Wednesday, December 31, 2008

HOPE

And you ask me what I want this year
And I try to make this kind and clear
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days
Cause I don't need boxes wrapped in strings
And designer love and empty things
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cause everyone is forgiven now
Cause tonight's the night the world begins again
--Better Days, by a band whose name I am too embarrassed to mention.

After 2008, arguably one of the worst years of my life (at least the first half).
For 2009. Happy New Year. Here's hoping.
Geographic preferences

The state of the world leaves a lot to be desired as we look into 2009. Yet let's look at the things that are good, the gems that each country has to offer...in a slightly less dirge-y and dignified way. The economy's going to hell and we may be running out of oil, but let's have a little fun. Here are my two cents, anyway.

Country: Germany.
Pros: Beer, Angela Merkel, green technology, exacting standards, the poetry of Goethe and Schiller.
Cons: Neo-Nazis, exacting standards, people from former East Germany who are still economically depressed and pissed off, a resume that would be red-flagged in an instant ("You were doing what from 1939 to 1945?") PS. Sorry resume is spelled with a regular "e" but I can't be bothered to add the accent right now, 'k?

Country: France
Pros: Wine, several of my favorite actresses (Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Juliette Binoche), 'progressive' sexual mores (see also STDs, under 'cons'...)
Cons: General demeanor, second-hand smoke

Country: Italy
Pros: Cuisine (especially angel-hair pasta, limoncello and tiramisu), long leisurely lunches, fashion, olive oil, Isabella Rossellini (twenty years ago...not that I still wouldn't, but, you know...), Roman ruins and generally an assload of historically interesting sites
Cons: Riding scooters without helmets=brain injury, the Vatican (which is really a separate country, I know), Mafia wars

Country: Sweden
Pros: Democratic socialism, the occasional reindeer, same-sex unions, a profusion of 6'6'' blondes
Cons: It's always cold as balls, and the seasonal affective disorder is so rampant that Sweden (or is it Norway? You can see this has been exhaustively researched) has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.

Country: UK
Pros: History, and did I mention history? Also more minsters and cathedrals than you can shake a stick at. A fantastic literary tradition. Pubs. British humor.
Cons: A less-fantastic history of colonization and forced conquest. British food.

Country: Iceland
Pros: Bjork (Sorry for the lack of umlaut; see note on accent grave, above). Wealth and peace and happiness. Geothermal energy and hot springs.
Cons: Bjork. Long, unpronounceable and constantly-morphing last names.

Country: Canada
Pros: Sarah McLachlan, Alanis Morrissette, the health-care system, and the fact that with one very notable exception, every Canadian I've ever known has been a great human being--real mensches. Ever since I saw the segment on Canada in "Bowling for Columbine," I've thought it must be a stand-up kind of place...just nifty, y'know?
Cons: Proximity to Sarah Palin, marauding moose, marauding Quebecois.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Finals are over. I realize I haven't written here in a long time, nor on my sister blog, medicalschoolmayhem.blogspot.com but here I am, returning, always returning. I haven't written much this semester, online or off, and that bothers me, because it is always returning to the steady stream of words, the artesian well of verbiage, that makes me feel refreshed and alive. Not that there's no life in science; there is, of course, but it's a different brand of magic, cold and polished, where words are organic and rowdy and allow for the holding of multiple truths at once; language never moves beyond hypothesis into certainty, and of course I (indecisive as I am) find this a great comfort. Today I told a story at a party and mentioned Judith Butler (I'm sure those of you with liberal arts backgrounds know her) and no one knew who I was talking about--biochem and biology majors all, of course--and I felt a pang of longing for those days in gender studies classes and German literature courses when spending an hour arguing Schiller's turn of phrase or Spivak's elucidation of the hegemonic discourse was a noble and worthwhile pursuit. It still is, of course, it's just not what I'm doing now.

And now the semester is over, and I realize I've really committed myself to this path of servant leadership--to doctoring, in other words--and I am at once gratified, terrified, euphoric and nonplussed. What have I accomplished, really? I've learned a great deal, of course; I can tell you the three different types of intercranial hematomas, I know the difference between a macrophage and a lymphocyte on visual inspection, I can do a basic musculoskeletal exam. But what life have I changed? Whose heart have I touched? Of course we all do those things all the time, without knowing; silly ambitious me, even in altruism I want to be the best. So in a museful and (slightly inebriated, I will readily admit) state, I looked through the books on my shelf--the ones I haven't had time to read in four months because I've been staring at pictures of dissected pelvises and physiology diagrams--and took down W. H. Auden, and turned to a rather melancholy poem I've loved since I first read it: "September 1, 1939," written of course in response to Germany's invasion of Poland, but also an uncovering of basic human truths and desires. Two of the last stanzas have really become manifestos of mine:

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-on-the-street,
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or police:
We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the light
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The "father" language of the Church has always given me problems--not only because of its inherent sexism (and insistence that G-d is similar enough to humanity that it even makes sense to assign a sex to Divinity). And the Episcopal church, at least, insists that the Lord's (!) prayer is the perfect prayer--it begins with "Our Father who art in Heaven," emphasizing not just Divinity's maleness but separateness from all our affairs; God is in heaven, far far away, and moreover a man. The Nicene Creed is the "sufficient statement of faith," and I can't even say it in good conscience, because it begins with "I believe in God the Father."
I found this at http://among.wordpress.com/2008/07/07/our-mother/ , a Quaker website, and it really connected. It made sense. I could say that in church and not feel conflicted or awkward or ashamed.

Our Mother who art among us, holy do we name thee.Thy home be here,thy grace appear in Act as it does in Spirit. Prepare with us our daily bread, and heal us of wrongdoing as we learn to free those that wrong us. Test us not beyond our ability, but keep our souls from destruction, for in thee is our home, and our strength, and our beauty, now and always. Amen.

Friday, November 07, 2008

In what may or may not become a regular feature, this is what I had for dinner last night...feeding yourself as a medical student (not to mention one with an ED) is difficult. I base most of my food decisions on 3 criteria--and I realize I am more discerning than many have the luxury of being. But here it is: fast, cheap, and healthy. So without further ado, Anne's Healthy Eating for Medical Students (and other folk with little money and even less free time) Recipe 1.

Huevos Rancheros Wraps--great for any meal!
Take a corn tortilla or two (not made with lard--check the package).
Sprinkle it with a little low-fat cheese and microwave the sucker.
While it's in the micro, scramble yourself some EggBeaters, or whole eggs if you're not worried about your cholesterol (and eggs, in moderation, don't really spike your cholesterol...so don't fret, chitlins!)
Pull the tortilla out, pile the scrambled eggs on there, and top with salsa.
Roll and eat.
Roll your eyes in orgasmic delight and know you've gotten some lean protein and some fiber to fuel your insane-ane-ane lifestyle.
Go study.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

So the Zoloft appears to be kicking in, finally, to which I can only say: about freaking time.
So I'm feeling somewhat better, or to put it more evocatively: drowning, but not completely submerged.
I have, however, had some comforting dreams (which I always seem to have when I've been having a particularly rough time). Just such a dream inspired this.

Oh Suzanna

I dreamed of you
last night,
Prophetess of the red-gold hair and flute;
We were sitting on a low stone wall--
it could have been in
Brewster or in Ithaca,
that home of homes I always return to
in my thoughts,
Where I first knew love unalloyed by
rage or shame--
we were beside a small stream,
gently shaded green.
You laughed, that golden vibrato
I've grown to love--
not high or flighty but a thing of power,
rooted in your chest and pouring forth.
And I confessed that times were hard again,
and you smiled and pulled a blanket from your lap,
the palest yellow,
like a chick just-hatched,
and with deft fingers wrapped me up in it
like an invalid, or like
a frightened child
who requires more than words to still her fear.
Then, motherly, you held me to your chest,
and I could hear your heart, steady as tides,
thrumming beneath the cross you always wear,
and in that moment
surrounded on all sides
by heart-sounds, blankets, arms,
it was as if
someone had spread a poultice
on old wounds,
and for a while the ancient ache dissolved,
and I was home then, loved
and safe and warm. --AG

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

This is not a contest--
or if it is, then only between
your past and present selves.

The award doesn't go
to the one
to finish first, but rather
to finish best,
having collected the most
scintillating, heart-bursting
moments of joy,
the most tokens of genuine
affection,
and the fewest
moldering regrets.

-AG

Thursday, October 02, 2008

It's the fall; it's always the fall. The days start getting shorter, night starts at 7 pm and suddenly I have to squeeze in runs rather than taking them at a leisurely pace anytime during the long afternoon and evening. Sweatshirts come out, then jackets; jeans come into regular rotation. Apple cider appears in the stores, then Halloween candy. In Ithaca, there would be 30 kinds of apples at Wegman's. Here I go to Schnuck's and because I'm being frugal I buy the 3.99 bag of baby galas. But along with fall, inevitably, comes a depression. Even when I'm taking all the drugs I'm supposed to, using the SAD light like I'm supposed to, downing my flaxseed oil and calcium (to help with PMS, supposedly--there have been double blinded randomized studies, OK?). Late in September, early in October, it falls on me like a bag of bricks. Since I can't do an interpretive dance on screen, I'll put up the verbal version: a poem, to try to describe (kind of) what this period of the year feels like. It's titled "In Tenebris;" Tenebris is a service that's actually held on Good Friday, but for some reason I also associate it with the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, or Michaelmas, which was on Sept. 29 (like it always is).

In Tenebris

is only Latin for
"in shadow"--yet any
scholar who could call it "only"
Would not be a member of the tribe
who truly knows its depths;
dust-scented sighs,
the last smoked guttering
as a candle dies:
A January night
without a moon
or stars.
I know it, and I know
you know it too,
the light and dark and
their incessant wars
in the silent spaces of the brain--
the rain's quiet thrum
on windowpanes which crescendos
to the roar of doom,
the unquiet night
which spawns the wish to die
alone, in shadow,
in one's own bedroom:
I have lived here so long
I can find my way in the dark,
by touch, with no need for eyes;
Inching along the walls and waiting
if not for sun, then for the moon to rise,
though I don't know when.
We have not died.
The light will come again.
-Ag

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I didn't watch the debates last night. I should have, wonk that I am, but I was studying anatomy and furthermore I figure I'll catch the VP debates in the penthouse of the med school dorms (much more fun, considering the first one is being held here. We can have a drinking game:

every time Sarah Palin mentions her small-town roots, take a shot.
every time Iraq is mentioned (and Afghanistan--you know, that other war we're fighting?--is forgotten) take a shot.
every time Joe Biden gives that oily smile, take a shot (you know the man's spent some serious time and coinage in the tooth-whitening chair--I think he may even have taken the exit to Veneersville).
every time someone interrupts--wait, no, if we did that, everyone would have to be rushed to the ER with alcohol poisoning.
every time someone dodges responsibility--oh, wait, same thing.)

Anyway, I don't even really read mainstream US coverage of the race anymore; it's depressing and it pisses me off (I'm talking to you, Newsweek and Time. New York Times, you're not on my sh*t list at the moment, but watch it). I got my first look at the response to the debate this morning at www.spiegel.de, which will work for you if you read German (that degree's coming in handy!), or there's always the BBC.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Young Parents at the Hospital Entryway

The father clutched the baby to his chest,
running his broad hands
over the cornrows like a tiny crown:
Young parents, faces etched
with a fierce pride,
Eyes narrowed against all comers, but as well
Wide-eyed, bewildered by the dizzy fact
that something had gone wrong
with him, their jewel.

They seemed so fearful
He'd be snatched away--
and surely soon that would happen as well.
The young man looked so tender, and the woman was
distant, as if her cup of pain
had overflowed already and could not
hold more; as if she could not swallow
further hurt.
And the child himself--I heard his name
but I won't repeat it here,
Will not invade him
as I'm sure he has already been;
But he was beautiful,
a radiant ebony,
unaware of all his parents' fear,
Nestled in the sphere of their deep love.
-AG

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I went home to Kansas City last weekend, and I have to say it was nice to get out of Dodge for a while (though, ironically, Kansas City is actually much closer--geographically--to Dodge than where I'm currently residing). I needed to get away from ion channels and thoracoacromial arteries and patent ductus venosus and tyrosine kinases and carotid bruits and all the rest. I needed to be a person and not just a student for a while. This is an interesting trend, because in my undergrad days (before I took a year to be "a regular person") I would have felt little to no pull to do that--quite the opposite, in fact. So maybe that year did more to make me a 'well-rounded person' (rather than solely a person with a well-rounded head, which is to say an egghead) than I thought.

I went to the Greek festival with my parents, which is always kind of a big deal in KC, and especially among the Orthodox community (of which my 'rents are a part). I watched the little kids do their ethnic dances, ate some tiropita (cheese triangles) spanakopita (if you don't know what that is, I feel truly sorry for you--spinach, cheese and phyllo pastry), dolmades (grape leaves stuffed with rice and spices--and sometimes meat) and to top it all off: what else? Baklava. And of course some beer, because if there isn't alcohol of one kind or another it's not a Greek gathering. Interestingly, I've never had retsina, but I've heard so many people talk about getting sick from drinking it that even the mention of the word makes me feel a little queasy.

My parents also bought me a beautiful cross necklace (Celtic, oddly enough) at the church's bookstore--the whole thing is held at the big Greek church in KC. I've been wearing it, and when I need to remind myself that there's a place where I'm still just a person, without lists of things to memorize...I wrap my fingers around it.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

So I've simultaneously been really tired and having trouble sleeping. A weird combo that I'm putting down
1) to the stress inherent in putting any animal (including myself) into a 'novel environment'--rats show increased levels of stress hormones when put into new environments, even if the environment is 'better' in terms of having more toys, food etc. Same here--medical school is 'better' in some senses than other environments, but still novel;
2) Healing from last weekend, and (occasionally) taking the associated painkillers--brief bump for Tramadol, or Ultram, by the way--all the pain relief with much lower addiction potential than 'typical' opioids! Yay!
3) The fact that my eating and exercise haven't been under the super-best control, and when you're running a lot and not eating much, that tends to run down your batteries.

So I really don't want to depend on my zolpidem or lorazepam (that's Ambien and Ativan to you); I bought a tea called 'tea of tranquility' while I was in Kansas City and tried it for the first time tonight, and while it remains to be seen whether it will help me drift off, there is one thing that is not open for debate: stuff tastes like ass.
There's valerian and skullcap and passionflower in it, which makes me a little nervous (I take herbs seriously as pharmacologic agents, and I'm not sure how those particular sedating herbs might interact with some of the other gemischte things I'm on), but that's not what makes it taste disgusting. The culprit there is the inclusion of thyme, sage, lavender and rosemary. Maybe nice for stuffing, but stuffing is not tea, and if I wanted stuffing-flavored tea, I would buy some. I actually don't like sage and thyme even in stuffing; rosemary and lavender I'm OK with, especially in experimental little culinary delights. Viz: everyone knows about rosemary and olive oil focaccia, or at least they should; I've made it once or twice, and it's especially nice if you add some sun-dried tomatoes and a sprinkling of asiago. As for lavender, I once made a lavender shortbread that was actually quite nice. I'll have to post the recipe sometime, but basically you make a shortbread (with a little extra sugar) and add either some dried lavender buds, lavender essential oil, or both, to the batter. Very classy and nouvelle cuisine. Unlike this tea, which I am actually going to pour down the drain right now.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

My first day in the anatomy lab was today. I posted my musings at my other blog--this one more medically-oriented--Medical School Mayhem.
That's where I'm going to put most things that are more strictly medical-school related, and other little tidbits of info--studies I find interesting, medical policy that drives me up the wall, and my eventual lapse into a scrubs-wearing vagrant wandering the streets muttering mnemonic devices about the nervous system.
This site will have some of that too, to be sure--it's impossible to separate your school life from life in general when you're a student (thanks, Captain Obvious) but will have a more personal focus, and probably more political rants, mental health advocacy stuff, whatever strikes my fancy at the moment (and by extension your fancy, I'm sure).

So there we are.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

This is an image from "The Dream Hunters" by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Yoshitaka Amano (famous, apparently, for his connection to Final Fantasy...about which I know nothing. You have to draw the geek line somewhere, and while my line allows me to be into graphic novels/fiction [not the same as comic books, by the way...and anyway Vertigo comics aren't the same as Superman] it stops short of gaming of pretty much any kind, up to and DEFINITELY including RPGs). Tell me that isn't beautiful. You can't, can you? Or if you can, I shake my fist at you for having crappy taste. I've been rereading this book, which my super pal Nathaniel Hawthorne (yes, that's my nickname for him...strangely, I often give people nicknames that are longer than the original names they replace) turned me on to. Thanks, Najj, for getting me heavily into the Sandman series just before midterms my sophomore year when I was taking all those hard science credits! So, book recommendations: ANYTHING by Neil Gaiman, especially his graphic novels, but also his straight-up fiction (Good Omens, which he wrote with Terry Pratchett, is amazing and got me through some very rough times last year by virtue of the fact that it wrestles with the 'big issues' in a lighthearted but not-at-all minimizing fashion; one of his other novels, Anansi Boys, is the book I happened to have with me this past April when I passed out on the job and spent 6 hours in the ER getting hydrated/repotassiumized. So you know it's absorbing if it managed to keep me from utterly freaking out).

Another book recommendation, with the caveat that I haven't actually read this one: Founding Faith, by someone Waldman, which examines the faith of the Founding Fathers (less so the Founding Mothers, though one would assume they'd be included somehow, even if only tangentially). Did you know that Jefferson and Washington and Franklin would be totally f*ing appalled by the state of religious affairs in the US today--Falwell's wide reach (may he rest in peace, ahem...must not speak ill of the dead...no mention of his probably current thirst for a glass of ice water...), the Religious Right (which, according to a lovely bumper sticker I saw recently, is neither) and the fact that James "Beat Your Kids Until they Understand The Love of Jesus" Dobson is going to have a major influence on the upcoming election...
Well, the Founding Fathers were Deists, not Southern Baptists, and they not only believed in religious freedom, they practiced it. They didn't blindly accept what they were told was right; they didn't mindlessly toe the party line ("Well, if my pastor says abortion is murder, it must be, and I'm not going to tax my brain thinking about it."); they were men and women of thought as well as action.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


First of all, XKCD strikes again...and he's totally right about literary criticism (much as I love it, you have to admit that a lot of it is like Joe Biden in book format: long-winded, self-congratulatory, and the kind of smooth that is commonly associated with being oily). See for yourself...look at that smooth mother. Shut yo' mouth! Just talkin' 'bout Biden!
In further news, the diversity retreat and ropes course was this weekend...I ended up going home early from the ropes course on account of...well, I managed, even in an environment where "safety is priority #1," to hurt myself. More specifically, while we were doing this activity that involved mad dashing on LEVEL ground, I tripped on a rope that was on the ground (to demarcate one of the 'zones' we were supposed to be in. Needless to say, I went from sixty to zero (and standing to lying down) in about a nanosecond. I did a total face-plant, slammed my chest into the ground, and after a few minutes of wheezing--the result of knocking myself square in the solar plexus--went over to one of the picnic tables to sit down. And discovered that breathing, once an unnoticed part of my existence, had become painful. Really painful. Especially in this one area of my ribcage.
I did a quick differential diagnosis (actually, I did it while I was lying facedown in the dirt, unable to breathe): rib fracture, lung puncture, pneumothorax, internal bleeding. The doc in charge of the whole shebang came down to the area where our group was (bonus of doing diversity training affiliated with medical school, no?) and palpated my ribs and belly, asked some questions, came up with basically the same differentials (which made me feel good about my diagnostic skills, but bad about what the hell might be happening in my chest) and said to wait a bit, take some NSAIDs, and if I still felt bad that he would either take me himself or get someone else at the retreat to take me to the ER for x-rays. Which is what I ended up doing, with one of the other deans. We had to stop off and get my ID card to take into the ER, which means that a member of WUSM's administration has now seen my apartment in a state of disarray--including, though I tried valiantly to keep her from following me upstairs, my pit of a room. Not exactly how I had planned to make a scintillating first (or second) impression: "That klutzy girl with a trashed room who I spent two hours at the ER with." On the other hand, most other people judge me about 1/10 as harshly as I judge myself--or, frankly, don't give a shit--so I think I'm probably in the clear. She was so incredibly nice, utterly sweet, coming into my room in the ER every so often to make sure I was OK, telling me about her kids, bugging the docs about my X-rays when they were taking a while to process. Generally being uber-helpful. Something I also didn't know--because the doc/dean who checked me out at the ropes course called in to the ER and told them to expect me, and furthermore because I'm a student at WUSM, I kind of got to jump the line in the ER. One of the deans, during orientation, mentioned that now that we're med students we really are part of the 'medical community'--and that, right or wrong, there is a certain amount of privilege that comes with that, health-care wise, little favors docs and nurses extend to other health-care professionals, like sneaking them onto the schedule or staying late to take care of their needs. All I can say is, right or wrong, that's pretty damn cool.
I'm sure the fact that I was in incredible pain probably helped some, too...I'm talking serious pain, beyond what is euphemistically (and rather inaccurately) referred to as 'discomfort.' To me, a bug bite or mild menstrual cramps constitute(s) discomfort--this was heavy-duty, lights flashing, sirens blaring with each inspiration pain. And so the lovely ER doc gave me some hydrocodone. Quite a bit of hydrocodone, actually. And while it's helped--a lot--and made the hour I spend waiting for the X-rays just fly by (time passes more quickly when the pattern of the curtains and each word spoken by the nurses outside is suddenly FASCINATING), it's also made me a little loopy, which is what I'm going to use as an excuse if anyone points out that this entry is a little rambly. It was the drugs, man.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

So we got our IT training--and our approximately 6 usernames and passwords--on Wednesday.
I'm not exaggerating. There's email, a portal for all our essential med school/academic resources, access to the library's various databases, a Wash-U wide something-or-other called "WebSTAC"...and of course we have to change these every three months, which means that sooner or later I'm either going to have to start writing down passwords (which anyone with even a passing understanding of data security knows is a major no-no) or I'm going to start not being able to access my accounts. So that's fun. Look, people, I'm already having to memorize what the latissimus dorsi and teres major are, and where the sympathetic trunk branches, and a million other fiddly little anatomy and biochemistry tidbits...could we please at least attempt to make my everyday life with my everyday information f-ing simple?

One of the more amusing parts of the day, however, was the IT talk (who'd have thunk?), more specifically the part where the tech guy informed all the people staying in the dorms that they are technically still on the school's network anytime they use the internet in their rooms.

Even if it's 2 am on a Saturday. Even if they just finished exams and need the headspace to have a beer and freaking relax. Can you see where this is going? Yes indeed, the IT guys got to have a friendly chat with us about the quickest (and apparently most common) way to get booted from the network--perusing porn. To quote:
"And don't tell us you're studying anatomy. You're not. And don't have us put you back on the network and then get kicked off again for the same thing. We know what you're looking at. We know when you do it over and over again after we've told you not to. And if you keep doing it, we have all the urls you've visited saved, and you really don't want us telling the Dean that you've been going to bigbeatifulbutts.com every night."
Apparently even in cyberspace the all-knowing Deans have eyes.

I will say that this particular lecture made me glad that I'm not living in the dorms, though of course I'm not a closet porn addict. The thought of the IT guys knowing my every online move makes me more than a little apprehensive, I don't mind saying. Again, not because I'm into some bizarre sexual fetish or a member of some proto-terrorist political group, but just because it creeps me out the door to think that someone's watching everything I do. I know it happens; I know no one's really safe; I know there isn't much that can be done. But at least I'm never going to be nailed for trying to download "Tipping the Velvet" on Wash-U's bandwidth.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

As if you needed an update, size-ism is alive and well...even in scientific journals who should know better.

Apparently the stereotype of "unpopular overweight girl" is based on something...or so says the New York Times.

Girls who rated themselves 4s or lower (in a survey assessing high school aged girls' perceptions of their social status) gained more weight in the 2 years following the survey--on average about 11 pounds more--than girls who rated themselves 5s or higher.

My question (in addition to my obvious observation that this is firstly a weird study and secondly doesn't sound like it would provide really reliable data that you could do a lot with; it's too open to [mis]interpretation) is...is this cause, or effect?
Are young women who feel unpopular likely to eat more (the stereotypical lonely fat girl subsituting food for social relationships, because food is never catty or rejecting unlike, say, a fair number of high school students) or are these young women heavier to begin with (meaning the 'cascade' has perhaps already begun playing out) meaning they have established poor eating habits/have a heavier body habitus naturally, which makes them feel less socially desirable?

And this is measuring perceived social standing, remember; a girl could be relatively popular and still feel like a loser, or for that matter could be--I'm sorry, I can't think of a PC term, so I'm just going to say a bit of a reject--and still have high self-esteem and feel like she's as well-regarded as the captain of the cheer squad. This doesn't measure social standing as much as self-esteem, I would argue, and by positing this as a question of social desirability I think the researchers...their names are mentioned in the Times article...are making a bit of a mistake. For instance, they suggest offering social skills courses to "at-risk" (of becoming overweight, I guess? As if it were some debilitating disease, as opposed to true morbid obesity which is harmful, and eating disorders, which spring IN FACT from associating overweightness with being a loser, reject, etc....) girls. Why not offer self-esteem seminars instead? For everyone?

This feeds into the harmful assumption that fat=unhappy=socially undesirable. Do we really need cracked scientific theory to falsely substantiate the belief society already holds so dear? This, boys and girls, is why scientists need solid grounding in the humanities, or at least a little social theory--so they can realize their own biases and prevent them from clouding their judgement and coloring their conclusions...or at least acknowledge that the bias is there.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Went to see Mamma Mia! tonight with my mother as a short break from the tedious-yet-so-important work of packing. Could've done with a little more air time for Meryl "An actress beyond compare, with a face to make lesbians weep" Streep, a little less of Amanda "I was the Slutty one in Mean Girls" Seyfried. But hey. I'm really proud of my new pop culture knowledge. Despite watching maybe three hours of TV a week, being out of school for this year has allowed me to get into, you know, normal-people stuff. Like knowing who the cast of Weeds is. Just thought I'd point that out. But in a few days it's back to a home without a TV (unless the as-yet unmet roomie has one), and with my nose in a copy of Moore's anatomy 24/7 I'm chagrined to say what little "with-it"ness I've managed to cultivate in the TV/movie/sports arena is probably going to be defunct shortly. Just thought I'd flaunt it while I've got it.

And I know this is weird, but as the cast was dancing and singing to the title song, it struck me (as it never has before) just how much a relapse to ED (that's an Eating Disorder, for those not in the know) can feel, perversely, like a return to a lover...seriously, try these lyrics on for size.

I've been cheated by you since I don't know when
So I made up my mind, it must come to an end.
Look at me now,
will I ever learn,
I don't know how,
There's a fire within my soul--
I suddenly lose control
Just one look and I can hear a bell ring
One more look and I forget everything

Mamma mia, here I go again
My, my, how could I resist you
Mamma mia, does it show again
Just how much I missed you.
Yes I've been brokenhearted,
blue since the day we parted
Why, why, did I ever let you go?
Mamma mia, now I really know
my, my, I could never let you go.

I've been angry and sad about the things that you do
I can't count all the times that I've told you we're through
And when you go, when you slam the door
I think you know that you won't be away too long
You know that I'm not that strong

Mamma mia, even if I say
Bye bye, leave me now or never
Mamma mia, it's a game we play
Bye bye doesn't mean forever...

Man, what a person with a background in close reading and exegesis could tweeze out of that. Oh, wait. You say I'm just such a person? Well yes indeed.
An ED screws you around (v. 1). It messes with your perceptions, your bodily functions, your ability to function normally in daily life. So you decide to kick it to the curb, get into treatment, stop running ten miles a day, eat more than an apple for dinner...whatever. And things do get better, but in a sense you still miss your ED. And then there's the "Just one look"--the sight of a really thin model in a magazine (or a lissome 13-year old at the next check-out counter at the grocery store), or seeing a certain number on a scale, or--in the relapse of one of my friends--holding back a roommate's hair while she wharfed in the toilet (she was really drunk and had no idea that A was a recovering anorexabulimic; she was a really nice girl who would've been mortified to know she was being triggering). Then there's the one more look and you forget everything...
You forget the previous hospitalizations, the Ensure, the bedrest, the vomiting blood, the stress fractures, the two-pneumonias-in-one-winter, the osteopenia, the cardiac arrhythmias, the godawful impaction (and nearly as godawful process of getting de-impacted...you, your favorite nurse on the EDU, and a friendly enema...or, Goddess forbid, GoLytely). Because if you can Look Like That (like the model, the 13 year old, yourself in a picture from high school) and Feel That Way (in control, slim, invisible, perfected, purified), it will be worth it. And relapse happens, and you feel like you can't let go...
Even when there are the internal struggles, and recognition of what a horrific thing ED can be ("I've been angry and sad about the things that you do; I can't count all the times that I've told you we're through") but still it's almost irresistible--"How could I resist ya?" And it can feel like an awful, perverse, but engrossing game...it's just that with games like chess and darts and, hell, even rugby...you're a lot less likely to keel over. I recognize this. It's something I need to hash out a little with myself, frankly.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Truths about moving.

1. The amount of stuff you have multiplies over time. Socks mate with socks under the bed. Knicknacks undergo binary fission and become two, then four, then eight. Despite the fact that you only had six clothes hangers when you moved in, you now have seventy-three. Obviously you won't take them all with you. When you arrive at the new place, you'll have to start over again with six. Don't worry; they'll multiply given time.

2. You will never have enough boxes. This is true even if you are Ted Boxington, owner of Boxes and Co. Shipping Company. You will end up using sturdy plastic bags, or even garbage bags. You may feel like a hobo loser as you move your stuff in these bags. Don't worry; your new neighbors think the same thing.

3. You will injure yourself shortly before the move. A shoulder injury is a safe bet; go for the rotator cuff. Bursitis is also a plausible option. Back injuries work well. Note that this doesn't mean you can put off the move, or get someone else to do all the carrying; it just means you'll suffer a significant amount of pain and curse your own stupidity for thinking you needed the entire set of Encyclopedia Britannica to travel with you. I personally have chosen to go with bursitis of the shoulder, from overexercise. Excellent.

Without further ado, some poems.

Living and Dying


Dying for something
isn't difficult;
you do it once,
The bomb explodes,
the bullet bursts your heart,
You shield a child's body
with your own.

It's living for something
that's hard--
Slogging through,
unglamorous, mundane,
when that passion
which once bore you up
becomes a burden,
or at the very least
a weight
(not quite a millstone)
round your neck.
One may choose once,
impetuously, to die
and not look back because
there is no time.
A life is nothing but time,
which is why
the living is so hard;
so many salt
pillars mark the path
to martyrdom of spirit
(rather than flesh and blood);
which, for its dailiness,
is just as good.

-AG



Confession and contrition



Bless me, Mother, for I have sinned;
Surely somewhere in the folds
of blue and white
you have some absolution tucked away
for just such a moment as this,
when I, hungry-eyed and needy
as a child
Approach you on raw hands and bleeding knees?
I have made an art of penance;
take my brush away.
I have stretched myself like canvas
on a frame; please
slip me loose and hold me to your heart
crumpled and no longer able to
assume the forms of what's called
mortal sin,
that wily separateness,
that lonely shame.

Whisper my name
and call me yours--so long
I've wanted someone to belong to,
and resolved, once I was taken in,
To cling with all my strength
and never go.

-AG



You are not alone



You are not alone.
That is the message
every human ear
strains to hear
Through the cacophony
of living,
the thick silence
of solitude.
To belong--if not here,
then somewhere
at least;
That is the need,
raw and incandescent,
that knocks the arrow to the string
and strums the wanderer
home.

-AG


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

I. Can't. Sleep.

Ever.

So what are the options for drifting off to blissful slumber? Well, aside from the standard holistic, behavioral, and natural advice (chamomile tea--tastes great, especially with a splash of fat-free vanilla soymilk and Splenda, but doesn't really help me sleep; keeping to a bedtime routine--yes, I take a few minutes to wind down, I even had a gentle pre-bed yoga routine for a while, but nada; warm milk, which has a fair amount of tryptophan--the amino acid that, through a series of magical steps, gets converted to serotonin--has yielded nothing but a need to brush my teeth again, and anyway I hates the milk)...there are, of course, drugs. Pharmaceutical options. Better living through chemistry. And while I'm generally not in favor of getting all "Strom-Thurmond-at-an-historically-black-sorority-reunion" excited about unnecessary medications, a good night's sleep is the foundation of solid mental and physical health. So for a chronic insomniac these aren't, strictly speaking, unnecessary.

Technically, drugs that put you to sleep are called "hypnotics," from Hypnos, God of sleep. Sedatives, which may be the same drugs as hypnotics but at a reduced dose, just...um...chill you out a little. An example from my medicine cabinet: 0.25 mg of Ativan is a sedative. 0.5 mg of Ativan is a hypnotic. And 1.0 mg of Ativan means you could run me over with a truck on the 50-yard line at the SuperBowl and I wouldn't even roll over.

Option 1. Antihistamines. They help with allergies too, but beware that as a class, they will dry out your mucous membranes. Including that one, girls. These are H-1 (or nonselective) antagonists; H-2 antagonists are the drugs you take when you have acid reflux problems. Cool, eh?

There's diphenhydramine, or good ol'-fashioned Benadryl. Knocks me out better than some of the prescription sleep meds I've tried, to be honest, and without weird hangover effects. When I had my colonoscopy/esophogastroduodenoscopy (say that five times fast) done in February, I had an 'anxiolytic' dose of Benadryl before they wheeled me back to the procedure room. I was already feeling pretty good about life (though wondering why the room was revolving, and why they'd installed a strobe light in the hall) by the time I got hit with the Versed and whatever else it was they gave me. 50 mg of IV Benadryl, when you're barely knocking on 100 lbs, will do that to a person. And it should go without saying, but however this appears, it's not medical advice, OK? Also, while I'm not giving you advice, for Moses' sake don't mix any of these with alcohol, unless you don't have any appointments for the next few, you know, days. Or, depending on which drug, how much, and how much EtOH, if you don't have any more appointments, ever.

There's doxylamine succinate, which is actually sold just as a sleep aid (as opposed to an anti-allergy preparation). It's the stuff in NyQuil (or Unisom) that puts you to sleep. There's some evidence it's even more sedating than phenobarbital, for Goddess' sake. It's also used to combat morning sickness, which brings up the interesting point that a lot of antihistamine antiallergy/antipruritics are pretty potent antinausea/antiemetic agents as well. (In case you were wondering, antipruritic means it makes stuff not itch, pruritis being the 50-buck word for "itching." Interesting fact: the pretty schmancy-sounding "pruritis ani," which has been Latinized and doctored out of all recognizability, is a way for doctors to record that you have an itchy anus, without having to write the dreadfully unsophisticated "itchy butthole" in your records. Your insurance company reads those, y'know. Now aren't you thankful for Latin?)

Option 2. Benzodiazepines.
Oh joy. These can be short-acting (meaning you're out pretty quickly), or long-acting (meaning it takes a while to kick in, but has staying power)--finding the right balance between the two means that intermediate-acting ones are the best...Getting to sleep quickly enough but sleeping through the night; sleeping through the night without being so hung-over you plow into pedestrians like someone doing Human Bowling on a Japanese game show the next day.
Actually, benzos aren't recommended for long-term management of insomnia; they're a little bit addictive. Mostly people take them for sleep if they have an acute condition, or if they have an anxiety disorder and have panic attacks at night and just happen to discover--lo and behold--that they can actually freaking sleep if they take them. Purely hypothetically. By the way, some benzodiazepines are super-duper effective, if short-acting, anticonvulsants. They really are the little pills that do everything! (And they ARE little, as anyone can tell you who's ever dropped a bottle on the floor when they were having a panic attack and their hands were shaking so badly they could hardly even unscrew the STUPID child-proof cap...what sadist decided to make an anxious person solve the physical equivalent of a New York Times Crossword to get to their drugs?...well, man, good luck finding those babies before they're ground into the carpet).

Option 3. Barbiturates and Opioids.
No one uses these for treating insomnia anymore. I put it here so I could list more options. I'm so ashamed. They're too addictive, and in the case of barbiturates, there's too great a chance for accidental (or, considering that insomnia is a prominent feature of many mental illnesses, intentional) overdose.

Option 4. The Other Stuff.
Zolpidem, or Ambien, works to make GABA (gamma amino butyric acid) work better as an inhibitory neurotransmitter...but it BINDS to benzodiazepine receptors. Cheaters. As a bonus, some people report sleep-walking, sleep-eating, and sleep-sex-having. If I'm going to be noshing on Cheezits and doing the horizontal tango, I want to be awake to enjoy it. Anyway, I've tried Ambien and the next morning I felt like I'd been hit by a truck. And not the Cheezits-and-orgasms truck. A bad truck.
Zaleplon, or Sonata, is pretty much the same thing as Ambien but in different clothes (and their ads have a moth in them!).
Ramelteon, ie Rozerem, has Abe Lincoln and his beaver (or is it a woodchuck?) sidekick shilling for it. It is a novel hypnotic, though; it's a melatonin receptor agonist. Melatonin binds to recpetors in certain parts of your brain (especially a part called the "suprachiasmatic nucleus," which is closely associated with your 'internal clock') and basically tells you it's time to turn in for the night. Remember your aunt from Boulder who swore by melatonin supplements at bedtime? This is the same thing, only standardized and much more expensive.

Hope this treatise hasn't been a hypnotic in itself. Hopefully I'll still have time to just learn cool things that interest me once I start school. Or maybe I'll just have to get my happy ass interested in whatever it is I happen to be studying. Somehow I think that's more likely.

Monday, August 04, 2008

It's been too hot to give--or, indeed, even take--a sh*t here lately. 100 today, with a heat index commensurate with the opressive humidity that marks "Misery" in August. By Wednesday it's supposed to be in the 80s, to which I can only say: About effing time. I foolishly went for a run last night, because the gym was closed and I was at that point in the evening so tightly wound that you could probably have flicked me and heard a "sproing," and I would've hated to kill certain people in my house who haven't figured out that if you run the TV and washer and downstairs AC at the same time, it blows the power out, and I lose all the important files on my computer that I've been working on for days, viz, that article on borderline personality disorder as a trauma spectrum disorder that I was thisclose to finishing (not that I'm blaming anyone), because they DON'T THINK.

Oh yes indeed, there's a story behind this one. I'll just say it: I can't live with boys. Men. Whatever. Like bears with furniture, I swear. Dishes pile up and begin forming their own tiny civilizations in the primordial crud: "Oh, I was just leaving them to soak," or, "The dishwasher's full." So RUN IT, or if it's clean, EMPTY IT. You don't need a degree in Dishwasher Operation to put in the detergent and turn the thing on. You don't need a vagina to operate the dishwasher. Your member will not fall off if you touch dishwashing detergent, I SWEAR. Would it help if I told you Peyton Manning probably does his own dishes sometimes? Don't you want to be like Peyton?

So, to blow off some steam--I went for a little jog. I should have taken the hint when NO ONE ELSE was outside, not even that cute girl who runs the same time I do and wears those little shorts that say "hot stuff" on the back. Why weren't they outside? Because it was hotter than the surface of Venus. And not in a sexy way. I think this is what we call exercise addiction. And damn, I was doing so well there for a while! Not to mention that I think I've done some Very Bad Thing to my right shoulder...possibly too many laps in the pool, or too much arm-swinging with the running, or overzealous elliptical use. It feels like something's popped out of place.

So I went for a little 3-1/2 mile jaunt and came back...DEAD. No, not really, but close, and I'm sure I smelled like something had died. A cold shower has never felt so good. Each individual drop of cold water was like a little orgasm on my skin. Seriously.

Add to the heat the fact that I have been running around like beheaded poultry trying to get things in order for financial aid, the move to St. L, and actually attending medical school (sadly, in that order), and you see why I've been away a few days, and haven't been religiously commenting on my favorite blogs (I'm looking at you, DrugMonkey, Nurse Ratched, and Nurse K--squealed apologies!).

So. A man shot up a Tennessee church because he hated its liberal leanings--especially towards "the queers." Oh Joy. Most news outlets didn't even cover the reasoning behind his rampage, and furthermore it's now dropped COMPLETELY out of the limelight. If some "liberal elitist" were, on the other hand, to shoot up a megachurch because they were tired of the relentless anti-gay or anti-choice rhetoric (of course, this probably wouldn't happen, as liberals aren't likely to have a gun rack for the Audi), you KNOW the folks at FoxSpews...I mean, News...would be flogging it for MONTHS. So we've learned the lesson--feel free to kill some queer-lovers. It's not really news. The world cares more about Britney Spears' visitation rights anyway. (Please, please, please note the extreme sarcasm).

In other news, if you're reading this, Amy T, hello! Feel free to leave a comment! It's not weird...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

So is vegetarianism a feminist position?

And what if it's not anymore?
A NY Times article about the long and weird relationship between feminism, vegetarianism/veganism, and the current post-modern attempt to sell veganism by selling out women (see: any PETA ad featuring half-naked women, or the strip club mentioned in the article that doesn't have meat on the the menu, but definitely still treats women as, you know, hunks of flesh). The theorist mentioned in the article, Carol J. Adams, came to speak at Cornell while I was there...I remember being slightly confused by some of her arguments (ie, that during the 7os women said, "I don't want to be a piece of meat, I'm not going to eat a piece of meat." To me, the main connection between the two movements is 1) the general liberal progressive movement often encompasses members of both and 2) Eco-feminism, really more of a 60s and 70s thing, equated the "nurturing presence" of women and the earth, and strove to preserve both by living lightly on the land and celebrating the power of these two entities generally considered vulnerable to exploitation: women and the environment).
Any thoughts? And I promise I'll shut up about the vegetarianism soon enough.
Yummy vegetarian recipes, making the most of summer's bounty

Ok, so that sounded like a cover story from "Woman's Day," right next to "Blast Belly fat with this So-Easy Secret!" So sue me. So the lentil loaf doesn't really have much to do with summer's bounty, unless you count the zucchini/carrots that go into it (and carrots aren't actually a late summer crop, but I digress...). You can, however, serve it with mashed potatoes (which ARE coming in this time of year--potatoes, I mean, not mashed ones with Smart Balance and fresh-cut chives, which would be difficult to get out of the ground) or herb-roasted fingerling potatoes. Pretend you're eating a real "meat-and potatoes" meal, and then congratulate yourself on a fine, cruelty-free nosh. I like the lentil loaf in part because it's one of the few meals I can leave in the fridge without my roommates (carnivores all) getting into it. Spaghetti they'll devour; lentil loaf they leave alone. They've never even TRIED it; maybe if they did I'd have to worry about them eating that, too. Note: this particular recipe came from a vegan website which, much to my chagrin, seems very nice. This doesn't mean I'm trusting vegans as a whole. Not by a longshot. Devious, they are. Skinny and B-12 deprived and devious.

Lentil Loaf
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 large carrot, grated (Or use zucchini, if you want)
(1 c other veggies, grated, as desired)
2 cups cooked lentils
1 cup uncooked oatmeal
1/4 to 1/2 cup vegetable broth, or water
1 tsp Italian seasoning
2 tbls nutritional yeast
2 tbls ketchupdash of vegan Worcestershire sauce
pepper
2 tbls low-sodium soy sauce

Topping Sauce
1/4 to 1/2 cup ketchup
1 tsp maple syrup
dash of vegan Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray either an 8 x 8 square pan or a loaf pan. The square pan will give you a crunchier loaf, the loaf pan will give you a 'meatier' loaf. Saute the veggies in broth or water until soft. Add to large mixing bowl along with remaining ingredients. Mix and mash together well, adding more broth or water as needed to keep mix moist (moist, not runny!) Press into pan and brush on 1/2 of the topping sauce.Bake for 1/2 hour, then brush on remaining topping sauce. Bake an additional 15-30 minutes. Cool loaf for 10 minutes before serving.

Coming next: You TOO can make a mornay sauce--it's just bechamel with cheese! What's bechamel, you say? Well, we'll learn that too! And once you know mornay sauce, you're ready for the exciting new world in which you can make...zucchini gratin!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lately it's been to hot to do anything. Too hot to cook, too hot to loiter on the stoop (one of my favorite activities), too hot even...dare I say it? To blog. Take a face-value temperature of 99 and add to it that delightful July-in-Missouri (now do you see why people call it "Misery?") humidity. Heat indexes over the century mark for days. As my friend Andie would say--Such mishigas. Oy veh.

The high today was 88 and it felt NICE. Cool and refreshing. I got out and did a little running and biking (though I've been more careful with the biking after what I did yesterday--took a turn too fast and wiped the hell out. I am now sans most of the skin on my right knee and on a small portion of my left hand--yes, I caught myself at a weird angle--but aside from that and a fat bruise on my right thigh, I'm good. I'm actually curious to see how the bruise works out...it's just starting to purple up; it was red yesterday. I'm hoping for a full spectrum of color by the time all's said and done).

Anyway, when it's this hot, the air quality frequently also sucks...though there have been fewer "red alert" days this year, probably due to people driving less (strike up the Hallelujah Chorus!). Anyhow, shitty air quality means my allergies (and especially asthma) are worse, because all the particulates and nastiness just sit near the ground and cook into a funky miasma that makes my little alveoli scream for mercy. I have found an interesting website, however: http://www.airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=airnow.showlocal&CityID=113 That's the KC site; you can look up your own locale if you wish.

Another kind-of sad, kind-of happy, but thoroughly unenvironmental note: My friend R is getting an NG tube put in today, on account of this bullshit entity called ED. If you're reading this, R, know I love you and I've got a candle burning for you in my room. Everyone else, hop to: send a thought, a prayer, a mantra, whatever to the deity of your choice or to the universe at large. Another woman who has NOT gotten what she needs and ISN'T getting the care she deserves. And after you're done talking to Jesus/Buddha/HaShem/Allah, shoot off an email to your congressperson and tell them to sign the freaking Mental Health Parity Act of 2007; you can learn more about it here. The House version alters previous language (from the 1996 Act) to ensure that eating disorders treatment is covered (insurance likes to send people with eating disorders back-and-forth, saying, "This is a mental health issue, so we're not going to cover it on the medical side," and then "This is a medical issue, we're not going to cover it on the mental health side," or just saying, "Shut up and eat a bagel, you're not sick." I haven't been doing so hot with the ol' ED of late either. Losing weight again. Enough that the doctor has said something about the hospital. If my insurance would just pay for ONE FUCKING STAY at a residential place...but I guess cancer patients get the shaft too, sometimes, so even with parity...who knows.

You can look up your Representatives here. Your Senators (ooo, now we're talkin' power) are here. Give 'em hell.
Stethoscope, Littman Cardiology III: $180.
Diagnostic Set from Welch-Allyn: $599.
Babinski reflex hammer: $30.
Tuning Fork: $25

Very shortly being in a position to practice using them: Priceless.
So it finally feels really...real. I'm still afraid sometimes that I'm going to wake up and someone's going to say, "Yeah, you didn't get in anywhere. It was all a dream, just like in all those godawful children's Christmas specials. Except you didn't learn a valuable lesson about the "Real Meaning" (tm) of Christmas--you just learned that there are in fact circumstances that can incite even more bitterness and self-loathing than an outright rejection letter."

As my friend J would say, "Girl, get a grip on yourself!" Yay obligatory effeminate/saucily encouraging gay friend!

Monday, July 21, 2008

My favorite, and cheerfully stolen, Terry Prattchett quotes, on everything from philosophy and religion to reincarnation and education (not to mention a little women's lib...)

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.
--Hogfather


"That's why it's always worth having a few philosophers around the place. One minute it's all Is Truth Beauty and Is Beauty Truth, and Does A Falling Tree in the Forest Make A Sound if There's No one There to Hear It, and then just when you think they're going to start dribbling one of 'em says, Incidentally, putting a thirty-foot parabolic reflector on a high place to shoot the rays of the sun at an enemy's ships would be a very interesting demonstration of optical principles."--Small Gods

- "But I don't believe in reincarnation!" he protested.
- SQUEAK.
- And this, Mr Pounder understood with absolute rodent clarity, meant: Reincarnation believes in you. -- Maskerade

Getting an education was a bit like a communicable sexual disease. It made you unsuitable for a lot of jobs and then you had the urge to pass it on. -- Hogfather

This is very similar to the suggestion put forward by the Quirmian philosopher Ventre, who said, "Possibly the gods exist, and possibly they do not. So why not believe in them in any case? If it's all true you'll go to a lovely place when you die, and if it isn't then you've lost nothing, right?" When he died he woke up in a circle of gods holding nasty-looking sticks and one of them said, "We're going to show you what we think of Mr Clever Dick in these parts..."--Hogfather

"Sometimes I really think people ought to have to pass a proper exam before they're allowed to be parents. Not just the practical, I mean."
-- Thief of Time

There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who, when presented with a glass that is exactly half full, say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!--The Truth

And, while it was regarded as pretty good evidence of criminality to be living in a slum, for some reason owning a whole street of them merely got you invited to the very best social occasions. --Feet of Clay

Sunday, July 20, 2008

So I found an apartment in St. Louis--close to school, close to Forest Park (and thus to the Zoo, art museum, etc.) and close to a whole lot of cool little bars and boutiques and stuff--which of course, I won't have a lot of time to see anyway. How very adult am I!
The neighborhood is really walkable/bikeable, too, which is a plus--I'm not planning to use the car very much if I don't have to. More eco-friendly, but also more pocket-friendly, as I don't anticipate having much more free cash than free time.

Onto other things--I recently saw a promotion for a TV show called Hurl, in which--I shit you not--the participants eat as much mac & cheese, cheesecake, or whatever the food of the day is as they can, then get on a bevy of carnival rides. Last one to regurgitate the goods wins the coveted "Iron Stomach" award (and, I would imagine, a year's worth of antacids or something similar. Wouldn't be at all surprised to see that Tum's is a major advertiser). It's nice to see that America's eating-disorder culture is finally totally honest with itself.

Personally, I've always thought (and I'm being totally serious here) that you'd just have to get a binge-ready bulimic into a competitive eating contest and you might as well have it rigged. I've never been a binger myself--I've historically been on the anorexic/restrictive/exercise addiction end of things--but from stories I've heard in the hospital I know that a bulimic woman who's five foot nothing can put away loaves of bread, gallons of ice cream, pizzas (yes, plural), boxes of cereal, boxes of doughnuts...how do you like America now, skinny little Japanese Nathan's hot-dog-eating-contest superstar? If we were serious about reclaiming that competition, we'd be scouting college cheerleading teams and sororities. Though I think there may be a rule about how long the food has to stay down, so perhaps we should be looking at the compulsive eaters instead...again, this is not a joke. This is freaking strategy.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Cutting...to the heart of the matter

Of late there's been a lot of chatter--on various blogs but also in the media in general--about cutting. Self-injury. So I thought, in a psychiatric version of our regular 'welcome to your body' feature, we'd have a little chat about it. Most people, upon hearing of self-injury for the first time (or having it hit a little closer to home, through a friend's 'coming out' as a self-injurer) have a lot of questions, make a lot of assumptions, and generally get ten different kinds of mind-f*cked about it. There are a lot of myths about self-injury floating around, too, and little things that are helpful to know. Unfortunately, health-care providers (even therapists and psychiatrists) get hold of the wrong end of the stethoscope a lot of times when it comes to SI...here are some of the myths that are especially prevalent.

1. Self-injurers do it for attention. Bzzz, try again, no cigar for you. Actually, most SI'ers are very secretive about it, ashamed of their behavior, and hide it as best they can (with long sleeves, by cutting parts of the body where it won't show, and--obviously--not discussing it with anyone). There are a few people who are very in-your-face about it, but usually if someone turns up at an ER or goes to a friend for help, it's because they're frightened and don't know what else to do (or they legitimately need medical attention for uncontrolled bleeding or suturing). They want help. Even if someone is "doing it for attention," what has gone so wrong in that person's life that they feel injuring themselves is the only way they can get what they need? Do they feel like they have to be in crisis to get someone's attention because otherwise they feel unworthy? Do they not want to be a burden, and so avoid asking for help until they're in fever-pitch crisis mode? Let's all show a bit more sensitivity and compassion.

2. A person who hurts themselves must be suicidal. Wrong again. While people who SI are at higher risk for suicide than the general population (largely because SI and mood disorders go hand in hand, and mood disordered folk are at higher risk for suicide), that doesn't mean that someone who cuts is ipso facto suicidal. In fact, many self-injurers report that cutting or burning helps them feel better, keeps negative emotions in check, and keeps them from going on to do something more drastic--like attempt suicide. A self-injury episode should not be automatically assumed to be a suicide attempt; if there's a question of suicidality (a very deep cut on the wrist, cuts in locations with the potential to sever arteries, etc.) then for Buddha's sake ASK. A person who has self-injured should be treated like any other person in acute psychological distress--with care and concern, and as potentially but not presumptively suicidal.

3. Self injury automatically = borderline personality disorder. No, no, no! Of all the myths this is probably the one that pisses me off the most. First, I feel like BPD has largely become a pejorative label for "a patient we don't want to deal with"--someone whose behavior is distressing, who's difficult to get along with, etc. etc. Because a lot of people with BPD diagnoses cut, assuming that a self-injurer has BPD is common...but an ethical and diagnostic no-no that even a psych 101 student could spot. After that assumption is made, there's a tendency for "confirmation bias" to take over--the patient's actions are then all interpreted through the lens of a BPD diagnosis, and what could be normal (or abnormal, but still not personality-disordered) behavior becomes further evidence of the diagnosis. Second, BPD has such a bad rap, assigning it to anyone without solid, ongoing, exhaustive evidence is (in my opinion) ethically irresponsible. There have been numerous studies showing that even mental health providers--who should know better--are less likely to be empathetic, to provide adequate care, and to finish therapy with people labeled "BPD" (regardless-and this is important--of whether the label was accurate according to the DSM-IV or not). In fact, according to one study (by J. Horsfall, I believe) many therapists and psychiatrists even made disparaging comments about presumptively BPD patients, both to other health professionals and to the patients themselves. And I'm not talking about statements like, "Oh, they're a pain sometimes." These people used terms like "psychological cancer," "contamination," "manipulative," "hopeless," "beyond help." I don't see how giving anyone a label that comes with that kind of semantic baggage is in any way helpful. In fact, I think the BPD diagnosis should be stricken from the DSM and subsumed under other more appropriate and less-blaming labels...but that's another story altogether.

I've been lucky enough these past few years to have a doctor (and psychiatrist, and therapist) who understands SI and is supportive of change but empathetic when there are failures. I wish I could say the same of all the professionals I've ever dealt with, and for that matter of all health-care workers. We need to get more extensive eating-disorders training incorporated into the medical and nursing school curriculum...maybe some information on SI would be a good addition, too. Because when someone finally has the courage to seek help, the last thing they need is misunderstanding or bias making things more difficult.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Really excited...but also scared sh*tless

So...August 12th, huh? Orientation, huh? Finally living the dream I've had since I was approximately 12 years old, which has of course grown and matured since then, but has become no less powerful...and of course I'm thinking, good God in heaven, what if I screw this up?

I know I have a few readers from the medical professions, and so I'd just like to ask...any good advice? Anything to avoid, or to be ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN to do? Study tips? Dealing-with-cadaver tips? Tips on how to knock off the person with the highest average in A&P while making it look like an accident (kidding, kidding...it doesn't have to look like an accident, as long as I don't look like a suspect)? And oh, God, how I hate orientations...I'd rather just jump in and DO things, not deal with the interminable "here's your badge...sign this...what's your SSN? Sign this...pay this fee...listen to this person drone on and on and on about irrelevant bullshit that you won't remember for even half an hour after this lecture is over...and now, mingle!"

I hate mingling. I suck at mingling, unless there's alcohol involved, in which case I suspect I still suck at it but am no longer aware of that fact (there's only an inverse relationship between BAC and perceived awkwardness). If I weren't so opposed to the medicalization of every damn personality trait in American society, I'd say I might have Social Anxiety Disorder. Seriously. The very word "mingle" makes me break out in a cold sweat. Sure, I'm debonair and enchanting (as if there were any doubt in anyone's mind) but in my head I'm still the same awkward kid I was at 13. I suppose that's true of everyone. I suppose that's why alcohol is called a social lubricant, and why wine features so prominently at so many graduate school functions. That and pizza. Though usually not at the same time.

So...any advice?

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Howdy, y'all! I'm in my late luteal phase again, and if you read that post on the menstrual/hormonal cycle then you know that means it's time for another installment of...
Things (and people) that piss me off.

1. Neighbors who set off fireworks not merely on the 4th of July but for an entire week before and afterward. Until 1 o' clock in the morning. While drinking large amounts of beer and shouting to each other at a decibel level that is, apparently, equivalent to one hundred times their BAC squared (BAC = .12 ~ 144 dB. Seems about right). Also, the fact that I am enough of a dork to bother trying to describe the correlation between drunkenness and loudness in an algebraic model. Please feel free to use this model in the future; I only ask that I be credited. It's not a Nobel prize, but hey.
2. Rachel Ray. Maybe not forever, but at least for now. I think we've both seen this coming for a long time, Rachel. It's not me, it's you.
3. The fact that I could BUY a Latin-American dictatorship with the amount of money my school books are going to cost me. 150 and change for a biochem text? Get the hell out, and don't let the door hit you in the ass. Of course, I'm scouring Powell's et al. in search of cheaper versions... Knowledge is power all right, but it surely isn't cheap, despite what my school counselor told me.
4. The fact that every restaurant wants to put onions on every damn thing, especially the vegetarian stuff. I don't know what it is, but I can't digest onions correctly--my GI system just up and rebels every time I eat something with more than a dusting of onion powder. I'll go for a while without eating them, forget the excruciating pain and associated bathroom agony, then think to myself, "Self, surely a little mild discomfort is a small price to pay for a delicious vegetable panini with grilled onions." Twelve hours later, I am invariably thinking, "Self, you are an incredible dumbass." And then I cook at home forever, where at least I can make sure my plate is an onion-free zone.
5. Pretty much all of the patriotic country tunes they play during community fireworks shows, particularly that really twangy one that goes, "There ain't no doubt, I love this land...God bless the USA!" Not least for its inclusion of "ain't" and double negatives. If the kids today can't learn proper grammar from their jingoist, nationalistic country idols, where CAN they pick it up?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Rachel Ray, I am SO disappointed in you.

First of all, could someone please tell me when Rachel Ray took over the universe, and on whose orders? The woman is ubiquitous now, like a white Oprah or a Martha Stewart who's been medicated for OCD. She has multiple shows, a magazine, cookbooks, her own line of cooking supplies/utensils, she shills for Dunkin' Donuts, she shills for Ritz crackers, she shills for just about any damn thing (I personally am on the lookout for Rachel on my next box of tampons; the only reason I doubt I'll see her there is because I use natracare organic tampons. It's bad enough shoving wads of cotton up there; at least I can try to ensure they're not bleached with dioxins and grown with pesticides. And yes, I realize what an out-of-touch, coffee-swilling, theory-reading, lesbian liberal elitist organic tampons make me ). But back to the story.

Last Friday, I was watching her show while making my sweet potato pie (in my own defense: the house I live in doesn't get cable, I wasn't going to drag my desktop computer all the way downstairs to watch hulu in the kitchen, and I'm still not sufficiently Zen not to try to do fifteen things at once--I need background noise, and Rachel Ray was the least offensive of my approximately ten options). And lo and behold, she was having a "Human Lab" that day, testing instant-fix beauty products for those pesky problems that zap your self-esteem: flabby upper arms, saggy butts, not-so-white teeth. Now, these seem like equal-opportunity beauty "issues," if you want to call them that, but of course only women were chosen to test drive the products (for the sake of brevity, just assume I've already ranted about the degenerate consumer culture that encourages everyone--women especially--to feel shitty about themselves in order to generate more revenue. Thanks).

Do you know what the product "solutions" were? For the arms, there's a kind of tape you can use to sort of pull your skin taut--suddenly, no more wiggly-jiggly when you go to wave goodbye. But excuse me, WTF? TAPING your SKIN? "It won't come off all night," the cheery product-tester woman said. Um. What makes you think it's going to come off when you WANT it to come off, then? As anyone who's ever ripped off a BandAid can tell you, that sh*t hurts. Imagine a foot-long BandAid. Pass the Vicodin, please. Never mind the fact that you're essentially DUCT TAPING parts of your anatomy. "Oh, Jennifer, you're so gorgeous." "Oh, thank you, Tom, I owe it all to healthy eating, the glow of young love, silicone implants, and duct tape." Why are people not allowed to have flaws any more? As for the butt-lifter, it's called a "biniki" (at first I thought they just couldn't spell, but no--that's the name of the product) and it is, according to Rachel and their website, a "butt bra." No sh*t. Literally putting your ass in a sling. Do people not have better things to do with their time? Am I the only one who thinks this is bull?
"But Anne, when I look better I feel better." You feel bad because you've been made to feel bad (see above). Airbrushed models, a constant barrage of advertising, and the insecurity intrinsic to human existence make you feel bad. You associate your appearance with your well-being because that's what you've been taught to do. Above a certain level of self-care (ie, not looking like a sack of excrement), this obsession with appearance is pathological. I'm not saying it's an individual pathology; it's systemic. Environmental. Societal. A woman is expected to look a certain way; men are too.

If you're busy making sure your butt is firm and your teeth are white and your arms aren't jiggly and your abs are flat, you're not looking at all the things that are actually wrong in the world, and Lord knows you aren't trying to fix them--because there aren't enough hours in the day to care about both. It's not a matter of silicone implants vs. universal health care, or poverty eradication vs. the 'biniki.' Of course things are more complicated. But there's definitely a relationship...and that should have us doing a double-take at the state of the world, not in the dressing-room mirror.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Damn, my throat's still sore. I'd rather not go out and buy chloraseptic or anything (lest you think it's because I'm a hairy-legged vegetarian hippie, well, yes, I am--but actually, I'm also incurably and utterly cheap. Call myself po' cause I don't want to spring for the "o-r" at the end to be poor). So...home remedies it is.
Some home remedies are so simple and obvious, they're not even really what I would class as treatments...drink something warm. You'll rehydrate those oral membranes, plus it just feels going going down. Eat some ice cream--it'll numb things a little. Gargle with salt water. Sure. Same principle as the hot tea, but without the swallowing, and the saline solution can clear away gunk that might have built up. A bourbon or whiskey gargle--hmm. That could numb things up, I suppose. Or it could be another one of those "remedies" your Uncle Carl came up with in those last six months before the family held his surprise birthday party/intervention. The nurse at school gave you an ice pack for everything from pregnancy (at least at my school) to a splinter--Uncle Carl was the same way, but with booze. Even for morning sickness, which was probably why cousin Vern turned out the way he did. Sweet as the day is long, that boy, but dim as a 40-watt bulb.
Ibuprofen--not a home remedy so much, but any NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) will help with swelling and inflammation as well as relieving pain. The Medrol dose-pack I'm on is helping a little, but then I haven't even been on it 24 hours yet. God I wish it weren't 90 degrees out. It's be a little easier to follow that "drink something hot" advice if I didn't already feel like I were about to spontaneously combust.
Oh my Goddess, Head to Toe Beauty!

Seriously, guys, seriously. Someone in the beauty industry needs to slow their roll. I was reading "Fitness" ("Fitness: The magazine that will make you feel like shit about yourself no matter how fit, toned, beautiful and conscientious you are") at the gym yesterday and they had a feature story on 'Head to Toe Beauty!'
Parenthetical: What is it with women's magazine writers, anyway? Do they get paid per exclamation point? It always makes me feel like I'm being shouted at. I don't appreciate being bullied by punctuation. I for one treat exclamation points like small bombs; I can't remember the last time I used a 'happy' exclamation point (ie, "Oh my gosh, Karen! How did you know I wanted a new Hitachi Magic Wand for my birthday?"). Usually they're 'outraged' exclamation points, ie, "Jesus Christ on a stick, John McCain, did you seriously mean that allowing Guantanamo prisoners habeas rights was the worst judicial ruling in US history?!? Worse than the Dredd Scott decision that declared slaves, even in free states, to be property and not people and thus without the right to sue? Worse than the case that allowed government-run programs to sterilize the 'mentally disabled'?!"
(The Supreme Court really said that, in 1927. The case was called Buck vs. Bell) Furthermore I spend most of my punctuation allotment on parentheses, semicolons and ellipsis...but you knew that already.
So, I was in a very feministy frame of mind, and the soft-core consumerist Fitness porn that normally would've dragged me in left me feeling...disgusted. Disgruntled. Every single part of a woman's body, it seems, needs to be shaved, moisturized, exfoliated, painted, polished, tanned, toned, trimmed...Let's see how much this whole thing would cost us (you know, if this beauty stuff were cheap or free, there wouldn't be millions of dollars invested in making women feel like utter shit about themselves). All prices from Drugstore.com or off the top off my head--please don't mock me for knowing exactly how much stuff costs at Bath and Body Works; it's my secret, shameful addiction, like Paula Deen's smoking or Cheney's biting the heads off baby rabbits. This is not (duh) a plug for any of this stuff...quite the opposite, in fact. Just a little thought experiment. Let's start with the feet and work our way up.
Feet (I have to have sexy feet now? WTF? Who put the foot fetishist in charge of this month's issue of Elle is what I wanna know. Every summer there's a feature on 'getting your feet ready for sandal season.' Well, yeah, you don't want to look like you have hooves...but c'mon, they're FEET).
Exfoliating scrub--BBW "Toe the Line," 10.00
Deep conditioning shea butter lotion--BBW "Shea it isn't so," 10.00
OPI nail Lacquer for toes--8.00
Total: 28.00

Legs/Butt/Bikini Area etc.
Gillette Venus razor: 7.50 for three
Gillette Satin Care shave cream: 3.00 (available in Vanilla Dream scent, apparently...nothing says "ingrown hairs and bleeding in the bathtub" to me like baked goods...this may be why I haven't shaved in going on five years).
Nair: 5.00 (why Nair AND the shaving stuff? Because getting a razor anywhere near your va-jay-jay--as my friend Addie so endearingly calls it--is NOT a good idea. Then again, I don't know if slathering chemicals strong enough to strip hair right off in that area is an awesome plan either).
Nivea Body Goodbye Cellulite Smoothing Cream: 13.00 (Congratulations. You have just paid 13.00 for lotion that will do exactly the same thing as a 3.00 tub of Crisco: moisturize, and not much else).
L'Oreal Sunless Sublime Glow Tanner/Lotion: 10.00 (Multi-tasking, ooo-wee!)
Neutrogena Body Clear Bodywash (for backne!): 6.50
Neutrogena Sugar Body Scrub: 10.00 (You have to exfoliate before you self-tan, or you'll end up looking like a zebra with beta carotene overload).
Total: 55.00

Face

Biore Self-Heating Masque: 7.50
Neutrogena Clean and Clear: 6.00
Olay Regenerist Microdermabrasion and Peel Set: 26.00
Aveeno Moisturizer, SPF 15: 12.00
Burt's Bees Lip Balm: 3.00 (OK, I am pimping this one. It's natural, not animal tested, and GREAT. I've been using Burt's Bees since before it was a 'thing,' about 10 years now).
Revlon colorstay eyeliner: 6.50
Max Factor Mascara: 5.00
L'Oreal HIP eyeshadow: 7.00
elf Mineral Concealer: 5.00
Jane LipHuggers: 3.00
Crest WhiteStrips: 25.00
Toal: 106

Hair
Clairol Natural Instincts: 8.00
Kiss my Face Volumizing Shampoo: 6.50
Burt's Bees Avocado Butter Hair Treament: 9.00
John Frieda finishing Creme: 5.00
Total: 28.50

For a grand total of 217.50. I could do the whole "How many homeless people could you feed for that?!?" thing, but I won't. How much better would you feel if you spent less time staring in the mirror judging your appearance, and more time figuring out if you really like the person you see there?

Monday, June 30, 2008

What the hell's wrong with you NOW?

It's always something. No, not really, but every few months it's something. This time it's the fact that my uvula (you know, the little thing that hangs in the back of your throat) is seven different kinds of swollen. Ew. Problems swallowing, gagging...severe grossitude and discomfort, in other words. I'll hit the urgent care tonight just in case (because while it could just be allergies, my throat also hurts like hell and the last thing I need is a midnight trip to the ER with epiglottitis--that shit don't play--or to carry around undiagnosed strep and have it migrate to my pericardium or some retarded thing. Hypochondriacally speaking I'm not anxious; I'm pragmatic. I have things to do, and so let's catch whatever's going on now when I can get azithromycin or a recipe for Magic Mouthwash, rather than waiting until nothing will clear it up but speed-infused IV gorillacillin). Uvulitis, it's called, proving once again that medicine will dress anything up in Latin and try to take it to the prom: inflammation of the uvula. Who'd've thought? But--and this actually is kinda cool--uvula means "little grape" in Latin; it's the diminutive form of uva, "grape or berry." Ooh, now things are coming together--uva ursi, bearberry, that diuretic herb...ursa major, big bear, the constellation...and to think people say Latin is dead.
So in the meantime I'm taking it easy [read:I only spent a half-hour at the gym] having Ramen (I tried to eat a Smart Dog for lunch first. It's like a hot dog, but made of soy protein instead; totally cholesterol and fat free, for those of you who are into that sort of thing. In any case, sore gaggy throat + food that's a choking hazard even when you can swallow well = one of the worst plans since Napoleon said, hey, why NOT try to invade Russia during the winter?) and, quite possibly, taking a little snooze when I'm done here. A naparino. Did you know naparinos exist? They're just like neutrinos, the subatomic particles that have been garnering such attention and obscene research funding lately (not that I'm angry that the NES and NIH have been taking huge hits, or that the Gubmint has been taking money from mental health and sexual health research and funneling it into other more important things, like underpaying soldiers and denying them their benefits, not to mention the people on the "other side" of the war whose lives are in many cases significantly more screwed up now than they were ten years ago). But yes, naparinos--like neutrinos--pass right through you and your computer and EVERYTHING. But unlike neutrinos, which pass unnoticed thousands of times per minute, naparinos are a once-every-few-days kind of thing, and when they hit you...zzzzzz...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

So, about that sweet potato pie. B and I went down to the KC River Market last weekend to pick out some produce, and wound up with a half-peck of sweet potatoes. I swear, some of them were GINORMOUS. Literally the size of a football. The family selling them was Amish, so maybe they were praying over them, I don't know--but if it hadn't been for the little bonnets and Laura-Ashley print dresses, I definitely would have suspected growth hormone or genetic engineering involvement. Sweet potato pie is just one of those things a Southern girl should know how to make, like grits (for purposes of this post, I'm southern; my mother has family liberally sprinkled through Arkansas and Mississippi).

Which brings us to an interesting question: depending on the day of the week, or whom you ask, Missouri can be either a southern state or a Midwestern one. In favor of the "Midwestern" designation we have 'heartland values', proximity to Kansas and Nebraska, a very high casserole-per-capita rating, Methodists and Lutherans, and amber waves of grain. However, in the Southern category we have little kids out in the sticks who call everyone over the age of twelve "ma'am" and "sir," (which I have to admit cracks me up), the fact that Missouri was a slave state (remember? That was the Missouri Compromise, not the fact that half the state says "miss-oo-REE" and half says "miss-ou-RAH." I am staunchly in favor of the first pronunciation, not least because there is not an "a" anywhere in the damn word.), and the fact that there are portions of the state where it would not behoove you to be obviously black, or Jewish, or queer, or of foreign extraction. Really, confederate flags are SOO sixties. EIGHTEENsixties. And I don't want to hear about "Southern pride" or "It's about historical and regional pride, not oppression." Kids, you can celebrate aspects of your country/region that you love without resorting to emblems of past injustices. For instance (and I know some people are going to be pissed that I even brought this up, but somehow I think I'll live with that) the Germans, as a people, don't use the swastika much anymore. Yes, it was an ancient Sanskrit good-luck charm; yes, it symbolizes a time when Germany was at the height of its international military and domestic power. But it also symbolizes a lot of things whose horribleness and evil even my admittedly bloated vocabulary lacks the capacity to describe, and which I will therefore only say was very, very bad shit indeed (kind of like, say, OWNING people, and treating them as property in the basest and most inhuman of ways...I'll only say that while people bought male slaves to do hard manual labor, female slaves were usually conscripted for labor of another sort...because, hey, if you own a woman and you get her pregnant, you own the kid too! It's like a two-fer. Hell, wait another nine months and force her to have another! If this is in any way new or shocking information for you, look up Hortense J. Spillers or bell hooks.) If they were even clever about it...I mean, a bumper sticker that said "Jefferson Davis is my President" would be kind of funny. But no, it's rarely that subtle. Maybe that's good; maybe that sort of "bigot here: take it or leave it" behavior is better than the slinky, no-I'm-not-really-prejudiced prejudice you get in more liberal climes (I'm looking at you, white friend who only says "N*gger" when she gets drunk). I think the problem may be that while there's a wealth of passionate feeling, a lot of these folks who go on about *Southern glory* are much more intimately acquainted with Jack Daniels than Jefferson Davis, and in fact would not know the latter if he threatened them with acts of secession (which is what he would do, those of you who didn't pay attention in history class, because he was the de facto president of the Confederate States of America).

But yes. Sweet potato pie. The recipe in the New Joy of Cooking, with a little less evaporated milk than indicated because milk products in general freak me out (did you know that, evolutionarily and biologically, milk glands are modified sweat glands? Yum!). It turned out well; everyone said it was to die for *blush*, and I did manage to hold off my roommates (with threats and brandished spatulas) long enough to actually get it to the dinner party. I took along some of the pralines, too, and they were a BIG hit. *Yay Scalpel's recipe!*

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Bloody hell. I put in this entire entry once before (and blogger disconnected and kicked me off and didn't publish it, but I wasn't mad, oh no, even though the entry was the length of the Foucault's entire "History of Sexuality" trilogy, and even though there's no chance I'll ever manage to be as witty and engaging a second time as I was the first). SO.

Since I've had a lot of time on my hands lately, I've taken up baking. Biscotti on Tuesday, pralines (using Scalpel's recipe--delicious!) on Wednesday, cupcakes yesterday...and today, the coup de grace, for a dinner party at the home of one of the nicest little Southern women you could imagine (seriously, the first time I ever heard Paula Deen on TV I dropped what I was doing and went in to watch, because Paula's accent and inflection is just. like. hers. Or vice-versa; I don't know who was born first. Also, she was my AP Government teacher and worked for the FBI for a bazillion years before that. She's five foot nothing IN heels, genteel and ladylike, a Rose of Texas, blah blah blah, but word on the street is she's pretty damn handy with a Beretta; she's quite a smoker; and when she's mad she plays fast and loose with profanity. Like Scarlett O'Hara transplanted into a Patricia Cornwell novel. Kind of bizarre). It's...sweet potato pie!

More in a bit; I would just save and come back, but my trust in Blogger is temporarily down.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I know it's been a while--I've been busy (busier since finishing up my job? Mais oui, jolie!).
What have I been doing? Going to numerous therapy appointments (why be shy about it?), riding my bike to said appointments, to the library, to meet people for lunch (it's a Schwinn Cimarron that looks just like the one above--purty, huh?) which means I'm getting a little bit of 'biker thigh.' Now, because I run so much I don't think I'm ever going to build up the kind of biker thighs that really scare me--you know, the ones the size of small Latin American countries?--but there's a bit more definition than there used to be. Long distance running will give you awesome calves and a butt you could bounce a quarter on, but unless you're doing a lot of hills or sprint training you're just not going to get a lot going on in the thigh department. I've been sort of training for a triathlon, or at least that's what I'm telling myself, so I'm biking 3 to 12 miles a day, depending on what I have to do that day (OK, OK, I know that's not really training--shut up already) and running 3 to 6 miles. Speaking of therapy appointments, d'you think there may be some body image work left to do? God I hate my thighs.
I've also been writing a paper--I want to submit it to "Feminist Psychology"--about how I think Borderline Personality Disorder is a bullshit diagnosis that 95% of the time gets pinned on "difficult" women with trauma histories when a PTSD or "Complex PTSD" diagnosis might be more appropriate (thanks for the new diagnostic category, Judith Herman! Props to you too, Mary C. Zanarini and Bessel Van Der Kolk! Seriously, I know I'm a dork, but I would SPAZ OUT with DELIGHT if I ever had a chance to meet BA van der Kolk or MC Zanarini. If I met Marsha Linehan, on the other hand, I might spaz out...just not, necessarily, with delight. I can say this now; if all goes according to plan and I end up practicing psychiatry and publishing extensively, slamming a colleague will suddenly be in poor taste. I may be a head case in some respects, but I'm not about to pick a fight with the woman who invented DBT--not least because I suspect she could have me killed). Or, hell, in a lot of cases, a diagnosis of "This woman was severely and chronically abused--sexually, physically, and emotionally." I'm really not being flip--I think it's fair to say that having your parents beat and/or fuck you the entire time you're growing up gives you carte blanche in the psychopathology department. Speaking of which, everyone who works with 'Borderline' patients (don't you love scare quotes for being the very bitchiest punctuation marks?) should read Judith Herman, MD's "Trauma and Recovery: The aftermath of violence, from domestic abuse to political terror." I picked up a copy at Half Price Books a few weeks ago and the cashier looked at the title and said, "So, something fun to read by the pool?" All right, light summer reading it ain't, but it's still very, very good.
Holy crap, a Google search for Ms. Zanarini just revealed she gave $1300 to the Hillary Clinton campaign! I must admit that makes me like her even more.
And I've been painting and knitting and watching The Daily Show and the Colbert Report on Hulu. Who needs a TV when you have broadband access? Oh, yeah, and studying biochemistry to get ready for MEDICAL SCHOOL. You know, in August. That whole thing. Yeah.
I need to find an apartment in St. Louis, but every time I start thinking about all the preparations I still have to do I start hyperventilating. I'm going to have to do it soon, though, lest I end up living in a box in Forest Park--or in the library.