“We are all patients.” No, you’re not.

Heart Sisters

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

patientI read recently about a conference on breast reconstructive surgery following mastectomy, to which not one single Real Live Patient who had actually undergone breast reconstructive surgery following mastectomy was invited to participate. This is, sadly, yet another example of “Patients Excluded” health care conferences – in stark contrast to the growing number of notable conferences that have garnered the “Patients Included”designation.*

The result of attending a “Patients Excluded” conference is just as you might imagine: hundreds of people working in healthcare getting together to talk at each other about caring for people who aren’t even at the table. Or, as one physician arguing for  “Patients Excluded” conferences protested online:

“I already hear patients’ stories all day long in our practice. Why should I have to listen to more stories at my medical conferences?”

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New Job Report

I started my new job one month weeks ago. A lot of things have totally changed.

I wake up at 4 am to ride a commuter bus to DC. I’m now required to take a lunch break. I’m no longer a graphic designer, although a lot of those skills are coming in handy fairly often. I go through a metal detector (and my bags go through an x-ray) every time I enter the building. I get to bank time worked over 8 hours and my boss actively encourages me to do this so I can take time off without actually using my official leave time.

My co-workers are mainly introverted and keep to themselves. There are approximately 15 people in my office, but our bureau takes up most of a 5 story building.

The building has a cafeteria and a modest-sized gym that is super cheap. You can order office supplies on the Intranet and go downstairs during certain hours to pick up your stuff. I have a cubicle after 10 years of open office working. There is a ton of training I can take online and in my building – mostly free.

In many ways, I’ve adjusted better than I expected. The biggest issue right now is learning my job, and getting used to the way the long commute messes up my weekday schedule. I’m hoping to start working out a few times a week, which should help with energy and overall healthiness. And I’m thrilled to report that I turned in my final MBA assignment last weekend, so I don’t have homework and class to juggle on top of work!

New Hair Considerations

I used to do drastic things to my hair when I got bored. In college this resulted in a home dye job gone bad that left me with bright red hair. I was mortified for a week or two until I could go home and have my mom pay a professional to fix it. Most expensive home dye job ever! I was forbidden to mess around with the stuff after that.

When I was younger I had a whole pixie cut phase. I don’t remember really loving it, but it sure was easy to “style” (I didn’t do anything to it). I was mistaken for a boy a lot. Store clerks would literally call me “sonny.” Flat-chested adolescent me LOVED that, let me tell you.

Growing out the pixie was the.worst. My hair doesn’t cooperate for bangs, thanks to a hellacious cowlick. My hair is wavy and it would not wave uniformly, so a bob would flip half under and half out, no matter how long I spent styling it. The growing out hairstyles made up for all the time I’d saved not having to do my pixie style. At one point I had what I called the koala bear style. It was that bad.

I’m seriously considering chopping my hair again and I realize this might be the surest sign that I’ve finally lost my mind. So I’m looking for advice and opinions. I know the Internet is full of that. A little help, please?

Option One: Carey Mulligan

Carey Mulligan via Allure and About.com

Option Two: AB Chao

via abchao’s instagram


Sellin’ Mah House

t-shirt "I live in a van down by the river"

My house went on the market mid-last week. The first day, one person came to view the property. We got a contract later that night and I met with my Realtor the next day to sign a bunch of papers. So my house is officially under contract! Within a few days (and more signatures) I had a back up offer secured as well.

Overall the process has been going really well. It’s been a pain to keep all of my stuff out of sight, make sure the bed is made, and vacuum up after the bunnies every morning. Even though I’m unemployed, I’m usually busy all day and have to be out of the house fairly early most days!

There’s been a bit of drama from a few people who probably just mean well. I’m really good about making a plan and acting on it, but I am not so great when it comes to not taking things personally and letting “stuff” get to me. There is also the question of where I will end living up when I leave this house. I have enough friends that I’m sure I could couch surf for a few solid months if I had to. I’m welcome at my parents house, but space is tight. I was driving around yesterday and spotted an old contractor van for sale. I definitely thought about it.


I was laid off this past Friday. That marked four years and three weeks since I had started at that particular job, if anyone is counting. After three years, I had finally earned a bump in vacation time. At my previous job, even though I worked the same position for for years, the ownership of our division changed hands, so it never counted toward the bump in vacation. I feel like I’m playing Chutes and Ladders.

Luckily, I already had plans that same night to have dinner with a friend and her family. The mom works for HR in a government agency and she offered to help me with their job website and offer tips for searching. I’m hoping to get hired on with the government because there is more stability, great benefits, and opportunities for training and advancement. Also, there are some options to eventually transfer to another part of the country, without having to give up the pension and other benefits.

I’m going to be applying to places in Richmond, Fredericksburg, and the DC area. They won’t all be government of course, but I think that’s where my heart is set at the moment. After working for small businesses for 10 years, I would definitely like to see what it’s like to work for a larger company. Who knows where I’ll end up though!

I posted on Facebook and Twitter and called a few people. The response has been really great. I’ve gotten a ton of people who offered to pass along my resume (as soon as I polish it up!) and a bunch of links to job openings. Thanks friends! One friend-couple even offered me financial help! I was so blown away, I was choking up. I feel so alone at times (like everyone) and it was wonderful to know that there are people who care that much.

I’m all about action, so here’s what I’ve done already:

  • Mom bought me a printer yesterday
  • I bought resume paper
  • Mom is staying with me this week so I’m not alone all day (she still works though)
  • I tripled my course load for the upcoming eight week semester. I’ll be doing three classes, instead of just one. If my request is approved, I will be taking two classes the following eight weeks.
  • Unsubscribe from all store emails and most shopping-related blogs.

Here’s my plan so far:

  • Go to unemployment office. Figure that whole thing out.
  • Determine how much I can make, before it affects unemployment benefits. Find part time job that will fill that gap.
  • Fix up resume. Some people have already reviewed it, but I have two others who offered to help as well. I need to get that to them early this week.
  • Plug my resume into USA Jobs. There’s a job that I’d really like and I only have another 10 days before it closes.
  • Clean up my home office area and unload all my boxes from work.
  • Beg someone to code me a simple website.
  • Get files off my work computer.
  • Get PDF samples of projects I’ve done.
  • Update portfolio.
  • Put as much stuff up for sale on Craigslist or eBay as possible.
  • Talk to realtor about doing a short sale on my house.
  • Attend a bunch of networking events and career fairs.
  • Speak to patient advocate about volunteering.
  • Set up a schedule so I don’t slack on job hunting, but also don’t get overwhelmed.
  • I know that sounds like a lot and is probably boring for you all to read. I’m sure I’ll have more details about different aspects as this progresses. I’m really bummed out now, and having a hard time not taking it personally. But I really do think that there will be a few silver linings out of this situation and I’m lucky that my parents and some friends live close enough to help me (and some others can help virtually)! Everyone send good vibes and job openings!

Berkeley Springs Weekend

A few weeks ago, I spent a long weekend in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. My mom has been a bunch of times (with my dad or just with her friends), but this was my first visit. It is about 3 hours from where I live on one of those nice drives that doesn’t see much traffic. I took a Friday off work and spent two nights in town.

The Star Theater

The Star Theater

The main town is extremely small. There is a main street with shops and restaurants, and a side street with a collection of shops. There are a few things outside of this 2-3 block range, mainly restaurants, spas, or places to stay. The shops in town fall mainly into the following categories: gift shops, art gallery/shops, new age stuff, antiques. The main attraction is town is the natural spring water and spas have been built all over that offer whirlpool baths and other spa services like manicures and massages. There is a small arts community and you can see dramatic performances, art done by school kids, or even catch a movie (only on the weekends) in the renovated theater. There are also a bunch of nature-related activities to enjoy nearby, like hiking or fishing, but I cannot speak to those based on this trip.

My Room at the B&B


The View from the B&B Patio

I stayed in the least creepy B&B I could find: Brookside Manor. It is in an old house, but is only a year into its life as a B&B. The decor is country/antique but not overdone. I couldn’t relax in a B&B full of lace and creepy dolls. The rooms also have really comfortable beds and modern bathrooms with jacuzzi tubs. There was not a full breakfast, but a sort of plus-sided continental breakfast.

Lot 12 Salad

Lot 12 Salad

The best meal I had was at Lot 12 Public House. It is an upscale American farm-to-table restaurant and is a real gem for the town. My only regret was that I went their my first night and spent every meal after wishing I was back at Lot 12! If you plan to go, make reservations.

Berkeley Springs State Park

Park Entrance

The Country Inn


Spring Water

Washington's Bathtub

Washington's Bathtub

Mysterious Castle

Mysterious Castle

Since I have never been to Berkeley Springs, I wanted to sample the different spas. The State Park operates a spa. The park itself is very small, just one block. You can get massages and other treatments in one building, but I opted to get a “Roman Bath” which is in the second building. It was $35 for one hour. You get a private room, with a large titled, walk in mini swimming pool-like arrangement. The pool dimensions are probably 5 feet by 10 feet. It spans the width of the room, and there is just a small area for a chair outside of the pool. You are allowed to have up to two people into these pools. The water was a little over waist high, and warm but not hot. I basically just hung out, and read a book for a while. The facility is somewhat run down and not fancy. It seemed clean enough, but definitely had more of a YMCA locker room feel than a day spa feel. Still for the price, I would go back.

Roman Bath

Roman Bath at the State Park

I also went to Atasia Spa (caution – website has sound) for a 15 minute whirlpool bath and a massage. This is a more traditional day spa, with a fancy reception area, small gift shop, and locker rooms with a shower and amenities like a hair dryer. An attendant showed me to a locker, gave me a giant fluffy robe and told me to step into the hallway when I was ready. It seemed like they had three separate rooms for whirlpools. The rooms were tiny with low lighting and wood paneling (like a sauna, not a basement). This tub was one of those large, jetted ones that is more like a personal hot tub than a bathtub. They turned the jets on for 15 minutes and when the bubbles stopped, that was my cue to head upstairs for my massage. There were two different waiting areas with couches, futons, and chairs for you to wait for your massage, or to chill out after having a massage. These areas had low lighting and typical spa instrumental background music. The massage itself was awesome. The massage therapist used a variety of techniques, including hot rocks and hot towels on my neck. I would recommend this spa if you are interested in massage or other more traditional services.

On my last day I went to the Five Senses Spa at the Country Inn for a whirlpool bath. I had a terrible experience, which started with them calling me at 12 to say I was late for my 11:30 appointment. My appointment was for 1:30 by all records I had. The receptionist was not there, and when someone did show up, they gave me the room where the tub water had been sitting since 11:30. They assured me it was still warm. The actual spa rooms were nice, but I would not bother going there again.

On my way home, I stopped at Frog Valley Artisans, and bought some jewelry and a metal star sculpture. Then I ate brunch at Panorama at the Peak (caution – website has sound), enjoying the locally sourced food and the fantastic view.

View from Panorama at the Peak

Cute Easter Items

Target has some cute Easter items, in case you wanted to do some last minute shopping (or pick up some stuff on sale after Easter).

$9.99 Bunny Mug. Set of 2.

$19.99 Bunny Apron and Pot Holder Set.

J. Crew Warehouse Sale

J. Crew periodically holds a “warehouse sale” in Richmond, renting out an empty storefront and setting up tables full of cardboard boxes full of seemingly random merchandise. I got the tip about the current one thanks to this post from RVA Bargains. The sale is going on through the 22, and they seem to keep putting out more stuff.

I went Saturday morning, arriving 30 minutes before they opened to wait in line outside. There were a lot of pants and tops, none of which I was interested in. The shoes were in terrible condition and I couldn’t find any cashmere (people in line said they had a lot the day before). There were a lot of formal dresses, but I got one last year that I still haven’t worn, so I passed. I totally scored when it came to the coats though, which made the trip more than worth it.

I got two Lady Day coats for myself, one in black and one in a peacock blue/teal color. (I know the photo below is green, it was the best I could find. The black product shots don’t show the details well.) I got the wool cashmere Capella coat for my mom.

J Crew Lady Day Coat

Petite double-cloth lady day coat with Thinsulate®
Original price: $325.00
Select colors on sale for: $229.99
I paid: $50

jcrew wool cashmere capella coat

J Crew wool cashmere capella coat

Original price: $298
I paid: $50

freshwater pearls

freshwater pearls

Original Price: $275
I paid: $10
Clasp needs to be reattached on one end.

Multistrand pearl necklace
A lifelong treasure: five strands of genuine freshwater pearls, hand sorted for size and lustre and hand knotted on silk thread. This gorgeous, heirloom-quality piece is finished with a gold-plated sterling-silver button clasp covered in hand-set rhinestones. 4mm and 6mm freshwater pearls hand knotted on silk thread with a gold-plated sterling-silver clasp covered in hand-set rhinestones. Part of J.Crew Collection. Import. Length: 20″.

J Crew Resin and Rhinestone Link Necklace

J Crew Resin Link Necklace

Original Price: $85
I paid: $10
Two tiny rhinestones are missing on the back side of the necklace (won’t be noticeable).

Anthropologie iPad Covers (and contest)

Effortless Anthropologie is hosting an awesome giveaway for an iPad 2.

The winner gets the iPad and choice of one of Anthro’s super fancy cases. This one is my favorite (so so pretty). It’s also really pricey, so it would be a great item to win in a contest.

Enter the giveaway here.

“Holiday” Present

We had the office Holiday Party this week. The party was held in the historic downtown area near the office in a fancy Italian restaurant that let us have their private room. After appetizers and cocktails, each employee was given a $100 Visa gift card and a map of local retailers and told they had to buy something for themselves.

My first choice was a store I normally shop at a few times a year (and window shop at about once a month), but they were sold out of my size in the dress I’d had my eye on. So I went across the street to the more upscale ladies boutique. A coworker and I both picked out the same dress, by Max & Cleo. They had to order mine, since they didn’t have two in the same size. It is super cute and I will be able to wear it mostly year round. The only bummer is that it is a jersey dress that says “dry clean only.” do I risk it and machine wash it on gentle? Hand wash?