Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Twas the night before

I was awake until 3 o'clock in the morning on Christmas Eve. The rest of my parents' house went to bed around 1. I had intended to do the same, to tuck myself in on the couch and catch a few hours of sleep before the dog woke up and resumed shoving her tennis ball in my face. I curled up on the couch, but I couldn't bring myself to unplug the Christmas tree lights.

My parents got a little tree this year, a two and half foot plastic thing they could sit on the cedar chest. Right now, Logyn puts everything she finds into her mouth. My mom decided that she didn't want to spend the holiday season heimliching Christmas ornaments out of her throat, so she and my dad went out after Thanksgiving and found a tree that could be kept out of reach.

The little thing looked sort of pathetic in the daylight, like something stolen from a nursing home resident's bedside table. But, in the middle of the night, with all the other lights turned off and my glasses lost somewhere underneath the couch, it was lovely. As I sat there, curled up underneath a throw blanket, I listened to Frank Sinatra sing Christmas songs, and I thought of my Grandma Betty. Frank sang in her kitchen from an old clock radio on top of her cupboard. There, he sang year round, over the soft fall of the little plastic numbers rotating in her clock and the sandy rub of her hands working flour into her rolling pin.

I remember what it was like for me to spend Christmas Eve at her house. It was my favorite part of the whole season, better than Christmas morning even. But this year, as I stared at that lovely little tree and listened to her music, I wondered what it was like for her. I wondered if she sat by her tree after everyone else had gone to bed and listened to Frank Sinatra sing Silver Bells. And, as anything seems possible in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve, I let myself believe that maybe she was sitting on the other end of the couch listening with me now.

The album ended with Silent Night. I unplugged the lights and closed my teary eyes. For the first time since she died, I felt like I had just spent Christmas Eve with my Grandma Betty.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Note to self

I've tried to write for the past few days, but I've had a hard time finding anything resembling motivation. Yesterday, I was briefly convinced that I was depressed. Find yourself a therapist, start some medication depressed. Then, I remembered that I was on day number three of a migraine. I had had the headache for so long, I had sort of forgotten it was there. Brilliant physician that I am, I decided to try sleeping. Serious sleeping. Having spent several days at my parents' - up until 2 am talking to my mom or sister and then back up at 8 am when people started to wander into the living room to wonder out loud how long I might be on the couch - I think I was a bit sleep-deprived.

Sleep-deprived is probably what led to my migraine in the first place. And, without going into too much detail, can I just say that I have found the worst place in the world (when we turn this blog into a stage show, I'm going to have Keith Olbermann read this part) to have a headache. That would be my grandparents' living room on the day after Christmas. I had been there about 20 minutes when I looked down and saw my niece Lucy lying on the floor. Except, I saw two of her. And then, when they - I mean she - started to cry, it sounded like someone was killing a cat behind my right eyeball.

Twenty minutes later came the real head pain. The timing was perfect because dinner was ready. I told my grandma I was going to sit this one out "because I had a little headache." Migraines run in the family. When someone says they can't eat because they have a headache, everyone knows what they really mean... "My brain is liquifying. I may have to excuse myself to puke it up soon. The only thing worse than vomiting up my frontal lobe would be vomiting up my frontal lobe with green bean casserole, so I'm going to skip this meal." We've all been there.

All of us except my grandmother. She has never had a migraine. She has, however, had herself some really good ham. So, she spent the next two hours following me all over the house asking if maybe I just wanted some ham.

If I thought my head might feel a little better if I just had some ham.
If ham might sound good if she made it in a sandwich with cheese.
If I might just want to try a couple bites of ham.

Yes, Grandma, I'm too nauseated to drink Sprite, but I think that some pork would really hit the spot right now. Especially if we could top it with cheese.

Finally, my brother said, "You know, guys, usually the last thing you want to do when you have a migraine is talk about your migraine, especially when you're just trying to pretend like you don't have a headache. So, maybe we could all just quit asking her about it. And maybe we could quit offering her food."

I could have kissed him. (Except, we're really not that kind of family.)

I say all of this as something of a reminder to myself. First, even in hindsight, the decision not to make out with my brother in my granparents' living room was a good one. Good call there, T. Second, next time I'm considering seeking psychiatric treatment, I should first rule out a frontal lobe digesting headache as the possible source of my less than chipper mood. And I should go to sleep.

Or eat some ham.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas, friends.

Monday, December 22, 2008

#17 Consider moving to China

This happens every year.
Winter Break rolls in and with it comes my to do list.
The list of shit that I have been putting off for weeks, saying, "I'll get to that over break."
And now here I am.
Over break.
Or rather, under break, as I am being buried alive by this list of shit I've decided I need to get done.

When I was in high school, I had a physics teacher who used to say, "There are a billion people in China who don't give a damn what you get on this test." I think that what he meant by that was that we should all just chill the fuck out because, in the grand scheme of things, our grade wasn't that important. Or maybe he meant that the Chinese were a bunch of uncaring bastards.

Either way, there are a billion people in China who don't give a damn what I get done on this to do list.

10 pm update:
Went to the mall without killing anyone.
Crossed 5 things off of my list.
Had some beer.
Completed an extremely difficult Sudoku. (Triple points because I was inebriated.)
Performed my classic Dean Martin singing Silver Bells impersonation. As you might imagine, it was magical.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


A phenomenal residency in a place I don't really want to live.
A good residency in a city I love.

My inner child rocking in the corner in the fetal position.

Off to get ready for my next interview.

(Note to self: Save up some money as, when this is all over, you will clearly need therapy and probably medication. Powerful medication. The anti-psychotics they normally reserve for wildebeests and elephants.)

A short story

The midget porn reference in the last post comes from my days as a nurse's aide on labor and delivery.

Once, we took care of a pregnant little person who had a 6.5 foot tall boyfriend. They were an interesting looking pair, and, as interesting pregnant pairs tend to do, they sparked a little "imagine how that must have looked" conversation.

A resident who was roughly the same size as the woman's partner said, "Man, I'm jealous of that guy. In fact, sometimes I wish my wife was 3 feet shorter..." And on it went.

When he graduated, the nurses bought him all the midget porn they could find. At the resident going away party, everybody got really drunk and, at about 1 am, started watching the videos. When the resident's wife walked in the room, she rolled her eyes and said to him, "See what you've created? This is why I'm always telling you to think before you speak. We are not taking this shit home, you know."

And then he was all, "But it was a GIFT."

And she was all, "GIVE IT BACK."

When it was all said and done, the funniest stories actually came from the nurse who went from porn shop to porn shop looking for the videos. She said, "I kept saying, 'It's a gag gift.' One clerk finally told me, 'Lady, that's what everyone buying this kind of shit says.'"

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

And I didn't kill any of them. Not even one.

Today, I saw seven patients in less time than it used to take me to see two. And, unlike last year at this time, when I got done with the patients, I actually knew what the hell was wrong with them. (For the most part.) When I walked out of the seventh patient's room, I caught myself humming Eye of the Tiger. I resisted the urge to do this, though. That would have looked ridiculous in the middle of the 5th floor hallway. (Trust me. I played the scene in my head. It looked ridiculous.)

I'm celebrating my victory by watching unbelievably terrible television. I'm classing it up a bit by drinking tea while I watch. You should try it. Next time you find yourself glued to American Idol, or midget porn, or a Real Housewives of Atlanta marathon, pour yourself a cup of Earl Grey. The Brits have been drowning their sorrows and shame this way for years.

Years, I tell you. Link

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I should be packing

This post has been sitting around for weeks with little snippets, things I intended to write about when I had some time. It has said...

Don't get abducted at Kroger
Interviewing at the gas station

Pennsylvania serpentine

Sleeper hold
Robber baron chic

And right now is really not the time to finish this post. I should be steaming the wrinkles out of my suit and packing for my next interview. I have to be at work early tomorrow, and I leave from work to go to the airport. Tomorrow night, I'm back in New York for about 24 hours.

I shouldn't be blogging.
Or drinking this red wine.
But, fuck it.

Here goes...

Don't get abducted at Kroger

My mother forwarded me an email last week. Do you get these? Forwards from your mother? (If we were speaking in person right now, I'm sure someone would say, "No, no I don't. My mother died years ago, and ahh, what I wouldn't give for one last forward from her." And then, I would feel like a tremendous ass. If you are that someone, I apologize for the ass I'm about to make of myself.) My mother doesn't send forwards often, but what she loses in frequency she more than makes up for in asinine content.

This one was a list of tips for the fairer sex as they head out to brave the dangerous world. These are some of my favorites...

Men are most likely to attack in the early morning, between 5 am and 8:30 am.

The number one place women are attacked/abducted from is grocery store parking lots.

These men said that they would not pick on women who had umbrellas.

If someone is following behind you, turn, look him in the face and make small talk by saying, "I can't believe it's so cold out here. We're in for a bad winter."

Well, that settles it. I'm no longer going out to buy milk at 7 am on clear days in June. Mostly, because I'll have nothing to say when I turn around to make small talk with my kidnapper. And I'll look like an idiot carrying that umbrella.

If a predator has a gun, RUN. The predator will only hit you 4% of the time. So, RUN, preferably in a zig zag pattern.

Running in a zig zag pattern, you have a 4% chance of being shot and a 32% chance of falling down and giving yourself a concussion. Unless you're me, in which case, it's about a 57% chance of self-induced head injury.

Interviewing at the gas station

The reason I haven't been spending more time here is because I've been interviewing. A lot. I was in Chicago on November 20th and 21st and then in the south Nov 24th through the 26th.

Four years ago, on my way to a medical school interview, I stopped at a gas station. As I put my VISA into the card reader on the pump, I waited with baited breath.


Never before had I worried that my card would be declined. It was a debit card, and I always had more than enough money in the account. But, as I stood there, I held my breath while I waited for the little screen to say Approved. During that interview season, it felt as though I might be rejected by everything from med school programs to gas station pumps.

I had lost my fucking mind.

I wish I could say that four years and a shit-load of scary personal life trauma later, I have gained some perspective on things like this. And, I suppose that maybe I have. (A little.) I mean, I don't get excited every time I successfully pay at the pump now. But, I'm still mostly a fucknut when it comes to this stuff.

I'm trying not to be.
I'm having limited success.

Today, I spoke to the woman who is in charge of the residency match process at school. She said, "You know, this is an incredibly stressful time, even for people like you who seem to have a good program in the bag." And then, she offered me a carrot stick. I don't like carrots, but it made me feel better nonetheless.

Pennsylvania serpentine

The day before Thanksgiving, I had to schlep my ass through Pennsylvania to get from interviews to my family's house. As I drove through Breezewood, Elvis Costello sang, This is hell. This is hell. I am sorry to tell you...

And there you have it.

Speaking of running in a zig zag, I think the Pennsylvania turnpike was designed by someone who was being chased by an armed madman. It's like that scene from The In-Laws... SERPENTINE, SERPENTINE! I swear, if you could drive through that state in a straight line, the trip would only take ten minutes.

The bright spot: My dad called halfway through my drive and said, "You know what James Carville said about Pennsylvania? It's Philadelphia in the east, Pittsburgh in the west, and Alabama in the middle." And that's exactly how I would describe the place if I was giving a tour.

Sleeper hold

My grandma uninvited her brother and his wife to Thanksgiving this year. She said it was because she didn't have the room, what with the babies. But, in truth, the babies don't take up much space. (They're sort of like really small versions of regular people.) She just didn't want her brother and sister-in-law there. She compromised and said that they could come for dessert, but she wasn't having them for dinner.

Because there were fewer people at dinner, my grandma decided that we would all fit at the dining room table. All 18 of us. In fact, 16 chairs do fit around her dining room table. There is not a millimeter of space in between the chairs, but they fit. As my brother said, "Thank goodness we're not a fat family." And thank goodness we're nimble, because my mother literally had to hoist her leg over the back of her chair, step onto her seat and slide herself onto her butt. As much as she bitches about her post-menopausal body, I have to tell you, as I watched her Cirque du Soleil herself into her chair, I was thinking, "Damn, she's looking pretty fucking great for her age."

Once I got done checking out my mom's ass, I performed similar acrobatics to get myself up to the table. We started eating, and two bites in, my brother said, "Grandma, we need shorter forks. I just stabbed Grandpa with the end of mine."

"Oh, honey, he'll be okay."

Easy for her to say. She wasn't sandwiched in with the rest of us. She and my sister, Kelsy, were in the two seats that wouldn't fit around the table--the bleachers. They sat behind us, eating off of their laps, mocking us in our struggle to move food to our mouths without blinding our neighbors.

We all kind of got into a groove, coordinating bites with those next to us so as to avoid injury, and things were going pretty well. We'd had a few glasses of wine at this point and frankly, we got a little cocky. We decided to up the ante. We decided to pass the rolls.

My uncle was passing the basket to me when he somehow managed to put his young son in a modified sleeper hold. I looked over to see my poor cousin, his head wedged in his father's armpit, his little voice squeaking, "Uh, Dad...I can't really breathe here."

It was our first Thanksgiving related near death experience. I can't imagine how terrifying it might have been if I hadn't been mostly drunk when it happened. My poor cousin, though. He may never give thanks again.

Robber baron chic

The uninvited uncle and his wife did, in fact, show up for dessert. It's a bit hard to explain what it is about this man that makes him so difficult to be around.

He has a lot of money.
None of which came to him through his own ingenuity.
Yet he feels rather entitled.
And likes to give advice to the less fortunate.
And tell them stories.
Which are boring.

He used to come in a tie every year, but he's loosened up a bit there. The day after Thanksgiving, my dad and I were having coffee and this conversation...

I said, "Did you notice, Uncle Peter showed up in casual this year. His shirt wasn't even tucked in."

"Yeah, you know what we call that don't you?


"Robber baron chic."