Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Vacations, Jobs That Make Work Seem Like a Vacation, and How to Obtain One of Such Jobs




This vacation is running the risk of ruining me as a future doctor and is causing me to look forward to the vacations I will be able to afford later in my career more than I am looking forward to the actual career itself.  C'est la vie. It's a secret to which I would have been privy eventually, anyway.  The opportunity to take high-end vacations is a reason you should remain in school, study hard, and choose your course of study and future career wisely, kids.  If you can find the perfect but often elusive career that allows you to feel as though you are on vacation much of the time when you are at work and also compensates you well enough that you can take dream vacations at least once every two or three years, don't let the opportunity pass without grabbing it.

The problem for many among us is that we make decisions when we are relatively young which impact our options for the future. While the algebra course you're taking in eighth  or ninth grade (while Common Core pushed algebra up to ninth grade in many places, I think they're still offering it for eighth graders in some places) may not seem to be of tremendous importance, flunking it and having to repeat it next year reduces the number of math courses you'll be able to complete before college. This, in turn, may impact your admission to the university or program of your choice or the quantity and quality of your scholarship or grant offers, which, ultimately, will impact your post-graduate options. 

While tonight's homework may seem almost optional, if you skip one assignment, you probably will not skip just one assignment. It's incredibly easy for blowing off school work and homework to become a habit.  And while a person may think he or she can slide through middle school and high school without meeting basic expectations but will get his or her academic act together later, all too often it doesn't work out that way. Choices young people make will begin to impact the quality of one's vocational  and/or professional future  sooner than one would like to think.

I'm not suggesting that if someone blows a science test in fourth grade, he or she may as well give up on a dream of becoming an engineer.  Such would be ludicrous.  We're all sufficiently resilient to withstand a few failures in both school and in life, and failure can, if managed well, provide  tremendous opportunity for growth.  Furthermore, we all know people who were academic screw-ups until sometime early in high school, and who, for various reasons, chose to change courses and to succeed in school.   If a person hasn't found what works for him or her in terms of navigating the system of school by eleventh grade, however, the odds will have begun to work against that person in terms of future academic and likely professional-status career success. 

If a person is fortunate enough to have greater-than-average mechanical skills, those skills can often be parlayed into decent-paying jobs.  In future years, with the growth of technology, an increasing number of jobs previously performed by humans are going to be done for us by machines, but for now, auto mechanics, welders, and plumbers are still in demand.  Likewise, many students who attended my high school's rival school were the offspring of California State Department of Corrections employees.  Some of their parents earned six-figure salaries with having completed no education past high school. Most of these people loathed their jobs, but they were paid well enough and had enough time off that they enjoyed a decent lifestyle while not at work. They lived in relatively luxurious homes, drove expensive cars, and took  nice vacations. Most of them dreaded going to work every day that they had to work, but they had the resources to thoroughly enjoy their time off.  Such a job is, in my opinion,  far superior to flipping burgers for minimum wage, but still comes with a heavy price to pay in return.

The idea of being able to support oneself at a job  one actually enjoys doing is a relatively modern idea. There may have been some element of choice involved, but I don't think many people in my grandparents' generation had the luxury of choosing work based on personal fulfillment.  A person's job back then, for the most part, was based on skills a person had, what sort of farm or business the family might have owned, possible family connections to training for a particular vocation, or if a family had the means to fund the education of offspring.  I'm not sure if its onset followed  WWII or maybe even the Korean War, but the GI Bill afforded many people to obtain college educations who previously would not have had the means to seek higher education. With an increase in education came and continues to come an increase in options.  

More education is usually better than less education unless a person goes into heavy debt  to obtain a degree that doesn't typically lead to a decent-paying job.   If there's  little to no debt incurred, any degree is better than no degree. 
If a person is going to wind up with in excess of forty-thousand dollars of debt,  it might behoove the person to study something a little more practical than, say, art history.   Unless the holder of the art history degree is unusually lucky,  he or she has little chance of finding a job related to an art history degree that pays much more than minimum wage.  My cousin's other grandfather  got a degree in art history, but he waited until he retired after practicing for more than thirty years as an orthopedic surgeon.  By then it didn't matter that he couldn't find a job related to his degree. He was too old to work, anyway.  One of my uncles who is a banker has a degree in musicology. He got very lucky and found an employer who wanted to hire a college graduate, but the employer didn't particularly care in what field the degree was earned as long as it was a bachelor's degree from at least a moderately reputable institution.  

I had originally planned to remain in this vacation destination for only about ten days. My ten days have come and gone, yet I have no intention of leaving this place anytime soon. The people who manage this hotel say I can extend my stay as long as I want throughout the first three weeks of March.  I need to be back home by the day before the Match Day ceremony on March 16. I can afford the daily rate here for another two weeks. My bodyguard  has left, but I only kept him around because he had already been paid. I don't need that sort of around-the-clock protection.  

If you're in school and doing very well, that's great.  If you're not doing quite so well, you might want to consider increasing your effort. School isn't the only thing in life even when you're young, but if you give it too little priority in your life now,  later in your life you may lose out on the opportunity to take really cool vacations like this one I'm presently enjoying.





Thursday, February 22, 2018

I hope you enjoyed the Thin Mints, Bugger!

They're tasty, but are they really worth bashing in someone's windshield to get for free? C'est la vie. Better my windshield than an innocent Girl Scout.


Someone smashed my front windshield. My rental car was one of four cars in the hotel's coveted parking area that had its windshield bashed.The officer who came when I called said it looked like the tool of choice was probably a baseball bat, though I don't suppose it matters much. The thief opened the glove compartment, but found nothing there except the operator's manual, which he threw or carried and dropped about twenty feet away into the snow. The registration and proof of insurance are stored separately, so he didn't get to those. He took the two boxes of Girl Scouts Thin Mints that I had purchased just to be nice. He then opened my trunk, where I assume he hoped to find tons of valuables. Unfortunately for him, it was totally empty. His net gain from this act of vandalism and theft was two boxes of Thin Mints. 

I called the rental company. I paid for the extra insurance so that I wouldn't have to pay any deductible. Their representative told me the simplest thing would be for me to put the repair on my credit card and to give them the receipt when I returned the car, at which time I would be reimbursed. I would have preferred that they bring me a new rental car and take care of the smashed-up one themselves, but that's apparently not how things work around here. They called a local company, who dispatched someone to fix the windshield. 

The repairman spoke even less English than I speak French, which is a considerable accomplishment, as I can sing a few songs, say the basic greetings, and ask where the bathroom is in French. I don't know what this guy does if he ever needs to use the bathroom in a public place in an English-speaking  nation. We're not THAT close to the border. Not everyone where I am speaks French. The majority of the residents here probably don't speak French.

The guy wanted me to give him my credit card so that I could pay the full price before he even touched my car, and then he wasn't going to fix it until tomorrow, anyway. With our language barrier, we could not reach a meeting of the minds. I tried calling my dad first, as French is his native language. He wasn't answering. I then called my mom, who speaks good non-native French. I told her of the problem, then gave my phone to him so she could explain that if a deposit was needed in order to obtain a part, that would be reasonable, and that she would call another company to determine what would be a reasonable cost for the part alone and deposit before I handed over my credit card, but that I was not paying the total cost until the work was done. The conversation on both ends got louder and louder. She told me when I finally got mt phone back that she had to tell him she would call the police on him if he did not give my phone back to me. I could hear her screaming about the police. It's "la police" in French, so not hard to translate even for an idiot in French, which I am.

I called the rental car company, and was not calm or polite about the crook they had sent to fix my rental car. They called someone else to fix it and told me they would pay the guy so I didn't have to use my own credit card, which is really how it should have been in the first place.

My dad's ability to insult a person  in French is far superior to my mom's. In a few hours --  once the business opens -- he will call and tell them in words they'll understand that they are jackasses with anuses where their foreheads should be.

Update: One of the other three cars that was bashed into had a trunk opener that was difficult to maneuver. He had to take off his gloves in order to get that particular trunk open, and left a clean thumb print in the process The police dusted for fingerprints all over our cars, but got a match with those particular prints. Also, they found the same prints on my car's operator's manual.  The prints matched up to a local thug. I won't get my thin mints back, but he'll at least have to go through the hassle of the court system.

Friday, February 16, 2018

A Vacation to Make All Other Vacations Envious (except that I'm doing almost nothing; some people get bored doing nothing)

The sport of curling, win or lose, male or female, whatever the conditions or circumstances, seems less intriguing than watching ants while they're slogging their way through that Terro substance that they supposedly take back to their headquarters and share with their fellow ants until it kills all of them. I've seen no evidence that it works unless a person uses the heavy-grade version that you can't buy at Home Depot but have to get from your pest control company.

I'm having an awe-inspiring break from the usual grind of medical school.  An esteemed concert pianist had to cancel a concert and a series of master classes all geographically accessible each night to a particular hotel. They guy was a bit of a prima donna if his demands for lodging are any indication. He canceled too late for the hotel to find anyone else to rent it for anywhere near what the pianist was going to pay. I'm paying roughly a quarter of what he would have been charged (the hotel will presumably bill him for the difference between what he would have paid and what I'm paying), which is still an entirely ridiculous amount of money for me to be paying for a hotel suite, but I have only one life, and it may as well be an enjoyable life. Money isn't something any of us can take with us when we make our final departures. While I plan to live to a reasonably old age, I don't plan to leave an excessive sum of money sitting in banks or various other investment funds. I do not wish merely to live, but to live!!!, and doing so is going to cost me a few dollars on occasion.

The hotel suite has, of all things, a Steinway baby grand which, due to the thickness of the walls and the placement of the piano within the suite, may be played at any hour of the day or night without complaints from neighbors or management.  I woke up a couple of hours ago with a mild attack of insomnia, and chose to deal with it by playing the piano. I've seldom if ever had the luxury of playing the piano at 4:00 a.m. without having a Nerf football thrown at my head as a result.

A few friends are flying in for the weekend. I had originally said that no one could sleep in my hotel suite if they visited, but I'm waffling and allowing six friends to scramble for couches, recliners, or the one extra bed in the suite. My stay is here going to be longer than originally planned, so solitude during this break is of less importance than i originally thought it would be. besides, part of the fun of this vacation is having my peers be envious of me.

I even have a bodyguard who comes as part of the package, I'll need to tip him, but otherwise he is included in the flat rate I'm paying for almost everything.  I have no real use for him for the most part during the daytime. I have him hang around at night just because there are predators in the world, some of whom seek young and single women whom they consider to be vulnerable. Once the guy leaves, there is still reasonably tight security at the hotel itself, so it's not like I'm fair game for every sick puppy who might desire to make a leather coat from my hide.

I chose the study of medicine because I find it interesting, so even when I'm on break, I can't leave my field of study alone entirely. Yesterday, with an invitation, I went to  a hospital affiliated with a medical school near the hotel at which I'm staying. I scrubbed in for one pediatric abdominal surgery, talked to a few other specialists, then left. That's the nice thing about this being a vacation. There's no such thing as a shift. I can come and go as I please at any nearby hospital that will have me on its premises.

Breakfast will arrive soon. I'm having pancakes and fruit. I would probably gain weight on this trip were it not for one small issue: I cannot gain weight. My mom has issues with that as well, so it's presumably genetic. If she eats an amount that is roughly equal to what the average  sumo wrestler probably consumes, she can look good.  If I didn't wish to get myself killed, I could show you all a picture that proves my mom can beef up enough to be sexy.  I'm probably years away from that, though, plus I have a colon condition that makes it impossible for me to retain food long enough to absorb enough nutrients to look the way my mom looked in the particular picture in question. It's getting better, though, in the sense that fewer people accuse me of having an eating disorder. I'm less skinny and am starting to look my age, I consider it a very good thing.

I have no solid plans for today. After breakfast, I'll probably go back to sleep. when or if i wake up, I'll call and ask for a snowmobile to ride. I will need my bodyguard for that activity if no students are on break with whom I can tag along. Snowmobiling anywhere  interesting isn't particularly safe as a solo activity.

I watched a bit of the Olympic sport curling on TV. I don't get anything about it, as in exactly how it works or exactly why anyone would choose to do it. To me, as either a participation sport or a spectator sport, it seems roughly as compelling as is playing marbles. I haven't seen many televised marble competitions lately. they're probably around, though. Chances are that I'm simply not looking at the right channels. 




Friday, February 9, 2018

Completion of Medical School, Match Day, Marriage, Medical Specialty, Life!!!




I'm reaching the age where it's not unthinkable to consider marriage, although i personally think I'd be getting WAY ahead of myself to proceed too far into planning it or even thinking about it when I have no likely candidate in mind. A little over a month ago, I at least had a candidate. I wasn't taking his candidacy too seriously, nor was he, apparently, since he broke it off by phone over Christmas vacation. (The two of us were not yet engaged to be married.) My brother continues to remind me that the guy was at least classy enough not to have ended the relationship via text. I would have preferred an in-person break-off, however inconvenient it might have been. However, as much as I hate this statement when anyone else says it, I shall use it myself this once: it is what it is. The guy broke it off by phone. He could have hired an airplane to fly past my ski resort when he knew I would be outside, with a banner trailing the plane, spelling out the words: "We're finished, Alexis. Get over it!" almost in the style someone (his ex Stephanie March insists she had nothing to do with it) repeatedly flew above Bobby Flay at the podium as he attempted to give his speech prior to his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame being dedicated. The banner trailing the plane disturbing Bobby Flay's ceremony read simply, "Cheater!" Sometimes the laconic approach is best. I couldn't have expressed it better myself.




In any event, I checked out the statistics for medical school students and interns/residents. It seems that, even with statistics for marriage overall showing a decline for individuals in their twenties as opposed to in previous decades) nearly half of medical students at my stage of medical education have already tied the knot. That surprised me, but I found my roster of students in my own cohort and counted. Out of the one-hundred-three students remaining in our cohort (As late in the game as it is, our number may soon drop by one. It seems that one of our members has found herself in warm if not downright hot water. Regardless of any connection the situation may or may no have with me, I'm staying out of it on both sides. I won't plead for mercy on her behalf, nor will I offer any evidence against her unless I am compelled by my superiors to do so, and such seems highly unlikely at this point.) forty-nine of the one-hundred-three are presently married. Two are on their second marriages (Where in hell do these people find the time for this level of activity?) and five of the presently single cohort member have been divorced. As far as who is currently contemplating divorce or even has filed for such, I haven't the foggiest notion. i'm doing well to know who is even married. I wouldn't know who had been divorced were Celinda not sitting here with me and cluing me in as to the marital status of the respective members of our cohort.  She somehow has time to keep up with such minutiae.  Numerous members of the cohort (even Celinda doesn't know the exact number but she estimates it to between ten and twenty) plan to get hitched during the break between graduation and the start of internship/residency. Interestingly enough, none of our cohort members are married to one another, nor, as far as Celinda knows, are the scheduled upcoming nuptials between any of our cohort members. While I'm the last person who should be providing marital or premarital advice, it would seem to be a wise act for a variety of reasons not to marry a person in one's own graduating medical school class at the same school of medicine, at least while the two are both enrolled in medical school. There's plenty of time later to develop the relationship and to make it legal if doing so seems like a good idea later. 



I find it highly dubious that anyone still reading this actually gives a flying squirrel's rectum about the percentages regarding relationships, though I'll share the numbers anyway because I've always been a math geek. It rounds up very slightly to forty-eight of my cohort mates presently being married. Fifty-two per cent of my cohort mates have been married. Counting all marriages, divorces, and remarriages, fifty-six marriages have taken place among members of my cohort. If we allow the divorced members to skew the statistics -- and it is a clear skew of the statistics -- fifty-four per cent of the members of our cohort have been married. 



One statistic I found interesting though not terribly significant is that -- depending upon whose statistics one chooses to believe, students enrolled in programs leading to degrees in osteopathic medicine have a significantly higher chance of marrying before their final year of formal schooling has been competed. One source I checked had sixty-eight per cent of the  D.O. candidates married by their final semester (or penultimate quarter depending upon the system) while another listed their rate of marriage in the same time period at seventy per cent.



I won't use this time to go into the differences between traditional (sometimes referred to as "allopathic" medicine and osteopathic medicine). Historically, the two evolved from the study of extremely different  forms of medical treatment, with osteopathic medicine focusing heavily upon musculoskeletal adjustment of the body. While  osteopathic medical students continue to receive more treatment in the study of musculoskeletal adjustment than do traditional medical school students, osteopathic medical students now receive considerably more training in areas considered "traditional medicine."  I don't wish to burden anyone with my own prejudices concerning osteopathic medical training, nor do I wish to engage in arguments with anyone concerning the same. I will say (and some will disagree)  that students in osteopathic programs were frequently rejected from traditional medical schools, and I will also say that students enrolled in traditional medical school programs post an average MCAT (Medical Schools Admission Test)score of 31.4, as opposed to the mean score of those enrolled in schools of osteopathic medicine , which is 25.31. Some sources have suggested that acceptance rates as schools of osteopathic medicine are lower than at traditional medical schools. if such is indeed the case -- and I'm not 100% convinced it is -- it would be, in my estimation, in part because students apply to osteopathic medical programs who know they haven't a ghost of a chance at admission to traditional medical programs and that osteopathic medical programs also deal with applicants who have been rejected from traditional medical school programs.



Prospective doctors of osteopathy take different board exams (COMLEX) than do doctors of medicine (USMLE). There may be very legitimate reasons for the different exams. Were i the god of Medical Exams, and particularly if I were in charge of prospective osteopathic physicians and the exams they were given, I would insist upon doctors in both programs taking the same exams. Osteopathic physicians frequently face attitudes of superiority from doctors of traditional medicine. Were i an osteopathic physician, I would welcome the opportunity to demonstrate that my knowledge, at least as measured by  single test, was equal to or superior to a doctor of traditional or allopathic medicine.  Alleging that one's test is actually more difficult than the test taken by doctors of traditional medicine, even if it happened to be true, which I highly doubt, doesn't cut it as an explanation in the real world. It's similar to most of the private schools in my area (typically the Catholic Schools), which insist on giving the equivalent to Form B, or the test that is offered in the fall, instead of giving its students Form A, or the identical test public school students take in the spring each year.  Private school administrators give all sorts of bogus explanations, sometimes even going so far as to outrightly lie and to say that their students took in the fall the identical test that the public students will take in the spring. Such is blatantly untrue. The test the private school students typically take in the fall is a slightly modified version of one the public school students took the previous spring, usually amended to make it slightly easier because it is given so early in the school year that students haven't had adequate time to recover what they may have forgotten over the summer.  (I use Catholic schools as an example here because it would be an unfair comparison to pit preparatory schools with annual tuition of an absolute minimum of twenty-two thousand dollars against public schools. The two groups of student populations have nothing in common. With Catholic schools, while they have a slight socioeconomic edge over public when considering both mean and median income and the fact that Catholic schools can and do reject anyone they would prefer not to have among their student bodies, it's still close enough to be an almost level playing field. Catholic schools should relish the opportunity to kick the public schools' butts on standardized tests each year. Instead, they give different forms of the test, yet still try to boast of their superior performance despite it being an "apples to oranges" comparison.



I use the two rather unlikely comparisons because in both cases, in my opinion, one group is opting not to take an identical test as the other when it would be a perfect chance, if the claims made by the smaller group in each case have merit, to demonstrate superiority or at least equality. If the osteopathic programs consider that they must test, in addition to the standard medical curricula, the musculoskeletal content covered in their program, they could include an additional test covering those areas, and could require their candidates to pass both exams in order to be eligible to practice medicine. While I will likely work with many doctors of osteopathy during the course of my career, Ido not wish to carry a chip around on my shoulder in relation to the supposed superiority of my training as compared to theirs. On the other hand, if I am brought to an emergency room with severe cardiac symptoms, I desire to be treated by a physician who has passed the respective required versions of the USMLE as opposed to the COMLEX with its extra two-hundred questions about musculoskeletal manipulation. I'll now climb off my soap box and return to my discussion of marriage as it relates to medical school and the practice of medicine.



I wouldn't really consider medical school to be exactly a microcosm of society for various reasons. What I would consider it to be is a multicultural, multi-societal, multi-geographical, multi-communal mixing bowl. The percentages of the racial breakdown of our cohort and of the medical school as a whole almost certainly exist on someone's computer and in a file cabinet somewhere, and they're probably being used as I type to attempt to gain additional funding due to a higher-than-average percentage of females, Asians, Africans, members who identify as LGBTQ or whatever is the current acceptable term, individuals with physical disabilities, individuals from backgrounds that would qualifying them as being economically disadvantaged, and individuals who have suffered what someone reading through stacks of applications would consider to have been significant trauma at some point in their lives. 



We, with our widely varying backgrounds, were thrown together into a lecture hall or two or three, and, perhaps most significantly, a human cadaver lab. Before ever being granted access to any actual hospital corridors abutting rooms containing live patients, we bonded over difficult content, demanding professors, and the dissection of cadavers.  It's truly a bonding experience. In some cases it's more of an un-bonding experience. Just as you grow close to some over shared trials, you learn through adversity that there are other individuals in the company of whom you will never spend more than five seconds if you are not required to do so.  A great deal of dating happens between cohort mates, as your dating pool consists largely of those with whom you spend time. A considerable amount of sex also happens. Most of us are at an age at which our hormones are running amok. The sex that happened in closets on Grey's Anatomy wasn't entirely a case of Hollywood's attempt at making things more titillating for viewers. It happens, though usually at someone's apartment and not in a hospital supply closet.  Some positions are more comfortable than others, not all hospital supply closets have locking doors, and there's a reason God or at least someone invented beds.  



Dating practices notwithstanding, practicality ended up leading most of us in different directions when it came to more serious relationships. On Friday, March 16, most of us will learn where we will serve our residencies. Either we can opt out of the program after our initial year our internship, or the program itself can opt out and invite us to continue our training elsewhere. Regardless, we're contractually committed to any institution with which "the computer" (I'm sure there is more than one computer involved, but it's always referred to simply as "the computer") matches us. We dash all over the nation having interviews while also trying to get views of hospitals and communities. We then submit lists of our preferences of programs in order. The teaching programs at hospitals also rank us in order of preference. We're assured that the system is fair and that it does not place preference of the institutions' preferences above preferences of the students, and that a fair and equal balance exists. I'm convinced that we're not far from knowing exactly how it happens, and the disclosure of how it works will, within a very short number of years, force the system to be "fair and balanced" (another term I've grown to detest but will use it here anyway), but for now, we as students  have no choice but to take the computer's word for it and to take the match that we're given.



For most of us, Match Day is perhaps the most exciting yet simultaneously the most stressful day of each of our respective lives. While we can opt out 9or be kicked out) after a year, that's not what most of us anticipate. we assume that our match will be for the duration of our training. That if we aspire to be general surgeons, the next five years of our lives will be spent at that institution. For a few specialties, it's a three-year commitment, but for others it can be six years.
We're stressed about being accepted into a program of our choice. We're anxious about the location. Imagine adding to that the apprehension of where a spouse or prospective spouse might end up in relation to where one's own residency might be. I can't imagine it, which is a reason I've chosen not to become too closely attached to anyone who faces as little control as I do over my immediate future. 



Some of my peers have girlfriends and boyfriends within the cohort. They'll choose whether to break things off cleanly, try to make a long distance relationship work, or somewhere in between. In some cases they may even get lucky and end up at the same institution, or very near. They'll find that they have very little time off, and what time they do have off may not coincide with the time the other has off. Their relationship may soon be history. Or maybe it won't Some relationships succeed against seemingly insurmountable odds.




My brother is in a relationship. His sweetheart is a registered nurse who will soon complete her certification as a nurse practitioner.. If it's what they decide to do, she will be able to travel to wherever he goes. Registered nurses and nurse practitioners can work almost anywhere. My brother and the woman in his life face the same hurdles anyone faces who is either a physician in training or who marries or attempts to maintain a relationship with one. The odds are probably technically against the success of their relationship. Technical odds are beaten every day of the year, though. It's all up to them The world is their oyster, whatever that means.



As for me, as much as the recent breakup hurt, I'm very relieved to be entering this new phase of my life with virtually no encumbrances.  I have a better-than-average chance of ending up where I think I will be matched, and it is my first choice. My plan, assuming I end up where I think I will be, is to spend the full five years there and walk away with the multiple certifications I hope to earn. If the ulcerative colitis situation doesn't improve, which I don't believe will be the case: for once in my life I shall dispense with my usual pessimism and will think positively; while colitis may always be a part of my life to some degree, it will improve, and I will function as a normal person to the degree that the specialty in which I ultimately practice will be a matter of choice and not a matter of default due to health concerns. 



I don't need to place any sort of time limit on a relationship. As it is, I'm barely the age most people are when they begin medical school. and I will have finished up all of my coursework in ten weeks (four of which will be spent on vacation!!!!), and will be graduating in roughly four months. If somewhere in the next few years, I find a person I'd care to share my life with, it will be sublime. If not, I have an astonishing career to which to look forward, I'll earn enough money to travel to exotic locations, and I can date or not as I see fit. Three members of my cohort have made proposals of varying sorts, but all are along the lines of "If neither of us is in a relationship in X number of years, we should meet up and see whether it would work out between us." I haven't said yes or no  to any of them, but if the time is right, I'll explore the options.



There are people who are my age of twenty-three who are working at Burger King while they try to pay off student loans as they try to find some way to use their relatively useless degrees.  And those are the ones who are relatively fortunate. Others have changed their majors four times and haven't yet completed their bachelor's degrees. They, too, are among the lucky ones. Still others are divorced (or never married) with a child or two to support with or without financial help from the child's or children's father(s). (I've vowed to stop using the term "sperm donor" to refer to baby daddies. It's an insult to legitimate sperm donors, who perform a valuable service to society. Thanks, Knotty, for opening my eyes and changing my perspective on that.)



I will very soon have not only my M.D., but a bachelor of science degree in biochemistry that I earned four years ago, in addition to Bachelors of Fine Arts degrees in piano performance, violin performance, and musicology. I didn't originally have the musicology degree, but my music faculty adviser looked over my transcript and noticed that I was a mere two courses short in that degree. I completed the courses online just for the hell of it.  If I really don't like being a doctor, I can probably find something to do with my music degrees. It probably won't pay tremendously well, but there's always busking as a way of supplementing one's income.



Marriage is something that I hope is in the cards for me. I will be cautious. While I don't necessarily wish to be married to another doctor, neither do I wish to be tied to someone who loves my salary more than he loves me. That's not to say I wouldn't consider having a stay-at-home husband for a few years while children were very young if he happened to be really good at it.  However I view it, though, barring some unforeseen tragedy, the possibility of which is so remote that it's pointless to waste time worrying about it, I have lots of time before needing to decide much of anything of consequence, and I have the potential, even without relying on my medical degree,  to earn enough money to live as well as anyone reasonably needs to live. Gold toilets or other features of the Trump Tower or other equally opulent places aren't things I need or even want -- ever.  Marriage to the right person sounds like a wonderful prospect, and I hope it happens for me eventually, but if it doesn't. I'm prepared to create a happy life for myself.



i don't own this video. Thanks to the rightful owner for allowing me to borrow it.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A Bit of a Yo-Yo: Not Quite Bipolar, But Not 100% on an Even Keel, Either



I admit to being one of the more yo-yo-like individuals on the planet who does not have an actual bipolar diagnosis. Life in general for me, as well as my overall outlook,  is much more cheerful and convivial than it was just a few days ago. My precious puppy is still dead, and there's no way I can put a happy face on that aspect of my life or on the puppy's very short life, but other things in my life are settling into place.

A person who was recently very inappropriately unkind to me has received her comeuppance. Perhaps I shouldn't be so overjoyed about this having happened, but in general, Karma is something that makes me happy. I don't all that often do things to cause myself to be on the down side of Karma, though I am human and can on occasion allow my emotions to get the better of me to the extent that I wish ill on a person when it would be better for everyone involved were I to clear my mind and allow the universe to unfold as it should without mirth on my part at a difficulty experienced by someone else even if I view the difficulty I experienced  as a direct result of the person having been deliberately vicious to me. For the most part, I am one of the people in the world who doesn't have to eke out an existence in a war-torn nation or in an area devoid of a potable water supply.  I am fortunate and blessed, and I try not to forget it. I have no idea why it worked out that way for me. I should simply count my own blessings and not worry about when God or Karma or anything or anyone else will get even with someone who has been cruel to me beyond the scope of his or her duties. Sometimes it's someone's job to tell me that I have erred. I can accept that even when I'm made aware of the error of my ways in a not especially diplomatic matter. It's when I'm wrongly castigated, especially by a person who has no authority to do so, and even more so when the person seems to make it a point to be as public as possible in "reprimanding" me (I used the quotations around reprimand because my understanding of the word is that it only truly applies when the person who issues the reprimand is in some way acting with appropriate authority) that I take exception to the  act.  By the same token, I've heard my peers refer to having been "called on the carpet" or "written up"  by someone with less authority than they in regard to the matter over which one has been criticized. A person without any authority whatsoever  can make a complaint about a person to another person who possesses authority to address the matter, but the original complainant cannot "call the person on the carpet," so to speak, nor "write the person up," if his or her rank is lower than that of the person he or she purports to "call on the carpet" or to "write up."

Suffice it to say that in my recent case of having been publicly [temporarily] humiliated by a person who operated under the mistaken assumption that she was in a position of authority to reprimand me, even though she truly believed that she held sufficient authority to correct my actions, my demeanor, my apparel, my hair and make up, and other things, she committed a few key errors along the way.  First and foremost, when in doubt, a person would, more often than not, do well to choose a the kindest choice of action when given the option. In my particular case, the kindest choice of action would have been to have spoken to me privately instead of seeming to intentionally amass the largest audience she could practically gather on such short notice. (Not only would this have been kinder with regard to me; she would have been kinder to herself. She would have endured far less humiliation had she privately singled me out for obliquy. Her superiors might not have noticed that she was acting so far out of line, and might not have taken her on in the manner in which they chose to do, and she might thus spared some degree of public humiliation had the audience [which she went out of her way to solicit] not been present in such force , hence sparing her such a public dressing-down.

Neither do I overlook the audience's role in all of this. A few just stumbled into the situation and had no idea what they were in for; I think I know which ones they were, and I place no blame on them. For the most part, they were no friendlier with her than with me prior to the incident; They were looking for entertainment. They're all far too old and should be much too professional to have been caught up in this matter. They're not much less blameless than if they were there in anticipation of the two of us engaging in a knock-down, drag-out, hair-pulling fight, which was never going to happen regardless because I can run a hell of a lot faster than the other person can even when I am weakened by an especially draining case of colitis. I hold the intentional audience accountable for their role. While I haven't made a formal list of their names, i remember who they were. If I have a chance to do a favor for any one of them, I most likely will not. Secondly, my castigator would have been wise to have spoken her words in the most diplomatic way she could have  managed. Diplomacy comes more easily to some than it does to others, but anyone, in any given situation, has the option of choosing kind words or choosing words that will make their impact in the most wounding way possible. She chose the second option.

Attending physicians sometimes choose this course of action with the rationale that eventually, someone's life will be on the line, and by making a stinging point to a future attending physician, perhaps the point will stick with that future doctor in such a way that he will remember the lesson learned more fully and that the future physician will perhaps be less likely to commit an error that may result in loss of life. (Perhaps my nemesis might have suffered a temporary delusion of grandeur and might possibly have mistaken herself for an attending physician.) I'm actually giving the attending physician and the creep the benefit of the doubt in saying such. In some cases, the attending physician is simply being unkind because he can be; he possesses the authority to verbally abuse others to some degree , and he intends to use it because he can. Perhaps he had an argument with his wife or child earlier than morning and is taking out his resulting anger on an intern or medical school student, or perhaps someone took his designated parking space, which is another offense for which someone had to pay even if it was not the person who had anything to do with the attending physician's parking space having been misappropriated. Perhaps the attending physician  truly is a jerk. Or perhaps he genuinely feels that a medical error is not being taken sufficiently seriously and is responding in a way that to the rest of us seems unduly harsh, but, in the more experienced judgment of the attending physician, is necessary in order to create the sort of impression that would cause the underling to remember the incident and to take it with sufficient gravity that it doesn't happen again unnecessarily.  In  my humble and inexperienced opinion, the cases where the latter is true -- those cases in which an attending physician truly he believes he is potentially saving future lives by ensuring that the medical student or intern grasps the ponderousness of the situation as the result of the attending physician behaving as an asshole --  are the minority. It's my opinion that in most of such cases, attending physicians who behave like jerks do so simply because they are jerks -- some take extreme delight in causing female phsyicians-in-training to cry --  but I don't profess to know which is the case in every situation, and certainly there are times for righteous indignation. (And I'm getting a lot better at staring down abusive attending physicians without crying.) In the grand scheme of things, other than the initial harassment case, I've suffered less abuse in grand rounds than have most of my peers, but we've all come under fire to some degree. While I understand the need for righteous indignation on occasion (it's one of my least favorite word combinations from the Holy Bible), I believe that it's overused in the field of medicine and only rarely serves to make anyone a better health practitioner than he or she would have been without it. 

Nonetheless, before anyone goes so far as to express righteous indignation, especially in a decidedly public manner, one would do well to ensure that he or she possessed the jurisdiction to perpetrate the reproof in the first place.  Anyone can civilly take up with a colleague, especially in a quiet manner, a disagreement as to how any situation was handled. If such is done in a sufficiently diplomatic manner, usually a third party isn't even required for mediation unless there's a technical matter on which two people cannot agree and it's of sufficient importance that not clarifying which side is correct could potentially result in harm to a patient.

Not just anyone, however, can arbitrarily conclude that because it took her longer to complete the same number of rotations (or, technically, fewer rotations) than it took another person, that the person somehow possesses seniority and authority over the other person.  Protocol exists to the contrary. Regardless, it is not the place of a fifth-year medical student (who is in her fifth year of medical school because she required five years to complete what most medical students can complete in four years) to point out another's personal failings, most of which had nothing to do with the study of medicine, to someone she considers to be her inferior.  I listened to her criticisms without comment, and would have continued to do so regardless of the circumstances. Fortunately in this particular case, enough superiors were present who chose to intervene on my behalf and set the person straight as to the necessity for her to focus on her own studies and not upon my hair, fingernails, cosmetics, shoes, the fit of my scrubs, my frequent visits to the bathroom because of a colitis flare-up, and my occasional inability to make it through surgeries all the way to completion because of colitis.   I  felt that I'm not likely to hear her criticisms again, which is, for me, a feeling  both of vindication and of empowerment.

I have only two remaining days to work before I prepare for a lengthy vacation. It will be to a cold weather location, though I don't intend to take in lot of winter sports. I may ski or snowboard a bit, though not much. Instead, I'll watch the Winter Olympics figure skating on TV in one of the rooms of my hotel suite. I'll order from the hotel's 24-hour-a-day room service menu.  I'll play the grand piano that is in my hotel suite whenever I feel like doing so. I'll do the same with my  violin. I'll do a bit of snowmobiling and will travel by horse-drawn sleigh to the restaurant that is only accessible by sleigh, horseback, or snowmobile. I'll sleep, read, and stare out the windows of my corner suite at the gorgeous views.  The vacation is the most decadent one of my life (I thought our Christmas trip to Austria last year was decadent, but it was practically slumming it in comparison to this one.  I recognize that, at least this early in my career, it would not be prudent for me to spend money on vacations of this level on anything resembling a regular basis. Because of the way this vacation came about, which was a result of a cancellation of a concert by a performing artist,  a bodyguard is even a part of this package deal. The very idea of my needing a bodyguard is preposterous, but I sometimes hear scary noises at night.  I'll sleep with a bit more ease with the knowledge that the bodyguard comes as part of the package deal. I'll need to give the bodyguard a substantial tip, but because this trip is a once-in-a-decade thing at the most, I can afford to do so.

My feared fracture with a friend was a false alarm. False alarms seem to be plaguing me at an alarming rate, or at least with an alarming degree of severity.  First it was the cell phone notification of the threat of the ballistic missile while I was in Hawaii, which was a bit disturbing.  Next it was the implied threat of  a break-off of a friendship due to purely unintentionally hurtful words followed by unintentional silence. In all honesty, the threat of the loss of a friendship was more traumatic to me than was the ballistic missile threat if for no reason other than that I never took the ballistic missile threat entirely seriously. 

Regarding the threat of a loss of a friendship, due to things that happened  in my distant past that I've never discussed here out of protection for the reputation of my mother, but may at some point write about, I take close friendships or relationships of any sort very seriously, and the threat of the loss of one is most discomforting to me. Yet not every perceived slight is intended as such. Sometimes people are simply very busy. We all have work that must be done. Neither are communications always meant exactly as they are taken, which is an inherent characteristic of communication by text.  While I still think at least one thing my friend said was unnecessarily harsh, there was no intent on his part to hurt my feelings. Sometimes one has to take things at face value and not read more into something than was intended. Also, friends will disagree on occasion. If the person is a real friend, it's something one can move beyond. This person is a real friend, and so we can move beyond such things as miscommunications and misunderstandings. Life is too fleeting to allow oneself to be excessively caught up in the minutiae of every misunderstanding. It's better to apologize, to learn from the experience, and to get past it.  Real  friends are too few and far between for one not to forgive and forget when trivial misunderstandings are involved.





This video belongs to someone other than I. To whomever is the rightful owner, I express my appreciation to you for allowing me to borrow it.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Very Sad News



I can keep this in perspective. I fully comprehend that today alone, perfectly healthy people were killed in freak accidents, newly married spouses were separated by the death of one or the other in auto accidents, and children died of cancer. I know this not from having read the more morbid sections of today's news briefs, but because it's the sort of thing that happens every single day. Why should today be any different?

Tonight our family lost the new puppy my parents picked up on Christmas Eve and I met on Christmas morning.  I believe the acquisition of the puppy was intended to in some way soften the blow of a boyfriend having recently broken up with me. So much for that. Parvo was the culprit in this case. Veterinary medical science did what it could to save the puppy, but in the end it wasn't enough. Rest in peace, Father Guido Sarducci II.

I don't think I want to have any more dogs.


Traveling, Super Bowl Heroes, and Other Matters of Trivia


Bill Belichick, my hero


I've been on contact with a travel agent and am in the process of scheduling a vacation. It will be a ludicrously extravagant and expensive vacation, especially since it involves a cold-weather location  and I have limited plans at best to take advantage of winter sports. My parents would positively freak if they knew I intended to spend even half the money I intend to spend in order to finance the trip. I  fucking don't care.

The check from my broker should be in my hands shortly unless my broker wishes to hear from my attorney (I still have access to one attorney who speaks to me), but that doesn't really matter, as I have lots of access to this wonderful thing known as a credit card.  I actually own two of them. I've never used either. Don't worry about me. I understand the importance of paying off the balance monthly.  I've been told by my financial  advisor that I'm better off using credit cards than using ATM cards for the most part because credit cards offer greater protection in the event of fraud. I've mostly dealt with the issue by carrying cash, but that's really not such a smart idea, either. Nearly all medical students have access to credit. The further one goes toward completion  of medical school, the more abundant one's access to credit becomes, as the agencies who finance the credit have a much greater chance of actually recovering any money they loan out to a medical student if the student is nearing completion of medical school.

I've been fortunate. I worked in high school at what would be considered a high-paying job for a high school kid who is not an a-list entertainer.  As an accompanist for the various high school vocal ensembles, I we well-compensated. My mother -- probably more out of a sense of loyalty to musicians in general and out of respect for the inborn talent, tutelage, and time it takes to develop the skill level necessary to accompany a group of singers in public competently enough that one never detracts from the singers' performances -- negotiated a sweetheart deal for me. I probably shouldn't say too much about what my hourly wage was, but it was comparable to teachers' rate of overtime pay in our particular district. Teachers' base pay in any given district is based on the number of years they have taught for a district and the level of education they have attained. Their rate of pay for putting in extra time beyond what is contractually required but is still mandated or all nut mandated by their districts doesn't typically match the prorated hourly rate of pay they receive for the work done during a regular teaching day. A whole lot of the work teachers do is not done on the clock, and, as such,  is not in any way compensated, but if districts require teachers to attend extra inservices and other meetings outside of a regular workday, districts are usually -- depending upon the master contract agreed upon by the teachers and the governing board -- required to compensate the teachers for their time.  Depending upon the district, this rate of compensation for overtime is typically either the hourly pro-rated salary of a very beginning teacher on the very lowest rung of a district's salary scale or, occasionally,  the hourly prorated mean salary of teachers in the district. A few civilized districts actually compensate each  teacher for overtime at his or her regular contractual salary rate, but such districts are few and far between. In any event, the rate of pay I received for playing piano for the vocal ensembles was only pennies less than what teachers were paid for overtime.  My mom's
rationale was that I could easily walk away from the job, and she wished the district's music department all the luck in the world in finding a pianist skilled enough to do the job consistently well. Even with a university in our community, the odds were against the district locating a musician of my caliber for the amount of money they would have liked to have paid.  University musicians, for one thing, are as often as not notoriously flaky. Did the music department really want to risk having an accompanist no-show an important performance?  Furthermore, university musicians, if they're good, also know their worth. They weren't likely to accept any position that paid maybe a dollar above minimum wage.  So my mom met with both administration and the music department head to explain the reasons why whatever accompanist was hired -- me or someone else -- needed to be paid at a competitive rate.  Piano lessons received throughout one's musical education were not free, nor were the technique books, nor was the instrument needed at home to practice. Furthermore, acquiring the skill of playing piano proficiently requires much practice. Just as educated professionals expect to be paid at a rate commensurate with their level of education, musicians deserve to be paid at a level that takes into account the countless hours of practice that were necessary to acquire a level of skill that would allow a person to serve as a piano accompanist.

The district superintendent suggested that I serve as an accompanist for the privilege of receiving class credit for any period I accompanied, in addition to the idea that I should be serving as an accompanist in the name of school spirit. My mother suggested that the superintendent tear up his monthly six-figure paycheck and work for free in the name of school spirit as well. Predictably, he rejected the idea. I got the salary my mom demanded for me.

In addition to the school job, I earned almost an equal amount by playing piano or organ or occasionally violin for weddings, funerals, church services, and other functions. My parents required that I contribute ten per cent of my total earnings to the charity or charities of my choosing. I was allowed immediate access to ten per cent of the earnings (in which I barely made a dent; I just went through the last of that ten per cent about a month ago.) The remaining eighty per cent was banked in some sort of account that would give me the maximum interest for an investment with very low risk. I didn't work that hard to have all the money disappear in a market bust.

I now have access to that money.  I earned enough scholarships to pay for undergraduate education and medical school. Additionally, their are moderately large grants associated with most University of California campuses based on one's competitive standing at graduation. My standing was sufficient to give me access to a grant in the high five-figure range. That one came totally out of the blue. I had no idea that such grants existed.  Furthermore, and I don't talk about this much even though there is no confidentiality clause in the final settlement, when I was assaulted in my final year of high school, I received settlements from the school district as well as from those who attacked me.  The settlements are structured to some degree -- I couldn't withdraw the entire amount right now --  but I could have used anything I needed for educational expenses, and I can withdraw a minimal amount now for living expenses as well.  I'm considering this trip a living expense.  The bottom line, though, is that, while I don't want to boast because it's really not something about which to boast, I hold significantly more assets than my average cohort mate holds in debts.  I can afford a luxurious trip.

 I am appeasing my parents (who don't even know about this trip yet unless they're reading this blog)by staying within the borders of the U.S. Traveling to Canada would probably also be fine in terms of the integrity  of the blood supply should it become an issue in the event that I were to  require a transfusion, but I  have a sneaking suspicion that I will see as much of the Great White North as anyone would ever desire to see in the next few years.  I'll stay south of the northern border for this trip.

Some people say Florida is lovely this time of year, but I have no desire whatsoever to go anywhere near there.  With my luck, I would get sucked into one of their giant sink holes. Furthermore, there are those with whom I am acquainted (??? Is a fan truly acquainted) who might possibly accuse me of stalking were I to travel to Florida. Since I have no desire to go there anyway, it's an easy call for me to make. The Sunshine State will get by just fine without my tourist dollars. My preceptor's husband wants me to go to east Tennessee. I rank his suggestion right up there with the possibility of traveling to Florida.

Have a nice weekend. Enjoy the Super Bowl if such is your thing. I won't, as I will be working. Someone can tell me about it later. I would record it if I cared that much, but for some reason, it seems anticlimactic to watch a recorded version of the Super Bowl.  I don't have any strong stake in who wins.  I dislike Tom Brady. I should dislike Bill Belichick  because of his tendency to play fast and loose with the rules, but something about the mind games he plays with coaches and members of other teams appeals to me. I have genuine appreciation for the idea that other teams bring their own Gatorade to Patriots' home games because they're so paranoid of what Belichick might do.  I don't know if the other teams' personnel just think he'll serve the Gatorade to them too warm or if they actually think he'll have the stuff laced with a harmful substance. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.  He has everyone else in the league mind-fucked beyond belief.  It's a skill I envy and admire.  I want to be Bill Belichick when I grow up.
I could travel here . . .
or here . . .


or here . . .

Even within the continental U.S., the possibilities are virtually endless.

A Very Old Story About a Strange Childhood Friend




I once said in this blog that I had never had an actual friendship that went totally bust. what I said wasn't entirely true. I probably thought I was being truthful when I wrote it, but one former friendship I tended to block from my consciousness. that was the friendship that didn't end well.

Karenna and I were friends and neighbors the year I was in fourth grade. I would have turned nine in December of that year.  Karenna was a tall, solidly built Dutch-American girl. I believe all four of her grandparents were born either in the Netherlands or in some territory the Netherlands controlled. Most of the family was somehow connected to the dairy industry, but Karenna's mom was an operating room technician, and her father was a math professor at the local university. Their Dutchness pervaded practically every aspect of their existence. In retrospect, I'm surprised they didn't ll wear wooden shoes.

In actuality, they were not merely Dutch, but Frisian.  Those originally inhabiting the Frisian regions, located in coastal Netherlands and a portion of Germany, are ethnically similar to Anglo-Saxons. Their language bears resemblance to the original Anglo-Saxon language as well.  At this point, however, most of them who live in the U.S. claim Dutch as their ancestry. With intermarriage happening as it usually does, mot Frisians actually are part ethnically Dutch.  While they don't typically dress in traditional Dutch or Frisian costumes in the U.S. (they probably don't in Frieseland anymore, either) they retain customs including the food they often eat (that Mrs. Zwaagstra was continually trying to force-feed me because I was so short and scrawny compared to her own hulking brood) and the religion they practice. 

The Frisians, as do many Dutch, practice religion in some form of what is now called "The Reformed Church.' Back in the day, it was "The Dutch reformed Church." It's now roughly fifty bazillion separate denominations, with the largest here probably being The Reformed Church in America. They're considered mainline Protestant, but they're pretty far to the right as mainliners go. What is mildly interesting is that most nations had their own reformers they followed. The Dutch who practiced reformed religion tended to follow the works and writings of john Calvin, who is primarily considered a Scottish reformer. All of that, however, is neither here nor there.

Karenna and her family, the Zwaagstras, attended a Reformed Church. There wasn't one in our city, so they drove about an hour each way to attend the church of their choice. Their church had morning and evening services.Once in a great while, they made the trek home after morning service, then headed back for another one-way hour-long drive to their church's evening worship service. Most of the time, however, they killed time in the town where the church was located. sometimes they were invited for afternoon dinners at the homes of fellow parishioners. Sometimes they packed picnic lunches. Sometimes the weather was so lousy that they hung out in their car from the end of morning worship service until the 6:30 start time of evening worship service.  dsWhile attending Sunday mass was far from the highlight of my week, I was quite content to be a Rousseau and not a Zwaagstra.

the Zwaagstras had four children. Karenna was the third eldest of the four.  any one of the Zwaagstra offspring would have gladly gouged the heart out of any one of  his or her siblings with a letter opener  over something so inconsequential as the order form for a toy on the back of a cereal box; it wouldn't even have needed to be n actual toy in the cereal box.  The LDS church has a hymn (other churches may use it as well, but it was originally Mormon), the first line of which is "There is beauty all around when there's love at home."
If the hymn hadn't predated the modern Zwaagstra family my roughly  one hundred years, I would say that the person who came up with those lyrics did so but watching the Zwaagstra family in action and writing down the exact opposite of hat he or she saw in poetic form.

At first, the Zwaagstra family lived across town from us.  One parent or another (probably my mom; Mrs. Zwaagstra was always working, and who could possibly blame he) arranged a playdate for us. My mom arranged to be off work earlier than usual in order to pick us up from school and to supervise our play. At some point, Karenna made some comment to the effect of. "Your house ain't got no class. You ain't even got no nice living room furniture."  (The Zwaagstra's had a living room full of ugly but expensive floral overstuffed furniture; the offspring were forbidden from even entering the living room unless the family was entertaining company in the room, but anytime Dr. or Mrs Zwaagstra was away, the kids made themselves at home in the living room, easting Cheetos  and drinking Kool-Aid, and having no-holds-barred-no-rules tag-team wrestling matches.) My mom was wiling to ignore the insult to her home d├ęcor; in truth, my parents didn't spend much money on home furnishings except for the sixty-thousand dollar in 1990 dollars) piano we had in our living room. They were saving for their next house, which they n planned to purchase in about a year and to furnish at least somewhat respectably. 

My mom did take exception to the manner in which Karenna delivered her message. As the child of educated parents, my mom felt that Karenna should have known better than to verbalize her sentiments in the manner in which she did.  While my mom ignored the rudeness of Karenna's criticism of our home furnishings, she chose not to ignore Karenna's deliberately poor syntax, though she spoke to her far more gently than she would have either to my brother or to me had we said the same thing. "Karenna, we don't use the word ain't in this house.  You could have said, "Your house has no class. You don't even have nice living room furniture."

I think I've shared Karenna's response to this once before in another context.  Karenna's  answer to my mother was, "Lady, it ain't none of your damn business how I talk English."

"We don't speak to one another in that way in this house, " my mom replied to Karenna.  

"No one's forcing you to speak to me, " Karenna answered my mom.

My mom's response was to grab her purse and car keys and to drive Karenna home. I think her intent had been to speak to Mrs. Zwaagstra, but she, of course, was nowhere to be found. What my mom did find, though, was Karenna's older and younger brothe using a rope to trustle their cocker spaniel, which they then hoisted above the ground and tied him, leaving him suspended by rope from the tree.  My mom was horrified, as was a neighbor who happened to walk from his house  into his driveway and observe the act of animal cruelty. The man and my mom were able to free the cocker spaniel without any noticeable injury. 

"We weren't hurtin' nobody or nothin;," Karenna's older brother Brad protested. "We was just givin' him a little ride." Neither the neighbor nor my mom bouht the story. The neighbor took the dog with him and said he would keep it in his possession at least until he could explain to the parents what their some had done, and possibly longer.  I have no idea if th dog was ever returned to the Zwaagstra family. I hope not.

My mom told me on the ride home, her hands shaking for some reason as she held the steering wheel, that she didn't consider Karenna to be a suitable playmate for me.   From that point, we still hung out at school. Parents back the didn't do much to control whom their children associated with at school.  Then the house directly across the street from us went up for sale. As luck would have it,   the home was purchased by Dr. and Mrs. Zwaagstra. 

It's one thing to tell your kid she cannot have play dates with another child when the child's home is two miles away from one's own home. It's another matter entirely to tell  one's child she cannot play with a little girl roughly the same age who lives across the street and who does not yet have a police record.
Karenna and I resumed playing together when school was not in session. Sometimes we did homework together, which usually consisted of Karenna copying the answers to my homework. Even at the age of nine, I understood on some level that I was being used, but I didn't care all that much. I nearly always had fun when I was with Karenna. We climbed on people's roofs without being caught.  We collected cans, redeemed them, and used the proceeds to buy candy. We occasionally collected catchup, hot sauce,  and mustard packets, then put them under the tires of cars in the driveways of families of whom we were not especially fond so that a mess would be made in the driveways when the cars were put into reverse. We committed little significant harm, but had a great deal of fun.

Karenna cheated blatantly at board games; her entire family did. The object to board games, as far as the Zwaagstras were concerned, was to cheat and not be caught. I tolerated her cheating to a point, then eventually called her on it and said I would quit the game if she didn't play by the rules. She typically capitulated. 

Karenna had a bit of a fascination with matches.  I knew that playing with anything that caused fire was absolutely forbidden. Karenna eventually learned that I would leave if she brought out the matches.

At that point in my life, I was still enrolled in gymnastics, and was at the gym as much as I was home. This was probably to my advantage. I got into enough trouble with Karenna in the eight or so hours a week I was allowed to spend with her outside of school time. Had we been together every day after school until dinner time, (my mom drew the line at allowing Karenna to sleep over at my home or allowing me to sleep at her house), we might have put a skunk into someone's house or gotten ourselves stuck in someone else's chimney. 

On one particular rainy day, we played hopscotch in Karenna's garage with the door open. We could see the city's sanitation truck approaching.  Johnson, the man who operated our city's sanitation truck was a kindly African-American fellow who, to the best of my knowledge, never harmed or spoke an unkind word to anyone in his entire life. I believe "Johnson" was his actual first name and pierce was his surname. I'm not sure why the children of a city were encouraged to call this adult male by his first name, butt as far as I knw, that's what all the children called him.. As the garbage truck got closer, Karenna proposed, "Let's yell 'N-----!" at Johnson!"

"I'm not allowed to say that word," I told Karenna.

"You chicken!" Karenna practically spat at me.

"Yes, I am a chicken," I agreed with Karenna. "I'll get in super huge trouble if my parents find out I said that."  I should not have needed to use my parents as my excuse. The wrong of it alone should have been a sufficient deterrent.

As the garbage truck approached, Karenna warned me, "You're in or you're out.!"  I knew that I had little choice but to opt out.  I headed out of the garage, walking into the rain and not even bothering to try to hurry in order not to get wet. I had reached the point of the driveway where it slopes to the level of the street when Johnson drove the sanitation truck directly in front of the Zwaagstra's house, waving at the two of us with one arm as he moved the lever lifting the trash receptacle to empty itself into the large bin in the back of the truck

"N-----! N-----!" Karenna hollered in he loudest and screechiest voice at Johnson. I looked at Johnson. His face wore an expression of both puzzlement and pain. I shrugged, then walked across the street and into my own house. I said nothing to my mother, which was a mistake and which ight have cleared things up slightly more expeditiously, but the damage had been done.

Later that evening, after the Johnson's sanitation route had long been finished and after most families in our town had probably finished dinner, Johnson drove
his pick-up truck to the Zwaagstra home. As there was no school the next day and homework had been completed, I was allowed to watch television. I didn't recognize the pickup truck as it parked in front of the Zwaagstra home, but  once Johnson exited the truck, there was no question as to what was going down. I ran to my upstairs bedroom, not bothering to watch as Johnson approached the Zwaagstras' front door and rang the bell.

A few moments later, I heard the sound of our own doorbell. I heard adults talking, and then I heard my own name being called.  Despite knowing I hadn't been an actual party to the racial and verbal abuse that took place earlier in the day, still I was terrified.  I reached my living room to find my own parents, Mr. and Mrs. Zwaagstra, Jphnson, and Karenna, who had tears running down her cheeks.

"It seems that some extremely unfriendly and inappropriate words were spoken to Mr. Pierce [that was the first time I had ever heard him referred to as 'Mr. Pierce'] earlier today. What do you know about this, Alexis?" my father asked me.

I swallowed hard as my father and the others waited for my answer. "It happened." was my laconic reply.

"Would you care to elaborate? Who said what to whom?" my father pressed.

I swallowed again, knowing that an untruthful answer would get me into more trouble than I had ever been in my entire life, but that the truthful answer would coast me a best friend. "Karenna said, "N-----! N-----!" I answer. 

"You filthy liar!" Karenna roared.

My mom spoke. "I think we've gotten to the bottom of this. Dr. and Mrs. Zwaagstra, Karenna?"  She opened the door and held itopen, inviting them to leave. 

My parents apologized profusely to Mr. Pierce.

"It wasn't your little one that said it,"  he countered.

"You shouldn't be hearing that from anyone," my dad insisted. My mom poured coffee and cut slices of cake as the three of them sat at our family's dining room table.

I was sent back upstairs to complete my homework, which had been completed hours earlier, though I knew better than to argue the point. I was still in the dark as far as what had been said out of my presence.

Later, after Mr. Pierce left, my parents acme up to my room. They explained that when Mr. Pierce told Mr. and mrs. Zwaagstra what Karenna had said, she first blamed me solely, and then insisted that I had shouted it along with her.  Mr. Pierce had seen that I was nowhere near Karenna when the ugly words had been hollered.  Mt. and Mrs. Zwaagstra had  chosen to believe their daughter. My parents believed Mr. Pierce. I assume they would also have believed him had he said I had been the one who spoke the venomous words.

My mother didn't tell me I couldn't play with Karenna anymore. By the time school started the next day, Karenna had already assembled a gaggle of girls who would snub me for a large part of the remainder of the year.  Karenna herself ignored me, which was just as well, as she possessed enough of a size advantage over me that she could have injured me had she chose the physical route to her from of justice.




At one point I told Karenna that I was willing to forgive if she was. She answered that I had nothing for which to forgive her, and that she had no intention whatsoever of forgiving me. Still I help out hope. Every time the telephone rang, I prayed it was Karenna. (I lost a bit of faith in the power of prayer through that experience.) Whenever I looked out the front window and saw Karenna emerge from either her front door or garage door,  I hoped that it would be to my house that she was headed.  Reality eventually became inevitable to me. Karenna was not going to call or visit. Still, I remember the almost physical pain of looking at the phone, willing it to ring and willing Karenna to be on the other end of the line.

We moved about ten weeks later, thus making it easier to forget Karenna and to move on. I wonder if Karenna grew up to be a sociopath, or, for that matter, if she even grew up. It's not beyond possibility that she and her three siblings killed each other in a massive brawl.

At any age, it's hard to part with a friend. It's hard not to look at a cell phone every five minutes to see if there just happens to be a text.  Reality will set in eventually. It just hasn't yet.


                I don't own this video. Thanks to the person who owns it.