Friday, October 28, 2011

Art Project

I have had this paper lamp sitting on my dresser for like a year and half now.  I thought it was kind of cute when I bought it at Ikea, but I didn't really ever use it because I didn't like the way it looked when it was actually turned on.  It's one of those Ikea lamps that you have to buy their special little Swedish lightbulbs for because no other one will fit.  And the special little Ikea lightbulb is one of those low-energy ones that is all fluorescent white light, and sometimes that is fine, but it is not a warm light at all, and not what I wanted for a cute little lamp on my dresser.

I forget how or why it occurred to me that I should watercolor it, but pretty much the minute I had the idea, I got all excited about it and found an excuse to make a run to CVS and get supplies for my project.

plain, weird Ikea lamp
I found these super cheap watercolors with lots of pretty shades (ok, they were the only ones in the store) - they were about $3.50, which I was pretty excited about, and I even bought extra paintbrushes. Apparently I was feeling very ambitious about this little artsy outing.

so excited about all of these colors!
So I sat down and realized that it had probably been, oh, I don't know, maybe 15 years since I had ever even used watercolors?  It all came back slowly... right, I need a cup of water, probably should get a paper towel or two...

Then, disaster.  The paint just did not look right to me... I added a little water and mixed and mixed, but the colors never got rich or thick, and instead of coloring the paper lamp, it just made it wet.  I thought maybe I should try to score the paint to let the water get deeper down in there, and maybe that would help produce a thicker color, but instead it turned out to just get gooey.  And it still didn't leave more color on the lamp.

green globs of gunk
I even tried smearing the globs of goo onto the lamp and rubbing them around to get some color to stick onto the paper, but it was a total fail.

I actually sort of like the way the blue looks in this picture, but in real life, the paint was
just not even close to cutting it.

Enough fooling around with the $3 piece of junk watercolors.  I needed CRAYOLA.

Take Two.
I didn't get around to shopping for more watercolors until a week later.  We were on a trip to that magical and dangerous land, Target.  FOR SURE Target will have Crayola watercolors, right??  

NOPE.  In the "art supply" aisle, literally everything is Crayola.  Crayons, colored pencils, chalk, scissors, coloring books.  Everything.  Except for the watercolors.  They only had one kind, and they were Rose Art.  These ones cost about the same amount the first ones did, so I was pro-actively pissed about this second round of crappy watercolors and how they probably weren't going to work, either.

trying not to get my hopes up about watercolors #2

MUCH better.
Yay!  This time, the watercolors turned out to behave like I remembered them to.

Voila!  Finished product.  Or mostly finished, I can't decide.  I might add more layers in places and fill in a little white that is still peeking out.  Either way, much better than it was originally... the color makes me happy.

As you can probably tell from my last few posts, I AM SO OVER SCHOOL.  There, I said it.  I don't like school.  I wish I did.  I really, really, really want to like it.  I want to love it!  But I hate getting up that early for the first lecture, I hate sitting in that giant lecture hall and I hate the crapshoot that is the wildly varying degrees of just-okay to downright-awful of our lecturers' talent for teaching.  I REALLY hate powerpoint.  

And right now I am doing that thing where I have so much to do and so little time to do it, and I am freaking. out. about it and actually not doing a thing other than maniacally checking email and facebook and every blog I've ever read every .8 seconds.  This is the worst feeling.

Our neuro II exam is a week from today.  Just gotta make it through the next seven days.... 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fall Happiness

At the beginning of every season, that season is my favorite.  And I think that I always feel equally as strongly about every one.  Like right now, for example, I am definitely, 100% sure that fall is my favorite.  How could there be any question?

The colors, the changing leaves, even down here in Georgia.  People seem friendlier and more relaxed.  Fall flavors and smells.  Everything is just a tiny bit cozier.  Temperatures hovering in the 60s and low 70s, maybe a couple of degrees' difference depending on whether you are in the sun or the shade literally not a single cloud to be seen in the pure blue of the sky, long hours with my laptop and study materials on the roomy outdoor porch of a coffee shop.  Piano concertos in my earphones, the lowering sun warming the back of my neck just the right amount.

This is how I measure my ideal weather (which happens to be perfect fall weather, in my opinion): totally comfortable wearing jeans, rolled up to my calf, sandals, a tank top, and a light cardigan for sitting in the shade.  Perfection.

It also makes me like school way more.  I just feel so much more studious, more scholarly.  I even have a book report to do at the moment!  So here I am, with a paperback book - a collection of essays - in my lap while I peck away on the keyboard, working on the assignment that asks for my impressions about the literature, and feeling so nerdily enthusiastic about it.  (Evidently, you can take the girl out of the liberal arts school...)

my roommate's adorable dog, Haley

perfectly clear and blue

I rearranged and organized a little study nook for myself in a corner of Jake's big, open apartment... hung a couple of pictures, moved all my pens and school supplies into the drawer of a little end table, set up my computer monitor, lit a candle.  A little more inviting... may help me study better there now.   

the candle is lemongrass & coriander... yum

My friend Jon hosted a last-minute fall-themed dinner party for a few friends, which made me so happy... it was just what I needed yesterday.  Plus it gave me an excuse to spend a few hours grocery shopping and cooking, which I haven't done in a little while.  I never feel like I have the time to cook, but then when I do, I am always reminded of how much I like doing it - it always improves my mood, makes me feel calmer, somehow.  Maybe it's the feeling of being tangibly productive.  Having delicious food to eat at the end of my efforts doesn't hurt, either.

time to break out the pumpkin recipes!

spicy coconut and pumpkin soup with cilantro

pumpkin chocolate-chip cookies... the dough was almost too good to bake

I am torn right now between my desire to do yoga or take the dog out for a walk in this beautiful weather, and my need to spend every hour I can manage studying.  We officially have two weeks left in the last full module of our "foundations" phase of the curriculum, or the traditionally second year of med school, before we have a couple weeks to wrap up and then break to go study like crazy for Step 1 of our boards exams (first part of our medical licensing process, of which there will be many more... it's sort of like the MCAT, but on crack.)  So much to get done between now and then, but I am starting to see a tiny light at the end of the classroom tedium.


My little sis has a blog!  You know how something can make you ridiculously happy and totally sad at the same time?  This makes me miss my family like whoa.  You can find her awesomeness here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Dragon Mom

I don't really have a whole lot to say today, but I just wanted to share this column from the Sunday New York Times that I found incredibly touching.  Having a baby born with an incurable and untreatable genetic disease is a heartbreaking and devastating diagnosis, but this amazing mother shares her perspective on the truly important things in life.

Notes From a Dragon Mom
Emily Rapp is the author of “Poster Child: A Memoir,” and a professor of creative writing at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design. 
Santa Fe, N.M.
MY son, Ronan, looks at me and raises one eyebrow. His eyes are bright and focused. Ronan means “little seal” in Irish and it suits him.
I want to stop here, before the dreadful hitch: my son is 18 months old and will likely die before his third birthday. Ronan was born with Tay-Sachs, a rare genetic disorder. He is slowly regressing into a vegetative state.  He’ll become paralyzed, experience seizures, lose all of his senses before he dies. There is no treatment and no cure.
How do you parent without a net, without a future, knowing that you will lose your child, bit by torturous bit?
Depressing? Sure. But not without wisdom, not without a profound understanding of the human experience or without hard-won lessons, forged through grief and helplessness and deeply committed love about how to be not just a mother or a father but how to be human.
Parenting advice is, by its nature, future-directed. I know. I read all the parenting magazines. During my pregnancy, I devoured every parenting guide I could find. My husband and I thought about a lot of questions they raised: will breast-feeding enhance his brain function? Will music class improve his cognitive skills? Will the right preschool help him get into the right college? I made lists. I planned and plotted and hoped. Future, future, future.
We never thought about how we might parent a child for whom there is no future.  The prenatal test I took for Tay-Sachs was negative; our genetic counselor didn’t think I needed the test, since I’m not Jewish and Tay-Sachs is thought to be a greater risk among Ashkenazi Jews. Being somewhat obsessive about such matters, I had it done anyway, twice.  Both times the results were negative.
Our parenting plans, our lists, the advice I read before Ronan’s birth make little sense now.  No matter what we do for Ronan — choose organic or non-organic food; cloth diapers or disposable; attachment parenting or sleep training — he will die. All the decisions that once mattered so much, don’t.
All parents want their children to prosper, to matter. We enroll our children in music class or take them to Mommy and Me swim class because we hope they will manifest some fabulous talent that will set them — and therefore us, the proud parents — apart. Traditional parenting naturally presumes a future where the child outlives the parent and ideally becomes successful, perhaps even achieves something spectacular. Amy Chua’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” is only the latest handbook for parents hoping to guide their children along this path. It’s animated by the idea that good, careful investments in your children will pay off in the form of happy endings, rich futures.
But I have abandoned the future, and with it any visions of Ronan’s scoring a perfect SAT or sprinting across a stage with a Harvard diploma in his hand. We’re not waiting for Ronan to make us proud. We don’t expect future returns on our investment. We’ve chucked the graphs of developmental milestones and we avoid parenting magazines at the pediatrician’s office. Ronan has given us a terrible freedom from expectations, a magical world where there are no goals, no prizes to win, no outcomes to monitor, discuss, compare.
But the day-to-day is often peaceful, even blissful. This was my day with my son: cuddling, feedings, naps. He can watch television if he wants to; he can have pudding and cheesecake for every meal. We are a very permissive household. We do our best for our kid, feed him fresh food, brush his teeth, make sure he’s clean and warm and well rested and ... healthy? Well, no. The only task here is to love, and we tell him we love him, not caring that he doesn’t understand the words. We encourage him to do what he can, though unlike us he is without ego or ambition.
Ronan won’t prosper or succeed in the way we have come to understand this term in our culture; he will never walk or say “Mama,” and I will never be a tiger mom. The mothers and fathers of terminally ill children are something else entirely. Our goals are simple and terrible: to help our children live with minimal discomfort and maximum dignity. We will not launch our children into a bright and promising future, but see them into early graves. We will prepare to lose them and then, impossibly, to live on after that gutting loss. This requires a new ferocity, a new way of thinking, a new animal. We are dragon parents: fierce and loyal and loving as hell. Our experiences have taught us how to parent for the here and now, for the sake of parenting, for the humanity implicit in the act itself, though this runs counter to traditional wisdom and advice.
NOBODY asks dragon parents for advice; we’re too scary. Our grief is primal and unwieldy and embarrassing. The certainties that most parents face are irrelevant to us, and frankly, kind of silly. Our narratives are grisly, the stakes impossibly high. Conversations about which seizure medication is most effective or how to feed children who have trouble swallowing are tantamount to breathing fire at a dinner party or on the playground. Like Dr. Spock suddenly possessed by Al Gore, we offer inconvenient truths and foretell disaster.
And there’s this: parents who, particularly in this country, are expected to be superhuman, to raise children who outpace all their peers, don’t want to see what we see. The long truth about their children, about themselves: that none of it is forever.
I would walk through a tunnel of fire if it would save my son. I would take my chances on a stripped battlefield with a sling and a rock à la David and Goliath if it would make a difference. But it won’t. I can roar all I want about the unfairness of this ridiculous disease, but the facts remain. What I can do is protect my son from as much pain as possible, and then finally do the hardest thing of all, a thing most parents will thankfully never have to do: I will love him to the end of his life, and then I will let him go.
But today Ronan is alive and his breath smells like sweet rice. I can see my reflection in his greenish-gold eyes. I am a reflection of him and not the other way around, and this is, I believe, as it should be. This is a love story, and like all great love stories, it is a story of loss. Parenting, I’ve come to understand, is about loving my child today. Now. In fact, for any parent, anywhere, that’s all there is.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Giggle from the Weekend

Jake had been growing a beard for about a week and a half ("I try this out about twice a year, just to see if I can"), and he decided this semi-annual experiment was over, so he was going to shave it off.  I convinced him to shave a mustache before he got rid of everything.  He was not enthused about the idea, but the results clearly speak for themselves.

I shit you not, he actually had a different personality with this mustache... we decided it is his alter-ego.  And for whatever reason, Saturday With Mustache was one of the most fun days we've spent together in a while.  We were just goofier and laughed more.  Or I laughed at him, which egged him on, he would do something funny, I would laugh more, and finally we would both be cracking up at our own stupid private joke.  We weren't even really doing anything, really, just reading/studying at a Starbucks and enjoying the weather for most of the afternoon. 

Then we went to a movie and at the ticket counter, I was sort of standing behind him, hugging him around his middle, and when it was our turn to buy tickets, we spontaneously started doing the thing where one person talks and the other person, from behind then, has their arms sticking out in front and does all the gestures as the first person talks... I have no idea why we did it, but I think we gave the guy at the counter a good laugh.  Or he thought we were super weird.  

The alter-ego was only here about 24 hours, but I thought it was so funny that I'm going to start asking for it for my birthday.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I'm Still Here!

I am starting to suspect that my less-than-faithful, up-and-down, on-again, off-again blogging habits (just check out the numbers next to the months listed under 2011 in the side column) might cause a little bit of false alarm--especially when I might be in a particularly "off-again" phase, particularly when said slump follows an especially active period.  I only think this because I haven't posted in over three weeks, and in the past week, I have gotten no fewer than three emails that sounded slightly worried about me/wondering where I was.  Maybe life does imitate art... to be fair to those people, I have also been really bad about calling and writing lately (not that that is a huge change from normal, however...)

Is there a good reason why my posting sometimes slows to a trickle?  Maybe I am really getting that much busier (unlikely).  Maybe I am procrastinating less (really unlikely).  Maybe stuff has come up, maybe I have been out socializing more with friends and less with my laptop.  Usually, though, it is probably because I'm just not feeling it.  

I follow a few bloggers who are positively prolific, and I have to say... I have NO idea how they do it.  I never feel like I am that interesting, or witty, or charming, or verbose, or --and this is the really big one-- creative.  It's strange, because having some sort of creative outlet in my life feels like it is vital to my being, and the more I do it, the easier it becomes.  But most of the time, being creative takes a lot of effort.  And most days, I don't feel like I have any extra effort to give.  

And it's not as simple as just saying, "Well, this week all I did was study... and then study some more.  No one wants to hear about that."  Because some weeks I have plenty to say when I haven't actually been doing anything all that interesting.  And some weeks, I have a lot of fun times, and then just have no drive to blog about them.  I can't figure out why that is.  A lot of it has to do with whether or not I have good pictures to post along with my rambling words, because I generally like blogs best when they are more images and less talking.  But the same goes for my taking pictures, too... sometimes the camera is out and I love the pictures I'm taking and it is really fun for me, and then other times, just....  nothing.

One of the other things that has recently been surreptitiously sucking my time away is the television.  After I graduated from high school, I didn't live in a place with TV for nine years until I moved to Atlanta a year and a half ago.  I didn't have a TV in any of my dorm rooms, didn't have one in Namibia, had a physical television that was never connected and only occasionally used for watching movies in Williamstown and Charlottesville, really never watched at home during the year I spent back in Colorado because my dad pretty much monopolized our TV there, and I didn't ever feel like I had a moment to sit down and watch last year with my roommate Ajanta, who did like to watch a fair amount.

But now.  Now, mostly just over the course of the last two or three weeks, my roommate, Alexis, Jake, and I have settled into a bit of a routine.  I get up and go to class (or not) in the mornings, Alexis goes to the public health school, Jake works from home.  In the afternoons, I try to study, then I go to work out more or less at 6, come home exhausted, unload my backpack, open mail, hop in the shower, check email, facebook.  Around 8, Jake comes over, we have something or other for dinner, and then we settle down into the sofa and flip on the TV.  We've watched The Sing-Off, The New Girl, The Biggest Loser, Up All Night, Modern Family, plenty of news, a couple of Republican debates (so many reasons I want those hours of my life back), and a bunch of other random crap. 

best show on television
It feels all cozy and domestic and sort of a nice way to unwind at the end of a long day... but then I realize that I haven't studied or gotten done what I wanted to get done, and I haven't seen any of my other friends in a week, and the three of us are not really having any conversation, and I am not prepared for the next day all of a sudden I haven't done anything and it is still way past the hour I was meaning to go to bed, and then when I finally do go to bed, my head is still turned on.  And it is becoming a pattern.  And I don't think I like it.

Anyway, right now I am battling what is hopefully the end of a vicious cold I came down with on Sunday afternoon that has kept me in bed for most of four days now.  I HATE being sick.  And I need to get better so that I can spend the weekend making up for those four days in bed.  (Anyone else out there feel like being a grown-up isn't all it's cracked up to be??)

Whether you do or do not like watching a lot of TV, you should definitely check out TED talks.  Inspiration in 20 minutes or less?  Yes, please.

This one is by one of my heros, physician-writer Abraham Verghese.  Enjoy!

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