28 December 2009

Shalom Cardigan

First, an update on me: Here's why the blogging has been sparse lately. I've been dealing with a moderate level of dysthymia lately. It's nothing too serious, and I've back on track with seeing my therapist, who I'd been blowing off with terrific success. Mostly it's just life's little stresses, but they decided to all come at me at once. And, okay, some of them aren't so little.

As I was telling Nancy (my therapist), when it's one huge stressor that I'm handling, I can do that like nobody's business. I know how to compartmentalise that so I can go to work, still socialise, etc. But when it's a bunch of smaller things all at once, it really and truly confounded me. I've been so busy juggling them all that I didn't know how (or have time to figure out how to!) to manage those stressors.

And the reason I haven't blogged yet about the trip to Victory Junction Camp with my mom is because that week was absolutely the best, most carefree week that I've had in the past two months. It was like walking past the store that has their door open and AC blasting on the hottest summer day, and I just haven't been able to get in the right mindframe to give it the blog post it deserves.

NOW, on to the Shalom Cardigan.


After four years of knitting, I decided to FINALLY knit something for me. Enter the Shalom Cardigan (link for Ravelry users only). But I liked the modifications that Ravelry user ishi has done: She added sleeves, the waist shaping was gone, and two more buttons were added. So, once again, Brook to the rescue. She helped me figured out some maths when I needed to redo the pattern to my measurements. Had I been sticking to the regular pattern, I could have figured out the maths myself, but figuring out the maths at the same time as I was taking into consideration a pattern mod was making my head explode.

However, once it was completed and I tried it on it had the unfortunate effect of making me look several months pregnant. But I thought it might just fit my mom. The biggest hurdle (no pun intended) would be her bust since her bust line is larger than mine. But if she would be comfortable wearing it without buttoning it, it might work. So when she visited me the first week in December she tried it on (sans sleeves, since I'd halted progress in disgust when I'd realised it was no longer for me). It was a perfect fit. I wouldn't even had to frog the garter stitch hem to make the body longer!

She asked me to make the sleeves as long as I could with the remaining half skein of yarn. Brook helped me out with that, recommending that I knit one sleeve from the outside of the yarn ball and the other sleeve from the center pull. That worked well, and I ended up having MUCH longer sleeves than I anticipated!

The finished product on Christmas Day (well, fake Christmas Day due to the blizzard):

09 December 2009

VJC Trip Recap

Note: This is all just a quick recap. More details with pics to follow in days to come.

Thursday: Picked Mom up from airport. Loop, then Spool. Trader Joe's for road trip snackie snacks. Supper with Sarah, Peter, Sue, Margaret, Brook. Fibre Night. Home.

Friday: Started loading car at 8:00 a.m.. Target for snackie snacks (and five pounds of potatoes for 50 cents!). Hit Charlotte around 6:30 p.m. Hit IKEA - Mom's first IKEA experience, so we supped there, too.

Saturday: Lowe's Motor Speedway (raining, of course). Tour of infield. Met some Richard Petty Driving Experience mechanics. Got to hit the Speedway at 80 mph. Found out if RPDE was there the next day, I'd have gotten a SWEET birthday present five weeks early. :( Went to RaceWorldUSA where MWR is housed where you can watch the cars, engines, etc., being worked on. Met Cristi for lunch and yarn/fabric crawl.

Sunday: Met Cristi again for lunch and yarn crawl. Headed to Greensboro.

Monday: Victory Junction Camp tour/afghan drop. Went to RCR for a stealth visit and an interesting non-run-in with security despite our best efforts (yes, you read that correctly). Met my friends Dave and Carolyn in Fairfax for supper. Decided to overnight in King of Prussia instead of making it back home.

Tuesday: Hit KoP mall where Mom finally found a chocolate-caramel-covered apple. Went to Brook's house where we picked up Brook and Alex and hit The Pop Shop for lunch. Dropped off Brook and Alex, then home where Mom and I cried about what a great time we had and how we'd miss each other. Watching us, you'd never guess it would only be FIFTEEN days until we see each other again for the holidays.

07 November 2009

This Is It

Last night, Ella and I had an evening on the town. We decided to have supper at Marathon Grill and then take in the Michael Jackson documentary, "This Is It."

I didn't get to catch up on Ella's life as much as I wanted to since I hogged up much of the conversation telling her about the dysfunction at work. And, unfortunately, we spent some amount of time trying to flag down restaurant personnel in an attempt to find out if we would actually get to eat our supper before we had to leave for the theater (it took us about 40 minutes to get our food).

The food was good but not spectacular, but props to the restaurant for hiring some excellent eye candy. Well done, hiring people! I won't speak for Ella, but I felt slightly skeevy upon finding out the server who I'd been eyeing wasn't even old enough to drink. Oops.

We headed over to the theater with ten minutes to spare. After we had put in our order, Ella had run over to get the tickets and there was reserved seating, so there was no particular rush, although I did have to wait in line to get the assistive listening device headset. Then, when we got seated, there was a whole seating debacle. I won't go into the whole thing because it was too stupid to take up my energy here and now, but it was ridiculous. Ella summed it up neatly in three words: sense of entitlement.

The movie. OMGWOW. Since I found out last night when I got home that the domestic run has been extended through the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I WILL be seeing this again in the theater. If anyone would like to go with me, just say the word. I also called my mom (an MJ fan, although not as big of a fan as I am) and encouraged her to go see it as there are certain parts that just absolutely will NOT translate to the small screen ("Thriller" special effects, I'll talking to you).

There were times in the movie where I giggled, laughed, and (of course) cried. I came prepared with plenty of tissues, and I used them liberally. I sat next to two middle-aged women who were also pretty familiar with MJ's body of work, and they kept a running dialogue throughout. With my headset on, I couldn't make out what they were saying, though.

I was worried that I'd be upset by the treatment of some of the songs or the dances, as if it wasn't MJ doing them, which is ridiculous. But you know how it is sometimes... you go to a concert and the artist decides to "jazz up" your favourite song and completely ruins it. I guess I've become SO jaded and SO cynical and SO defensive on Michael's behalf that ANY time the media does something about him, I get my guard up.

However, I was only disappointed three times, and I think only die-hard MJ fans would have looked for the moments I was looking for. Once was when he did "Billie Jean." When he did "Billie Jean" for the "Motown 25th Anniversary" special on television, he debuted the Moonwalk. But when he rehearsed the number for the concert, he broke out a LOT of moves and he seemed to be working up to the Moonwalk, but, no. Turns out that MJ is just a cocktease.

The second that disappointed me was when he did "Smooth Criminal." The moment in that video that blew most people's minds was The Lean. And while they recreated a lot of the dance for the concert, there was no lean. Boo. ALTHOUGH I love love LOVE what they did do. I think maybe some moviegoers might have had a "WTF?" moment when they started that segment of the movie, but as soon as it came up, I knew without a doubt that it was going to be "Smooth Criminal." MJ is SO predictable sometimes (and I say that with love. L-O-V-E.) No spoilers here, though. Go see it. (or buy it on DVD at a store not named Wal-Mart on 17 December. /Shameless plug.)

The third (and final) disappointment was that his treatment for "The Earth Song" was almost an EXACT replica of the video. While the video WAS good, I daresay that only the most diehard MJ fans could tell you what it was, the premise of it, or how it unfolds. It certainly isn't one he's KNOWN for. And while I know that environmental issues were always near and dear to Michael's heart, I wish he had come up with something different. He certainly never had a dearth of creativity; I'm not sure why he'd choose this video to recycle.

Overall, though, the movie was amazing, spectacular, wonderful, and then amazing some more. It made me remember how gentle and humble Michael is. How much he cared about the other artists and their talent being showcased. How much he just LOVES what he does. How much he loves music and dance and performing. How much he KNOWS music and IS his music. How much of a technician he is. How much he craved perfection, and how much he wanted his fans to see The Best Show EVER.

The atmosphere in the theater was almost like seeing a mini-concert - there was a small-ish crowd of people who clapped after most songs (not after every song because of the nature of how the movie segued); when familiar songs came on (like "I Want You Back" by the Jackson 5"), I wasn't the only one rolling my arms back and forth; it was nice to be a room where I could sit in my chair at the end and sob and feel like everyone understood.

One of the most heartbreaking moments for me was when he performed "Human Nature." He seemed to just completely get lost in the moment and let loose and have fun with the dance moves and the vocals. And that song... what a classic. The other moment when I just about lost was when the first strains of notes of "Man in the Mirror" played. See, when Michael's memorial service ended and they took his casket out of the stadium, that was the song they played. And since then, I can't hear that song without seeing the image of his casket leaving the room.

Missing you, Michael, as always.

06 November 2009

SEPTA Strike: Day Four

SEPTA strikers, how dare you!
by Ronnie Polaneczky


As a fellow trade-union member, I'm having a big problem with you, solidarity-wise.

Not only is your strike strangling the city - keeping kids from school, people from jobs, patients from doctors' appointments - but it's a thumbed-nose to something for which most folks reading this paper would give their back molars: The promise of a paycheck for the next 60 months.

I'm thinking about the 400 employees at Crozer Chester Medical Center who lost their jobs this year. And the 22 staffers axed last Thursday at Drinker Biddle & Reath. And the Comcast employees who learned on Wednesday that the cable giant plans to pink-slip a number of workers, even though the company is enjoying a fabulously profitable year.

Hell, it's a promise I wish we had right here at the Daily News.

We've lost dozens of staffers in recent years, and the paper's possible demise is a topic of endless speculation.

So let me get this straight: Unemployment is rampant in this region, and your union actually chose to strike rather than continue hammering out the details of your already excellent jobs? Jobs that we, the transit-dependent public, need you to perform so that our own financially teetering lives don't crash and burn?

Where do you people get off?

Your good jobs would only get better with SEPTA's opening offer - a deal that Gov. Rendell rightly described as "sensational." The contract calls for you to pocket a signing bonus of $1,250, just for agreeing to the damn thing. It would give you a 2.5 percent raise next year. And a 3 percent annual increase for three years after that.

The proposal doesn't require you to donate even a nickel more to your health-care plan. Do you have any clue how sweet that is?

It even comes with an offer to increase pension contributions to 11 percent over the next five years. I know, your leadership disputes that figure. But at least you still have a pension to argue about. Not everyone is so lucky.

Yet you looked at all of this and said, "Let's walk out."

So, please, tell me: When you're behind the wheel of the bus, what planet are you driving on?

This is the part of my rant where I think I'm supposed to toss you a bone. To concede that interacting with the city's rough citizenry can be punishing to even the sunniest people in the transit business. That moving millions of people from here to there is so much more grueling than we could ever know.

Sorry, no bone.

Your 3 a.m. walk-off, which left tens of thousands of us stranded without notice, was outrageous. It cemented the worst belief about SEPTA workers - that you hold us, the people who pay your wages through taxes and the fare box, in contempt. Good luck trying to improve that image once the wheels start rolling again.

Sadly, your strike also unfairly strengthens the perception that all unions are as entitled and grabby as you are. Your president, Willie Brown, actually said, "We agreed not to strike during the World Series. We took people to the game because we are professionals. Now it's time to reward us."

Reward you? For doing the jobs that we pay among the highest fares in the country for you to do?

Can we wipe your noses for you while we're at it?

You also have a bizarre notion that you're in some sort of profit-sharing relationship with SEPTA. Brown has pointed out that, while the economy is doing badly, SEPTA is not. Ridership is up, and the agency has gotten money from state and stimulus funds. So, your warped thinking goes, you're entitled to a fatter slice of the pie.

News flash: It's not your pie. It's ours. If SEPTA is flush, it's incumbent on the agency to plow that money back into new equipment, improved routes and - here's a fun idea - customer-service training for workers whose job protection keeps them from caring whether they snarl or smile at us.

Are there some outstanding issues you have with SEPTA management? No doubt. All grown-ups have issues with the boss. Unlike you, though, what we don't have is the ability to hold a city hostage for as long as our tantrum lasts.

So, please, get back to work. And admit that your negotiating hasn't been just about getting more for yourselves.

It's been about getting more - much, much more - than the rest of us.

04 November 2009

SEPTA Strike

Yep, another strike.

My life is all about strikes right now. As a lot of you know right now (either from my status messages on Gchat, my incessant phone calls, or my nonstop IMs), SEPTA (that's the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority - or mass/public transit - to you non-locals) is on strike.

Their contract expired last March, but they didn't strike then because they wisely decided that it wasn't in their best interest to strike then. They issued a statement then that they recognised that it wasn't a good to strike, that too many people were depending on them to get to jobs, etc. Then, last week, they suddenly decided that they couldn't work without a contract any more and that they would strike at 12:01 a.m. Saturday morning.

And, oh, it was just a coincidence that this was the same weekend as three World Series games, three Pearl Jam concerts, a Philadelphia Flyers game, and a Philadelphia Eagles game. Now, for you non-locals, all of these events take place in the same area - the Sports Complex in South Philly. And the best, fastest, easiest way to get there? The Broad Street Subway.

Governor Rendell finally stepped in and threatened to withhold SEPTA's state funding if they went on strike. So they didn't. And the city breathed a collective sigh of relief. And all was well.

Until the Philly part of the World Series ended in the wee hours on Monday. People went to sleep happy because the Phillies had won, extending the Series. Not knowing that SEPTA employees would walk out mere hours later.

Tuesday morning, I woke up at 5:20 a.m., got ready for work, walked to my trolley stop and waited. And a women walked by and informed me that I shouldn't continue to wait for the trolley because SEPTA went on strike as of 3:00 a.m. that morning. WTF???

So I walked to the nearest train station. Last week, I had purchased a train pass, in case they went on strike (it only costs $6 more than my usual pass since I'm in Zone 1 so, for me, it wasn't much of a gamble) so that was okay. I walked the five blocks to the train stop, practically running so I could catch the first train, mistakenly thinking it came at 6:15 (it comes at 6:07). However, it didn't come until 6:39 anyway. So I ran (in my dress shoes and work clothes) for nothing. Yay me.

I meet up with my coworker on the train. We get off at the main university campus stop, which is two miles from the hospital campus. My coworker and I end up meeting up with some other random hospital worker, so now there are three of us facing a two-mile walk to the hospital. My coworker decides he doesn't want to walk, so we get to red light, he picks a car, knocks on the window, asks the guy if he's going up to the hospital and if he minds giving the three of us a ride!!!! AND THE GUYS SAYS OKAY!!!!

So, yeah, we hitched a ride. And the guy didn't kill us. Getting home was another story. I had to walk the two miles from the hospital to the main campus, catch the train, and get off in the city because I had an appointment. Then to actually get home, I had to wait in a long-ass hour-long line at the train station. At each station, they only let a certain number of people get on so that they can still guarantee people getting on at each station, which is pretty smart of them.

Today, instead of hitching a ride with a random person this morning, we flagged down a random empty SCHOOL BUS. Yeah, you heard me. The hospital is supposed to run shuttles, but all HR will tell us is that the shuttles run a 40-minute loop and that the shuttles are clearly marked with the university logo in front. Well, this bus was clearly marked with the Philadelphia Eagles logo all over. And one of the women in our group flagged it down and asked him if he was going by the hospital. He said he was, so he gave us a ride.

Who knows what tomorrow's adventure will be.

Oh, and by the way. The offer the SEPTA union turned down?

Wages: No raise this year, but a $1,250 ratification bonus; a 2.5% raise in Year 2, and 3% raise in Years 3, 4, and 5. An 11% increase in pension contributions, and no increase in workers' contributions to health insurance benefits for five years.

07 October 2009

Race Weekend Vacation: The Non-NASCAR Edition

I don't want to bore you non-NASCAR fans with the race details of the vacation, so I tried to confine the NASCAR stuff to the NASCAR board on Rav. Here, I will try to present some anecdotes from the trip, some of which DID happen at the track.

On Friday, Mom had a very minor car accident. She managed to back into a guy at the McDonald's drive-thru. Now just think about that sentence for a minute. LOL. We went to get breakfast on the way to the track, but she didn't realise that she had passed the speaker because the speaker was before you got to menu (this makes sense to me, but not to Mom, apparently). So she put it in reverse and backed up LITERALLY no more than two feet. And we're not talking backing up going 40 MPH, folks. We're talking going slower than parking lot speed. Sure enough, BUMP! She hit the guy behind us. Meanwhile, the woman wants our order. So she placed our order and then went to talk to the guy. There was, as you can imagine, absolutely no damage to either vehicle, and we think the guy knew we was a tad too close anyway.

We had ordered two egg and cheese biscuits and a sausage biscuit. This gets put in as a sausage biscuit and two sausage, egg, and cheese biscuits with no sausage. Okay, fine, whatever. We go to the first window to pay but they suddenly have no record of the cheese. So they make Mom pay an extra 80 cents (40 cents per sandwich) for the cheese. We go to second window and get the food - no cheese on the egg biscuits. She tells us she'll put cheese on, but it'll be 80 cents plus tax. Mom's all "Lady, how much does cheese cost??? We already paid the first lady for the cheese!"

On Saturday and Sunday, we decided to go to Burger King for breakfast instead. I told Mom I liked their breakfast sandwiches better anyway. She told me she never thought I'd admit out loud that Tony was right about anything. (Okay, sorry, non-NASCAR people; there's a NASCAR reference that makes no sense to you.)

During the Saturday race, the drunken woman behind us spilled her beer. Of course, she didn't have the courtesy to tell us that she had spilled her beer all over the blanket we were sitting on (not because our butts need to be pampered that much, but because those metal benches were COLD that day) and that it was now on our bags under our seats. When I discovered it, I told Mom. Mom felt the blanket, figured out it was wet, and rolled it up so she could still use her half, leaving me to sit on the metal bench. Then I stood up to feel my butt to see if it was wet. Drunken woman behind us tapped me on the shoulder. "Your bottom isn't wet. It just feels cold." WTF??? How would you know? And would you care to explain why our blanket smells of beer? So for the rest of the weekend, that was a running joke. In the airport, I noticed I had something on my jacket. I asked Mom what she thought it was. She looked at it and went, "Don't worry about it; it just feels cold."

On Monday, Mom and I went thrift store shopping so I could get some new work clothes. A lot of the stores offer senior discounts, for which my mom is eligible. I got three pair of work pants and about 20 sweaters/blouses for $57, including one Christopher & Banks sweater! Part of the haul is a black and red fleece pullover, which my mom is going to embroider and make into a Scott Speed fleece for me. She and I designed it together Monday night, but we ran out of time to get 'er done.

As we were getting ready to leave one thrift store, Mom spotted a sweater that she just KNEW was a Christopher & Banks sweater behind the counter. She asked the cashier if she could she it. It was brand new and still had the original tags (marked $55) on it. She saw that it was marked $24.95 and balked. She and I both hate paying that much at a thrift store. We really don't care if it's something that's brand new and expensive; you're still buying it at a THRIFT STORE!!! The guy said, "If you buy it, you're not bringing it back on me, are you?" Mom promised him she wouldn't, and she just had a feeling that she was going to get a deal on the sweater. He rang it up at $6.95. Score!

When we got to Mom's bowling league on Monday afternoon, she went to take her bowling bag out of the back of the Windstar. Now, it's a heavy bag because she has two bowling balls in there. Somehow, as it was halfway out, it tipped but she couldn't get her thumb out of it. So she sliced her thumb open. I told her right then she needed stitches. Did she listen to me? No. I told her later when she got done bowling and it was still bleeding profusely that she needed stitches. Did she listen to me then? Nope. When she woke up Tuesday morning and it was still SPURTING blood, she decided that after she dropped me off at the airport, she'd go to the doctor's office. She now has five stitches because she nicked an artery, AND she was told she should have come in right away. Sometimes the daughter DOES know best. But she's all excited because when the doctor told her to come in any time on the 16th or after to get the stitches taken out, she said, "You know, I have a seam ripper at home," and he said, "If you can stomach it, go ahead and do it."

I found out over Monday's supper at Dixon's "Famous" Chili that my grandma doesn't know how to put gas in her car. I told her that her Christmas present from me would be that I would teach her. She informed me that she does not want that present for Christmas or any other occasion because John (her partner) does that for her. I asked her what her plan was if something happens to John. Mom laughed and said, "You're looking at her." I guess if something happens to both Mom and John at the same time, I'll have to fly to KCMO every few weeks to put gas in Grandma's car.

A note on Dixon's "Famous" Chili, the oldest family-owned restaurant in KCMO. It used to just be "Dixon's Chili" until President Truman went there while he was still in office and the press all went with him. It was one of Harry's favourite restaurants and continued to be so while and after he was in office. If you're ever in town, stop by. Not everyone likes their chili, but it's good. The default is all meat and no liquid in it, but you can add beans and you can get it "soupy." The condiments they have on the table are chili powder, vinegar, and a bottle of vinegar with chili peppers. I always get the all-you-can-eat tacos because I LOVE their tacos. They just use their chili meat and load it up with cheese. YUM!

02 October 2009

Trip Home: Day 1

The vacation got off to a rocky start, thanks to the HR Department at the hospital. No one knows why (yet), but for some reason, they decided that the only person who was authorised to pick up the paycheques for our department was Linda. Which would be fine if Linda hadn’t been laid off in APRIL. Since April, three people have been approved to pick up our department’s paycheques, and that’s gone swimmingly well. But today... major SNAFU.

Some people didn’t understand why I insisted on getting my paystub before I left since I have direct deposit, but my reasoning was that if the amount was wrong, I wanted to know now when I was still in the same time zone as HR and my boss. Not, you know, 6:00 a.m. tomorrow when I’m trying to buy my way into some driver’s hauler or something (ha ha, I’m joking... or am I? lol). But really. I’m getting ready to go halfway across the country for nearly a week. I think I’m not being unreasonable on wanting to verify (as much as I can) that my pay will be in order before I leave the campus. Finally got the paycheque. Whew.

Got to the airport safely and on time, compliments of my friend Sarah. She caught me up on her life, and I caught her up on The Strike That Wasn’t (at least not yet).

There were only about five people ahead of me in line at ticketing, which I kind of expected since I wasn’t travelling on a holiday weekend or anything like that. The funny part was when it came time to pay for my bag (a $20 charge; thank you, US Airways). I decided to write a cheque. I’ve been writing cheques more and more lately instead of using my debit card. I’ve found that doing so forces me to think more about how much I’m spending rather than just “swipe the card, swipe the card, swipe the card.” When I’m writing out the amount (twice, even, per purchase), I’m really more conscious of what’s leaving the banc account.

Well, apparently, I’m the only person ever in the history of the world who has written a cheque to pay for a bag. Three different people had to be consulted on how to process my cheque. The woman was really nice about and apologised profusely many times, so I finally said, “Look, I really don’t care how long it takes, as long as I get on my plane tonight.” I can kind of understand not knowing where the account number on the cheque is; I mean, if I’m not thinking about it, I get the routing number and the account number on the cheque mixed up. But it turned into a farce when she asked me which number on the cheque was the check number.

Made it through security with no problems. They didn’t even question the spindle. And I brought my big, long, purpleheart wood spindle, too! I had asked Sarah for advice on how to best pack it, and she said she always just puts it in her fiber in her carry-on. I questioned her a few times about getting it through security, and she said she’s even spun on planes. So I took the gamble, and she was right. Yay!

So far on the plane ride (I’m about two-thirds of the way to KCMO), I’ve finished a book I started this morning and I cranked out my personal statement for one of my PhD applications. I’m not saying it’s perfect right now, but at least I have a nice rough draft typed out and ready to ripped apart by my friend Kristi, who has graciously agreed to help proof, edit, troubleshoot, and constructively criticize my essays/personal statements/letters of interest.

I was assigned to the last row of the airplane, but I got bumped to Row Six. I really don’t care whether I’m in the front/back/etc. But I don’t much care for the woman who is next to me. She has no concept of personal space. She has bumped into me several times without saying “excuse me.” She keeps falling asleep and snoring... loudly... with her mouth open... and she has horrible breath... and she keeps aiming it at me. Every once in awhile, she’ll wake up and put her forehead on the back of the seat in front of her and then just sit like that for awhile. I really hate her.

Also, I have been up since 3:00 a.m. CDT and I am scheduled to land 10:24 p.m. CDT. So that may have something to do with my crabbiness. I woke up an hour and a half before my alarm was set to go off, and I couldn’t get back to sleep. Bah.

Update: She just woke up and she is SUCH a rude cow (sorry, I’ve been reading a LOT of Brit chick lit lately and this is an insult widely used). She decided to get up to use the restroom and just HAD to use the back of the seat in front of her for leverage, thus WAKING UP that passenger. And, again, didn’t even bother to say “excuse me.” I wish I had something I could put in her seat while she was away.

Tomorrow’s agenda: Race track for practice and qualifying, we’ll hit the Fan Walk (the area between the Cup garage and the NNS garage where drivers sometimes mingle with the fans, Hospitality Village, and Souvenir Alley. Then to Target so I can buy Mom and Dale a new cordless telephone/answering machine for Christmas. They get to have it now and set it up now, but they’ll open the box on Christmas Day as a reminder that it was their Christmas present.

Update: She must have found another seat. She just came and collected her belongings and left. SCORE!!!!!!!

Arrived airport. Luggage also arrived. About twenty feet from baggage claim, handle on suitcase broke. Yay.

29 September 2009

More on the strike

Today, the nurses took their "final vote" on whether to strike. As they came back from their meetings (there was a series of meetings throughout the day to accommodate various shifts), everyone came back with a different story - they're definitely striking, they're definitely NOT striking, they're striking but only for three days, they're striking but not until mid-October, etc.

I don't know if THEY know what the fuck is going on. Or, as Mom pointed out, maybe THEIR marching orders from the union were to come back and have different stories to confuse us.

At any rate, we got another edict from the hospital today. We are to use the "buddy system" when crossing the picket line. If any demonstrators try to detain us, we are to try to get their name, note the time, how long we are detained, etc. For those of us who take the subway to work, the hospital has now made arrangements that SEPTA (that's the public transit people, for you non-locals) Police will be at the intersections where people come to street level from the subway to assist us to the hospital.

Until today, I have been trying to have a very "these negotiations have nothing to do with me" attitude about everything. But it's been difficult. I worry for the patients because we'll be losing nurses, social workers, physician assistants, physical therapists, medical technicians, pharmacy technicians... the list goes on and on. All at once. Hospital administration assures us that patient care will not be compromised, because they have made arrangements and contingency plans, etc. And while I believe them, I still have concerns for the patients.

However, information that came to light today has made it exceedingly difficult for me to retain the attitude that this has nothing to do with me and everyone is just doing their job and trying to make their way in the world. Here's what I found out:

Average hourly wage of nurses: $39.80
47% of nurses at work make between $75,000-100,000/year.
23% of nurses at work make between $150,000-206,000/year.

Now, a few things. That hourly wage is a BASE. So that doesn't include shift differential (shift-diff), hourly bonus for being charge nurse, or overtime. We did some maths today and figured that a charge nurse on an evening weekend shift could pull in about $54/hour. Also note that the those figures for the annual salary only account for 70% of the nurses. But there's also a gap from $100,000-150,000. So some of those 30% are in that gap. But the rest are in that under %75,000, and we figured they're the nurses right out of nursing school.

One of the nurses today approached one of my co-workers. She said that she was upset because the hospital wanted her to give things back. My co-worker asked her what she meant. She said, "Well, they aren't giving me any more money, AND I have to give up more money for my health insurance." My co-worker said, "That's what we had to do."

"And you don't see that as a step backwards?"

"Well, I figured I have a job. I have a job I LIKE. The hospital doesn't have any money right now, and when it does, they'll pass it along to us again when they can."

And the nurse huffed off.

Sorry, no sympathy here.

28 September 2009

Impending Strike?

For months now, there has been talk of a possible strike at the hospital. The union that may strike represents the nurses, physician assistants, social workers, and many of the technicians who work there. Their contact ends on 30 September, and negotiations began months ago in hopes of avoiding a strike.

Basically, the union wants the same thing most unions want in these situations - more pay, more benefits, etc. And the hospital insists it isn't there. While I can't speak for the hospital, I can speak for myself and the rest of us non-union members. NONE of us got raises this year. ALL of us had to pay more for our health care coverage this year (in my case, it was approximately $25 more per pay period), and we ALL took hits to the educational benefits package.

Earlier this year, there were two MASSIVE rounds of lay-offs because the hospital was $34 million in debt as of February 2009. We closed one of our satellite hospitals, and we closed the corporate office. Folks, this is NOT a health system that is sitting on a bunch of extra money.

Today, there was a pre-strike rally. Part of Broad Street was closed so the ralliers could march from one part of the campus to another while chanting "HEY [HOSPITAL], YOU CAN'T HIDE." Police cars, news vans, bull horns. We had orders to remain inside the building until the rally was over, which didn't take long, as there were maybe only 100-150 people involved.

While the pre-strike rally was only mildly annoying (while simultaneously somewhat amusing), the actual strike is what has me apprehensive. On the first day of the strike, anyone whose shift begins from 7:00 a.m. to noon, must report to the hospital by 6:00 a.m. People who drive to work (not me, thankfully) have to park in a special lot and will be shuttled to a particular entrance, which will have a police presence. Extra security will guard the parking lot so the cars of those crossing the picket line will be protected. Hospital administrators will be parking in an undisclosed location. It is expected that the picketers will be blocking hospital entrances, and that it will take up to 12 hours to get an injunction to stop this.

In the meantime, traveller nurses have been hired to cross the picket line. Traveller nurses are GOOD nurses; they have to be. However, they don't have the same rapport with our doctors that our regular nurses do. They don't know our patient population, or our long-term patients (and we have a LOT of long-termers). They don't know our policies, procedures, etc. They all flew in today for three days of intensive training, but as of Friday, the hospital will have a whole house of all new nurses, for all intents and purposes.

Wish us luck.

(Have I mentioned that I'm glad I'll be out of town for the first part of this mess???)

26 September 2009

The Story of Hoa: Please help her

Some of you met my friend Sara when she came to Philadelphia to visit this past spring. Her friends Dan and Hoa are going through something at once so painful and so ludicrous that I'm having trouble writing coherently and cogently about it. But I will because Hoa and Dan need your help. URGENTLY.

Ten years ago, Hoa came to the U.S.A. from Vietnam to study at Luther College in Iowa. There, she met and fell in love with Dan. In 2008, they got married (in Minnesota, where they then now reside) and eagerly looked forward to starting their lives together. In the meantime, Hoa finished her Master's degree in French Literature, and Dan started his own construction business.

Two months after their marriage in Minnesota, they travelled to Vietnam to celebrate the union again. However, at that time, the status of Hoa's visa became unclear. Upon returning to the country, Hoa discussed the situation with immigration officials. Eventually, she received notice to appear in court on 13 August 2009. Unfortunately, she confused and missed the court date. As a result, she was taken into custody the very next day and has been incarcerated since then.

On 22 September 2009, Hoa's family and friends received the news that Hoa's case will NOT be reopened. She is scheduled for immediate deportation and is barred from re-entering the U.S.A. for five years.

PLEASE consider helping Hoa. You can go here to find sample letters that you can print out and mail (or email/fax) to Minnesota legislators. Please also consider contacting YOUR local state legislators for help. This page also features a link to help you figure out who your legislator is and what her/his contact info is.

While I believe that immigration laws serve an important function in our country, I do not believe that they exist to punish people like Dan and Hoa.

Thank you.

Please visit FreeHoa.org.

22 September 2009

Health Update

I've mentioned it on Twitter, in some Ravelry forums, and in passing to some friends, but I guess I should officially blog about it, too.

On Saturday, 12 September, I woke up with what I thought was the beginning of a cold. Well, technically, I thought I just had a bit of a sore throat from sleeping in a dry house. See, I had stayed at Brook's house since we were waking up at 5:30 a.m. to go set up her booth at New Jersey Sheep & Wool festival. But unfortunately, it turned into what I thought was a cold.

It was bad enough that I called out sick on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, I decided to go to work, because we had our monthly Big-Ass meeting on Thursday. And I'm responsible for doing a lot of prep work for said meeting. Once I got to work, however, my coughing got REALLY bad (I don't know if was due to the subway air quality or office air quality), and I threw up. As soon as Peter (the doctor who covers our department) got in, I called him and asked if he would see me. He did, and once he heard my symptoms, he suspected H1N1 flu, did an NP culture (which feels like a lobotomy done via big-ass Q-tip up the nose), and sent me home with orders to NOT return on Thursday, possible return on Friday depending on flu test results.

He started me on Tamiflu and Compazine, which is what I usually take for nausea. In case I couldn't keep the Compazine down, he also included a script for Compazine suppositories. Yay (happily, they were NOT needed). He also gave me strict instructions to call and check in with him every day.

Thursday, because my coughing was so bad, he added a script for guiafenesin with codeine (my med of choice for a bad cough). He also called in a script for an antibiotic, in case I needed it but I wasn't to start it unless he directed me to. But the thought was that I'd have it on hand and wouldn't have to make another trip to the pharmacy. Since I was still extremely nauseous with Compazine, he called in a script for Zofran, which is what they give people taking chemotherapy; it's the strongest anti-nausea drug out there. Even with Zofran I'm still nauseous, but at least I don't constantly feel like horking up anything I eat.

Friday, after I'd been on Tamiflu for three days and NO sign of improvement. He had me start the antibiotic. The rapid flu test was negative, so they sent the culture off for the more sensitive test to see if I really had H1N1. Peter and I also discussed the possibility of me coming in for chest x-rays to see if I had pneumonia. But we ultimately decided not to. He said if I did, he'd basically put me on the same antibiotic he had me on anyway, and he'd only admit me if I needed IV antibiotics and fluids because I couldn't keep anything down. Since I was keeping things down (albeit just barely), I elected to not go in for x-rays.

Plus, although I love Peter to death and trust being under HIS care immensely, I didn't want to be admitted to my own hospital. I'd have to divulge ALL of my health conditions to people I work with on a daily basis, my hospital is NOT close to my closest friends, and Peter was leaving for the weekend and wouldn't be able to closely supervise my care anyway.

On Saturday and Sunday, I tried home nebuliser treatments for my coughing. Peter kept asking me if my cough was flu cough or asthma. Early in the illness, I KNEW it wasn't asthma, but at this point it was getting hard to tell. I didn't THINK I was wheezing, but the cough WAS different. OTOH, albuterol and the nebuliser weren't seeming to help.

On Monday, I went to work not knowing if I'd be sent home again since I was still coughing. Technically, if I had H1N1, I'd not be contagious any more after Saturday evening. But the final culture wouldn't be done until Monday evening at the very earliest. If it WASN'T H1N1, then the contagious-window could be different. I was hoping that Peter would listen to my lungs, hear a lot of wheezing, declare that I was having a lot of asthma, and we'd proceed accordingly.

Unfortunately, despite his best efforts, he couldn't get me to wheeze at all either yesterday or today. So yesterday he added Tessalon pearls to the mix. I'm not sure when I didn't think of that, since I used those last year when my doctor thought I had whooping cough and they worked well. Today, I was still coughing every time someone looked at me, so he added prednisone, which is generally a last-ditch effort with me.

So, we're at the end of the line folks.

I've been on: an anti-viral, an antibiotic, two anti-nausea meds, a cough syrup, a cough pill, and now a steroid. And I'm still lethargic, cranky, and coughing like crazy.

One of the most difficult parts was telling Mom about it all. She and I are really close, so I've been telling her everything, but it's hard because I know she worries. OTOH, there's no way I'd NOT tell her and then suddenly call her and go "Oh, btw, I'm in hospital with pneumonia."

On the flip side, I called Orin (my adoptive father) tonight to say, "I was really sick last week. They think it was H1N1, but they aren't sure. What's shaking in your world?" and he told me about the 23-pound catfish he caught that wouldn't fit in his sink.

So, that tells you pretty much all you need to know about my relationship with my parents. lol

PS. Apparently my lab doesn't read flu cultures every day. So we still don't know.

16 September 2009

All about the Turtlegirl...

I owe Cristi (turtlegirl76 to you Ravelers) a MUCH belated thank you and shout-out. Remember the Turkish Stitch Scarf I gave to my doctor? The reason it was so nicely blocked (at the very last minute the night before) was because it was steam blocked. I have never steam blocked anything and had no idea how to go about it.

But Cristi walked me through it step-by-step via IM. And she didn't even laugh at me when I misunderstood her original instructions and thought I was supposed to somehow have enough hands to push the steam button on the iron AND stretch the scarf into shape all at the same time.

Or maybe she DIED laughing at me, but was polite enough to do it behind her computer monitor and didn't type it all to me. "ROFLMAO No, you dumbass! You put the effing iron down first, you moron!" She didn't say that at all. Well done to her.

And while I'm singing her praises, I'd also like to take this opportunity to mention that you can vote on her "Calvin and Ripple" sock pattern here. This is the poll for the Q4 Socks the Rock KAL. So vote for her kick-ass pattern AND join a great KAL!

10 September 2009

You take the good, you take the bad...

So you know how all summer EVERY blog entry was about how I was sick? Then EVERY entry was about MJ? Well, now you have to suffer through EVERY entry being about PhD applications. Sorry.

So... the update thus far.

There aren't many schools that offer PhDs in Health Services Research. Of those that do, I immediately eliminated UCLA, UC-Berkeley, Texas A&M, U of North Texas (never even knew they existed), U of Minnesota, and SLU. After a little more consideration, I eliminated U of Alabama at Birmingham, U of Iowa, U of Florida, U of Arkansas, and Ohio State. Which leaves me applying to: U of Washington, BU, and Pittsburgh.

But I found out that Pittburgh's programme is REALLY new. The SPH (School of Public Health - us public healthers are REALLY fond of abbreviations, acronymns, and backronyms) is well-established, but the HSR PhD programme is BRAND NEW. As in, if I were to be admitted next year, I'd be in their second admitted class. And that makes me really leery. Especially after being at Drexel for two years and hearing "you're the biggest class we've ever had and we don't know what to do with all of you" for two solid years.

However, I spoke to a woman at BU yesterday and she told me that they have a grand total of... THREE seats to offer to applicants for next year's class. THREE. They normally seat four, but one of this year's acceptees deferred to next year. She mentioned that while she knows I have a Master's degree already, I might want to consider applying for their MSc programme in HSR. People who do their MSc programme and go on to apply to their PhD programme in HSR are "typically pretty successful applicants." Of course, the downside to that is that I'd have to come up with my own funding if I was a Master's-level student again.

BUT, she did say that most of those students don't complete the Master's and they transition to the PhD programme after the first semester. The courses taken during the Master's programme count toward the PhD. AND, it doesn't cost any more to apply to both programmes. So I am considering it.

But after being in shock from hearing her say "three seats available..." It just echoed in my head all evening... like an effect from a bad horror movie. So I started giving Seattle a really hard look. And I really liked what I saw. I'd pick an area of concentration, and I easily selected mine last night.

But applying to only three schools when I know that one is BRAND NEW (and thus probably not accepting many students) and another is only taking three students makes me really nervous. So now I'm looking at some of the schools I had rejected after a lot of thought. Maybe I could stand Ohio State...? or Minnesota...?



The former Associate Dean of Student Affairs at Drexel's SPH (he left Drexel the fall after I graduated) answered my email to him earlier this morning. Apparently, he is "more than happy" to write a letter of recommendation for me for my PhD applications.

02 September 2009

On Michael Vick

I've got a lot going on in my life. I've decided to transition my career path, I've decided to start applying to grad schools for Fall 2010 admission, I've been dating for the first time in three years (I mean, those three dates in the past three years really weren't meaningful attempts). The schools that I'm applying to are not in Philly, which means that I will be moving in less than a year (unless all three schools reject me), so I'm already looking around at my books and thinking about a massive yard/book sale.

So given the upcoming stress in my life (most of it eustress, but stress nonetheless), it makes total sense that some of my most recent therapy session was centred around none other than Michael Vick.

The issue of Vick has been weighing heavily on my mind. I am known for being a completely leftist, bleeding-heart liberal. I took a lot of heat on my blog from total strangers for defending Ben Appleby, a death row inmate (and high school friend of mine). I won't go into that issue again on this blog post, but you can about it here. What I've been turning over (and over and over) in my head is how I can go to the mat over cases like Ben, but I've felt so ready to nail Vick's ass to the wall. I've felt so ready to join the Vick protests and refer to his return to the NFL with derision.

But where was my compassion? I've had so much compassion for Ben and other criminals. I've always tried to focus on society's responsibility (which I do NOT believe takes away from an individual's responsibility) to a person, whether in rehabilitation, assistance, fostering community, etc.

But with Vick, it's been different. And it's been bothering me. Is it because he hurt defenceless animals who had no voice? Is it because I knew Ben but didn't Vick? But I've also defended and advocated for others with whom I had no personal connection, so that didn't make sense. And this is why I went to my therapist with it.

And she helped me untangle it. It's still a little hazy for me, and I'm not sure why this is so difficult for me to wrap my head around. I'm hoping that my blogging about it and getting some feedback, it'll help me. But basically, here's how Nancy broke it down:

With Ben, if one believes that he committed the crimes for which he is in prison (he had told me he didn't, but testified in court that he did), then justice is being served. The injustice and compassion comes in because it is my belief that society failed Ben in a major way and that had society NOT failed him, he wouldn't be there in the first place. At one point as a young adult, Ben DID ask (in court, no less) for help and none was given to him.

With Vick, he absolutely committed the crimes (he admitted his guilt), but seems to show little remorse. Although dog-fighting was part of his culture growing up, at some point in his life, he must have realised that this mass cruelty was wrong and that bringing other neighbourhood children into this culture was all kinds of wrongity wrong wrong. When he made it big in the NFL, he had plenty of opportunities to pursue other hobbies, but instead kept on with dog-fighting - never tried to change. And now that he's out of prison, has anyone seen him in a shelter? Has anyone heard of him donating money to the SPCA? He's spent plenty of time at the Eagles compound - has anyone seen him at a pound? Didn't think so.

Nancy said she heard that one of the local SPCA shelters is using a Vick jersey to scrub the floors.

Still... part of my brain says, "But doesn't he, too, deserve his second chance? Is any less deserving of my compassion than someone who is accused of murdering and attempting to rape a 19-year-old young woman?"

This is what keeps me awake at night.

Damn you, Michael Vick.

(For more on this issue, please read the Philadelphia Weekly's cover story, Pit Bulls in Pain, which is on Philadelphia's weak history of punishing dogfighters.)

28 August 2009

Dating Update

I'm not sure how or why, but suddenly there's been an uptick in my dating life.

Here's the recap:

Dorkboy: After cancelling what was to be our first meeting, we had a brief conversation in which I felt blown off. Later, he claimed that he did no such thing. He contacted me a few days ago to let me know that since the school term was starting up again, he'd be in the city much more. I just made small-talk comments about school and didn't mention anything about meeting. He cancelled the last meeting, he's got to reschedule.

Not Dorkboy: After I told him that he was coming off as very pushy and it was off-putting, he went away. But then he came back earlier this week. He apparently is still interested in meeting me, and wasn't put off by my demand that he come to the city to meet me.

As Yet to be Named Boy (AYNB): We've only chatted once online. It was a nice conversation, and I thought it might lead somewhere, but I haven't heard from him since. He's from Kansas, and is currently studying statistics at a nearby university.

Boy #4: We were supposed to go on a date Sunday. But it's been moved to tomorrow. This is a set-up via my friend Margaret. B#4 lives across the street from her and her fiance, and he works with the fiance. We get along well in email, but I'm very nervous about whether that will translate to getting along well irl. In my experience, it generally doesn't. I seem to have made a very favourable impression on him, and I'm terrified that the reality will disappoint him.

Work Guy: Nothing. I think it's just a fun, harmless flirtation. But it's funny because OTHER people at work will stop him to point out to him when I'm coming around and he hasn't yet noticed.

And that's your round-up.

From Jean

Your result for Howard Gardner's Eight Types of Intelligence Test...


25% Logical, 18% Spatial, 55% Linguistic, 14% Intrapersonal, 57% Interpersonal, 29% Musical, 18% Bodily-Kinesthetic and 22% Naturalistic!

"This area has to do with interaction with others. People in this category are usually extroverts and are characterized by their sensitivity to others' moods, feelings, temperaments and motivations, and their ability to cooperate in order to work as part of a group. They communicate effectively and empathize easily with others, and may be either leaders or followers. They typically learn best by working with others and often enjoy discussion and debate.

Careers which suit those with this intelligence include politicians, managers, teachers, social workers and diplomats." (Wikipedia)

Take Howard Gardner's Eight Types of Intelligence Test
at HelloQuizzy

27 August 2009

My 100th Post

Well, I was hoping for something a little more exciting, but here we go...

Several people have been encouraging me to try applying for Fall 2010 admission. The thought process is basically this: If MY idea is that waiting a year helps me save money, in that year, I'll be living like a poor grad student while aggressively saving money to prepare for being a poor grad student. So why not actually just BE a poor grad student.

The schools I'm looking at require the same thing: three letters of recommendation; transcripts from every school I've ever attended, ever walked by, ever thought about, ever Googled, ever talked about, etc,; a personal statement/letter of interest; GRE score from the last five years (thank God I took it in 2006). And now the ASPH (Assoc. of Schools of Public Health) now has SOPHAS (Schools of Public Hlth Application System), which makes things easier. You feed everything to them one time, tell them where you want to apply, and they distribute. Less hassle, less expensive (paying for transcripts ONCE vs a floppity jillion times - golden!) = awesome.

So. Have any of you ever lived in, know anything about living in, know anyone who has ever lived in: Birmingham, Boston, Pittsburgh, or Seattle?

26 August 2009

Good-bye Ted Kennedy

I am saddened (but, unfortunately, not shocked) to hear about Senator Kennedy's death.

I am a staunch, loyal supporter of the Kennendy family and have been since I could properly pronounce their name.

Many a Thanksgiving argument has broken out about whether JFK cheated on Jackie (I'm still in denial), whether Ted did anything wrong at Chapaquiddick (okay, so he shouldn't have left the scene of the crime, but everyone makes mistakes), or whether ... well, whether the name "Kennedy" should be banned at my mom's house in my presence.

I don't think that every law he stood behind was the best ever. But I think that his ideals were good, his heart was in the right place, and he always tried to do right by his constituents.

In the end, think of his politics what you may, he was still a father and a husband. My thoughts are with his family and friends.

25 August 2009

For everything there is a season...

Those of you who have known me for awhile or who have heard my life story know that I've been through several evolutions. I grew up wanting to follow in my mom's footsteps and teach. Then I wanted to be an attorney. Then I thought I wasn't smart enough to put together a case in 60 minutes minus commercial time. So I went back to the idea of teaching. Then I was raped, and I learned first-hand that a D.A. really has (sometimes) nearly two years to put a case together. And I decided I could do it. I worked my ass off, got into a Temple Law School... and nearly failed out because of an undiagnosed learning disability.

I left feeling stupid, my self-esteem was shot, and I felt like I couldn't return home. Despite what my mom told me... I HAD failed. I WAS a disappointment. Even though I know NOW that with my learning disability there was no way I could have passed law school without accommodations, to this day, it STILL stings. So I floundered. For years I was a social worker, an office manager, an administrative assistant, a legal secretary, and a teacher. I worked for non-profits, for corporate offices, for plumbers, and for a court-reporting school.

Then through a rather odd series of events, I decided to get a Master's degree in Public Health. I studied in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. While I was there, several of the professors assumed I was going to concentrate in Health Management and Policy. When I talked to them about it, they said I just had a "policy vibe" about me. When I dug deeper, one of them admitted that it was probably because of the law background. I said that was a large part of why I DIDN'T want to go that route - been there, done that. It felt like a step BACKWARD. I was returning to school at the age of (then) 31 to go FORWARD with my life.

Well, it seems like things kind of go full circle in my life sometimes. My current boss is TECHNICALLY the "interim director" of our department and her ACTUAL job is in regulatory compliance, which means that she works with policies all day - writes them, reviews them, meets about them, etc. All of the other people in my department get to go to meetings about and help write policies, and I'm DYING that I'm not in there, too. And while I really, really like my job, I also DO miss the policy aspect of public health.

I've always been involved in activism and lobbying. Since I've blogged about my rape anniversary and helping change Missouri law, I've been thinking about how lil ol' me put into action a policy intervention that had HUGE implications for incest victims/survivors in Missouri, and I think that MEANS something. I think the fact that I'm working with a boss who happens to wear two hats and one of them happens to be a policy hat MEANS something.

My research areas of interest haven't changed. I still basically have two areas that I'm currently interested in. I know that before I start applying for PhDs, I'll have to narrow them (or I may apply to different programmes based on these two areas and see where they EACH get me). I'm interested in the health disparities of adoptees; research indicates that adoptees (especially in their teens) have higher rates of depression and suicide attempts. I'm also interested in health disparities of prisoners/prison populations. Prisoners tend to have a different set of health issues than that of non-prisoners because of over-crowding and ... well, other issues that I won't get into now because it'll lead to a soapbox moment.

My MAIN career goal also hasn't changed. I still want to teach at the graduate level. I believe that I would make an excellent professor. I believe that I would make a great advisor, and I believe that every once in awhile a student and I would connect on the same level that Dennis (my unoffical advisor/mentor throughout my MPH) and I have connected.

What HAS changed is that I now want to approach the aforementioned issues on a macro level instead of a micro level. So I visited Dennis today for an hour-long chat. He gave me some reading material and some GREAT advice. He said to stop thinking about "health policy," and start thinking in terms of "health services research," which is a sub-category of health policy. He told me to remember to shift my thinking to APPLIED now. Epi and biostats was about "what can I learn from this?" Health services research is about "what can I DO with this?" He said to always keep in mind that the overarching goal is the policy intervention on the applied level.

He gave me a four-point to-do list, and I won't bore you with that. He gave me volume of articles to read through from the Health Services Research journal. And he asked me to keep him informed of my progress. And he implored me to think VERY seriously about applying for PhD admission for Fall 2010. And then he asked me to pick my jaw up from the floor. (No, seriously, that wasn't the to-do list.)

I asked him how difficult it would be to make the jump from epi/biostats to policy, and he said that since it's still public health, since it's still looking at solving health issues, it's not even crossing the street - it's just strolling down the block a little bit. And he assured me that any smart policy department would welcome someone who had an epi/biostats background since most policy-types shy away from the data analysis.

He ended by telling me that he thought I would be GREAT in this field, and he would do anything he could to answer questions, help me along, etc.

I feel very, very, VERY good about this.

22 August 2009

What a fun-filled Friday!

First thing's first. While Cristi's entries were most thorough (she submitted both positive and negative entries), and her negative entry was most gut-busting, Kirsten's entry has won. Congrats, Kirsten! The Boy has been renamed Dorkboy.

Friday was a short workday for me. I'd worked long days throughout the week so I could leave early on Friday.

But let me back up a bit. A few weeks ago, Margaret and I had talked about getting together to catch up. Since she lives out in West Chester, it's not often that we get to spend actual face time together, and there was a neat pocket of time between when she got back from her vacation in California and when school starts back up for me. Coincidentally, a few weeks ago, Brook had talked about me borrowing her spinning wheel from her while she was out of town for her sister's wedding/vacation (she's leaving for a vacation in Colorado straight from the wedding, which is in VA). So I decided to combine the two trips.

So after work yesterday, I got home, met Margaret, picked up the rental car, and we set out for Brook's house. Margaret got to meet the entire family while Brook demonstrated the wheel to me, which I picked up far quicker than I anticipated. NOT, mind you, that I'm any expert at it after just a few minutes of demo, but I definitely understand "wheel theory." Or at least I did last night when I left. In about an hour we'll see what stuck over night. Oh, btw, I always brag about how smart Alex is, but even I was thunderstruck when the child (who will be five in about three weeks) read the word "turquoise" to me last night.

I then introduced Margaret to the wonder that is The Container Store. Then quick stops at Target and PetSmart, before a wonderful, amazing, relaxing supper at Bahama Breeze. Margaret started with a tortilla soup, while I had the tomato flatbread. Then, she had a Jamaician chicken entree, while I had the coconut shrimp entree that Kirsten can tell you I've been craving since the middle of March!!! For dessert, we shared a perfect slice of Key Lime Pie.

To bring things full circle, Dorkboy is most likely a thing of the past. He was online all evening Wednesday and all day Thursday and never contacted me. My original plan was to let him make the first move after he cancelled on Wednesday. But after thinking about it, I decided that if the shoe was on the other foot, I might be hesitant to contact him not sure of what kind of reception I might get. So just to let him know that I wasn't mad at him, no hard feelings, etc., I IMed him and asked him how his sister was doing. He said she was doing well. After a few minutes, he asked me how my day was doing. I said it was okay and asked what he was up to. After a few minutes, he said he was paying bills. I IMed him and said it seemed like he was busy, so I'd talk to him later. No response since then. So I'm done.

In the meantime, this other guy contacted me Thursday evening. He originally got ahold of me MONTHS ago and then disappeared, reappeared a few weeks ago, disappeared, then reappeared again Thursday. We made small talk, during which he asked if I was currently dating anyone. I ignored that question because it's none of his business at this point in our non-relationship. Later, he asked if I'd be willing to meet him next week. I thought, "Sure, why not." We hadn't talked a lot online, but hell. Meet in person sooner, waste less time online with the wrong person. lol But then he wanted me to travel out to Conshohocken to meet him; he lives out in King of Prussia. (For you out-of-towners - King of Prussia is about a 35-minute drive from Philly, but I don't have a car. So taking a train to Conshohocken is a decent compromise.) Well, I wasn't that excited about the prospect about being off my home turf for a first meeting, but I felt like I was being a diva if I "demanded" that he travel to meet me for a first meting. OTOH, taking the train out meant quality knitting/reading time. So we settled on a day, and I asked him to send me an email with where he wanted to meet, what time, etc. Then asked me to email him a pic of me. Um, no. First, there's a pic of me on the online dating site through which he met me. I get that you want to know what I look like; that's why I've posted a pic. And, yes, it's recent. So with the combined asking if I'm dating, wanting me to travel halfway to him, and wanting a second pic of me, he's now history, too.

Two guys by the wayside in two days. Go me.

OTOH, I borrowed a wheel, spent quality time with Margaret, ate coconut shrimp and key lime pie, and Alex still loves me. I win.

19 August 2009

Contest: Name The Boy

As some of you know, I've been chatting with a guy I met online a couple of months ago. I won't go into the details here and now, but we were supposed to meet about a month ago, but things went awry and we didn't. Let's just say there were a misunderstanding, we cleared it up, and we kind of mutually agreed to start things over.

So far, I've been referring to him as "The Boy," which is a reference to the fact that he is much younger than I am. Those who have known me for awhile know that I am all too fond of nicknames, acronyms, and backronyms. Those who have known me for a LONG time will remember the days of the CARG (Cute Asian Religion Guy - who was neither Asian nor religious) and the CNG (Cute Neighbour Guy).

Anyway, last night, I verified with The Boy that we were still on for today. He said we were but warned that he might have to reschedule at the last minute or push the time back due to his younger sister's (she's in her late teens) tonsillectomy, which was scheduled for late morning. I asked him a few times if he was sure he didn't want to reschedule, and he kept saying he wanted to meet in the afternoon as planned. He got my number and the plan was for him to call me to let me know whether we were still meeting, as soon as he knew.

At 3:30 p.m., as I was leaving work, he called to say that he was going to have to reschedule as he needed to go to the store to get Gatorade, ice cream, etc., for his sister. At the time, I was mildly disappointed, but as the afternoon went on and by the time I got home, I had worked myself into righteous indignation (I had to run to the pharmacy first in the city).

I chatted with some friends but that didn't go so well. I'm not sure if I wasn't properly communicating why I was frustrated or what I was frustrated about, but somehow I ended up being more frustrated. Basically, I was frustrated because I felt like I had given The Boy a few outs last night. I had tried to understandingly give him a couple of "outs" that he could have taken and rescheduled the first meeting. But HE was the who insisted that still meet. If he was going to cancel on me, I'd much rather have it happen the night before rather than an HOUR before as I'm on my way to meet him. I also am still unsure why this after-care stuff hadn't been taken care of previous to the surgery. Didn't SOMEONE in the family stop to think that MAYBE it would be a good idea to have this stuff on hand before post-surgery?

Anyway, as luck would have it, my therapist is on vacation this week, so I called the emergency/on-call therapist. I was lucky enough to have her actually answer her phone, which is good since I'm not sure I would have had the nerve to have left a message. This is basically how that conversation went:

Me: I'm Min and I'm one of Nancy's lost children
Mona: Okay, yes. She said you might call this week. (Always a good sign when you're therapist knows you're such a mess she warns the on-call therapist about you.)
Me: I think I've forgotten how to breathe.
Mona: Okay. Well, how can I best help you?
Me: (By this time, I'm sobbing on the phone) I was su-su-su-supposed to meet this guuuuuuy and he ca-ca-can-cancelled and all my friends are taking his siiiiiiide and it's frustrating and it's upsetting I feel like I'm screaming into a wind tunnel and I can't breathe but mostly I don't wanna be THAT GIRL sitting on her couch crying OVER A BOY!!!!!!!

And then Mona explained that sometimes shit happens and sometimes that shit is disappointing and SOMETIMES that shit involves a boy. And that when the disappointing shit involves a boy, it doesn't have to involve a value judgment about self.

I explained to Mona that what was frustrating was that my normally EXTREMELY supportive friends didn't seem to be hearing me. They seemed to taking The Boy's side and defending him. And she helped me take a step back (and BREATHE) and realise that it isn't about sides. I told her that I felt like I was screaming into a wind tunnel. And she helped me feel listened to. And then she said a magic sentence. She said that while she didn't know, it was possible that maybe he didn't reschedule last night because he was really interested in meeting me today.

And then it clicked for me. I think this is what my friends had been trying to say to me, but I wasn't hearing it that way. Kirsten and I talked about it this evening, and we discussed how interesting it is that just changing one or two words in a sentence changes the entire dialogue, the whole complexion of the discussion. Good stuff, that. It's one of the reasons that, as great as my friends are, I'm so reluctant to stop therapy. And I love that I have friends who get THAT, too.

ANYWAY... back to the title of this blog post. Kirsten and I were discussing that The Boy needs a new nickname. My creative juices are running low these days. And we thought this would be a good blog contest. So... GO.

17 August 2009

My 16th Anniversary

Usually I commemorate this anniversary on the day of the event, not the day after. But for the past several years, I've focused more on the survival aspect anyway. So this year (and this may be a one-time thing - we'll see), I thought I'd try something a little different.

Sixteen years ago today, I woke up as one of many survivors of rape/incest. I was raped by the man who, with my mom, raised me in my home. He was the man I called my dad since I was four years old. He was legally my step-father, but I had always called him dad. He started molesting me when I was 14, and it culminated in him raping me when I was 17 - a mere three days before I was set to leave for college.

That night, I went to the ER (where I received my first pelvic exam) and the police station. Mom and I spent that night in a hotel because while we knew Bill had been arrested, we weren't sure how many strings he would pull to get bailed out ASAP. See, he was a retired police officer.

Because of his outstanding service to the community, the judge (nearly two years and three suicide attempts later) decided to give him a suspended sentence. This meant that he essentially got five years of probation. If at anytime he violated that probation, he would serve the full five years in prison. He was also sentenced to register as a sex offender in the state of Missouri.

But because of a loophole in Missouri law, he didn't have to register as a sex offender. Missouri law doesn't recognise incest as a sex offence, but as an offence against as the family. When I discovered this, I contacted my local lawmakers, and we worked together to amend this law. Now, those convicted of incest must also register as sex offenders in the state of Missouri.

My struggle has been difficult. There have been nightmare, sleepless nights, flashbacks, and many a failed romance that I can directly blame on this. But the successes have also been myriad. I have found strength and courage that I never thought myself capable of. My relationship with my mother is complicated and intricate because of all of this, and while our relationship hit some bumps along the way, our relationship has ultimately been enhanced because of everything we've been through together.

But mostly I am proud of myself. Because on this day I know that I am a survivor.

16 August 2009

Cookie A Continued

The morning class with Cookie A was "Creating Your Own Stitch Patterns." She talked about how to create lines (ribbing, garter stitch, etc.). We discussed how you need to take note of how the fabric will behave - when do purls pop? when do purls recede? We discussed paired increases/decreases, and finally cables. We talked about the advantages and disadvantages of knitter's graph paper (good for simple designs, but not as good for cables since cables suck fabric).

Without going into much more detail about her class (just take the damned class!), I will say that her seven-page handout is EXCELLENT and very detailed. She has a fun sense of humour; she is very good at explaining detailed, technical concepts; and I got a kick out of how she used her entire body to demonstrate how stitches lean or behave in fabric.

The afternoon class was "Intuitive Chart Reading." I've worked with charts before but what attracted me to this class was that it promised to teach me the connection between the chart the resulting knitting, how to read my knitting to determine where in the chart I am, and how to read cable charts WITHOUT A KEY!!!!

One of the things that always annoys me about charts is that I always have to have some kind of marker or something to show me where in the chart I am. But Cookie showed us how to not have to not have to do that. I will admit that while I conceptually GET the concept, I'm not sure that I'm yet brave enough to do that on an actual project. I might keep practising on the Celtic cable chart she gave us. Crazy Celtic cable chart... three-stitch cables, four-stitch cables, purl-knit cable combinations, some are right cables, some are left cables... COOKIE'S CRAZY CELTIC CABLE CHART, I tell ya!!!!

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Cookie started by asking us which ones of us preferred cable charts over lace charts or vice versa. Craig (the owner of Loop) said, "Lace charts are easier than cable charts, but cables are easier to knit than lace." My eyes lit up, I pointed to him emphatically and practically yelled, "Yes! THAT!!!" (I found out SO much about Craig yesterday - he doesn't like lace because he hates yarn overs. Who hates yarn overs??? and he hates charts! I have no idea why, but that totally cracks me up. I guess I just have this vision of an LYSO embracing every type of pattern ever made. And to find out that they have pattern preferences just like every other knitter was somehow mind-blowingly revolutionary.)

Cookie showed us the three types of cable symbols used in patterns. She then drew out three examples of each. Some were right-leaning cables, some were left-leaning, but each were three-stitch cables. She numbered them, and then drilled us. "Stacey, number five - how many stitches would go on the cable needle? And is it a right cable or a left cable? So does the needle go in the front or the back?" So by the time everyone in the class did one, we all had it down pat. It gave me law school flashbacks. Wowza.

She taught us a good mnemonic (which, btw, does NOT work well for those of us who cable without a cable needle): I LEFT you out FRONT; I'll be RIGHT BACK. So if it's a right cable, you put the cable needle to the back.

She gave us her rules of cables, which completely made knit-purl combination cables make sense for me - suddenly, with just the utterance of two simple sentences. Voila. She's a friggin' genius. Seriously. And I think it helps that she uses her hands constantly to represent different stitches so even though she had swatches to show what she was talking about, it's obviously much easier to see her hands.

So... in case you've missed it, the classes were awesome and amazing and absolutely worth the time and money and energy. The way Cookie thinks about knitting meshes well with my methodical mind, and her teaching style complimented my learning style (it was hard to remember that she didn't know about my learning disability and I therefore shouldn't randomly yell "Stop covering your lips!" as I sometimes do with my professors). If she ever teaches again at Loop, I'm definitely taking her class, even if it's a garter stitch scarf class.

15 August 2009

Classes with Cookie A

... or Cookie A with class. Either way.

I'm exhausted.

9:15 a.m. Left house
9:30 a.m. Caught trolley
9:52 a.m. Gave up waiting for connecting bus and got taxi.
9:56 a.m. Walked into LYS
6:03 p.m. Walked out of LYS with head BURSTING with knowledge
6:30 p.m. Met Anju for supper
8:00 p.m. Walked out of restaurant with belly BURSTING with sushi
8:45 p.m. Walk out of Borders vowing never to return to any Borders ever again
9:15 p.m. Stumble home

Lessons learned today:
  • Remember to set TiVo before leaving the house.
  • Remember to not look at anything online before watching race.
  • Remember when race hasn't been recorded that you ALREADY CALLED MOM AND SHE TOLD YOU WHO WON (thyroid brain ftw yet again).
  • Before making reservations for next year's trip to Kansas Speedway, make sure Jared Flood isn't spending the entire effing weeking teaching at favourite LYS.
  • If Cookie A will be teaching anywhere in the time zone, move Heaven and Earth to be there.
Pics were acquired. Will be shared tomorrow.

14 August 2009

Recent goings on

I got a haircut a few weeks ago. I went to my hair stylist Maria and said, "My hair is dark and thick and long and hot. Do something." She said, "What do you have in mind?" I said, "I don't know. Whatever you want. Shave it if you want to." She looked at it and said, "Hmmm. How about I give you a sexy, sassy hair cut and hook you up for the summer?" I said, "Let's do it!" And this was the result:

Today was my last appointment with Mira, the Wonder Doctor. And, as it so happened, I was her last patient in Philadelphia. I've been her patient for seven years. Because of my myriad health issues, I generally see her every two to three months. Of course, sometimes we saw each other between planned appointments and often phone calls flew back and forth. My POINT, is that we had a pretty deep doctor-patient relationship.

This is a doctor who, when I was once unemployed and without heath insurance, took my phone calls about an issue that was troubling me, researched some new treatments online, printed out her research, highlighted the relevant parts, made marginalia explaining the parts she thought I might not understand, and sent me a prescription for what she wanted me to try.

This is a doctor who got to know me, my body, and my health issues well enough that I could call her and say, "Mira... something's just ... not right. I just don't feel good." And she'd help me figure out what was wrong and what we'd do about it.

This is a doctor who I could call and say that I was really sick. And if she asked what my symptoms were, I could say, "Um... I know it would help you if I could tell you what's wrong with me, but I'm at work," and she'd happily just start guessing at various embarrassing symptoms until she hit the right one.

This is a doctor who, when she gave me what I felt was an embarrassing diagnosis, hugged me, held me hand, and let me have the exam room for as long as I wanted it. Later, she happened to run into me on the sidewalk (she had gone to pick up her daughter from daycare and was walking back to the office), introduced me to her daughter, squeezed my hand, and told me I'd be fine.

So, really. How could I not love this woman? How could I not want her to be my doctor forever and ever? So when she announced that she was leaving, maybe now you understand a little more why it was SOOO painful.

She's seen me through my Hashimoto's diagnosis, my GI issues, and two hospitalisations for suicidal ideation. She's seen me evolve from identifying as straight to a lesbian, back to straight, then a lesbian, and then finally figuring out that hey - there's a thing called bisexuality. She saw me wander aimlessly through life as an office manager, an administrative assistant, and a legal secretary before I finally decided to apply for an MPH.. and got in, then graduated. And got a job (with a bit of advice from her). In the meantime, I saw her have a baby girl named Hazel who is Very Serious. And then a second girl named Ruby who tends to be Very Creative. Over the years, we've passed books between each other (I turned her onto Jennifer Weiner; she turned me onto Mira Nair).

ANYWAY... I decided I couldn't just see her off to the wild otherwise known as Boston. I had to give her something. I headed off to my favourite LYS, Loop, on South Street. With Kathy's help, I decided to do a scarf and Fetching. I used Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted in Denim. The scarf is the Turkish Stitch Scarf.

When she saw then, she hugged me, and we cried. I told her that I had tried to write her a card, but I couldn't. I was usually pretty good with words, but I couldn't come up with a way to tell her HOW much she'd meant to me and HOW much she'd taught me throughout the years. She told me that she'd learned a lot from me, too, and that she'd miss the intellectual discussions we'd had about medicine philosophy and the intersection of medicine and politics. She said that she would have remembered me anyway, but with these she would definitely never forget me.

There was a funny moment during the actual appointment when she asked how the new medication she'd put me on for my constant headache was working out. I told her it was "a miracle drug." The headache that I've had for as long as I can remember that literally NEVER goes away is still there but is much less painful on average. She said, "Holy shit, and it only took me seven years to come up with this idea." But she did encourage me to remember that just because I've adjusted to living with the pain every day doesn't mean that I HAVE to. But it was hysterically funny to hear her actually say "Holy shit." It was nice when Mira mentioned that the past two weeks were nice because she'd picked and choosen who she saw and she'd basically done a "best of."

Good times.

Another funny moment. When I walked in, the receptionist Sheila said, "I should have KNOWN you weren't going to let this day go by without a visit." I said, "Of course not, Sheila." She said, "Do NOT cry. No crying today." I said, "Sheila, you said that last time, and it didn't work." Then she said, "And no more gifts for her. Any other gifts and she'll need to rent a truck to get home." I said, "Yeah... um... that ship has already sailed, too." Later, I told Mira what Sheila said about renting a truck to get home and she winked and said, "But I can pick and choose what I take home." LOL

Todays Covers of "Philadelphia Daily News"

Say no more. 'Nuff said.

12 August 2009

Up for grabs

I won a $20 Amazon.com gift card.

It's up for grabs for anyone who would like to buy it from me. I have it with me at work, so if you pay me for it via PayPal, I can email you the claim code on the card, and I don't even have to mail it to you!

I've posted this a few other places, so if you're interested in it, act fast!

If you're local, I'll take an IOU for cash.

ETA: No longer available.

05 August 2009

Adventures at the Lab Today

My apologies for those of you who have already seen this on Ravelry. This is an open letter I posted on an "open letters" thread on Rav earlier today after I went to the lab at work to get a blood draw done.

Dear Phlebotomist:

I hope you don’t honestly think you can say what you said to me and think that I won’t be going to someone to make a formal complaint.

Because any time someone comes to a waiting room and calls “Jin?” and waits for me, I won’t respond. Because sometimes some people call first names. So thought perhaps you were calling for Jim or perhaps Jen. Or, you know, maybe someone whose last name was Jin. But when you called again and no one stepped forward, I sighed and thought maybe it was me you were calling for. When I asked, “Jung,” had you replied with, “Yes, I’m sorry,” or even just “Yes,” I would have been happy.

But instead, when your mouth opened what came out was, “Jin, Jung, however y’all say it.”

First. It’s four letters. And it’s pretty phonetic. Korean is pretty nice that way. Second, don’t try to be cute with me in front of an entire waiting room full of people. Third, just don’t.

When I stopped dead in my tracks, looked you in the eye, and said, “Excuse me? However Y’ALL say it?” that was your cue to look contrite and apologise. Instead, you decided to avoid eye contact and mumble some excuse about “I meant ‘y’all’ as a general term, not as a particular group of people.”

What outrages me more than the slap in the face of your general attitude is that fact that I came to you in my white lab coat and with my hospital ID and office keys jangling around my neck. So it should have been MORE than evident to you that I was an employee. And this is how you treated me. How in the fuck do you treat our regular off-the-street patients??????

Also, you should know that I’m not going to your supervisor. I’m going straight to the lab business manager. The guy who follows the money and signs off on the budgets. Perks of working on THIS side of the hospital.

Have a great day!!!!
Later, I spoke to the business manager of the lab.

Here’s how the conversation went (after I described to him the event in question):

Him: Was she wearing her name card?
Me: Yes, but it was turned around. I asked the receptionist her name, though, and she said it was [name deleted].
Him: Let me see if I can describe her. Is she on the shorter side?
Me: Yes.
Him: Does she have shoulder-length hair?
Me: Yes.
Him: Is her hair mostly silver-streaked with a little bit of black?
Me: Yes.
Him: Was she wearing a blue tunic?
Me: Yes.
Him: Okay, I know who she is.
Me: And I can also tell you which station she uses.
Him: It’s okay. I know which person we’re talking about.

I got the distinct feeling he knew all too well which person this was. I got the full speech, “On behalf of the department, I apologise for any embarrassment this caused you. I want to ensure you that this is not the level of professionalism we expect from our employees. We appreciate the diversity of ALL of our patients…” You could definitely tell that the business side of him was coming out.

He told me that the first thing he would be doing tomorrow morning is addressing this issue with both Ms. Phlebotomist AND her supervisor.

Sad thing is… I gave her an out. Had she apologised or showed ANY contrition or remorse at that point, NONE of this would have happened, and I told him that, too.

I also told my mom that from now on when I go to the work lab for blood draws, I'm requesting that I not have that particular phlebotomist do the draw. I don't need the people with the pointy needles who are pissed at me poking me.

This incident still has me rattled (obviously not as much as it did when it happened - I was literally shaking right after it happened), but I'm more concerned about taking action to ensure that she doesn't treat patients that way ever again.