So Much News!!

Well, the new year has come. And with it, a wonderful upper respiratory infection, which I so lovingly shared with Jacob. Fortunately, I am on the mend and feeling much better. In the past few weeks, a lot has changed, so I will do my best to update everyone.

We spent Christmas in St. Louis with Jacob’s family (which is where we got sick). What can I say, we are a sharing family!! To be truthful, it’s my own fault I got sick. We found out a few months ago that in addition to gluten, I’m also allergic to conventional milk (organic is ok) and soy. Milk isn’t a big one for me, but I do enjoy soy … and it’s in a lot of things, including vegan chili. During our holiday, I consumed untold amounts of soy (unknown until it was too late). Typically, soy will give me asthma – either immediate or delayed-onset. I believe the soy sent my immune system into overdrive. When I encountered the germs, my immune system was already on attack and couldn’t handle one more thing … so I got sick.

It should be noted that soybean oil and soy lecithin DO NOT contain soy. While they are made from soybeans, the soy protein is removed or denatured during the process and should not cause allergic reactions. Most autoimmune reactions are to the food’s specific protein. Avoid the protein, avoid the reaction. I believe the conventional milk reaction is due to the chemicals/drugs they use on the cows and how they treat the milk.

We ended up coming back home a day early. Jacob took me to Urgent Care, where the on-call physician uttered, “Eww. Oh dear,” when she looked at me and hear my lungs. She prescribed Prednisone (steroid) for nasal and pulmonary inflammation and amoxicillin. After about 5 days on antibiotics, I wasn’t seeing any difference, so I traveled to see my GP of 5 years. She, along with my pharmacist, said everyone around here has bronchitis/sinus infections. Yippee. She gave me new antibiotics and cough syrup with codeine. If this didn’t work, it was a virus that I’d just have to wait out. Fortunately, the meds worked!! I still have some nasal congestion and a cough, but for me, the cough is always the last thing to leave. It also helped that I took the whole week off from work. I couldn’t imagine going to work while I was so sick. Besides, working in public health, most employers are willing to let you stay home if you feel ill.

I am, however, looking forward to going back to work next week … which leads me to the next big change. For those of you close to me, you know the troubles I’ve been having at work. In research, we work on what is called “soft money,” or salaries funded by government grants. With the national deficit and budget restrictions, it was only a matter of time before the lower-levels started to feel the pinch. As such, our 2012 budget was cut by over half a million dollars! And, as a temporary employee, I was one of the first on the chopping block. My appointment was supposed to be from May 2011 to November 2011. However, my boss was able to extend my appointment – a month at a time – through January 2012. Since we had the budget talks in October, I have been actively searching for another job. In this economy and in this area of the nation, it is difficult to find a job for someone with my experience and credentials (masters in public health, primary experience in research). I also wanted to be a bit picky – I was tired of commuting 40 minutes each way (gas is expensive!) and I was tired of working on soft money. Finding a new job every 6-12 months is not fun. I went out on a limb and applied for some positions in Cedar Rapids. I wasn’t sure I’d qualify, but I went for it. I applied for about 40 positions. Most turned back with, “We hired someone else,” or “You don’t qualify exactly.”

Two weeks before Christmas, I had my first and only interview. As a close friend told me, “It only takes one!” The interview was at Mercy Medical Center Cedar Rapids for a histotechnologist position. While I’m not a certified histotechnologist (yet), I am qualified to certify, meaning, I’ve taken all the classes and I’ve had enough experience to take the national certification exam. The position would be preparing and processing tissue samples (from cancer biopsies and autopsies, etc.) for the pathologist. With a new cancer center opening up this spring, they are expecting a huge influx of samples. The interview was held with the team of women I’d be working with. They are a wonderful, fun bunch of women. Shortly after the new year, I was offered the position!! I will be starting on January 16th (exactly 1 month after my interview). My hours would be from 0530 to 1030 or later, if needed (depending on amount of tissue to process). While the hours are cut (almost by half) and the pay is slightly less than what I’m getting now, God proves to provide.

Here is the perfect example. 1) My position was extended just long enough for me to get another job, without being unemployed. 2) My new position is part-time, with the option of going full-time if things ramp up dramatically. 3) Jacob was denied a promotion at work this year, but got a large raise instead. His raise covers exactly the income that we lost with my position. 4) As a part time position, I will now have time to spend outside in my garden, be the housewife I love to be, and start my business. Because all of this was in God’s timing, it all worked out – even better than I could have imagined!!

And this leads me to the next bit of news. After a lot of talking, research, and thinking, Jacob and I have decided to open up a gluten-free bakery out of our own kitchen. I owe this idea to friends at the University of Iowa. After tasting my gluten free desserts and seeing my love of baking, they kept encouraging me (Thanks Kris and Jenell!). While I haven’t started the paperwork process yet, it will start soon (probably in February). The bakery will be called: Maple Tree Bakery, specializing in gluten-free goodies. Since our house is entirely gluten free, there is less likelihood of contamination at-site. And I’m very careful about where I obtain my ingredients. The bakery will first be posted on Facebook as a page and then a website will follow. Ideally, it will be a per-order basis. If you want something made with a decent amount of start time, e-mail me or call me and I’ll get it made. The website will be pretty intricate with choices, allergy options, etc. The spring/summer will bring the opportunity to sell these items at the local farmer’s markets, too. I hope to be able to advertise with the gluten free group of eastern Iowa and by word-of-mouth.

Basically, I’m getting the best of both worlds … I get the mornings to myself (4am wake up call), my science genes are satisfied at the hospital, my cooking/baking/gardening/housekeeping genes are satisfied at home during the afternoon and with the bakery.

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About ALM Tree

Bachelor's degree in biology-chemistry; Masters in public health. Science nerd (and proud of it!). Wine-o, beer snob, and foodie! Always has a sense of humor and looks on the bright side.
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