Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Training and Dating and Training

"...if you make your resident look bad, she'll torture you until you beg for your mama." Dr. Bailey, surgery resident, season I Grey's Anatomy. Or maybe she'll ask you out.

No matter how much they teach housestaff about boundaries and professionalism, the sad fact remains that-during your residency days-if you don't date someone from the hospital, you have little chance of dating at all. The hallowed, horny halls of Seattle Grace Hospital on Grey's Anatomy are full of resident-attending relationships. That's a pretty sticky pairing, and I only saw one during my three years of internal medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital. What was much more common was dating between fellow residents, residents and students, house staff and nurses, house staff and other hospital get the idea. After all, the hospital was full of reasonably educated, young, single-ish people, all conveniently under one roof.

We did occasionally make the effort to diversify our selection pool. Once in a blue moon I would go out to a club with one or two fellow residents and meet some of the local fare. We usually lied about our occupations and claimed to sell shoes at a department store, mindful that many folks had misconceptions about medical residents. Some guys automatically avoided us, expecting a superior attitude and surfeit of brainy wisdom. Others heard "doctor" and expected hefty incomes instead of the meager stipends we were paid. My forays into the real world were never productive. I would drink, dance, have fun with my girls, and go home alone.

So yes, I dated as others did. It was the early '80s, no one was on line, there was no Sunday afternoon speed dating, and the hospital was full of men. Men in hospital world were judged much like men on the outside. We evaluated looks, intelligence (yes, there was some variation-a smart monkey can memorize a good chunk of medical school curriculum), origins, and whether our call schedules matched. We considered whether this was a man that would push to spend the night but forget our name during lunch in the cafeteria or rounds on the ward. Most importantly, did he have any life going on besides the lengthy to-do list of daily patient care. None of us had time for big activities, but we could read, see a movie, talk about hobbies...

Once I developed a friendship with a student and we wound up dating for months. One thing that was perversely in his favor was his ability to understand that only a portion of our internal medicine teaching would help him in his future specialty. Once our offerings crossed that line, he politely excused himself to work on improving in his own specialty or having a healthy life. I was appalled that he didn't want to stay up all night watching a new onset diabetic receive hourly shots of insulin, but he wisely chose to get some sleep. A nice corollary to this behavior was his refusal to memorize medical trivia just to suck up to the attending physician. I've never liked a show-off.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Do Women of Color Knit?

Last night I slept laying down. Talk about being grateful for small things! For ten days after my fracture I slept sitting, as my arm lost its therapeutic position as soon as I reclined. Every day my legs and feet grew more swollen. It was more difficult at the hotel without my recliner. I struggled to prop enough pillows and balance against them waking every hour to readjust everything.

Oh yes, the hotel. I was bored and stir-crazy in my little house, so I returned to college town with my daughter while she finishes her last week of summer school. Alone in the hotel I have gained a new perspective on designs for my book, as well as a few more words to be said.

I grew up knitting at a time when knitting was an "old lady" hobby. Funkier new crafts were being taught-think macrame-and more portable handcrafts like crochet seemed to be favored. The back to the land movement that followed hippie life seemed far removed from me, as I worked to acquire highly technical, scientific knowledge for my career. By the turn of the century and my retirement, knitting was on the rise with new fibers and better tools and a younger following who created modern, wearable gear.

When I joined that modern knitters movement, what I didn't see was women of color. Without fail, I am overwhelmingly outnumbered in groups of knitters. I am aware of only one African-American woman who regularly appears in knitting design circles, my hero, Shirley Paden. Drawn to a career in knitting design after her high-powered business position suddenly ended, she became incredibly successful. I am trying to determine if the scarcity of minority women in knitting is personal experience or reality. I've fashioned a brief survey to help assess that. Feel free to participate or pass the link to any adult women you know. I will publish the statistics.

I always like to share what I find, if it is useful and good. Knitting has done some amazing things for my life, and if there's a population that isn't getting the exposure, I'd love to aim some teaching in that direction.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Broken Arm?!

this is not about the punctuation or the caps. it is all i can do to use my right hand to help type here. eight days ago i slipped in my own room and fell, producing a right proximal humerus fracture that is now in control of my life.

i tried to think how to talk about this ongoing episode. descriptions of pain are always inadequate and quickly become boring, so let's just make pain a given and move on. there are all kinds of sequelae (consequences we say in the real nonmedical world) that i would like to relate.

this fracture - my right arm, up by the shoulder, resulted from a fall. in my house, i slipped and fell. i sprained my foot at that time, so i had a getting-off-the-floor dilemma. after the paramedics came and the biggest one told me he could bear-hug me and lift me up, we tried. i screamed and we quit that trial. i scooted over to a chair while holding my arm, wrenched my good foot and bad foot into position, and stood up. you do what you have to do.

who knew a fracture made you sick? the first few days i felt feverish and tired. yesterday i went out for the first time, and i slept deeply for hours after. i have been fortunate to not dive into a lupus flare. i have been hungry, i suppose for the extra nutrition required to heal.

when you are hungry and your main hand doesn't work, it is good to have friends. my friends have come to my home with amazing, tasty, fresh cooking. lentil and oatmeal loaf, minestrone full of home grown vegetables, tiny strips of collards stir-fried with fresh okra, whole wheat biscuits and tortillas...grow some bones with that! with a little help i've stirred some pots too, making one loaf of banana bread and a corn/tofu/cornbread mix casserole.

i can knit a little and finished a baby blanket order today. that makes me happier than sunshine. i am on my way to recovery.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Patterns Plus Talk Equals Book

I am writing. Turns out this whole pattern writing/design thing just flows without any big worries. I have decided that this group of patterns should have a theme, and be published together. I think that is called a book. Since I have great difficulty just stating the facts, it will have to be put together with lots of other words, chiefly a collection of my essays (or should I say "Essies"?). This will give me an excuse for lots of talking. I think I need that right now. Whenever I am consigned to living alone, I begin to have these long dialogues in my head. Putting them down on "paper" is a good way to silence those voices and bring the conversations to some kind of natural conclusion.

My patterns for this book are going to be done in some of my favorite yarns. I've ordered a bagful of them, old favorites and favorites-to-be, and just seeing them close up brings to mind the garments and home items that I should design. These are just crying out to be knit up into gorgeous pieces. One cool thing is the affordability of this bunch of yarns. I didn't go out and shop at Wallyworld (I don't ever do that, on general and political principles). I headed for a type of yarn that typically provides lots of yardage at reasonable prices. I threw caution to the wind in my selection, going with colorways that move me rather than practical solids and neutrals. Well, occasionally I am moved by a neutral, but only if I can really feel the fiber in it and maybe smell the sheep. I do have a variety of fibers represented, including animal and plant fibers, but those hydrocarbon-eating synthetics are at a minimum.

Speaking of synthetics, I've been requested to make some baby blankets that are going to get an ungodly amount of washing. For them, I found synthetics to be my best bet. I knit the first one in Lion Brand's old reliable Homespun. The second is in progress after a search for another yarn, one easier to knit. The inevitable snagging in Homespun's boucle construction drove me crazy in a way that only a frustrated knitter would know. I enlisted my daughter's sensitive skin to help me judge other synthetics and we settled on Deborah Norville's Serenity chunky weight. It is impressive in its softness and knits very easily, even on the $2.99 bargain plastic circular needles that I purchased with it. I'm enjoying working with an acrylic, even though my brain keeps circling back to that hydrocarbon issue. I think I would consider this for my next afghan that requires lots of washing, like one for an invalid or someone immune-compromised. It would also work for chemocaps, as they sometimes go on very sensitive scalps. No I don't have an interest in the company, but it is nice to see Deborah Norville's success since she's from Dalton, GA, 30 minutes from here.

Yesterday I served as babysitter for a wonderful toddler. It was great thinking time. Watching him play reminded me of the mobility and speed of that age group, and the qualities that their clothing should have. It also made me remember trying to satisfy a two year-old's ideas about proper dressing. I'm designing some clothes that can quickly change an outfit from down-and-dirty to church-worthy. Kids need that single piece that you throw on after they have dribbled toothpaste on the shirt or picked the same plain-Jane dress for the 50th time. I think I've got it covered. Hahaha, that's a pun. Some days I am just plain smart.