Thursday, December 21, 2006

Is time moving faster, or what?

Well, I have been keeping a mental list of things to blog about--and boy, there's a lot--but as time flies past, those things just don't seem as interesting anymore. I'll bullet point to keep it short:
  • we (and I mean I) had a little fire in the kitchen Sunday afternoon. I was making a taco salad and decided to toast a tortilla to crumble on top. I've done it a million times before. Apparently, the toaster oven was fed up. It caught on fire--and I mean flames shooting out fire--and we had to toss it outside and fire extinguish it. I have a picture of the charred aftermath on my camera (no action shots, since I was a little busy at the moment), but I haven't loaded my pictures on the computer yet.
  • I've had two sessions back in the clinics. I'm shadowing a doctor one morning a week at the VA. I've totally forgotten everything, but I am enjoying re-learning things. And interacting with patients totally recharges me.
  • I am learning to understand patient frustration with the medical system. I had a doctor's appointment yesterday, and she wanted to test for some non-routine stuff in my bloodwork. Total exam time: ten minutes. Time in the waiting room: an hour. Time on the phone with insurance, then finding billing in the hospital to get a procedural code, then calling back insurance to make sure I don't have to pay the $800: two hours. Just awesome. But, I do like my doctor a lot, and I think she knows what she's doing, so I'm ok with it.
  • Lab has been insanely busy. That's where all the time loss is coming from. I blink, and the week's over. I'm not going to get much of a break over the holidays, but I'm refusing to come in on Christmas day.
  • Other random tidbits: My sister's home from California (though I haven't gotten to talk to her yet), Tim's work Christmas party is tonight (and it better be good, considering they kept my husband at work yesterday until 10:30 at night!), my last soccer game is Friday night....
  • Oh yeah, and CHRISTMAS IS ON MONDAY!!!!! When the heck did that happen? Thank goodness we aren't buying gifts this year. I haven't made it out once. I do have to get a few gift cards for the Grandmas, but I'm hoping to have time for that on Saturday. And if I hadn't put the Christmas tree up on the one night I was free, it might've been a second year in a row we didn't decorate for Christmas. And that would've been sad.

So, maybe I'll get a chance to ramble a little more over break. I just wanted to say hey! I'm alive!, especially since the Christmas cards aren't going to happen after all. Now there's a shocker.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Little things

Forty-five minutes made my day yesterday. As I've mentioned, I volunteer at a therapeutic riding program (TRP) in the metroparks. It's mostly kids with developmental disorders--a lot of autism, some Down's syndrome, and a bunch of others. It's the one thing that I consistently do to volunteer. I tried to keep as involved as I was in college, but it's just been impossible. Slowly I've had to let things go, but I've hung on to TRP.

I generally stick with the same kids for a long period of time. My first two riders have moved on to other programs, but I've been working with T (no names, just in case) for about a year. He's in kindergarten, and he's one of the highest-functioning students we work with. He can speak, follow commands, and generally pay attention during class. That's almost unheard of in this group.

T has been riding for a while on his little strawberry roan pony, Jimmy (I don't think I need to protect the horse's name). They are a good match. Some of the school ponies are a little skittish--needless to say, they try not to use those ponies for TRP. Others, like Jimmy, are "bomb-proof." When you have a kid flailing and screaming, that's a good quality to have. Almost all of the ponies and TRP horses have been donated to the program, so no one's really sure of their background. But Jimmy's a sweetie, and T loves riding him.

Yesterday, we had a small class. Winter is always smaller classes than the other seasons, since it's in an unheated arena (covered, but unheated). A lot of the little ones hate touching things, so those that don't wear mittens generally don't last in the winter. But T always comes, every session, and yesterday was no different. One other rider showed up late, but it was almost a private lesson. Since the instructor had so much time with T, she decided that it was time to test his progress.

Generally, the class works this way: someone leads the horse/pony with a lead line. Depending on the level of the student, the reins are either tied up (so only the leader steers) or the student has some rein control. In addition to the leader, generally each student has two sidewalkers who walk next to the rider on either side. Sometimes the kids just need someone to keep an eye on them, but a lot need physical support to stay on the horse.

T started out with his reins tied up and two sidewalkers, but we've moved to no sidewalkers and he has rein control. I still lead Jimmy with the lead line, and generally T only really takes rein control on maneuvers like steering around cones, etc. Last night, the instructor decided to let him have total control. I looped the lead line over Jimmy's neck and kept near the bit (in the horse's mouth) just in case. But T did it all on his own. After some assistance, he was stopping and starting his pony by himself, making circles around cones, and walking over poles. I was mostly his coach. I gave him verbal cues and steadied Jimmy a few times, but that was it.

It was just awesome. T's eyes lit up when he knew he was on his own. He didn't stop grinning the rest of the night. I get the feeling that he isn't allowed to do many things on his own, and I think riding solo gave him new confidence.

At the end of class, I taught him how to run up his stirrups "like a real cowboy". I even let him "help" me take Jimmy back to his stall (I had the reins and let him "hold" the end of them). As I took Jimmy in, T stopped and wrapped his arms around Jimmy's neck. He told Jimmy and I "bye" and skipped out with his mom, who seemed almost as happy as T.

As I untacked Jimmy, I realized that the forty-five minutes I had just spent in that class was what it was all about for me. There's so much delayed gratification in life--to see the result of it was just fantastic.

T may move up into another lesson class soon, and I have mixed feelings about it. We've definitely bonded, and he's been one of my favorite students so far. But I know he's ready to move up, and I'm glad he's made such amazing progress.

You know how sometimes people ask that hypothetical question, "If you had all the money you could ever want, what would you do?" I'd like to think that I'd answer, "Be a doctor/scientist" after all the hard work I've put into my program. But you know what? I don't think that's what I'd do.

I'd start a farm. I'd have a huge therapeutic riding program for all ages/abilities. It's not just the developmentally handicapped that can benefit. There was an article in the paper this weekend about how shy teenagers benefit from working with horses. I've seen shows about how they rehabilitate inmates by having them train horses, and I've also heard that it's used for battered women to rebuild confidence.

I'd have the weekly lessons and classes, like the stable has now, but I'd also have camps over the summer. Some of it could be inner-city kids, who never leave the street, getting to work a farm and learn to ride horses. Other could be regular kids--I did horse camp for two years as a Girl Scout, and I adored it. Really, there are all sorts of possibilities.

And if I had all the money I needed, there'd be opportunities for everyone, no matter their income. The TRP I work with relies almost entirely on donations--horses, equipment, and money to take care of them. They charge a little for lessons, but a lot of it is subsidized, and they won't turn anyone away.

I'd get to do something I love--help others and have horses too. It's a nice dream. Maybe if I win the lottery it's something I can make happen.

For now, with the little time I have to give, I'm happy to help out kids like T. I think I gain as much from it as he does, really.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

To card or not to card?

Here's my annual dilemma: should I or should I not send Christmas cards? Actually, it's less of a dilemma and more of a "I meant to do it but forgot" type thing.

The thing is, I'm a go big or go home sort of person. I don't like doing things halfway. So, I'd like to send cards to all of my family and friends, and in each one I'd like to write a personal message. Sounds simple, right? Yeah, except my mom is one of nine kids, my dad is one of eight, and I have a billion cousins. I can't selectively send cards to the handful that I really talk to and not send any to the rest. Word gets around.

What I might do instead is only send out friend cards. Then the question is: my friends alone or Tim's too? It's not like Tim is going to send out the cards on his own, but a lot of his friends are semi-mutual friends, so I don't want to totally exclude them.

Let's say that I just do my friends, which is a sad, small little handful. There are some, like my cousin and her husband (who is Tim's frat brother), that it'd be no problem. Although we don't see them as much as we'd like, we know the big stuff that's going on in their lives. It's easy to write a little note and see how things are going. I have a few other friends that fall into this category. Piece of cake. We don't see each other much, but when we do catch up, there's no tension.

Most of the group falls into that "why has it been so long since I've talked to you?" group. I am really terrible at keeping in touch. I just don't know what to say when I haven't talked to someone in a while. There are three of us high school girls that were all pretty tight. One of them I still see periodically. The other two--well, I just haven't kept up with as well. I've tried emailing out of the blue, but I never know what to say. I don't want to make it all about me (especially with this whole lab trauma), but I want to share a little so that they'll share too. Weird stuff.

And then there's a small fraction of people that I haven't talked to in ages but still think about them periodically. For instance, when I moved from Pittsburgh in 1995, there was a whole group of people I kept up with. That number slowly narrowed, and for a long time there were really three people. Now there's one. I still have emails for some of the people, and I have seen them as friends of friends on myspace. But how weird would it be for me to be like, "hey, haven't talked to you in ten years, how's life?" I think since I'm the one that moved, I remember them. For them, I think it'd be weird.

Anyway, this comes back to Christmas cards. I should just sign our name and send them to everyone--those that want to chat can always write back, email or call. Those that don't--no big deal. But I can't just send nearly empty cards. The perfectionist in me won't let it happen.

Time's running out for this year, so I may end up frozen in indecision again. Anyway, if anyone is reading this and doesn't get a Christmas card from me, Merry Christmas! And I'll try harder next year.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Nothing's changed

That title is pretty much the summary of life since my last post (time flies, I guess). Sure, there have been little things happening here and there--we had two big snowstorms last week (though now it's in the fifties here), I came down with a stomach bug, and I'm spending every ounce of myself that I have in the lab.

So really, nothing's changed.

My boss has been the MD on service for the past week or so, and that's been nice. He still pops by periodically, but we haven't been having our scheduled time together on Monday mornings. That has made things considerably nicer. Of course, when our little talks resume next Monday, it'll be that much worse. His expectations are exponentially proportional to the time that passes between our talks. If it's been an hour, he expects a new gel* (*these take about 4-5 hours to setup and complete). A day--maybe three gels plus more cells. A week--maybe a whole series of experiments, in duplicate. But two weeks--I think that is going to be ugly. And I missed a day last week due to flu/snow, so that's one less day I had work done. I know he'll expect miracles, and there won't be any, and that's when things will get ugly.

Unless I get his biploar side, in which case he'll be Mr. Happypants. But that just means he'll be twice as hard to deal with when he turns back into his regular self.

But, I don't want to get all negative here. I'm trying not to dwell on it too much. It's not easy, considering how many of my waking hours are spent in lab. But, this won't last forever. I keep telling myself that I'll be here till July 2008 at the latest. That means I'm more than halfway done. I can survive the rest.

Plus, I start my clinical tutorial this Thursday. That means that one morning a week, I shadow a doctor in his clinic and see some patients. I'm working at the VA hospital, which I've never been to before. I've never met my preceptor either, but people tell me he's a good doctor and a great teacher. I warned him that I haven't done a history & physical in two years, so this first time, I'll shadow him. Then I'll have 3-4 patients a week that I see, write up, and present. I know I am going to have to work hard to remember this stuff, but I am pumped about having some clinical exposure again.

So that's where I'm at. Sad that a week of non-blogging and there's nothing new to talk about. But, no big news means no drama either. And I'm thankful for that. My immune system is already beat up from the lab stress--life drama would just send me over the edge. Today, I'm thankful for the same old thing.

Friday, December 01, 2006

A little more laid back

Here's a nice, non-threatening post for you, after yesterday.

I want a Wii. Really bad. I'm a Zelda addict, and even though the new Zelda game is supposed to come out for my archaic game cube, I want a Wii. But I don't have the money to pay for one, so I've been trying to win one. There was the Comedy Central giveaway over Thanksgiving weekend--every hour they would flash a new word on the screen, and then you put them in for a total of 48 chances to get a Wii. Thank God for my DVR.

There was a Pringles giveaway, a giveaway, and many others. It started out that I was only interested in winning a Wii. Then I saw a sweepstakes for a Nikon digital SLR, which I want soooo bad. Then vacations, and iPods, and cars, and money. I've become addicted to sweepstakes. Lucky for me, I don't have a lot of down time in the lab right now. But man, you could do sweepstakes 24 hours a day if you wanted to!

Yeah, that's my obsessive personality kicking in. Especially for the sweepstakes where you can enter once a day for months. Oh no! I missed a day! That's going to be the sole reason I lose! Never mind the fact that the odds are about one in a billion, and there really ARE professional sweepstakes people who have a thousand times more entries than me.

But, no harm, no foul. I won't enter one that requires you to sign up for something, or one that wants all sorts of crazy personal info. But I figure hey, it's cheaper than the lottery.

And who knows, maybe I'll get my Wii.