm not sure what to do about school. I've been told to suck it up and go for my Ph.D., but I'm of the firm opinion that a Ph.D. is not just something you suck up because you suddenly lack direction. A Ph.D. is an expensive way to spend several years of your life, and if you aren't fully dedicated to what you're studying, it's going to be a miserable several years, at that. I'm fairly certain I can't stick with the PSM. The PSM was perfect for the work I was doing at DuPont, but now that I'm not there, I feel the need to specialize. I'm already a few credits into a UDel MBA, and even though it means I'll need to reapply, I think that's my best bet for a job, a career, and a viable future. And I can do it, too. I've enjoyed my MBA courses. They're different, and logical, and maybe a little tedious, but science can be, too.

I don't know what's going to happen, but I do know that I'm as in control of it as I can be right now. This is going to yield big changes in my life, but change is a good thing. It's a loss, yes, but it's also an opportunity, and, if I'm smart, I can capitalize on it.

And I am smart.

Mergers and Acquisitions

Word on the street is that DuPont and Dow are planning to merge. I've read at least 15 articles on the subject, and they all seem to agree: barring anti-trust issues, this merger is going to happen. Most likely, it will end in the spinning off of three companies, one each for ag, biosciences, and materials.

Questions abound.

Who is the stronger party in this merger? Some think Dow, others think DuPont, and some think that the merger is being approached as equals?

Where will the company be headquartered? Cost of living is lower in MI, but DE has nice tax incentives for corporations, though I believe rent is higher.

What happens with the Pioneer side of things? We're currently spread out in in two locations in DE and one in IA. Are we going to stay here, or move? Is moving to IA in my future? (I would prefer it not be. Being away from lakes is hard enough, but being entirely landlocked is about as unappealing as it gets. And Iowa, of all places!)

Will I even get to keep my job? DuPont's ag section is larger than Dow's, but that may not mean much. Soy is a strong part of DuPont's pipeline, but that may not mean much, either. Mergers mean redundancies, which means layoffs. I think I've proven myself to be a team player and hard worker, but the higher-ups don't see that. They see a performance rating and a salary number. Fortunately for me, maybe, is that the former is high and the latter low.

Dealing with this kind of uncertainty is difficult. And though these mergers happen slowly, they can spark huge changes, like two galaxies colliding. The best I can do is live life as normal and roll with the changes as they come. But the speculation is killer. I just wish they'd announce something!

Las Vegas

We traveled there the last week of September, partly for Pack Expo and partly for our mini-moon. I feel like it actually created more work for me, in terms of school and the house, but it was cool to experience an environment completely unlike anything I'd seen before. The heat was so intense, and it's not even that hot there right now. It was so dehydrating - I know neither of us drank enough water - and I learned that Body Glide is my best friend. I didn't get sunburned, so that's good. Most of Las Vegas is indoors, anyway; the casinos have no incentive to keep people outside.

Las Vegas was like New York City, but more at peace with what it is: an consumer's playground. The casinos were enormous, sprawling, labyrinthine, and overwhelmingly opulent. Here's a list of the ones we went into, in no particular order.

  • Ceasar's

  • Bellagio

  • Luxor

  • Mirage

  • Excalibur

  • New York, New York

  • Treasure Island

  • The Cosmopolitan

  • Planet Hollywood

  • The Flamingo

  • MGM

Some food-related highlights:

  • The Wicked Spoon buffet in the Cosmo, which had a good selection of decent food and a glorious selection of desserts (the standouts being gelato and these amazing vanilla-apricot mousse cones).

  • Secret Pizza in the Cosmo, which was amazing.

  • Joe's in Caesar's, which was a high-end seafood place that gave us free dessert because we were honeymooning. I ate crab claws, lobster tail, and probably the best filet mignon ever.

  • Coke tasting at the Coca Cola store, which was a surprinsg amount of fun.

Some show-related highlights:

  • "O" by Cirque du Soleil - I thought everyone was going to drown. It was great!

  • Absinthe - Probably my favorite one. An 18+ show that was part burlesque, part comedy, part terrifying circus/strongmen acts. There wasn't a bad seat in the house, and the "host" was hilarious.

I'd very much like to go back, as there are some things yet to do (the Stratosphere, the Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon, eating at BurGR...), but I'm not in any hurry to do it. Even though it's in a desert, I don't think it's going anywhere. 


Rehearsal Dinner

I have to write about things before I forget about them because what they said is true - it all flies by.

Rehearsal dinner was Friday. My bridal party (minus Andrea) got mani-pedis that morning, then shoved some food down and immediately changed for the rehearsal at 2pm. Steve and I had to rush to pack the car up because we were checking into the hotel right before the rehearsal's start, and just barely left with enough time to arrive at Canterbury when we were supposed to. The rehearsal itself went well. We ran through it two times, and Uncle Dick maybe seemed a little jittery, but I knew what was supposed to be happening. Together, we guided it along, and I felt confident everything would work out.

After that, Steve and I went back to the hotel to unpack the car. I immediately ripped my dress on one of the hotel fixtures, and Ellie helped me prevent future rippage with hairspray and a hair dryer. We ended up arriving at the rehearsal about twenty minutes late, but that was fine. I gathered the maids up, gave them their gifts (handmade clutches and jewelry from Etsy, with some travel-sized Hada Labo), and I think they all really liked them.

The rest of the evening was just wine and food and talking and laughing. I forget the name of the catering company mom used (In Time? Just in Time?), but it was delicious. A quick run-down: fruit tray, grilled veggie platter, london broil on baguette with horseradish spread, chicken kebabs with two types of dipping sauce, the amazing pesto, pea, and pine nut cavitappi pasta salad, and then a delicious spread of cookies and brownies for dessert.

The party died down around 9pm, and Steve and I took the last of the crap to the hotel and organized everything for the next day. Then, we tried to go to sleep.

And kept trying.

The hotel room AC unit kept banging irregularly throughout the night (think a horse kicking a metal barrel). It was too late and we had too much crap to request a new room and move everything, so Steve and I got maybe five hours of sleep on Friday night. I was about ready to cry that morning. We were both so tired, and we knew we were going to have a crazy day ahead of us. I didn't know how we were going to be able to make it. That was stressful, I will admit, and the rest of the week had been going so smoothly that I was terrified that this would be the start of disaster after disaster.

(Spoiler Alert: It wasn't!)


10 Days

Am I done? I feel kinda done.

Final payments have been made to the florist, venue, cake lady, photobooth (yeah, we caved), and photographer. DJ and videographer will receive their payments the day of. I've scheduled pick-up and payment for the favors and midnight snack. Favor labels are printed, CDs have been made, our first dance song chosen. The itinerary has been completed and dispersed to all concerned parties. I've scheduled a ceremony meeting with my uncle, my mom and dad are arranging for centerpiece drop-off, Steve has secured a volunteer for set-up...

Yeah, I feel like that just about covers it. Hard to believe it's (practically) here. It feels like this process started forever ago (probably because it did), and for it all to come to fruition in one chaotic, theoretically enjoyable day is surreal to me. 


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