Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fun with food

Now that my 21-day Oprah detox diet is over, I need a new focus. The diet was a semi-success: I lost five pounds, but my neuroreceptors still can not be trusted around sugar. I am adding foods like fish to my diet, but still avoiding sugar and wheat.

My sister is the queen of health fads, a veritable fount of information about what is the latest trend in eating well. Right now she's into a program led by one Brendan Frazier. It's called Vega, "the Complete Wholefood Health Optimizer." It's almost like she's joined a cult, to hear her go on about this nutritional system which is all about consuming plant-based whole foods. "So you're a vegetarian now?" I asked her.

"No," she replied. "I'm a convenientarian." Meaning she sticks to the plant-based program when it is convenient, but relaxes her standards for parties and restaurants.

My sister is the one who turned me on to goji berries. I find their taste somewhat less than optimal, but she is stronger-willed than I and forces down a shot of goji berry juice every day. Two years ago, she was in town visiting and we went on a quest for goji berry juice. Integral Yoga was fresh out, but we bought some sort of cold fermented tea called Kombucha instead. My sister said it would be a good stepping stone into the world of miracle foods. I turned my car out onto busy Preston Ave, my sister handed me the open bottle of Kombucha, I was aware of an oddly familiar smell and then I experienced a taste so foul I nearly lost control of the car. My sister took the bottle away. "If you can't handle Kombucha, you are not ready for goji berries," she said.

About half an hour later, I realized what the familiar smell was. Did you ever leave a baby bottle of apple juice in your car for about two weeks during a hot summer? That is the scent of Kombucha.

Now my sister has told me to try Yerba Mate, the herbal stimulant of Argentina. I went to Integral Yoga yesterday and studied the Yerba Mate display. I wanted the cheapest option, since I suspected that Yerba Mate, like Kombucha and goji berries, would be somewhat disappointing in the taste department. There aren't really any cheap options, since my sister had warned me a way from the bags and told me I had to drink it loose leaf. My choices were a one-pound sack of Yerba mate leaf, unsmoked, or a half pound of smoked Yerba mate--both the same price. I went with the unsmoked, because smoking is bad. The label makes fantastic claims. If I drink Yerba mate, I will be stimulated. I will experience incredible "mental clarity." I will develop intelligence superior to all others. I will be able to operate power tools with my mind, and I will lose twenty pounds overnight. (Implied.) I will also be drinking twenty-times more antioxidants than are found in other herbally stimulating beverages. Just the thing for exam week.

I tried some last night. I did feel stimulated! My God, the mental clarity!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Summer reading

A quick recap of what I read over the summer: I read a lot of Southern fiction. One book that stands out is Joe by Larry Brown. It's the story of dirt-poor Mississippi people. Grim, but Larry Brown can really write.

Handling Sin by Michael Malone. I had high hopes because it got universal five star reviews at Amazon, but I couldn't even finish it. It's the story of an uptight North Carolina insurance salesman who's sent on a wild and crazy quest by his zany old father. That sounds like it has possibilities, but the book was an endless stream of events that had little meaning other to inject more craziness into the story. I suspect Malone wrote it with the idea that it would be made into a movie. Actually, it would probably make a decent movie, but as a novel, it is not good.

Duel of Eagles by Jeff Long. This is nonfiction about the Alamo and the history leading up to it. I stopped reading about 150 pages in after realizing that every single person in the story was an utter scumbag and I didn't want to read about them anymore. I'm now trying again with Three Roads to the Alamo: The Lives and Fortunes of David Crockett, James Bowie and William Barret Travis by William C. Davis. It's somewhat better, but not what you would call a light read.


I read two books about teaching: Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman and I'm Not Complaining, by Ruth Adam. Up the Down Staircase was a huge bestseller in its day, translated into several languages and made into a movie. I wasn't impressed. It touches on serious issues, but in a glib and superficial way. That whole “if I can touch just ONE child it will all be worth it” schtick is just tired. I suppose if I were actually a public high school teacher, I would have found the ridiculous memos from the office funnier.

I'm Not Complaining, on the other hand, is an utterly unsentimental novel about a teacher in a poor industrial town in northern England in the 1930s. I thought it was excellent, probably the best book I read all summer. The narrator's view of her school, the children, the town, is completely unclouded by idealism. She tells it like it is, and that, in our politically correct world, is very refreshing. Also part of the story is her relations with the other teachers. Modern readers might find her harsh. If she thinks her friend is behaving like a slut, she'll come out and say, “I think you're behaving like a trashy little slut.” Even I had a hard time understanding her scorn for the factory owner who tries to make life better for the children by providing parties and food. It's not that she doesn't care, it's just that she knows what she's up against. Highly recommended.

I just finished A Summons to Memphis, elegantly written by Peter Taylor. It's the story of how a family is damaged by being uprooted from Nashville and moving to Memphis, in the 1930s. The author was (perhaps still is) an English professor at the University of Virginia.

Now reading a Nero Wolfe mystery by Rex Stout, in addition to my book about the Alamo.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

neuroreceptors and nursing students

I wrote a few days ago about my new detox diet. A lot of people commented on the vileness of fake cheese. Others were concerned about the presence of soy in a detoxifying diet. Still others wondered if it was wise to accept diet advice from Oprah. I realized that my goal is not detoxifying, so much as retraining my neuroreceptors. Because my neuroreceptors like sugar. They like sugar a lot.

In the weeks leading up to my birthday I auditioned cakes. I did this by baking cakes whose recipes I hadn't tried yet. This was a lot of fun for the whole family. I think I baked six cakes in two weeks. By the end of the experiment my neuroreceptors were not unlike Rush Limbaugh after an oxycontin bender. Is bender the right word? I am not up on the drug culture jargon. At any rate, my neuroreceptors are now in a rehab program imposed by me and facilitated by Oprah. They are doing well and have not had sugar (or wheat, dairy, gluten, meat or alcohol) for neary two weeks.

Speaking of neuroreceptors, yesterday was my first “real” day at the state mental hospital. We are a group of nine students with one instructor who said that first morning, “They have some very exciting patients for all of you.”

Actually, I don't have a problem working with psych patients. What concerns me is that we are to spend the bulk of our time interacting therapeutically with our patients, in other words, talking to them, and of all the things I am bad at, the thing I am worst at of all is talking to people I don't know. Especially talking to them about deep and personal things. Back in my first semester, I was doing some sort of assigned assessment on my patient and I needed to find out how many times a day he brushed his teeth. I couldn't imagine asking such an intrusive question of anyone and I pulled aside one of my classmates and asked her how she had gotten this information out of her patient. She said, “I asked him, 'How many times a day do your brush your teeth?'” So simple,yet so difficult for me.

Still, the day was not without its funny sides. When we got to the unit where I will be working, a patient noticed us right away and started yelling, “Where's my girl nursing student? You girl nursing students, if one of you gets me, you meet me on the Barbour Mall!” Then he pounded on the windows of the nursing station with his fists—the nursing stations are all locked offices—and screamed, “I WANT ONE OF THOSE GIRL NURSING STUDENTS. YOU SEND MY GIRL NURSING STUDENT TO MEET ME IN THE BARBOUR MALL!” (The patients attend group therapy in various “malls.”) Our instructor observed that the patients seemed very excited to have nursing students on the unit.

And so the day went. I think my psych experience will be interesting, and possibly somewhat rewarding, but like most introverts, I become completely drained after prolonged interaction with other people so I anticipate being totally exhausted at the end of each clinical day. My overall first impression of Western State Hospital is of a place where the staff are sincerely trying to help the patients get well.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Back to N school

Nursing school started two weeks ago. My life has returned to the school year routine. I will live quietly and virtuously. I will be unable to think of the future beyond tomorrow, or the end of the week, at the most. I will perform only the most essential household chores. At the end of September, after the first test is over, I will feel a surge of confidence and think that maybe I can get through this after all. Toward the end of October, I will burst into tears, throw my textbooks into a corner and watch 14 straight episodes of Trailer Park Boys. By the end of November, I will be almost too exhausted to function.

Last week we took the big math test on which you have to get 90% or get kicked out of nursing school. We do this test every semester. I got a 100% and I'm glad I don't have to worry about it until next semester.

I'll be going to Western State once a week for my psych clinical. We had a tour last week and were told, rather ominously, "If your patient tells you to meet him by the pines, don't go." I will be on a locked unit, so chances are we won't have access to the pines. We were all given keys so we can get in and out of the units, and my group had to have special swipe cards made as well. My psych center ID photo is better than my license photo and a lot better than my passport photo.

Then I'll be at Martha Jefferson Hospital one day a week on a cardiac floor. We spent the last two weeks familiarizing ourselves with their computer charting system. I've done all my other clinicals at UVA. This will be my first week there with a real patient to take care of. I hope I don't see anyone I know. Martha Jefferson is the hospital where the People One Knows go. I rarely see anyone I know at UVA, as far as patients go.

Then there's lecture two days a week as well, plus one day for writing up all the clinical preparation.