Archive for February, 2012

Boiled eggs

Anyone remember this video?


Well, since someone posted it on Facebook, I’ve been trying it. I like the idea because I hate it when bits of my boiled egg come off with the shell. I know some people say it’s unsanitary and that you couldn’t serve such eggs to any one else, but guess what? I live alone, so that doesn’t bother me either.

So, I’ve done it for several boiled egg batches and guess what? It works. Not like in the video, frankly, but good enough for me. When I blow in the end of the egg, what usually happens is that the whole shell comes away from the egg, then I can easily remove it. No little chunks of egg hanging on to the shells. Yay.

While looking up the video, I found this one which looks like fun too. I’ll try it on today’s batch of eggs.


MTR revisited

Someone was picking my brains about my MTR idea recently and she asked me “How is it different from FWB?” I was appalled! Friends with benefits was not my idea at all. I don’t really even know if I could pull off that kind of relationship. What she told me was that “the heart piece” was missing from my writings on the subject. The heart piece is this: I am talking about being in a loving, caring relationship with another human being. The only part that is different from the average, American LTR is that sense/idea/assumption that we’ll be together forever. Because the truth of the matter is that lots of relationships are not forever. In fact, most of them don’t.

Having lived in several other countries has given me pause for thought, especially when thinking about culture. Relationships have certain similarities all over the world, but there are some things that seem to be specific to Americans. The myth of “happily ever after” is stronger here than in any other place I have ever lived.

In Egypt, for instance, marriages are still often arranged. The families make the arrangement by considering a number of factors including socioeconomic status, religious values, and class. These days there are sometimes more options for couples to meet before marriage, but mostly the bond is set by the families. In this way couples do not usually have major issues of sameness/difference to work through. Couples are also set up with a home and accoutrements, so new couples don’t spend time struggling to make ends meet. Meanwhile, divorce is not much of an option. It exists, but doesn’t happen too often. So once a couple is married, they expect to stay married for ever. They are not thinking that if things don’t work out they’ll call a lawyer. Instead, they are thinking about ways to make the union pleasant. Moreover, when they marry they are not expecting their partner to meet all their needs. Since men and women don’t socialize with each other in general, they expect to continue to socialize with the persons they have been socializing with: women look to other women, family, mostly, and men to other men, friends and family both.

In Italy divorce isn’t all that common either. There, couples may wait for years to marry because there is an expectation that the couple purchase a house as soon as they marry – and housing is both expensive and hard to come by. I’ve been told that getting to that point helps bond a couple and draws them close before they have ever actually married. While they don’t have formal arranged marriages, couples often look for similarities in socioeconomic status and values before they wed. They don’t have romantic notions of marrying someone far different from you in order to change your station (think Pretty Woman). In fact, stereotypes to the contrary, I didn’t find Italians very romantic at all. Frankly they laugh at our movie’s happy endings, saying that they are too silly to be believed. Serious Italian movies tend to have a dark, gritty, feel, with a “realistic” ending (read: some main character dies).

Speaking of “our” movies vs “their” movies, this was the very point I set out to make when I started talking about other cultures. I’m not placing any value judgements on any of these points of view. Even my comment about not finding Italians romantic is colored by my own cultural values. What I am saying is that what Americans believe about love and relationships is not, by any stretch of the imagination, the only way to see love and relationships.

I won’t try to name all the American stories any more than I covered all those of these other cultures, but one of the original stories is poor girl meets famous prince who sweeps her away based on her…looks. The happy couple disappear into the sunset and we never hear another word.

We’ve added to our cultural base with all of our immediate access to media and now the story goes on to say that they are perfect soul mates for each other, that they “complete’ on another, that they are one another’s best friends. They also have to live in fabulous houses and own lots of stuff.

Now, think of these stories in the realm of dating. Why would you date someone who wasn’t going to meet all your needs, sweep you off your feet and increase your standing in the world? Why would you date someone who isn’t promising happily ever after?

Well, you know, you just wouldn’t. So even though our immediate access to information tells us the statistics about divorce, we all go along pretending that happily ever after is what we expect. What we want. And so everyone playing the game has to go along with those rules. We have to be offering “forever” and “completion,” or we get sidelined.

I began thinking about this in the first place when I found myself single and knowing that I would almost certainly need to leave the state I as living in to complete my education. Any time I mentioned this on a date, well, the date pretty much ended. No one was interested in spending any time with me if I was openly saying I’d have to leave. I really believe that some of those people would have stuck around if I would have lied and said that it was possible but not probable because that would have been enough to uphold the illusion of “forever.” But I couldn’t do that and so, I started thinking about different ways to manage relationships.

When I considered the relationships I had been in, and most of the people I knew had been in, what occurred to me was that none of them lasted forever. Americans engage in what’s called serial monogamy most of the time, going from one “committed” relationship to another throughout their lives. What seems to cause all the problems at the end of these relationships is that idea that the other person had been saying (for one year, ten years, or twenty years) that they would stay “forever.” That they loved only this one person and that was enough. That the other person was perfect for them.

Once things start falling apart, those are the things that partners say hurt the most. I wondered, why can’t couples just acknowledge that they don’t really know if they will last forever? Why does “I love you” have to also mean, “and no one else, forever and ever”? Why can’t a couple stay together as long as it works (which is what we do in America) and then gently, lovingly let go of each other? Why does it have to be severe and angry?

In my situation in particular, I wondered why couldn’t I date someone for a time with both of us knowing that the end was inevitable (ending with me moving)? Couldn’t I love someone and have them love me, knowing in advance that we would (probably) not be growing old together? Hadn’t I done just that over and over again already? Why do we need that promise? Especially knowing what we know about relationships in the US?

Bodhi update

The good vet (Dr. Leilani from Minnetonka Animal Hospital) called me last night to go over Bodhi’s lab results. She doesn’t think he in any imminent danger. 🙂

She said she’d call in some meds because of his thyroid numbers and told me to toughen up after I told her that I felt a little weird about the place right after I walked in. And then with the bullying and scary stories… She told me to listen to those hairs on the back of my neck.

Before we got off the phone she said, “Those East Coast folks are going to chew you up and spit you out, girl, you’ve been in the midwest too long!”

Postdoc application woes

Great title, huh? Really grabs your attention and makes you want to skip this post. Which is ok, feel free, my feelings won’t be hurt a bit. I don’t wish these woes on anyone.

The process for getting a doctorate in psychology is a long one, with financial and time related hardships that many people don’t even know about before they start school. Even I, the research queen didn’t “get” what this part of the process would be like.

Last night it struck me how it parallels the process for becoming a medical doctor. First, let me say I am not a medical doctor nor do I know any, personally. Everything I am about to say came from TV (old ER and old Grey’s Anatomy), my sister’s nursing experience and, well, you know, the cultural nether.

How I understand it is this, MD residents work ridiculous hours, with little time off. They are asked to stress their physical bodies and their mental acuity with these hardships for at least a year. They are prone to mistakes because they are sleep deprived, not to mention illness – physical and psychological. They are asked to work hours “regular” doctors wouldn’t, and to go against all their training on how to stay healthy and clear headed.

After residency they do some specialty work (more underpaid, long hours) and then they still have to take tests to become “actual” MD’s.

Psychology interns are treated to similar stressors. Starting with the internship application process, which is very competitive but without clear rules, so extremely psychologically stressful. Plus the cost of applying and flying out to interviews. Finally many interns are forced to move far from wherever they’ve been in school to work at a difficult job with very little pay. Lots of hours (not usually overnights like MD’s, but stay with me here), usually very tough cases that many psychologists with the choice choose not to see.

After internship these candidates are still not “actual” psychologists, but postdocs. Which means they have their degree (doctorate) but are not yet licensed. So another round of applications is opened midway through the internship year – even more competitive because there are fewer positions – and still completely arbitrary. They are usually paid better this year, but because they are not licensed, they are still not paid “well,” which is a stressor also because student loans are now coming due.

Postdocs do have the option “create their own” postdoc, meaning make an arrangement/agreement with a licensed psychologist or agency to let them work under the LP’s license while paying for or somehow getting supervision. There are a lot of variables there, but it is possible. And sometimes people stay on at the site where they do their internship, usually with slightly higher pay.

If the postdoc wants specialty training, however, or to hold off those mountainous student loans, a formal postdoc is the way to go. Which means that in the middle of internship they cast their lots again, and again manage the stress and cost of applying and interviewing. Depending on where they are located, this means another move.

Like MD’s, psychologists are asked to do all the things they would encourage their patients NOT to do: move away from social supports, work ridiculous hours for little pay, move again in 12 months just as they are settling in, and incur ridiculous debt to do so.

Writing cover letters is what I’ve been up to for the last couple of weeks, and it sucks. I wasn’t good at it last year and I’m still not good at it today. It stresses me out and seems pointless. None of the bits of paper I send to these sites tells them if I am or am not a good psychologist, so I have to hope that at least my experience will say something useful about me. But besides all that, I also struggle with that age old question:

Maybe it would be better for me to stay here, at my current site. No, I wouldn’t make much money. Certainly not enough to pay my student loans. But I like the office and the staff and a few co-workers (although the agency has a pretty high turnover rate). It would mean not moving (bonus points) and not trying to find a place for me and Bodhi.

Who could deny this face?

It would mean feeling better about making friends in the area. It would also mean staying far from friends – but it is really unlikely that I will make it to any of my close friend’s locations, so that doesn’t seem relevant.

Thinking about all this reminds me of something a professor once told me, years ago, “be sure to do your graduate work in a place you don’t like, because it’s unlikely you’ll end up there.” And something another mentor told me, “people often end up staying where they did their internship because they have begun to build relationships and be known in that community.” So, if I stay on another year, it’ll be that much harder to move. Back to my original question – which is stronger here, a body in motion stays in motion – or a body at rest tends to stay at rest?

Bodhi update

Well, I took Bodhi in for his first checkup since we arrived last week. Of course they did bloodwork. I got a call on Friday with his results.

According to the vet, his urine is too dilute, his sugars were too high and he may have hypothyroid. She didn’t think anything was going to jump up and kill him immediately, but she did think he needed to have another test done in six weeks. First of all, I have no idea how I will manage to pay to have all that bloodwork done again in six weeks, and secondly, there is a part of me that just wants to believe the vet is out of her mind. I plan to pick up the results on Monday and faxing it back to Bodhi’s old vet and see if she will just give me a quick reading of them.

I didn’t really enjoy my experience at the vet – the vet tech tried to scare/bully me into heartworm test/pills, then the vet came in and tried to scare/bully me into some inoculation that went with the parvo. Can I just say that I never said to either of these people that I wouldn’t do these things, just that he hadn’t been on heartworm pills before. And the inoculation thing was something I had never even heard of, so it certainly wasn’t something I was trying to deny Bodhi.

Also, they took Bodhi out of the room to draw the blood – that always bugs me, although I know many vets do it. I like to be with my pet the whole time.

Finally, the news she gave me was not very good news and I really, really want to just believe that she’s out of her mind. Unfortunately, all the things she mentioned were things that my vet told me were probably going to happen to Bodhi after his heat stroke. She told me that if it didn’t happen right away (that first weekend) that it would probably happen later. Essentially, the heat stroke (according to the good vet and some web research) compromised Bodhi’s organs, and kidney failure was one of the things the vet was most worried about.

After the heatstroke

Even before the heat stroke my vet told me that Bodhi probably wouldn’t live as long as Detta. She told me he wasn’t put together too well, that he seemed to have gotten the weaknesses of both breeds (Rottweiler/Great Dane).

Regardless of all these warnings AND Bodhi’s history of silly behavior, I will miss him a lot when he dies. It’s been a kind of long weekend.

Come on out, Bob. We just wanna talk to ya…

I was headed to bed when I saw lights in the back yard. I figured out was the neighbor’s headlights from next door. As I moved into the front room, though, I heard a strange, squeaky sound. A loud, strange,  squeaky sound. I stopped moving and listened. There it was again. I looked around for Bodhi but he hadn’t yet left the living room.
Suddenly a very loud voice said, “This is the Lowell police. Could the resident at xyz Butterfield please come outside?”
Uh, that’s definitely my address (although we each have a different apartment number). I peered out the peep hole. There were three cop cars out front & spotlights going all over the building. The voice kept going, repeating the same request. Finally a neighbor comes out in his bath robe & the cop starts quizzing him, what’s his name, which apartment he’s in, who’s in there with him, what’s his name, does he have a gun…
Wait a minute. Did he just ask if the guy had a gun? I stopped in the act of putting on Bodhi’s leash and went back to the door.
It took them about 15 minutes to get the guy to come out, put his hands over his head & kneel down in the parking lot, then cops appeared from all over & entered the building. I took Bodhi out back at that point (poor guy had been waiting patiently for his last outing) and I could see the cops going through several apartments with powerful flashlights.
Meanwhile the guy in the parking lot admitted that he’d told the 911 operator that he had a gun, and that his roommate had put his hands down his pants, how that iss just too much to take and that he just needs to go to the hospital.
The neighbor he’s talking about is the one who came out first. That’s the same neighbor, btw, who woke me last Sunday before 8 am to ask me if I had a cigarette. “No?” he said, clearly disappointed, “how about a cigar?”
I waited till they were all gone before I changed for bed. Just another hopping night in the Acre.

Life lessons – great and small

Every relationship teaches you things, you know? Sometimes they are big life lessons, sometimes simple truths. And I don’t just mean big relationships, partners, children, very best friends, but even co-workers, neighbors, and acquaintances. In the 30 Day Reinvention one of the assignments was about thinking about what we’ve learned from people, both loved ones and people we don’t get along with. I like this exercise and have been asked to think about things in other classes. I love the idea of considering what we learn from the people around us, of taking time to think of such things. At any rate, this idea has been on my mind lately.

Tonight, though, as I was sitting down to my dinner, it occurred to me that there are simple things, as well, that often go unnoticed. One of the things I learned in my last relationship is the simple pleasure of a few slices of avocado served with an omelette. Tonight I made a simple omelette for dinner when I remembered that someone from work had given me an avocado. I halved it and sliced it and added to my plate, a smile on my face.

Mine wasn’t this beautiful...but still tasty!

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