Saturday, October 27, 2012

A cause close to my heart

A quick post about something important...

I mentioned several months ago that my dad was diagnosed with cancer.  And then I never mentioned it again, mostly because I want to respect his privacy, but also because it's still incredibly hard to talk about.  As of now, he's doing wonderfully.  He has had amazing luck with the treatments he's been on, both in terms of effectively clearing the cancer and having relatively few side effects.  All that said, cancer is - quite obviously - a cause near and dear to my heart.

My mom alerted me to the opportunity to vote for a particular charity in a contest going on near them.  The winning charity gets $10,000 to help their cause and the reason for me sharing this all with you is because of Wings Flights of Hope.  Their mission, according to their website:

"The mission of Wings Flights of Hope Inc. is to help people in need of free air transportation for medical and humanitarian purposes. Basically helping anyone, anytime, anyplace. At Wings we do not want transportation to stand in the way of a patient receiving the best possible treatment available. With this purpose in mind, our volunteer pilots enjoy giving the gift of hope to so many passengers, and we are honored to be able to give someone a lift when they are down."

Can you imagine what it would be like to be eligible for a new treatment that is only available in certain parts of the country, but to be told by commercial airlines that you cannot fly due to medical equipment you need with you at all times?  Or because you are too sick to handle the continuously recirculated air inside a commercial plane?  Or even something as simple as the cost of a ticket being out of your price range?  Wings Flights of Hope steps in and flies people for free, wherever they need to go.  My family and I are incredibly lucky that my dad is able to receive the treatment he needs close to home.  But if a time comes when he is not, I am grateful that Wings Flights of Hope will be able to help if we need them.

Please consider following this link to vote for this organization.  Joseph DeMarco is the organization's founder, and once you click on his page (third row down, second from the left), it's pretty easy to submit your vote.

Note: when I did this, I had to go through some Facebook doo-hicky to do it, BUT you can opt out of posting it to your wall, if you so incline.

Thank you to all who will consider voting.  My family and I so very much appreciate it.

Memory Lane

Fall break is here.  Mostly that means I have truly epic amounts of work to do, but on Thursday, it meant a long-anticipated day of adventure.  It also meant I needed to get out of New Haven so badly that I was practically giddy by the time the tires hit 91-S and I was headed back to one of my "homes" - good old Northampton.  Given the many locations I could have chosen to see Brandi Carlile in concert this fall, Northampton topped the list of favorites and I bought tickets weeks ago, in anticipation of just such a trip.

Wandering around my old college campus is still surreal.  Less so, now that I'm a couple years out from graduating and I don't always feel like I'm wandering the earth without a purpose or a goal.  Plus, if you are unmoved by the beauty of western Massachusetts in the fall, then I really don't think we can be friends.

Rumor is, you cannot walk through the gates at Smith before you graduate or you won't, in fact, graduate.  Superstitious?  Sure, but I wasn't really willing to bet against superstition considering that my grasp on stability while I was at Smith was sometimes tenuous at best.  Point being, the weekend of commencement, you're meant to walk through the gates.  I forgot.  Two and a half years later, though, and instead of walking, I jumped.  Whee.

I also met up with an old friend - who is now a senior, good lord, she made me feel old.  Poised, and gorgeous, and so grown up - there I am, tearing up at the dinner table, remembering how young she was when she was a wittle first-year.  I felt like I was coming out in reverse, telling her I had a boyfriend now.  I think I even choked on the word a little bit.  It sounds weird coming out of my mouth.
"Does he make you happy?" she asked me.
"Yes.  Like, ridiculously happy." Sheepish grinning ensues.
"That happy?  Good lord.  Okay, fine.  Tell him I said hi."

And thus approval was gained.

* * *

Seeing Brandi Carlile live was the most fun I've had in a long time.  The concert was, in a word, incredible.  Her energy, her band, and good grief, her pipes - girl lights up the stage.  And her music rips my heart out and hands it back, with words that pierce my soul and chords that sound like the soundtrack to every ache in my heart.  I almost made it through the entire concert without crying, until the very last song.

When you're lost you will toss every lucky coin you'll ever trust
And you will hide from your god like he never turns his back on us
And you will fall all the way to the bottom and land on your own knife
And you'll learn who you are even if it doesn't take your life.

But mostly I'm just a sap and I cry really easily, especially to her songs.  On an unrelated note...Hurricane Sandy?  Seriously?  I feel like I should go out and buy some waders so that I can slosh to school if I have to.

Friday, October 26, 2012


Emotionally, fall is hard for me.  But apples help.  And since making confection after confection of sugar-laden apple treats (like pie, crisp, bread, etc) would be even worse for my mental state and waistline than life already is, enter...applesauce (or awesomesauce).  Also, my crockpot?  Is winning.  So much love for the humble crockpot.

The players in this fine game: lemon juice (fresh is better, but hey), cinnamon, brown sugar.

And apples.  This isn't all of them, waiting to be chopped.  Only what was left by the time I thought to take a picture.

So.  I have a small crockpot, which means I can fit probably six or seven chopped big apples (the ones I had were the size of my head though, so I only used five).  For that much peeled, chopped apple, add the juice of half a lemon, a thinly peeled slice of the lemon rind (use a veggie peeler, and just oh so gently take off a 2-3 inch piece of the zest, without taking the pith with it), about 1/2-1 tsp cinnamon (depending on how much you like cinnamon), and maybe 2 tsp brown sugar.  Cook on high for 3 hours, or on low for 6 hours.  Stir occasionally.  Fish out the lemon peel at the end.  I stir it with a big spoon until it's the consistency I like (still kinda chunky) but you can blend it with an immersion blender if you like it super smooth.  Yum.  I've been putting this in my breakfast oatmeal lately, and it's positively swoon-worthy.

Tangential note to the above post: do you avoid cooking things that require lots of (albeit, mindless and not terribly difficult) prep work?  Like, for instance, peeling and chopping a pile of apples?  Because I did.  Like the plague.  I could kvetch about peeling and chopping a pile of root vegetables until you'd want to stuff sweet potato peels in your ears just to shut me up.  Since I don't cook a lot of meat, my prep work largely consists of just that: peeling and chopping.  And I lumped it into the same category as laundry and dishes and vacuuming and grocery shopping and all the other menial tasks that seemed to personally mock me with their necessity and their low rank on the ladder of difficulty.  In my head, it was like, "But whyyy do I have to do these things?  I have such other important, stressful, brain-busting things going on in my head that I need to be thinking about and mulling over and doing that it's just not fair that I would have to do something as silly as chopping apples."  Oh my gosh, right?  Get over it.  And then I read something about what we need to stop doing (in our twenties, but honestly, whenever) and this one hit me like a punch in the gut:

Stop treating errands as burdens.  Instead use them as time to focus on doing one thing, and doing it right.  Errands and chores are essentially rote tasks that allow you time to think.  They function to get you away from your phone, the internet, and other distractions.  Focus and attention span are difficult things to maintain when you're focused and attentive on X amount of things at any given moment. [source]

And then I got it.  Chopping the apples wasn't keeping me from thinking about and handling all of the other things in my head - it was exactly the time to be thinking about those things.  So tonight, I got out the pile of apples and my trusty peeler, and I told myself that I had until the dishes were done to think about being frustrated with how my last rotation went.  After that, closed topic.  The rotation is over, a new one is starting, it's time to move on.  So there I stood, methodically peeling and chopping, peeling and chopping.  And yes, at first, I fumed.  About my preceptor, and how much we didn't mesh, about how worried I am that I'm not prepared for my next rotation, and about how much I still feel like I need to learn.  I kept peeling.  I calmed down.  I chopped some more.  My thoughts shifted.  I smiled as I remembered the concert I went to last night, and how nice it was to visit my college town again.  And then, what do you know, half an hour had gone by and the crockpot was on and the kitchen was clean, and my mind was clearer than it's been in days.  Awesomesauce to the rescue.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

And this is how we study...part II

Autumn has come to New Haven.  It now routinely goes down to about 40 degrees at night, and tops out around 55 or 60 during the day.  Making a long story extremely short, we're too poor to turn the heat on.  I'm not going to think about what we're going to do in January.  But for now, what we do is this...

Slippers.  Socks, two pairs.  Thick sweatpants.  Undershirt, long-sleeve shirt, sweatshirt.  Fleece bathrobe.  Blanket.  Fingerless gloves (because I still need to type).  Hat.  Periodic trips to the bathroom that involve lots of jumping to restart blood pumping to frozen extremities.  And spending lots of time at school and at the hospital where the cost of heat has already been absorbed by my loans.

Sleeping is a whole other issue.  Let's put it this way, sometimes we fight about who gets to have the cats on their bed because of the snuggling warmth they provide.

Stay warm, everyone!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Making Every Day Safe

When I met with the earnest young psychiatrist this summer to get all squared away with my prescription drug-free lifestyle, he asked me about my relationship history during the intake interview.  Standard stuff.
"How many relationships have you been in?"
"Two serious, not much casual dating outside of those."
"And those relationships, were they with men or women?"
"Both women."
"I see."
(Do you?)
"So you identify as gay?"
"No, not really."
"Do you identify as straight?"
"What do you identify as?"
"Does it matter?"
"I see...."
(No, you really, really don't.)

I let it go.  One, because it really didn't matter.  My dating history was not all that relevant to what we were discussing.  And two, because truthfully, I get it.  I get that it's weird for him to not be able to put me in a box.  I get that that makes him uncomfortable, and it kinda rocks his tidy way of organizing the world and sends a sharp node of discomfort to his brain.  How can I not identify one way or the other?  After all, a majority of people do identify as heterosexual or homosexual.  That's awesome.  But wherever you fall on the spectrum does not negate the existence of that spectrum.

Today is National Coming Out Day (well, technically it was yesterday, but I'm typing this before I fall asleep, so give me a break).

I still remember coming out to my parents.  It was probably one of the most embarrassing experiences of my life, and I will spare you the sordid details, but suffice to say, I sat them both down, almost passed out, and told them I'd been dating a girl for the past few months (this was at the end of my first year at college) and that I really, really liked her.  Maybe even loved her.

She taught me to ice skate.  She braided my hair.  She played ice hockey, and field hockey, and loved animals the way I love babies.  I had no idea what love was until I fell in love with her.  Did being with her make me gay?  I considered that for a long time, but finally decided two things: one, if it did, then fine, I was okay with that, and two, our love didn't need a label and I had better things to worry about.  Like passing organic chemistry.

Life went on.  We broke up.  I thought I would die from the pain.  Life went on some more.  I met Alix.  We fell in love.  We broke up.  I was sad, but I knew I would be okay.  Life went on a little bit more.  There I was, going through life, the member of a very oppressed group of people.  People who are denied the right to marry who they want to marry.  People who are not safe in certain parts of our country.  People who are bullied, and tormented, and driven to horrible fates, like suicide, because of other people's ignorance and fear.

I'm dating a boy (a man?) now, and magically, am technically no longer a part of that group.  Am I different?  No.  It just so happens that when I fall in love with people, I do so paying about as much regard to their sex or gender (which are two different things, by the way, that'sawholeotherissue) as I do to their hair or eye color.  That's me.  You might be different.  I'll say it again - that's awesome.  But every single time that I consider my possible future now, with regards to everything from if and when and where I want to get married, to how I'll go about having children, to where I want to live, and how I want to practice as a midwife - every time that it occurs to me how much easier, how much more straightforward, how much simpler all of those things will be because I am arbitrarily with a man instead of a woman, I remember being on the other side.  I remember Alix and I going to look at wedding venues and feeling the sting of intolerance.  I remember getting hassled on the street when we would walk by, holding hands.  And I remember how scared, how nervous, how utterly terrified I was to come out to my family - and my family is the very picture of acceptance and love.

There is power in being an ally.  It may not have the same ring to it.  But it is a needed role.  Because everyone should feel safe, supported, and accepted for who they are.  Not just today, on a day when we celebrate the courage that it takes to live a life of honesty and integrity, but on every day that our neighbors, our sisters and brothers, our teachers and classmates and doctors and friends and children get up out of bed and look into the mirror and see a face that society labels as "different."  As less worthy of basic rights.  As somehow deserving of an extra load to bear.  We can lighten that load.  We can make every day safe to come out.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

There are three holes

I had three exams in the last week.  One after another - boom, boom, boom.  As the days whipped by and I had less and less time to study for each subsequent test, I swear, it felt like my head was screwed onto my neck just a little too tightly, and if I turned even a bit too quickly, it was going to fly off and I was going to explode.  By the third test, all I had time to do was study for 24 hours straight, with a ten minute power nap the morning of, that I awoke from in a blind panic, drool hanging off my face and terrified that I had missed my test.

So maybe it was the severe sleep deprivation and strong feelings of whiplash that we were all experiencing, but today, during seven straight hours of lecture and lab - medication administration, IV tubing, blood transfusions, and catheterization - professionalism and decorum had all but worn off.  So when my med/surg professor grabbed the decoy penis off the table and started telling us that, "Cath-ing a man is so friggin' easy - I mean, come on!  It's staring right at you, saying, 'Here I am!'" - let's just say, I was not the only one laughing.  Within minutes, I was in tears.  Still from laughter, I promise!

"Now, for men, the psychological pain is much worse!  If they didn't know that you were putting a pipe in their penis, no sweat.  But the minute you hold up your little red catheter, they start to sweat, and you'd think you were asking them to bend over and close their eyes, if you know what I'm saying."

"Now, for women, what you've got to remember is that you're not going to be cath-ing a cute little 24-year-old like all of you!  Nuh uh, you're cath-ing an 84-year-old who had six children and can't hold her legs apart.  So that's why you bring a friend.  Someone for the legs."

"Now, if they have fistulas, you're gonna pick the wrong hole.  Usually, there are only three holes.  Are we clear on that?  Everyone?  That there are THREE HOLES??  Okay, good.  Well, for a lady with fistulas...there might be six or seven holes.  So you're going to be all up in there, so damn proud of yourself because you got your sterile gloves on without touching your hair or the bed or the patient, and you're going to find the hole and stick that baby in and you're thinking, no sweat, I got this, and all of a sudden that catheter is peeking back out at you because you picked the fistula hole and now it's on its way back out and oh my dear god, you should see your face when that happens!  You all just about poop your pants.  Funniest thing.  But it's okay!  You just leave that catheter in and try again with a fresh one.  Once you get it in the right hole, you pull out your wrong ones.  One time I had a student go through eight pairs of gloves and four catheters.  You can't possibly do worse than that."

How's that for encouragement?