Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Spare Change

Dear US Mint:

Enough is enough. First you messed with the quarter, creating a frenzy of state quarter collection display kits. Then, let’s not forget the “golden dollar” fiasco. I mean really, how did you expect to replace a $1 bill with a coin? Did you not take into consideration how this new piece of metal would be incompatible with vending machines? (Thank you Ohio Turnpike for giving me no less than eight golden dollars in change last October—they are still sitting on my dresser at home.) Now you have started messing around with nickels.

But today was the last straw: I finally got one of those new-fangled $10 bills from Starbucks as part of my change, and I have one word for you—fugly! It’s not even green anymore! The entire thing is cat-piss peach! Do you really think any one is going to take our country seriously when our currency is PEACH? It also has crazy gold and copper metallic ink splashed on it, and different-sized ovals devoid of any ink on either side.

I have news for you: if embedding plastic strips in currency doesn’t evade counterfeiters, what makes you think a crazy LSD-inspired color scheme will?



Also at Starbucks: I dropped my change as I was paying the guy at the drive-in window, so I opened my door to pick up the dime I had dropped (Yes, I am that CHEAP!) and there was a whole pile of coins there! Is it wrong that I scrounged up another $ 0.40?


And finally:
On the cardboard insulating strip around my coffee, it reads:

Succedaneum—winning word from the 2001 national spelling bee.

I was the spelling bee champ at my school in both the 6th and 7th grades. Do you know what my winning word was that first year?

--I guess we weren’t exactly known for our academics!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Bottom Dwelling

This afternoon I packed up my tiny Saturn and drove off to a distant city to start a four-week rotation in internal medicine. I briefly inquired about my potential roommates while stopping by my school to pick up a key to the student housing last week and was told that I would be sharing the apartment with FIVE GUYS! Not to mention that they are five guys from the class of 2007, so they might as well be perfect strangers. You might think a single, independent-minded woman such as myself would appreciate these statistics, but you would be wrong, dead wrong. Student housing tends to be moldy, musty, and over-crowded.

However, when I arrived this afternoon, the four-bedroom, two bathroom apartment was deserted. I may or may not have claimed the room with the best desk and lighting, and moved the second mattress out, making my room the only single room in the apartment. I was not at all disappointed in terms of the moldy or musty aspects of the apartment. My cell phone reception is horrendous as we are in the basement of the building, but I am picking up a free wireless internet signal right now! Huzzah!

One roommate showed up this evening, and despite my lumping him in with the other married, clean-cut, male types that my school seems to attract, he does seem like a pretty cool guy. No one else has shown up yet, but the one odd thing is that the fridge is fully stocked--despite there being no claims to any of the bedrooms in terms of clothing/bedding. There are even fresh herbs and unexpired milk in the fridge--which leads to daydreaming of an almost extinct species--the bachelor who can cook, but this girl's not getting her hopes up too high.


On the drive down, I called and spoke to my great-aunt. She's 103, and likes to use her age to maneuver you into doing as she pleases. For me, this means stopping by for a visit as I relocate myself across the country. I have one friend who is crazy enough to want to accompany me on this drive. She may change her mind when she hears about the addition of a stop for dinner at an assisted-care home. And R- if you haven't already decided to bail out on me, realize that dinner for seniors is served promptly at 4:30 pm in the cafeteria. If we are five minutes late, they'll be out of the good fish!

And as for the family reunion in July? I didn't give her a firm, "No way in hell!" but conceded to, "Well, we'll see if I have that weekend off."


As for the rest of my weekend, there were no residual aches/pains from Friday's hike and my run yesterday was 3.06 miles!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Half Baked

I took advantage of having today off by going for another hike. I purchased a hydration back pack yesterday in anticipation of more difficult hikes to come, and it seemed like it worked pretty well. Next time I will definitely freeze half the water beforehand, so I won't be sipping hose-temperature water after only a few hours' time.

Unfortunately, my friend and I are not morning people, so by the time we hit the trail (Post lattes and a blueberry scone, of course!) it was already 10:30. However, after 3 hours of hiking, I think I've come away with only a slight sunburn at my hairline, so not too bad. I definitely feel drained after spending that much time in the sun, and have a mild headache despite drinking TONS of water and powerade. During summers in high school, I used to lifeguard at the local swimming pool, and it always took a few weeks to adjust to that much sun exposure.

As part of an evil genius landscaping scheme, the buildings at my school are all named after various cacti. And by the sign of each building is its representative cactus--how clever! We always say that the one in front of the Sahuaro building looks like it's giving you the finger, and I guess I can see the resemblence.

Here's a nicer view, sans finger:

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Rorschach Test

I had problems with uploading over the weekend, so here are some more pictures from Saturday's hike.

Does anyone else see a skull in this cloud, or have I just lost it?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Fine Print

My contract arrived today! It was much shorter and more vague than I expected, but it did give me a start date of July 1st, and what my salary will be. I guess reading it also made the whole process seem that much more final. I also have to decide how to have my new white coat embroidered and request vacation dates.

I will be happy to retire my student coat that I've worn constantly over the past two years. The sleeves have permanent rings of grime around the wrists, and there are stains from chemicals, food, and um, patients, that just won't come out. FYI- Student coats are shorter in length. If your healthcare provider is wearing a coat that is the length of a regular blazer, than you're probably being seen by either a nurse or a student. If the coat extends to the knees or below, then you're being seen by a resident doctor/attending, or in some places, a nurse practitioner.

Personally, I don't enjoy wearing a white coat. For one thing, I'm pretty klutzy. Also, none of my own doctors have ever worn them. The only people I associate with a long, white coat are butchers. I don't think that is exactly what my profession was going for, but I can't help but smirk when I see the white coats coming down the hall.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Weekend Update

I went for my long run on Friday, and managed to stick it out for 2.82 miles! It was tough though, as my butt muscles were already making their presence known after having incorporated some lunges into my routine two days before. I could almost picture my piriformis muscle—hot, swollen, and tapping on my right sciatic nerve like a bad knock-knock joke, sending shooting pains down my right leg.

The teen on the treadmill next to me didn’t help the situation either as he apparently went for a swim in cheap cologne. He showed up around mile one, and the cologne was so strong that I could almost taste it! Fortunately, he went on his smelly way ten minutes later. It was almost worse than having a runner next to you fart. I mean, that’s the last thing you want to be smelling when you’re already breathing hard, but at least that smell drifts away! Fortunately, I have only been the victims of one-time bombings—I don’t know what I would do if the offender had multiple emissions!


On Saturday, I went hiking with a friend. The trail was new to us, and steeper than we had expected. It was somewhat humbling that we were only keeping up with the elderly gentleman in front of us, who was using a golf club upside-down as a walking stick. (It was an iron, too. I would have thought a driver would have made for a more comfortable handle!)

After our hike, we ate at a nearby Greek restaurant which was a treat because I usually only go there with another of my friends who is lactose-intolerant. If you have never had Saganaki (AKA Greek Flaming Cheese), I highly recommend it.

After lunch, we went to the movies where my friend and I actually ended up walking out of a
movie. I have never done that before, but it was so horrible that we left after about 15 minutes, and I would say that the two of us are generally pretty hard to offend. I don’t watch television at all. (Not because I have better things to do, but because there’s no cable in my room, and the main TV in our house is constantly occupied by children’s programming.) However, this was the last time that I go to a movie because a friend likes the lead actor and, “Well, he kind of looks like a pirate again.”

Instead, we ended up seeing a silly romantic-comedy. It put me in a better mood, but between the hiking in the sun and the enduring of previews/commercials for over an hour, I was pretty exhausted!


This morning, I was awakened by loud screams from the baby—the one who rarely ever cries. Apparently, he had fallen off my friends’ bed onto the carpet. By the time that they brought him to me, he was already giggling. After a quick trauma survey for deformities and reproducible pain, everything appeared to be in order.

I am in this awkward transition right now from being just a medical student to becoming a physician. Sometimes I know what to do, and sometimes I default to, “I really think you need to see a doctor.” People are starting to take me more seriously, and while in some respects that’s cool, it is also terrifying!

It was not quite the way I like to start my Sundays, but good morning to you, too!

Thursday, March 16, 2006


Late this morning, I found out where I will be going for residency training. It turns out that I have matched with the program that is the furthest distance away! I am having some mixed emotions about it, although the idea of an entirely fresh start is definitely appealing. I have been in this state for almost 17 years now, so perhaps a change of scenery is more than overdue. Also, packing up and moving will allow me a gracious exit from a couple of situations that I have avoided confronting.

The program that I am going to has an excellent reputation, and they have already called to welcome me to the fold. I am sure that many adventures are in store for me, but I am a little reluctant to be putting so much distance between myself and the friends that I have here. I have always been a person that is horrible at goodbyes. I tend to form friendships easily, but so many people have wandered in and out of my life, sometimes never to return. I just hate the thought of that happening with some of my current friends. Chris was writing the other day about actively choosing whom one associates with, and I suppose that this new start will allow me to do just that.

However, in the meantime I plan on enjoying my surroundings, including attending a match party tonight to find out how my classmates fared!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

People Watching

There was not a whole lot going on today, either. I saw a smattering of cancer patients with my preceptor this am, and then went to the gym this afternoon. On my drive this morning, there was a small, red car in front of me with custom plates that read “RAPSALOT”. On the back of his limo-tinted rearview window were the words, “GETO FOREVER” in big white letters. I’m pretty sure he meant ghetto. If he was my homie, he’d be out of the gang for such a mistake, but maybe there aren’t a lot of spelling bee aficionados in the hood.


Since I don’t have much to discuss, I’ll attempt to entertain you with more characters that frequent my gym. Some people watch birds, but I watch people! And I figure it’s not too evil to give them nicknames as I’ve come up with one for myself, too.

Whirling Dervish
- This woman can always be found in a step aerobics class. She has attended so many times that she has all of the sequences memorized. However, she must have bad knees as instead of using a step in the step class, she chooses the twirl and spin around like a leaf caught in a breeze, all while keeping pace with the instructor. It’s kind of mesmerizing to watch those white curls flipping and turning.

Hunky Treadmill Guy- This guy is probably in his late-30’s to early 40’s and I’ve seen him around since I started going to this location almost two years ago. He’s made a lot of progress since I first saw him, and now has shoulders and back muscles that are fabulous to look at! Unlike the other muscle-types, he actually does quite a bit of cardio, too. Of course, I’ve never had the nerve to actually talk to him, but had been entertaining the idea of a simple “hello” until last month when he brought the worst accessory ever to the gym… a teenage daughter!

Mennonite Woman- This one’s particularly intriguing as I know absolutely nothing about this religion other than picking them out by their um, garb. However, she can often be spotted during early afternoons in the weight section. I’ve never seen her doing cardio stuff, but then again, if I was wearing an almost floor-length dress with a white headdress, there’s no way in hell I’d be running around in that heavy cloth, either.

The Good Twin- This guy looks exactly like my ex-boyfriend, and if he’s the good twin, then that makes my ex… well, you get the picture. Anyway, he has the same hair color—but longer ponytail, a habit throwing “Rock On” hand signals across the room, and only wears long-sleeved shirts, even in the summer. The long-sleeves, if he’s truly like my ex, are used to cover tattoos in public.

And as for me, I am Tall, Sweaty iPod Girl who is there almost every day and nods hello occasionally, but talks to no one!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Lazy Daze

I had the day off today, so I slept in until all of 7:15 am. Why is it that garbage trucks are so freakin' loud? And I live on a cul-de-sac, so I'm really not sure why they kept driving in reverse, necessitating the use of their back-up alarms!

Most of the morning was spent sipping coffee and returning emails/phone calls. For lunch, I drove across town to meet up with a friend for sushi... well, crab rangoon and salmon sashimi to be exact. Yumm... I have given up sweets for Lent, but am definitely making up for it with salty and fried food.

I love having days off in the middle of the week because stores aren't crowded and you can get a ton of errands done. Unfortunately, everyone else is at work so hanging out options are limited.

Monday, March 13, 2006

And Then There Were Six...

After checking my email frantically at my new preceptor's office this morning, I found out that I MATCHED!

I had been trying not to think about it all weekend, but I was so nervous this morning as I made the hour-long commute to work. Although scrambling can be an exciting option as you can slip into an unfilled spot in any specialty, I am so glad that I don't have to!

It's a good feeling to finally know what I'm going to be when I "grow up", and that is an emergency medicine physician! I don't even mind waiting three more days to find out where I matched. I'm certain that I will be happy at any one of the six programs that I ranked.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Out of Focus

Today was my day for a long run, but I was having a hard time getting into any kind of stride. Right now I am exclusively doing treadmill running, but I like to be able to look out a window and focus on trees or clouds in the distance. I guess it makes me feel like I am actually going somewhere. Unfortunately, there are only a few treadmills at my gym that face the windows. Rather than waiting, I ended up on one that faced a six-foot mirror across the aerobics area. There was a useless 2’x2’ window to look out, but all I could see was a bit of grey sky and part of a telephone pole that kept bouncing up and down with every step. So between the telephone pole and the expanding ring of sweat from my collar, there wasn’t much of a view. I had my U2 albums on shuffle, but I still couldn’t find my moment of Zen. My arms were awkward and useless; flopping around like those of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Finally, I called it quits after dragging my carcass 2.59 miles.


After threatening with clouds most of the week, it finally rained today. It was freezing, so I figured it was perfect weather for coffee and studying blood disorders. Apparently, everyone else thought so too, as the coffee shop was packed! Outside, there was a truck with a dissolving snowman in the back. They must have been on their way back from somewhere up north. It looked kind of morbid—like one of Calvin’s snowmen from the Calvin & Hobbes comic strip, pock-marked from being hit by the rain.


There was no line at my local Great Clips, so I decided to drop in. Not only did I get more attention than the usual 90-second hair trim, but I managed to learn my something new for the day. My stylist was commenting on my ear because I recently got an old piercing through the upper cartilage of my left ear (the helix) redone and she noticed that it is still healing. Somehow that progressed to informing me of where all of her piercings were (you really don’t want to know), and a lovely tale about her boyfriend. Apparently, he was sitting on the couch letting the cat chew on one his piercings when it pulled his nipple ring right off! I briefly entertained giving her a quick lecture on Pasturella multocida infections from cat bites, but refrained. So there you have it: if you have nipple piercings, you had better keep ‘em covered around the cat.

Friday, March 10, 2006


My friend keeps whining that she should have studied marine biology instead of medicine, so I bought the above guide for her birthday. I had to giggle when I saw it lying next to a Victoria's Secret catalog on my desk. Yes, I am silly.

(Note: The above items were photographed away from my desk to protect the disorganized nature of the author!)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Blame It On the Rain

On my drive to work this morning there were dark clouds looming behind the mountains to the north and the ones to the east. Off in the distance, I could make out the blurred lines of rainfall. I have heard it said that during a storm, the normally positive electrostatic field of the earth becomes more negative as electrons migrate during rain formation. Having never studied meteorology, I don’t know if this is true or not, but I was wondering if those tiny changes in electrical charges could have contributed to my bizarre day.


Today I saw a 75 year old diabetic whose husband was completely incapacitated, having never recovered from a cervical fracture last year. On top of that, he has now managed to develop Pick’s disease (aggressive form of dementia with dramatic behavioral changes). Sounds like my patient from Friday, right?

I asked her how she was doing and she said, “How do you think I’m doing? My husband hates me, social services is worthless, and I have a very big house to clean!”

I asked her if she had someone to talk to and she told me that years ago she spent five years with a therapist from UCLA. (Apparently, I was supposed to be impressed by the name she dropped, but I’d never heard of him.)

I asked her if she wanted a referral to someone in town and she said, “Who’s going to know more about living than ME?”

So, we moved on to her diabetes. When asked about exercise, she said that she wasn’t doing anything now and wished that she had never stopped doing yoga. “And if you aren’t doing yoga now, you had better start!”

And that, my friends, is when the 75 year old diabetic with retinopathy, who came in with a walker stood up, bent forward, and planted the palms of her hands on the floor.

“Not bad, huh?” she said.

I was feeling a little flabbergasted when the drawn-out discussion I had expected turned into senior citizen calisthenics, but whatever.

However, I should have thanked the patient this time. Her visit again reminded me of the different ways in which we all deal with stressors. Her reaction to her situation was entirely opposite from the woman on Friday. Rather than dealing with her emotions, she just shoves them aside and moves on, with a dash of piss and vinegar thrown in for good measure. I don’t know if she is being all that healthy by repressing her emotions, but she is definitely dealing with life on her own terms, rather than letting it happen to her.


Later, I was at the grocery store, picking up some uh, personal items. I have one quick comment and then I’ll leave this topic:

It was more than a little offensive to find that the tampons and maxi pads in this particular store were stocked in the baby aisle—right next to the diapers. They are quite a different product, and I am positive that diapers are the last thing any woman wants to look at who has failed to get pregnant. Seniors needing Depends are probably also offended to find them in the diaper and baby food aisle.

Just my "two cents" if any store managers out there are reading.


On my way home, a mini-van pulled up even with my car and stopped. I turned to look, and the driver was just sitting there staring at me dead on. Maybe I should have smiled back, but I turned my head and looked forward. I could see out of the corner of my eye that he was still sitting there for about 30 seconds more before finally pulling up to the intersection. Why would you do that? I hadn’t cut him off, I had pulled into the slow lane. And if he was trying to pick me up, he should have waved or something, right? Staring is just c-r-e-e-p-y, especially with a baby in the backseat.


It still hasn’t actually rained in my part of town, and I am hoping that it also missed wherever my preceptor was out golfing. We only work a half day on Wednesdays. If his golf game got cancelled, I’m sure there will be a foul mood to deal with tomorrow, not to mention lots of questions about tonight’s reading assignments!

I did spend about an hour at Starbucks reading today, but couldn’t concentrate when the guy sitting next to me decided it was necessary to flip through today’s newspaper reading just the ads—aloud and at full volume. On the plus side, now I know who guarantees the best price on washer/dryer sets.


I'm just hoping it will rain overnight and wash all of the wackos away!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Open Apology

I would just like to take a brief moment to apologize to anyone I may have offended in the past by squealing "Gross!", squishing up my face, making retching noises, or clasping my hands to my throat and feigning death at the mention of the word lox.

A good friend of mine invited me over for brunch on Sunday, and I am not sure if it was technically lox, but the seasoned salmon cream cheese spread we had on 12-grain toasted bagels was awesome! Ignoramus that I am, I alway pictured lox as being whole fish like anchovies, complete with eyeballs glaring back at you, on top of cream cheese and a bagel.

I love visiting with J-- her apartment has a such an international flavor. She's Jewish and grew up in New York City and married a French guy. I have never been to France, but if it involves lox, fresh pears, strong coffee, and a giggling baby-- then I am totally up for it!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

One Slipped Through the Cracks

I have not allowed patients to get to me emotionally for some time. My force field is intact… you can cry, you can scream, you can insult me and my mother, but you won’t break me. Until Friday that is…

It started off innocently enough; she was just there for a follow-up visit. She is in her 80s and we were supposed to be talking about her diabetes. We have the same first name. She was born and raised in Ireland. Being a redhead, I often get mistaken for being Irish. I asked her how she was doing, and she started to tear up. She said she had been having a rough couple of weeks. It turned out that her husband, who has been struggling with dementia, tried to commit suicide two weeks ago, and had to be moved from an assisted living center to an Alzheimer’s unit with constant observation.

I told her that I was sorry to hear that, and started asking her more about how she was dealing with it. She quickly admitted to depression, but said that the last thing that she wanted right now was more medication. I told her about my grandmother, who no longer recognizes me. To my surprise, I found myself tearing up a little bit, too. We talked about how dementia is almost worse than death because the disease ravages so much of a person’s character. It is like they are gone, but yet you can’t grieve their loss because you continue to see them. As a family member, you get stuck with this horrible conflict of emotions. Visits become more and more difficult as the disease progresses. At the same time it doesn’t feel right to not visit your family member, even though they don’t know who you are, or can even become fearful of your presence. She said that she was feeling guilty about not seeing him every day, but it had gotten too difficult for her emotionally to visit him more than once a week.

I really didn’t know what to say and was trying to block myself from becoming too emotionally involved, so I stalled by talking about her diabetes for a bit. After answering a few questions, I wrapped it up by saying that I thought she was making excellent progress controlling her blood sugar, but that I was concerned about the emotional stress that she was dealing with. She said that her daughter was her only source of support, but that she was stressed out about the situation and had her own family to raise. I asked her if she would like to speak with a counselor or maybe someone at her church.

She then said that she had given up on her church after they had not bothered to come to see her in the hospital last summer. Apparently, she had undergone heart valve replacement and had asked a priest to visit her after having dreamed of her own death after the surgery. The priest blew her off on a bishop, who never showed up or even called to check on her later. Just like that, a woman who had attended church every week for over 80 years quit going. I could tell from her tone that she was still very angry and hurt by the incident. She mentioned that she had thought about going back, but didn’t want to go during Lent.

She waited for me to say something, and I started wondering how I ever got from a simple follow-up appointment to someone wanting spiritual encouragement. So often I feel that there are certain boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed when it comes to discussing religion, particularly in a professional setting. Clearly, she wanted me to say something though, so I just said that I thought that she needed someone to talk to. She said that a social worker involved with her husband’s case had mentioned a support group. I said that I thought that would be a good idea and that if she didn’t want to talk to strangers, she could always just go and listen. She said that she did think that she would return to her church. I told her that I would have been very hurt if I had been in her situation as well, and suggested that maybe she attend a smaller parish, where she might feel like part of a community.

Finally, I went and got my preceptor after I’d spent over a half hour talking to her individually. I briefly told him about her situation. Although he told her that he was sorry when he walked in the room, he didn’t say one other word to her about it. Five minutes later, we were done with the appointment. As she left, she thanked me for caring so much and told my preceptor and the front office receptionists that I was very nice. I could tell that I had lifted her spirit just by listening, and was glad that I had addressed an issue that otherwise would not have been covered. I know that everyone has their area of expertise, and that a lot of physicians aren’t comfortable dealing with depression and other issues, but at the same time you can’t just ignore them! I have a friend who is a psychiatrist, and I really admire him for being able to help people the way that he does. I could never do it; I would rather deal with fallout from the local knife and gun clubs. I guess I internalize things too much, ending up exhausted and drained.


I talked with a couple of my friends about the situation over the weekend because clearly this patient tugged at my thoughts. So far, two out of two agree that I should send an anonymous note to her priest. I certainly don’t want to draw any attention to her in any way that would cause her to feel ostracized, but I just feel like maybe they could use a reminder of how important their interactions are with sick patients. A woman was calling out to them for help, on what she believed to be her deathbed—what a horrible time to be forgotten!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

One More Day

Argh! I just was emailing a classmate the schedule for the Match only to realize that it is March 16th, not the 15th! I guess one more day of waiting won't kill me.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Marching On

Exactly two weeks from now I will know where I’m going and what I will be doing for the next three years. As the date is approaching, I am finding myself becoming more excited about the changes to come. I guess that’s a good thing, since this whole process has been filled with so much anticipation and even some dread. I am feeling good about my list and think that I will be happy to wind up at any of the programs that I ranked.

There is always the possibility of not matching and having to scramble into an open spot, but at this point everything is out of my hands. Technically, the decision has already been made and a match has either been established or not (Allegedly, the computer program only takes a few hours to run.), so there’s really no point in worrying as I’m just now waiting to view the results. I feel really blessed to have had such support from my friends and family over the past few months.


Yesterday I was talking to BDG (Blind Date Guy) who also has a lot going on as far as getting his career started—but in music, not medicine. He was saying something about being given the advice to be more proactive and set goals for himself for three months in the future. He said that you should then reevaluate those goals every three weeks and if your goals aren’t changing or being updated, then there’s something stagnating your progress and you need to reevaluate your situation.

Three months from now I want:

  1. To graduate.
  2. To be able to run 5 miles without stopping.
  3. To be out on my own again, be it renting/purchasing a place.
  4. To be updating this blog at least 10 times a month.

So there it is, now I guess it is my responsibility to make it all happen. Famous last words, but it seems like a good idea. Lately I just feel so passive, like I’m just waiting for everything to happen to me. Of course I’ll probably regret posting this, as now I have an audience for potential failures, but perhaps this is also an exercise about not basing my self esteem on the approval of others.