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Monday, October 17, 2011

not so descriptive

Not so sure what I want these days.  Dropped physics.  Again.  Infidelity.  Who knew my best friend could deliver a slap in the face like that.  Just couldn't concentrate.  Trying to move on.  Work is busy.  Really just want things to be better; the way they used to be.

Finding I like beer.

I really like beer.

Actually, all alcohol is pretty good.  Chilled warm forgetfulness in a bottle.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

back

Things have been perhaps more than ever, a combination of wonderful and terrible these past few months.

It seems this blog has done plenty of focusing on rough times, so for now, at least, I'm just going to keep my mouth shut.  Or my fingers still.  Or whatever it is you to be silent.  Maybe some day I'll break things up into posts; I think there were enough ridiculously bad days to border on comedy.

Anyway, the job thing, while I didn't anticipate to be especially great, has turned out, oddly, to be kind -- of -- great.

I'm involved in an EMR conversion process, and my job is to meet with all the clinical departments in the hospital and go over their documentation.  All of their documentation.  Everyone in the hospital is currently using an EMR application from the early 90's that looks like DOS and leaves quite a lot to be desired, so it really hasn't been a matter of converting what was there, it's been more like rebuilding every nursing assessment and note template in the hospital.  And, oddly, it's suited me.  I like being exposed to so many different departments and their processes.  It also seems like there's been a lot more flexibility in terms of working from home and scheduling once I stopped directly taking care of patients.

My boss is super flexible and this fall, I am (once again!) taking physics in a few weeks.  This time I'll be taking it at a private college about a half an hour from where I live.  My boss is allowing me to arrive to work between two and five hours late some days so I can go to class/lab in the morning.  And, here's the real shocker: she's okay with me leaving and taking a class a semester until I finish my post-bac coursework.

Although this is slow (med school around age 30), there are a lot of benefits: my employer would cover most of the tuition costs (we have tuition reimbursement and scholarships with somewhat low caps, which are perfectly suited to taking about a course at a time), I would have summers and winters off for family time, I'd be able to get sleep, and there would be some stability (both in terms of a schedule, and financially).

By the time I went to medical school, MiniMan would be in school himself, which would further alleviate some of the scheduling woes.  And, there are some opportunities for career advancement; my boss has encouraged me to apply for a position as an analyst which would double (perhaps more than double) what I am making now.

So, there's a lot to be said for that.

In other news, I weaned myself off of most of my meds about two months ago (taking half the dose of seroquel), and am generally feeling a lot better.

Monday, June 20, 2011

in retrospect

Today I ate lunch with one of my friends, a cardiovascular tech who does the EKG and hemodynamic monitoring in the cath lab.  Actually, she was the one person who took the time to teach me a lot about reading EKGs and how to use Holter monitoring software to make reports.

I don't remember how we got started on it, but I started rambling about some of the "cool stuff" that I had the chance to see in real time when I worked in the ICU: torsades de pointes, other ventricular tachycardias,  ventricular fibrillation and other lethal arrhythmias that you hope you won't be encountering when you're reading outpatient Holter monitor recordings 48+ hours after you stuck your electrodes to your patient.

I paused for a minute, thinking about the last episode of torsades.

"The guy was actually dying," I told her.  He was really sick: on a ventilator for weeks and weeks, feverish in septic shock (from a strain of VRE that seemed to take forever to find, after endless blood culture draws and procedures ending in -centesis).  He was completely unresponsive by that point, and he was alone.

I remember sitting outside his room, looking at the monitor, watching in awe as the amplitude on his EKG twisted like crepe-paper party streamers.  I had seen it books, but never in real life.  He was a DNR, and so we sat there still, leaving the crash carts tucked against the nursing pods, as the torsades turned to coarse vfib that slowly grew finer until it was just a haphazard line.

I don't know why I didn't go in there and hold his hand, or even just sit with him.  I don't know why any of us didn't.  The idea of dying in the middle of the night, in a hospital bed, alone, just doesn't seem okay. Maybe we were feeling mildly inconvenienced by the idea of having to gown up to go into his contact precautions room or divert our eyes from the monitor or documentation.  I don't even remember what I was thinking while I sat there doing nothing. Hopefully something besides "wow, cool EKG!"

I wonder, had death started to become so familiar that it had lost its significance?  I really don't know.  After he died, I cut up his strips, somewhat somberly affixed them to pages and pages of strip sheets, labeled them, and thought about how sad they were -- how they told a story all by themselves.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

a sea of strawberries

okay, so maybe the "sea" was more like four quarts
MiniMan and I went strawberry picking this morning.  Well, maybe more accurately, I went picking and he went eating.  It probably would have been fair to weigh him before and after (and pay the difference), but it seems like the unsaid rule of "u-pick" is: you eat.  And so he did; he picked and shoved strawberry after strawberry in his little mouth, juices dripping off his already berry-stained chin.  We had a good time.

Strawberry season, in the northeast, comes and goes alarmingly fast, sometimes lasting only around a week.  It's worth the effort to get out of the house and pick these tender, lustrous berries; they really set themselves apart from under-ripened and bland grocery store varieties.

I think that with these, I'll probably hull and freeze half (smoothies), and eat the other half.  I keep dreaming of picking more and saving them for the fall and the winter, in an effort to preserve a little bit of summer.  I have the feeling even the ones that end up in the freezer won't last long.  Oh well.


I also picked up some garlic scapes, which are available almost as fleetingly as the summer strawberries.  The first time I got a few, I had received them as part of my vegetable CSA and I really didn't know what to do with them.  If you gather enough, you are left with a medusa-like mass that you can turn into amazing pesto.  Garlic scapes, by the way, are the little shoots that come off the top of the garlic plant.  They are milder in flavor than garlic cloves.  The recipe that I usually use is the one on Dorie Greenspan's blog.  You should try it!  

Monday, June 6, 2011

money matters

I found myself seated at my laptop the other night asking my husband what his take-home pay was per week.  It had been almost a year since I drafted a budget.  Last time I did it, I don't remember it being so discouraging.  We weren't paying a whole lot for daycare, and it was before our house got reassessed (at 250% of it's original value).  Uugghckk..

After some brief number crunching, I realized that we have about $300 worth of leeway each month if we pay all the bills and never spend money on anything other than gas (40/week) and food (30/per person/week).  I keep telling myself: it could be worse, it could be worse.  Really, it's enough money to save for a class, I guess, if nothing goes wrong, if the cars don't break, if no one needs clothes or shoes or to go to the dentist.

I keep looking at jobs in other states.  I keep dreaming of some way to get more cash.  The Mayo Clinic pays their hospital aides no less than $14.80/hour because of union regulations.  Is cost of living higher in Rochester, though?  I have no idea.  It's probably not enough of a justifiable pay increase to move, especially considering that we own a house and no one wants to move.  I keep looking, anyway, though.  I'm just not really sure what else to do.  I feel a little trapped.

I've started to wonder if maybe I should apply to some kind of accelerated RN program (some of which take only a year), just to make enough money to go to school.  There's some overlap with the premedical prerequisites, and I can't help but wonder if the financial aid situation is more encouraging.  And, when I would be done, I would be able to make twice as much money per hour which would mean that I could work half as much, leaving more time for classes.  I don't know.  I don't know if it makes any sense.  I guess it would totally depend on financial aid offers.

Probably most nursing programs would hate me if I admitted that I decided apply to nursing school so that I could shield my family from financial collapse and eventually go to medical school.  At this point, I'm just really not sure what to do.  If I save and manage to put aside money for a class, as soon as I stop working, we'll be screwed.  The only thing that seems even remotely feasible would be working part time (which I'm not even sure is an option) and taking a class.

My husband and my parents keep telling me that I'm young, that I have lots of time.  It just seems like they don't understand how deflating it feels to not have an even remotely promising plan. 

I don't get how I am making this so complicated. 

It seems like it shouldn't be so complicated.  Really, though, things have changed a lot, especially how difficult it is to procure educational loans these days for more undergrad classes when you already have a bachelor's degree.    

So, I just keep looking for better jobs, and going to work, day after day, which I guess is okay.  I just don't get how so many people live this way.  How are so many people are okay with their mediocre dead-end jobs?  Are some of them honestly content, or is this just an illusion?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

on procreation

My office mate's stomach bulges a little now.  She's pregnant with twins.  Unlike me, she seems to have quietly thirsted for motherhood for years.  It hasn't been easy for her: difficulty conceiving, two miscarriages, rounds of IVF.  I wonder sometimes about people doing IVF, if they've reached some point of biological desperation bordering on insanity.  The endless injections, the endless cost, it seems like people pour their entire savings into some bottomless pit just for the chance of a child.  Just for a chance.  

For her, it seemed to have worked.  The little aliens are getting big.  She came to the office elated today after news of an ultrasound that they were estimated to be growing slightly faster than predicted.

It really didn't seem right to me.  It didn't seem right that although she is about my age, she had been through all this shit.  It didn't seem right that there are so many struggling with infertility, yearning for a family and that meanwhile there is always a sea of fertile Myrtles who don't even want kids, but are unwittingly getting knocked up.

I didn't dare tell her about first ultrasound.

I didn't tell anyone about the day I left work early to go to my prenatal appointment, how I reluctantly got onto the table and adjusted my scrub top.  The ultrasound tech chattered enthusiastically as the probe eventually centered on a little blob.  She pointed to a flicker on the screen.

"There's the heartbeat," she exclaimed.

I didn't say a word.  A tear rolled down across my temple and into my hair.  I thought how I must seem like a terrible patient, to not be cooing and delighting in the fact I was housing this healthy fetus.  She handed me a print out, a keepsake.  I didn't want it, I didn't even want to look at it, but it seemed strange to refuse it.

I wadded it up the ultrasound paper, put it in my pocket.  My husband walked me to the car.  I sat in the passenger seat for a while, just crying.  I hadn't decided if I was going to have this baby, but I had no idea that I was going to be so rattled by a fucking ultrasound.  

My husband and I had endless discussions and probably some of the most stomach twisting arguments I can remember, about whether or not to keep this little organism, which I would jokingly refer to as "a parasite."  Maybe referring to then barely-developed MiniMan as "Cletus the fetus" or "an alien" made the idea of having an abortion easier, but after the ultrasound it no longer seemed like something I could just distance myself from.

I had never wanted to have a kid in my early twenties.  It really did not fit in with my goals.  I was months away from starting a post-bac program in Vermont, and being preggo was not part of the plan.

Everything was falling down around me.  I was going to lose this child and this guy who I hadn't meant to love, but had really fallen for.  I was putting in eighty hour weeks washing eighty-year olds at the nursing home, watching the gradual breakdown of body and mind.  Medicine, from that perspective, seemed so depressing, discouragingly palliative, and even as a caregiver, I didn't even have the time to offer these people the support they really needed.  I remember initially being so intrigued by Korsakoff's syndrome, Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.  What an asshole I was, I realized, to delight in the details of disease when those very illnesses were slowly destroying people, removing personalities, piece by piece, until nothing remained but an infantile shell.  I worried an abortion, of all things, would push me over the edge, into some insurmountable depression.

I can't remember how many times I prayed that I would just have a miscarriage so I wouldn't have to decide what to do, that the universe would just take the reins and somehow work things out.  And, somewhat reassuringly the universe did work things out, just not in the way I expected.

Eventually, I ran out of time.  I had to decide.

So I chose happiness.  I decided to choose love and silliness and unrefined Christmas cookies with too many sprinkles.  Imagining my future that way, it wasn't actually so far off.  My life is definitely goofier and droolier and toothier and at times undeniably more joyful.  It's also more exhausting and slow, and financially drained, but, I guess you can't have everything, at least not all at once.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

relative calm

Things are getting a little better.  I don't know if it's the job, or the lectures, or the new TCA, or going running, or all of the above, but I'm starting feel more like myself.

There continues to be plenty of ridiculous family shit, financial shit, legal shit, and literal shit, but for some reason it's starting to be less depressing and instead kind of funny.  My husband and I set a "start medical school date" of age 30 for me (this is five years away), and although it seems slow, I think it's reasonable (and definitely doable).  I'm in the process of setting up a class for the fall.  It will be a relief to do something other than wait around and be miserable.

I'm starting to get more comfortable at my job.  I'm working with a team to update our EMR software, which is really old (it looks like DOS).  It is a huge project with (apparently, according to a recent article) a budget of 13+ million dollars.  I can't figure out if this is completely insane (it's the 250-bed hospital with a good number of outpatient services), but it seems like a ton of money.  Pretty much every form and assessment imaginable is being reevaluated and built electronically.  It's been interesting to read this stuff.  I recently came across a physician's order to "Plant Purified Pork Derivative (PPD)."

Seriously?  Is that what PPD stands for?  Anyway, in case you were wondering, I looked it up.  These days, everybody uses a synthetic purified protein derivative (so vegans and folks with religious obligations, have no fear), but apparently the original PPD was pork-derived.  Crazy.  

Monday, May 23, 2011

this weekend

I sat in a MiniMan with my parents, my husband, and MiniMan.  We had decided to take a six-hour trip to visit my grandparents, my brother, and his fiance.

I didn't want to go, but my husband kept laying it on about how MiniMan deserved to meet his great grandparents (and he was right), so I decided to suck it up and smile.

The trip was fine.  MiniMan did really well.  I guess it was a success.

Everyone is doing so well: my grandparents (who are in their 90s and independent), my parents (who just bought a second house with four bathrooms), and my brother, who is wildly successful in his likely multimillion dollar business (he has it rough because he has to travel a lot and take red-eyes).

I probably should feel happy for them, but instead I'm just bitter.

Everything seems so bleak for us right now.

Friday, May 20, 2011

far away

This week seemed impossible.

Somehow, though, it's over.

I don't understand why it is so easy to fall into a big hole.  You'd think I'd just climb out, but I wanted to curl up for a while.  When it was time to leave, though, I couldn't distinguish up from down. I seemed to have tunneled in.

Today I saw light.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

no apology

empty

nothing to say

tired

missing something

confused

not really sure about anything

these days

keep wondering if maybe I'm

losing my mind

seems awfully melodramatic...

tired

giving up

just want to give up

go to bed

and sleep tonight and tomorrow

and the next

in and out of weeks

sleep

Monday, May 16, 2011

apology: no energy

i wonder

when's this going to be over

over over over

over over

over?

if life is going

to balance out, then

everything in store must be

wonderful.

Friday, May 13, 2011

at my hospital

They hold a lecture series that meets every Friday morning.  It's mostly geared towards the physicians so that they can obtain their CME credits, but it's open to all health care providers.  I just asked my (awesome) boss a few days ago if it would be okay to attend (when I didn't have meetings) and she said yes!  I've wanted to go to these lectures for years, but always had scheduled patient care stuff going on.  I think I'll get to go on a regular basis, and hopefully be exposed to a lot of information.

This morning one of the gastroenterologists came and spoke about proton pump inhibitors (i.e. the class of drugs that are typically used to treat GERD like Prilosec and Nexium).  A lot of the lecture went over my head, but here were two cool points that were mentioned:

-There can be a significant rebound when PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) are discontinued.  Some practitioners argue that the withdrawal can actually create heartburn in patients who didn't have it.

-People taking PPIs are more likely to develop polyps in their stomach (specifically, gastric fundic gland polyps).  This is kind of creepy, but apparently according to studies, these polyps don't seem to put people at risk for developing GI neoplasia.  So far they appear to be silent.

(Gastric fundic gland polyps - images courtesy of Medscape)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

therapy schmerapy

Today I had probably one of the most even days I've had at work in the past year.  I was actually busy and it wasn't all mind-numbingly boring.  I was getting along with my coworkers and I wore a dress to work (I do not understand why, but find dresses both comfortable and oddly confidence-boosting).

Everything was really going well.  The weather was beautiful.  It was sunny, warm, all the flowers had popped and bowed down for a belated Easter salute.

I went to see my therapist after work.  I thought it was going to be an upbeat session.  For the first time in a while, I really felt pretty okay.  Somehow, though, everything he said pissed me off.  We talked about why I stopped singing.  It pissed me off.  We talked about post-bac stuff.  It pissed me off.  We talked about my husband.  It pissed.  Me.  Off.  He encouraged me to go to group therapy.  No fucking way.

Sometimes I am really unsure if all this talking and focusing on how screwed up things are, if it's really useful in any capacity.  Right now it feels like the minute things start to get back on an even keel, somebody has to rock the boat.  Does therapy have to make you feel like shit to accomplish something?  I'm just not sure if I buy into that logic.

Sometimes I wonder if maybe I need more of a mentor than a therapist, that I'd rather have someone cup me gently in their hands like a newborn chick and focus on the good.

Monday, May 9, 2011

I have nothing

wise to say, so I will write a foul limerick:

There once was a sinus infection
That gave Peter Paul an erection.
He noodled around
With some trash on the ground
Using tissues he found as protection.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

It's been a profoundly difficult week.

I keep wondering if I am going out of my mind.  What is real and what isn't?  I've started seeing my therapist, the one who's moving away, two times a week now.  I asked him if wanted to see me twice as often because he was "worried I was going to off myself."

He said "no."  Knock on wood.

I can't help but wonder if all this talking is making things worse; if it is only drawing more attention to my suffering; if it is better to swallow and bury it, to laugh instead.  He argues ironicalness is a coping mechanism, but not an ideal one, that it is better to feel.

I am not so sure.

I find myself driving into college town, pulling over less than a block away from that bridge.  We've become so familiar to each other.  I sit in my front seat writing goodbye notes on the backs of old pay stubs.

After long gazes, after considering the 9 foot fencing, I reevaluated my plan.  To really simplify things, I would need a ladder, and I would need to do it when there wasn't nearly so much traffic.  I would need to come back during the night or early, early morning.

Although I was tired and really just wanted to get it over with, I was okay with taking the time to do more planning.  It wasn't worth dying if I wasn't going to do it right.

I drove home.

I went to bed early.  I was exhausted; there was nothing I wanted to do.  I couldn't sleep.  I felt compelled to open the window, take of the screen and jump, but surely this wouldn't be nearly enough of a fall to guarantee death.  I started planning: what about the fifth floor of the hospital?  Is the entrance locked?  I'd have to be careful, there was so much grass in some areas.

I didn't want to think this way, but it's difficult to turn thoughts around.  I had reached a new level of desperation.  Maybe I should stop taking drugs all together.  I always used to be able to get back on track when I was at Oberlin, and I didn't take any drugs as a student.  Something had to change.

I saw my PCP a few days ago.  I sat there, flatly explaining that everything seemed pretty pointless.  After a while she started suggesting alternatives, including ECT.  I was disturbed and appalled.  I know ECT has become comparatively less...barbaric, that the delivery is less prolonged and less intense, that they sedate people.  Still, I had a friend who underwent ECT.  I knew her before and after.  It was like someone had replaced her head with a yellow balloon, bobbing happily in the breeze (but empty).  She had a lot of retrograde (and probably anterograde) amnesia, too.

I started to wonder, what would it be like to forget all these memories, to forget memories of my son, his birthdays, my marriage.  How is this living?  After all this bullshit, you want to steal my memories, too?  From what I'm read, I'm just not convinced of the efficacy of ECT and that the benefits outweigh the risks.  From what I've read, it's not uncommon for people to have reduced IQs of 30-40 points (although many state they do not feel less intelligent).  I might as well just get ECT, and go back to my job as an automaton.  That's the kind of promise that I envision.  Maybe I'm being overly protective of what memory and intelligence I do have.  Still, getting robbed of all this is - calling it frightening seems like an understatement.

We talked about trying some of the old (and now comparatively more obsolete) tricyclic antidepressants.  My husband took my script to the pharmacy (which apparently doesn't routinely stock it).  I told him to just get it filled - that I didn't want to read about the side effects, that I was worried if I did I wouldn't bother taking it, that I was desperate.

I don't know.  I just keep going through the motions.  I keep trying to put on a brave face, but in this job, where I am grossly underutilized every day, I just have too much time to think.  This thinking, it's not pretty: counting down the minutes, plotting my demise.

Everyone once in a while something real slips out.  A narrow beam of light through a cracked doorway: excitement about xanthomas, about knowing something, about actually being useful in some capacity that is above that of a trained monkey.  Every once in a while, something very real and very sad slips out, too.  I find myself reduced to a puddle of goo, trying to hold back sobs as I sit in my car, driving down the road, listening to the radio.  Sometimes I feel as though I am carrying around the entire weight of the world, that I just need to lay down and cry, that I am not capable of much beyond that.

I don't know what's happening.  Things are changing, but I can't seem to discern if it's for better or for worse.

Friday, May 6, 2011

healed by a xanthoma

I was really being a stinker yesterday until I went to the Emergency Department EMR upgrade meeting.  We were running through a whole bunch of the nursing assessments, and at some point we got to a visual assessment.

The director and her staff were scanning the form, and someone asks "what the heck is a xanthelasma?" 

No one seemed to know what it was.

I don't know why I remembered, but a couple years ago I had read about xanthelasmas when I was reading some cardiac stuff.  So I told them it was a yellowish lipid deposit under the skin around the eye.

I don't know why, but this made me feel much better.  Much more alive, anyway.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Don't want to get dressed.

Don't want to go to work.

Everything feels bad.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

still chugging along

All of a sudden, it seems like the childcare options have started to multiply.

My parents offered a few days ago to watch MiniMan for us (as a substitute for daycare) for the entire summer.  I'm sort of baffled.  I'm actually really confused about my relationship with them.  I'm used to them not being supportive at all or sort of passively being involved.  Maybe my father feels guilty for banishing me for the last three years or something. 

We also found another daycare that is about the same price as the other one.  It was also pretty close to home, safe, clean, and the lady who ran it was not scary and seemed very competent and fun.  The only downfall is it smelled like those artificial air fresheners and I had a headache by the time I left.  My husband said he was concerned about "exposure to solvents" (from the air fresheners, or cleaning supplies, or wherever this scent was originating).  I wonder if anyone was done studies on the adverse effects of "air fresheners."  They seem like one of those things that would just piss mother nature off.

So, things are okay.  I saw one of the day nurses from the ICU in the cafeteria yesterday.  Apparently all the day people think that I'm still working nights, there.  It seemed odd.  Usually the nurse managers there are quick to send some kind of mass e-mail alerting the entire staff to someone leaving (followed by party or food/alcohol destination).

I can't help but wonder if the lack of communication was some kind of alienating gesture.  I didn't expect a party or anything, but I thought that it might be worth mentioning that I was leaving.  Probably I'm overanalyzing...   

Saturday, April 30, 2011

life in general

MiniMan has learned how to harvest our wacky daffodils (note short stems)



















I'm sorry for all the bitchy posts.  I have really been feeling crummy, lately, or maybe more accurately, been more aware of it.  I think this is good.

We managed to find daycare for MiniMan that would be $600/month, five days a week.  We don't need five days a week, but maybe it would be good for my husband to actually (!) have some time to himself, or be able to pick up extra shifts at work.  I'm going to check her out next week, but I have the feeling it will be okay.  She's been in business for about twenty years, a friend referred us, and she has an opening.  I've got my fingers crossed.

Work is okay.  It is still kind of overwhelming being back in the hospital.  I really thought that I had kind of made peace with my hospitalization and what happened in the fall, but I've started to realize that even though I don't want to and don't think I should, I still feel ashamed (for failing) and guilty (for being unreliable).

I still dread talking to anyone and have pretty much cloistered myself in my office (which has a door!).  Actually, the workspace is comparatively good.  It's really different from being in a clinical environment where I never had my own chair and was always searching for a free computer even when I was doing long-term projects like re-drafting policies.  Now I have a large desk, two fucking file cabinets that are not filled with other peoples' junk, and my own chair.  I do share my office with one of the new analysts, who seems cool.  I am kind of relieved not to have a cubicle because that just seems too much like Dilbert.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I can't sleep

Still haven't figured out the daycare situation yet.  I wonder if I should quit the new job.  Today was my second day at work.  I like that I can hide in the corner of the hospital and not have to interact with very many people.  On the other hand, I've been doing mostly data entry that is tedious and boring and generally reinforces my feelings of inadequacy.

I am really starting to hate work.

I can't even imagine wanting to have any kind of job.  I don't know what's wrong with me.  I don't want anything.

I haven't wanted to write about it, but I don't even want to take classes or go to medical school.  I can't think of a single thing that I'd ever want to do.  I just keep sort of tentatively planning to take a class in the fall hoping that eventually I'll feel more like myself.  Right now, all I really want out of life is to sleep.

I don't know why I even have this blog anymore.  Sometimes I think I should delete it.  I don't really blog about the healthcare profession very much, anymore, instead just how much I've screwed up my life.

Monday, April 25, 2011

bankruptcy via daycare

This is a disaster.

I guess it could be worse.

After spending the entire day calling local day care councils (apparently there is one in most counties), checking craigslist, and taking suggestions from everyone and my mother we have still not come up with a plan.

Almost everyone who I called was all filled up.  One lady didn't have any openings until 2013!  I did visit one woman who was running a daycare out of her home, and although I guess it could have been worse, it was just not right.  When I got there I knocked on the dirty white door.  An uncentered no-smoking sign hung from the door.  The daycare woman was on the phone with DSS discussing one of her teenage sons.  The daycare kids were only allowed in one room of the house which was probably about 15 by 20 feet.  This room was also filled with cats (which I was told by one of the toddlers are NOT friendly), dogs, random knickknacks, random antiques that were on the floor but the kids were not allowed to touch, and random dolls that the kids were also not allowed to play with.  Talk about NOT childproofing.    

Thankfully, one of our friends, a stay at home mom who is stunningly smart and beautiful (but also leads this strikingly sparse life which includes not currently owning a functioning car) has offered to take MiniMan this week.  This will buy us a little more time.  Unfortunately, she lives like forty five minutes from our house in the opposite direction of where I work (which is about twenty-five minutes away from my house).  This means I'll spend about four hours each day driving around to drop MiniMan off at her house, and then back through the area where I live and to the hospital, only to do it in reverse at the end of the day.  At least it is only temporary.

I'm really starting to wonder if going back to work is futile.  My mom sent me all these listings for students at the closest ivy-league who are interested in babysitting.  It seems unreasonable to pay anyone significantly less than $10.00/hour, but when I add this up, just to do the three days a week, we'd be spending around $1200.00 for part-time daycare.  That is more than my take home is working full-time, so essentially, I would be working only to a) pay taxes and b) procure benefits.

If I didn't work at all we'd qualify for the NYS health insurance for poor people.  I don't know.  I'm just wondering what the point of all this is.  Right now, it seems like I'll mainly be going to work "for the experience" since likely, almost my entire paycheck will go to childcare.  And right now, I really don't think I'm going to give a shit about the experience.

The whole thing is seriously bumming me out.  Daycare sucks.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

blog silence

When I stop writing, it's usually because things are overwhelmingly good, or really, really, overwhelmingly bad.  Right now, I'd have to choose the latter.

Unfortunately, too much marriage-stuff, which is off limits for this blog, will have to be saved for my memoir, which will either be published when I am dead or when my parents die.  I can't decide which.

On Friday, our new daycare provider called me to let me know that she had given away MiniMan's spot to her cousin's child, who is having some kind of daycare emergency.  Unbelievable.  Guess who has the daycare emergency, now?  I'm supposed to start work on Wednesday.

I don't typically find myself getting irate, but seriously, this woman screwed us over.  So now, on a holiday, we're looking for someone (who does not cost more than I make) to watch MiniMan in a matter of days.  I think my husband (a nurse) may end up trying to work evenings or overnights until we can get into a regular program.  I guess it's great that he has that kind of scheduling flexibility, but I also know that he hates those hours and feel guilty.  Ugh.

Stressors seemed to escalate and by Saturday my husband returned home unexpectedly early only to uncover my haphazard attempt at hiding the array of pharmaceuticals that I had collected and been gazing at.  I don't know if I would have taken them or not.  I was sitting there considering their prospective harm.  Drowsiness.  Dizziness.  Seizures.  Brain damage.  Death.



Things aren't so bad, now.

Friday, April 22, 2011

pasta with spinach ricotta pesto

















I made this for dinner last night, and thought the recipe was worth sharing!  It is not time-consuming to prepare, but does require a food processor.

Ingredients:
-9 ounces of spinach, halved (I used one of those pre-washed bags)
-About 1/4 cup of ricotta
-About 1/4 cup chevre (goat cheese), cream cheese, or yogurt cheese
-1 garlic clove, pressed
-1 box pasta (I used whole wheat penne)
-Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1) Heat a large pot of water on the stove for your pasta.

2) Meanwhile, put the ricotta, cheese, garlic, and half the spinach in your food processor.  Pulse until you have a pesto-like paste.  If you have a small food processor, you may have to add the spinach in two stages.

3) Coarsely chop the remaining spinach.  Set aside.

















4) When your water is boiling, add the pasta and cook to desired tenderness.

5) Drain pasta, return to pot.  Mix in spinach-ricotta pesto and coarsely chopped spinach.  The spinach will wilt from the heat of the pasta.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

on Peeps

I never thought I would stoop to this level of culinary offensiveness, but today I purchased...

















Yes.  Peeps.  The quintessential all-American nutrient-free candy.

I have never liked Peeps, not even as a child, yet somehow today when I was at the grocery store, I felt oddly compelled to buy them and share them with my darling family.

I don't know if I bought them because (although they are not terribly delicious), they are kind of cute all nestled together in their little cardboard box.  Note: I do think my cuteness threshold has decreased severely since having a child (be forewarned, future mamas).

Still, now I have the peeps, and I'm not sure what to do with them.  Should I pull them apart and stuff them in those little plastic eggs (we are planning on hiding some this weekend)?  Will this leave them looking injured and lonely?  Maybe they are meant to be together; maybe it's like sending three siblings to different adoptive families.  Still, is it worth caring?  They'll all probably have the same cruel fate of getting masticated by some very small, very short, very new, very cute (here we go again) teeth.

Has anyone ever microwaved a Peep?  That sounds like it has some entertainment potential.

Note: this post was not sponsored by "Just Born Inc.," the company that manufactures Peeps.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

ugly

My parents called earlier today to tell me that my brother had called them late last night: he got engaged.  He didn't call me.

So what did I do?  I immediately sent him a congratulatory e-mail.

They're so happy and excited for him.  I'm not.  I hate him for telling my parents, but not me. I hate my parents for being happy for him, but not me (when I got married my father refused to attend the wedding).  I hate my mother for telling me to get an abortion when I was pregnant.  I'm selfish and immature and I hate everyone.

It pisses me off so much I want to throw my laptop at the wall.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

sometimes I think

I'm coming a little unglued.

It's not that I'm unhappy; I'm jovial now.

I was just sitting here reading, my eyelids drooped, my body slumped.  I only made it to page six.  I took my pills, walked up the stairs.

The air was too warm.  My pillow felt wrong.  The moment I hit the mattress I thought of you, Bridge.  I've dismissed and dismissed you again and again, but wouldn't tonight be so nice for a visit?

The pressure is constant to always say no, to reign myself in.  It wears me out.  

girl abandoned by shrink

And by girl, I mean me.  And by shrink, well, you probably can figure that part out.  Okay.  So maybe the post title is a little bit of an exaggeration, but on a more serious note, remember how I mentioned my psychologist was off visiting a far-away paradise?  Well, I saw him today, and it turns out he's moving there.  Soon.

Girl abandoned by shrink.  Figures.

I'm fretting.

It seemed somewhat miraculous that I was finally actually able to find a therapist who was not a floppy fish, who did not just nod phlegmatically as I ran my mouth (or sat silent, squirming and fidgeting on their couch).

I know it's not so bad, but really, I'm feeling a little panicked.  I feel like I'm going to have to resort to my last technique which is biased and I'm not sure if it actually works well, which involves consulting the local mental health agency's guide to therapists.  Basically I go down the list, I cross off all the people who do not have Ph.D.s, and then I cross off all the people who don't accept my insurance.  Then I pick up the phone and start going down the list.

I don't know if I've written about this before, or if I've been re-inspired by RS, but I'm a strong advocate for some kind of therapist speed dating program.  And by speed "dating" I don't really mean dating; I don't want to date my therapist.  But, to be able to talk to someone for three minutes and move on to the next, well, it might actually be enough of an interview to figure out if there's potential for a relationship that works.

Unfortunately, though, I doubt anyone will ever do speed-find-a-therapist, or whatever we should call it.  It seems like everyone has a waiting list a mile high and two months long.

What to do?  What to do...  girl abandoned by shrink.

Monday, April 18, 2011

everything's fine

I haven't had a doctor's appointment in weeks (overbooked and underpaid), and haven't seen my psychologist in a few weeks, either (vacation to a far-away paradise).  And it's almost surprising, everything is really, so uneventful that I can't help but wonder what all the fuss is about all this talking and drug taking.

I remember as an undergrad I used to go through a similar process.  I'd get partway through the semester, my credit load at the max or teetering over the limit, working, volunteering, cooking, tutoring, playing rugby (!), auditioning.  I considered myself somewhat invincible and seemed to succeed at whatever I put my mind to.  I'd finish my midterms in one last puff of exertion, and then, come that one week break, I'd have cloistered myself in my dorm room, slowly slitting away at my arms or my legs just to gain some temporary relief, meanwhile planning my demise.

I can remember talking to my brilliant and ridiculously hardworking close friend, how she insisted that I see a psychotherapist (after all, she does, and it helped her).  I'd wonder if something was actually wrong.  Something seemed cripplingly wrong.  It would take all my energy just to look up a few therapists, leave a few messages.  Most of the time I lost my courage by the time I listened to their voicemail messages.  

By the time I heard back from anyone, everything was fine.  Everything was absolutely fine.  It really was.  I had of course, wondered what had possessed me before, to feel the way that I did, but classes had resumed.  It was over now, and I didn't need help.  Maybe I was just one of those people who needed to be busy to be comfortable.

I think I went through this process (of seeking and then dismissing the need for psychotherapy) at least five times. When I think about it now, it's sort of stunning that I never noticed this sort of classic pattern, but here I am, once again craving some independence, feeling just fine. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

the bread is taking over

And I'm not sure what to do.  I looked down at my cutting board.  It was a mess of half-eaten and abandoned loaves (I counted seven).  

Here's yesterdays latest experiment:

my attempt at epis (French: "stalks" of wheat) and some bloated baguettes

















Today I made no bread.  Instead, I started to recycle the remnants.  I took two half-eaten loaves and stuck them in the freezer, and another, cubed and then froze.  I made croutons and maple bread pudding, which was supposed to be saved for after dinner tonight with friends, but after MiniMan's repeated attacks and requests, now has a good-sized chunk missing.  Oh well.  I guess that means it tastes good (at least to a toddler).

Friday, April 15, 2011

on work, and being recognized as cuckoo

It's so strange to think that in a week or two I'll be back at the hospital, working days, part of the 9-5 Monday-Friday, weekends off club.  No patients, just meetings, typing, more typing, computers.

I'm trying to brace myself for it socially.  When I was an EKG tech, I used to pretty much work the same schedule.  Now I'm going to constantly be running into my old coworkers that are, of course, going to be asking how things are going, why I stopped working overnights in the ICU, why I'm not in school right now, etc.

I suppose the quick offhand answer that I can tell people is that a) I just couldn't tolerate the overnight schedule and needed to switch to a daytime job and b) it's summer (close enough), and I'm not taking any classes until the fall.

Still, though, I don't think there's much of a point in being really evasive about the fact that I pretty much crashed and burned (no doubt hastened by lack of sleep), and took about six months just to get a grip on my metal health.  I don't really want to be an open book about it, but I also don't want to feel like I am hiding the truth.

I'm still on the ICU listserv so I get hoards of department e-mails, even though I won't be working there when I come back to work.  One of the nurses recently injured her leg, and everyone is going all out.  All the other nurses have a schedule posted for each day of the month and different people are signing up to deliver her meals.  They are going all out to offer their support.

On one level, I think this is awesome, but it also really demonstrates how differently people react to a physical illness or injury, versus psychiatric illness.  Even though I wasn't particularly secretive with my coworkers about what had been going on in my life, there was still this extreme hush-hush mentality which really lended itself to my general sense of social isolation.  I don't know if my coworkers were worried that word would get out about my newly recognized flawed character, or what.

There seems to be this sort of uber-confidentiality thing going on with psych issues.  Even at our hospital, whenever you go into someone's medical record who has been admitted to the behavioral health unit, you receive an electronic reminder (that you don't receive with non-psych patients) that the patient's medical record is confidential.  What's up with that?  I think it's sort of archaic.

I don't know where I'm going with this.  There's some stigma with the psych stuff.  I don't want to proliferate the stigma, but it's funny, it's like society is already geared to proliferate it for me.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

delighting in dough

From goo, to:

basic country bread

It seems logical that this process would get mundane after a while, but every time the metamorphosis still amazes me.

who is fermenting today?

a budding ginger bug for ginger beer (no bubbles yet)



the beginnings of a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) for kombucha



the wild yeast starter, nearly a month old now, working its magic on some dough

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

ode to Benadryl - a haiku


My monster's sleeping



(thank you diphenhydramine)



I'll always love you

how much?

I got my first statement in the mail for my hospitalization last month. I'm sure that it doesn't cover everything since there's no mention of the emergency department, which sadly, is the only way to get admitted (there are no direct admits).



Yup, that's right, $6401.81, which was for five days, I think. This is probably pretty cheap compared to almost any other reason to be in the hospital, I'd imagine. I am really grateful for my awesome health insurance right now, which so far, has covered everything from that visit.

Maybe there should be some kind of "psych cruise" industry. Instead of paying a thousand dollars a day to get locked up on a ward, get locked up on a boat instead. Get a little sun, a little water, and hopefully a lot of really high fencing.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

New International MD Program in Milan

I was recently asked to share the news about a new international MD program at Vita Salute San Raffaele University in Milan, Italy. Their MD program was launched in 2010 and is being taught in the English language.

Below is some additional information about the program:

Vita Salute San Raffaele University is part of the San Raffaele Foundation which includes hospitals, research centers and the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University. San Raffaele is well-known worldwide for its excellence: it is a highly specialized center for molecular medicine, diabetes and metabolic diseases, as well as biotechnology and bioimaging. The hospital channels many of its resources into cancer treatment, cardiovascular diseases and numerous acute and chronic-degenerative diseases, and a very efficient emergency department that serves a vast area.

The International MD Program builds on the institution's solid presence on the international scene: San Raffaele healthcare centers can be found in many countries of the world, including Brazil, India, Uganda, Poland, Chile, Israel, Mozambique and Algeria. This degree course provides medical-scientific education at the highest level, allowing students to improve their skills and to upgrade their knowledge. It also provides clinical and laboratory research opportunities and additional education in humanities and cultural sciences: philosophy, communication skills, cognitive neurosciences and psychology.

The International MD Program is designed to train a new kind of doctor: someone who possesses the necessary human, cultural and professional ablities to actively participate in healthcare and share ideas in today's globalized world. Unlike other medical programs in Italy where clinical courses are held in Italian, the International MD Program is fully in English, including classes, lectures, practicals and all clinical activities.

Students enrolled in the San Raffaele International MD Program have access to all the facilities of the Vita-Salute San Raffaele Institute and the San Raffaele Scientific Institute, including skill labs for practical training, a library with more than 20,000 books and several thousand scientific e-publications and resources, as well as to the clinical and research laboratories of the San Raffaele Scientific Institute, the largest private resarch institute in Italy, that further expanded with the inauguration of DIBIT, a scientific facility for basic, translational and clinical research. DIBIT is part of the largest biomedical science park in Italy, which includes the San Raffaele Hospital, Science Park Raf, created to support the foundation's development, and the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University.

Applicants who wish to enroll in the International MD Program are required to take an admission test. 64 places (32 for EU citizens, 32 for Non-EU citizens) are available for Academic Year 2011-2012.

The admission test will take place on April 28th, 2011 in the following locations:
Milan, (Italy)
New York, (USA)
Kuala Lumpur, (Malaysia)

Candidates who wish to take the admission test can visit this website for detailed information.

The application deadline is April 20th, 2011.
Here are the guidelines on the admission process for academic year 2011-2012.

For more information on the International MD program, please visit the following website: http://bit.ly/mdprogram

Monday, April 11, 2011

life is (actually) good

For the first time in months, I feel like myself. I'm so looking forward to everything turning green, to the CSA starting again (photo: flowers from last summer from our CSA), to my neighbor's ridiculously cheap you-pick rhubarb operation reopening.

Things are looking like they're going to (s l o w l y) work out. The new job is getting arranged and seems comparatively flexible. My new boss is young, approachable, and seems really relaxed. We've got daycare set up for MiniMan. It's pretty close to our house, affordable, and will only be three days a week because my husband can stay home with him when he's not working.

I'm not exactly sure what's going to happen with the fall, but I am sure that I'll end up taking one class, that it will be at a campus closer to home, and this will take precedence over work. And, I know I'll get to sleep at night! Things are going to be okay.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

everything I own is getting destroyed

Someone (no names) has scribbled all over the door with sharpie, and at a later date, on the quilt on our bed with a green highlighter (which I am pleased to tell you, was later determined to be water soluble).

My laptop has been dropped on the floor so many times that a piece of the polycarbonate coating has cracked and fallen off. Someone (no names) so thoughtfully threw it on the floor one day after shoving two CDs into my disc drive.

Just moments ago, I was about to plug my camera into my computer only to learn that somehow the video/PC port on the camera has been pushed beyond the plastic of the camera and into some dark abyss. AAGHHHHH.

I think I might cry.

And so I tell myself what I seem to be telling myself increasingly more often:

It's just stuff. It's just money. It's just money. It's just money.
When life
gets worrisome

I bake

the more anxious I become
the more the cakes
and the muffins
and the bread
and the cookies
and the bagels
seem to grow
grow
grow

they
reproduce

they march
across the countertops
set up haphazard camps

so, when one day
my two-year-old
picked up a food magazine

and shouted:

"CAKE TOWER!"

in delight
as his plump finger
pointed to a tall wedding cake

I couldn't help but wonder--
is this carb compulsion hereditary?

Since then he has proudly declared
his third birthday cake desires:

a

super

chocolate

CAKE TOWER



(with dinosaurs on top)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

spa day

Yesterday I cooked the turkey
my husband captured
under fluorescent lights
between the frozen chicken cutlets
and cornish hens.

It rested in
my refrigerator for days
until one morning
I wrestled it out of its
plastic suit and
into the sink.

I sprayed it
and washed it
and patted it dry,
and gave it a little
sea salt and pepper
aromatherapy scrub.

The sauna was up to
temperature:
four-hundred and fifty degrees.

And so I laid down the turkey on that
minimalist
metal lawn chair
I usually reserve only for use
around Thanksgiving.

I opened the door
the heat blasting against my face
to pop it inside,
and dump a cup of water
in the basin
underneath.

Close
the door.

Set
the timer.

I hope
you like it
steamy.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

three and a half inches

I have a graveyard of high heels in a suitcase upstairs. Almost none are expensive; most are disposable, almost. The red ones? On sale, $3.88 at Target, they boast. Bronze with scalloped edges and peep toes? I bought them in Cincinnati, and almost lost them after a night of corn hole, too much Guinness and too much...Wayne. You know there was some kind of judgement lapse when you end up in some guy named Wayne's apartment and can't find your shoes the next morning.

I first willed myself to walk in unsteady heels in college; it seemed like a rite of passage into womanhood, some tangible proof of sexual maturation. I strode bravely across slippery linoleum floors and uneven cement sidewalks, onto aging brick walkways, only to get a heel stuck between a few bricks and suddenly be traipsing around campus, half-barefoot. No one told me that I would need a sense of humor, too.

And so the heels, they sat in my cozy closet, giggling among each other, begging for sisters, for socialization. They multiplied. I needed a bigger closet.

I got a bigger closet. They went out and partied, brought new friends home. They travelled to Austria's snowy winter streets; they politely braved five hours in standing room during Parsifal on the floor beside my ankles. In Italy they modestly climbed narrow cobblestone sidewalks, paling among the other shoes, among a million brunettes dyed blonde and the eighty-year old Italian grandma riding her vespa in five-inch stilettos and a tight camouflage-print dress.

The heels flourished in Florence, but they had a rough time with the whole pre-med transition. It just wasn't as fun as opera, and suddenly, they were out of place. They weren't welcome in my neuroscience lab, and made me feel like a stereotypical diva in my calculus class. So, sadly, the heels were slowly tossed aside for a beaten pair of Salomon trail runners or my old Dansko clogs.

After I graduated, the heel neglect only worsened. I started working at a chichi nursing home and seemed to have residents accidentally urinating or spilling coffee on my feet on an almost daily basis. By the time I wandered into the parking lot at the end of each day, under the glow of street lamps swarmed by moths, my shoes became sloppy sweat receptacles after fourteen hours of running up and down the hardwood stairs, Oxycodone in hand, of that four-story mansion.

The heels figured their situation couldn't get any more awful, but, well, they were wrong. I moved out into the cabin in the woods. They had to venture across the gravel, not asphalt, driveway. They braved the puddle-luscious spring, only to occasionally become engulfed by the slurping mud. They calmly awaited their death on the kitchen floor next to our two-year old shepherd, who ultimately gnawed apart half a dozen pairs during her developmental "shoe fetish" period.

After I became pregnant, my feet became so flattened under the bulk of "Cletus the fetus" that the heels seemed to have reached an entirely new level of impracticality. I listlessly gathered the remaining survivors, threw them into a suitcase, and shoved it in the corner, where they sat undisturbed and forgotten for quite some time.

I look at it now, as I clean out the pile of junk in that corner, and wonder:

Who the hell am I?

(and what do I do with all these shoes?)

Monday, April 4, 2011

I don't want to go back to work. I don't want to speak to anyone or be social. I want to sleep all day instead.

A few days ago I went for the my first jog in months, up the hill and to this alpine lake near my house. The next day I was driving around town with MiniMan and we got rear-ended. We're both okay, but I am seriously sore (the whimper yourself to sleep kind of sore). I don't know if it was the running or the car accident, probably both.

I've been thinking about trying Bikram yoga. This is a really unusual declaration for me to make, because I tend to be really uncoordinated. In college, I dreaded my dance classes more than calculus, and choreography scenes more than juries (everyone performs for a panel of faculty and they decide whether or not you can continue in the program). A friend of ours teaches Bikram yoga (and owns a yoga studio). He has been pressuring me to go for years. At my husband's insistence, he finally stopped asking/offering. Of course, now I want to go.

I don't know anything about yoga, but apparently what distinguishes Bikram yoga is a limited number of poses (26, which are repeated at every session -- phew!) and a (patented!) hot temperature (around 105 degrees Fahrenheit). Because it's so hot, people tend to sweat a lot (and detoxify their systems), and it's easier to stretch because the body becomes really warm. Since I am starting to feel like a stiff eighty-year old man when I wake up in the morning, I figure I probably can't make things worse by going to our friend's yoga class, right?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

distracted

This is what happens when I pay more attention to my laptop than my MiniMan:


Title: "Need make pancakes"

Thursday, March 31, 2011

the winter that keeps on giving


This was the view from our porch when I woke up this morning.

The paper lanterns are from last summer; I never seemed to have the chance to take them down in the fall and they ended up staying up all winter en lieu of Christmas lights or something. I can't believe that delicate paper survived. The lanterns must have been sheltered by just enough of an overhang from the roof.

I had been looking forward to spring: to streams overflowing after the thaw and a yard overrun by puddles, to the first smattering of green and our quirky daffodils. For whatever reason, though, it's still soothing to be shrouded in one of this winter's last attempts, and to watch the snow fall calmly in fat, slow clumps.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

my pharmaceutical cornucopia

I've become the noncompliant patient. I stopped taking most of my meds about two weeks ago.

"It's classic bipolar," my doctor said, "to just stop like that."
I pulled my hands inside the sleeves of my sweater, squirming. "It started as an accident. I was taking Seroquel and Klonopin at night, and Lexapro and Wellbutrin in the morning; I kept forgetting to take the morning meds, and I started to feel better."

I knew that it would be obedient to get back on track despite the missed doses, that I was putting myself at risk for some kind of depressive relapse or whatever -- by stopping without tapering, but I really didn't care. I felt so much better.

Anyway, if discontinuing some of my medications is viewed as being "bipolar" at least I kept taking the one that would actually be appropriate for that diagnosis (the Seroquel). I don't know. Maybe I am a nut.

Good thing I like nuts.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

cheater's limoncello

Beer making, sadly, is going to have to wait for the bills. There is a lone large bottle of cheap vodka that I bought in the fall to make infusions and a bag of organic lemons that I splurged on a few days ago, so I decided to make limoncello (or more accurately, a sweet lemon infusion, since I guess authentic limoncello is made with grain alcohol).

Limoncello is typically made with lemon rind, alcohol, and simple syrup (one part sugar, one part water). The vodka that I had was only 40% alcohol by volume (not nearly as strong as grain alcohol), but it's all I have, so I decided to make my limoncello without using a simple syrup (i.e. not dilute the already "too weak" alcohol with water from the simple syrup). I've done this before in the past with other infused alcohols, and eventually the sugar dissolves on its own.

So, here's my recipe:

INGREDIENTS
~4 cups cheap vodka
1 heaping cup sugar
5 lemons (organic unless you like to eat chemicals)


DIRECTIONS
1) Wash and dry lemons.

2) Remove the zest from of all the lemons. I used a microplane grater to do this, and grated the on top of a piece of parchment paper, since my wooden cutting board likes to share its garlic flavor with any host (you could use also foil or wax paper). Try to avoid grating any of the pith (white stuff). Alternatively, you can use a sharp vegetable peeler and peel off the rind in chunks.


3) Put zest and sugar in a quart-sized container (I used a mason jar). Cap and shake well.

4) Fill halfway with vodka. Cap and shake again.

5) Top with vodka. Shake some more.


6) Let the mixture sit in a cool, dark place. You can agitate it occasionally to help dissolve the sugar.

7) After 45 days, filter the mixture four times using a coffee filter (or a tea towel or clean t-shirt if you don't have coffee filters lying around). Stick it in your freezer. Enjoy.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

ferment with me


Okay. Maybe the post title is a little deceiving. Only two of these products are truly fermenting (from the left: our own maple syrup, lacto-fermented dilly carrots, sauerkraut with caraway and mustard seeds, pickled turnips and beets, pickled turnips with cumin and paprika).

For the past few years, my husband and I have been members at a nearby CSA. Our CSA has summer shares and winter shares, and we've done both for a while now. The winter shares for us are primarily preserved root crops (that were harvested in the fall and then put into cold storage), but also some greens that were still in the fields (did you know that you can harvest kale even when it covered with snow?) and some others (spinach, salad greens) in passive greenhouses. Anyway, the winter CSA just ended, but I had an abundance of gold ball turnips, daikon, beets, and celeriac.

This resulted in some uh, exciting projects including a batch of celeriac fries that boiled over and started a grease fire that reached past the hood over our stove. Surprisingly, nothing was damaged and no one was hurt (including the fries) thanks to some baking soda for the fire and a larger pot for the fries. The celeriac fries were surprisingly sweet and not dissimilar in texture from sweet potato fries.

As to why I picked up so many turnips at the CSA, I'm not really sure. I've never liked turnips very much, so I decided to grab a bunch and try pickling then to see if I would like them that way. So far I've only tasted the ones with the beets (which have taken on their vibrant pink hue), but they're pleasant, not oppressively turnipy, and taste, well, pickled.

Sort of at a standstill with the whole work thing. I need to get a doctor's note before I can come back yet again, so tomorrow I guess I'll figure that out. I've been thinking that if I really can't figure out a schedule that works in the fall (i.e. daytime job and a daytime class) that maybe I will just stop working. I think that if I stopped working but my husband didn't, we'd be just poor enough for state-subsidized family health insurance. Money would be tight, as it is now, but life would probably be more pleasant. Plus, I'd have more time to cook (and make beer).

Thursday, March 24, 2011

berserk work

I had yet another very exciting meeting with HR this morning. The prospect of it all wasn't quite as nauseating as it was the last time. I guess this means I must be making progress.

I think I might try to take a temp job which is mostly recording minutes for the IT department. They're implementing a new electronic medical record software change, and so there are meetings up the wazoo with every department in the hospital. I would be able to keep my benefits, but it would also buy me some time to figure out how to take classes in the fall, and I wouldn't have to buckle down for a long-term commitment.

As relieved as I am about not having to work overnights for the long-haul, and as nice as the prospect of having a paycheck again and breaking even with the bills, I still feel sort of like an idiot. After all this (my failed attempt at working overnights and taking classes, going nuts, etc), I'll probably be in basically the same situation I was in a year ago, except with a more idiotic, more useless job. In the fall, I'll be faced with exactly the same challenge I had before: how do I take my classes? I'll either have to a) not take my classes, b) switch to another job with a different schedule (i.e. work evenings, nights, etc.), or c) stop working.

Ugh.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

back from the abyss

I haven't been writing. It seemed like there wasn't much positive news to write about, so I just didn't bother. My husband read my last entry and uh, it didn't go over too well, and I started to wonder if posting in a public setting was not such a great idea.

Not a lot is going on over here. I'm supposed to meet with HR in a few days and look into working in another department. I have this creeping feeling that I am going to end up in accounting. I guess that would be okay.

Meanwhile I've been hanging out at home, slowly considering all things fermented. The wild yeast starter is happy and making some good bread, and recently I made some yogurt. I think next fermented item on the agenda may be beer. Hmm. Beer makes everything better.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

everybody hurts

The indigo sky is becoming black. I pull into my driveway after a long doctor's appointment. I can barely open my car door, the snow is so high. I manage to gain a few inches and plunge a sneakered foot into at least a foot of snow.

I open the door, remove my sloppy shoes. The house is dark, unusually quiet.

"Hi guys!" I set down a few groceries on the floor.

I hear MiniMan upstairs watching reruns of Dinosaur Train on Netflix. My husband eventually walks down the stairs. He wears huge weary circles under his eyes and a look of defeat.

"I was just about to grab MiniMan and start looking for you. I thought you were dead."

I take my husband into my arms and hold him awkwardly, stroking his head. I pull him closer, listening to ragged sobs. He doesn't collapse into my arms. Instead, he just stands there, stiff, alone. I don't know what to do. He almost never cries. I'm blank, empty, somewhere else. I should be more empathetic. He has every reason to lament but it makes me squirm. A better wife would know what to do.

It must be my turn to be the sane one, or at least the strong one, but instead I just want to bolt. How fucked up is that?

"It will be okay. I'll figure this stuff out. We'll figure it out. It will be okay." I say, unconvinced. I rub his back.

I don't know how to comfort him. I don't know if he'll ever stop worrying, if he'll ever trust me. Maybe he shouldn't. Sometimes I wonder if I'm like a contaminated water source, slowly introducing my filth to fester in him.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I got discharged yesterday from the psych ward. I thought I wanted to get out, but now that I'm out, I feel worse. I had almost become comfortable locked in that cocoon, I guess.

You would think that something would have changed -- that I would change after spending a week in there; that maybe I'd feel better; that maybe I'd be more motivated to repair myself. I don't feel much differently at all. The gorge is still as tempting as ever. I still just want to sleep all day, all night, ad infinitum.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I've been coping
with cocoa

"only 90 calories"
it boasts-

I wonder
what's really
in there?

my white
styrofoam cup
obliviously
insults the world

the tear
of a thin wrapper
reveals a heap of dark dust
transformed
by steaming hot water
from the mineral-crusted tap

chocolate powder
struggles to float
in the vortex
imposed by a flimsy
wooden stirrer

I pause
to
take a sip
of the chaos
reveling
in its warmth

my life exploded: the aftershock (part ii)

6:45 p.m.

We walked through the emergency department doors. I followed Dr. D to the reception desk.

"This is the patient I called about earlier; she is suicidal and having an acute crisis."

I started at the floor. Some acute crisis, I thought. This has become a way of being. It is not a big deal. Hospitalization is overkill.

The receptionist asked me to take a seat.

"I need an insurance card, picture ID... is this still your address?"

I watched as she looked my name up in the computer and promptly slapped a green label on all of my paperwork with "CONTACT PRECAUTIONS" written in bold lettering. My wound with the MRSA that I had contracted in the fall had long ago healed, but according to our hospital policy, any time I entered the facility as a patient my coworkers would have to gown and glove, even if my cultures were now negative.

A nurse met me at the door. It was Meghan. We had taken an EKG class for nurses together when I had first started working at the hospital. We used to sit together, eat lunch together. She sat me down in the triage room and started taking vital signs.

"So, what brings you here?" She asked awkwardly.
"Umm. Nothing." I said. I was at a loss for words. I watched as she turned to the computer and typed in "Nothing."
Dr. D chimed in, "is it all right if I speak on her behalf?"
"Well, that's up to E," Meghan said.
"It's okay."

Dr. D started to present some kind of explanation for my admission that was a little more substantial than "nothing."

A few minutes later Dr. D said his goodbyes and told me that he would call in the morning. Meghan walked me over to a room.

I sat in a chair against the wall, silent, listening to the relaxed chatter of techs and nurses, people gently giving each other a hard time. A young guy in stolen green surgical scrubs, probably not older than twenty, sat outside my room by the nursing station watching me. It was strange, being the patient behind the glass doors in the bed, forbidden to close my curtain. I can't even count the number of times that I have floated to the emergency department and done the exact same thing; observe psych patients awaiting their assessments, one eye on the patient and the other perusing an issue of Fine Cooking.

A knock on the door. "Hi, I'm Beth, I'm your nurse tonight."

I looked at her. She must have just graduated from nursing school. I had never seen her before and she had a new grad kind of clumsiness and lack of confidence to her.

"So, first I'm going to need you to change into these scrubs."
She set a pair of blue disposable scrubs on the stretcher.
"No thanks," I replied.
"Um, okay." She walked out.

Beth walked back in a few minutes later. "About the scrubs, actually, it's our policy that you wear them."
"I'm sorry that I'm not following your policy, but I will be keeping my clothes on."
She walked out of the room.

A few minutes later the young tech came in.
"It would really help us if you would put on these scrubs. Could you do that for us?"
"No. Sorry." I offered an exasperated smile. He walked out.

Beth came back in.
"They're just scrubs. Couldn't you please just put them on for us?"
"No," I replied politely.

A few minutes later the charge nurse came in.
"These scrubs are for your safety. If you don't put them on, I will call safety and security, call the response team, and have you put in restraints."
I was baffled. Could they really put a nonviolent person in restraints? Should I just give up or exercise a little civil disobedience? The whole ordeal seemed so dehumanizing.

I decided to just fuck it and put on the stupid scrubs. What did they think I was going to do? Take the staples out of my Dansko clogs and eat them? Pull the underwire out of my bra and stab myself in the neck? Hang myself with my pants? Saw myself in half with the zipper from my fleece pullover? The possibilities were endless. Then again, I was in a room filled with other things I could harm myself with, cords and tubing, blunt objects, needles from the UA kits (which are not locked up), metal and electrical sockets. Hmm.

A while later, Beth came in to draw my blood. I told her she could do my hands if she wanted. I have pretty serious protruding veins on my hands and they are easy to see and an easy stick. She decided to go for my left AC. I told her that my AC was sometimes hard to see, but very bouncy. Tourniquet on. She probed for a while with her finger. She swabbed my skin with alcohol and followed quickly with a butterfly.

No flush on the butterfly. I had this overwhelming urge to grab the butterfly from her and do it myself, but I sat there passively, even relaxed while she prodded around. She pulled out the needle a few moments later.

"Let's try that hand."
Tourniquet on, alcohol prep, big fat juicy (but superficial) vein. She needle went in. I saw a flush. She continued to push the needle in. She popped a tube into the vacutainer. No blood.
"Pull the needle back a little," I gently prompted her.
I watched as a bluish lump started to form under my skin around the needle.
"I blew your vein, didn't I..."
"Yeah, it's okay." I popped the tourniquet.
"I'll go find someone else to draw your blood."

A few minutes later another nurse came in to draw my blood.
"I think I must have freaked her out," I said.
"Yeah, drawing blood on other healthcare providers never puts anyone at ease." The nurse quickly drew my blood, gathered and labeled the full tubes, and walked out.

I sat in the chair, alert, listening to the rhythms of the emergency department. A crying baby, a screaming psych patient, the scuffle of shoes and EMS radio giving report in the background. Time passed slowly.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

my life exploded: the aftershock (part i)

On Wednesday, I was out for a drive. I had to fill a script for Seroquel and was going to pick up some root vegetables at the farm where we're members. My husband offered to take care of our son while I was out, and there it was again, temptation.

I drove into town. Do I pick up the prescription or do I just drive to the bridge and get it over with? I felt calm, relaxed. It was no longer an option to just jump off the railing; someone had installed perhaps eight-foot high inverted fencing against the three or four foot railing. I had it all planned out, though. I could visualize myself climbing over the wrought-iron bars of the neighboring fraternity driveway and carefully hiking along the brittle frozen shrubbery to climb, from the outside, to the bridge railing. I would inch myself along until I was over the gorge, and then all I had to do was let go. It seemed so simple.

I was, I guess, a little bummed that I was giving into temptation, but my suicide was inevitable, right? I mean, if someone offered you a super-awesome brownie ten times a day for the rest of your life, don't you think sooner or later your willpower to decline it might falter? Most people take it for granted: this conscious choice to keep living, to keep plodding through perhaps mundane, unfulfilling, or despairing lives, day after day, after day.

For some reason, instead of driving up the hill to the gorge, I stopped at my psychologist's office first. I figured it would be like flipping a coin. If he weren't there, I would head to the gorge, and if he were, well, maybe he could help me figure this out.

His car was parked next to the back door. I opened the unlocked door and sat on the landing at the bottom of his stairs for a while. I rested my head against the wall, listened to the noises of energetic children, clanking pots and pans, dinnertime noises. I must have been up against someone's kitchen apartment. I sat there a long time. I watched the sun go down. Eventually it grew dark. The wind blew against the outside screen door. I was becoming cold, my butt getting numb from sitting on the floor so long.

I decided to walk up the stairs. Dr. D opened his office door, startled, and asked if he could help me, as if maybe I was some kind of invading burglar or a lost homeless person. He turned on the lights in his waiting room, his face softening when he recognized me.

"I know you said to call if I needed to, but I didn't have my phone."
"Sit down, sit down." He ushered me to a seat in his waiting room.

He retreated to his office for a moment, and then the door opened and the patient he had been seeing left.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to mess up your schedule." I muttered.
"We were just about done."

I sat on the floor. I don't so much remember what we talked about. I don't even remember if I told him where I was planning to go, what I intended to do. I must have told him something about these thoughts, these burrowing, insistent, relentless thoughts.

We talked, unhurried.

Eventually, he convinced me that I needed to go back to the hospital; that I needed to be admitted again as a psych patient if only to be safe, get some better medication management, take a break.

I hated the idea of all of it. We spent a while kind of passively arguing about it, but in the end, I realized I didn't have a choice. We walked outside and got into his car, and I sat in the front seat, my teeth chattering, as he drove to the hospital.