Sunday, June 27, 2010

Grocery Days

I have a terrible habit.  Sundays are typically grocery days (interrupted by the occasional Tuesday when I find exceptional goodies at the farmer's market at work), and they are accompanied by excessive eating.

It has to do with having so many "new and exciting" foods in the kitchen.  These can either be items we have not seen for a year (rhubarb), or things we have been missing for 3 days -- their presence in my kitchen is exhilarating either way.  The bad habit is that I, in this recent Quasi-comfortable Tummeh Era, consistently oblige my urge to consume everything new. 

The only reason this does not send me into a state of catatonic bloating and pillow-burrowing is because I munch.  Like a squirrel.  Micro-portions of each of the newest and most exciting items from the grocery store are consumed over the course of Sunday, between Sunday-esque tasks such as laundry, vacuuming, cooking, and most recently, poolside bronzing and running. 

Although the Squirreling technique is helpful in confusing my tummeh into thinking I am treating it respectfully,  it is ultimately poor eating etiquette in that I eat so many different kinds of micro-portions.  I have found over the last decade, not surprisingly, that the wider array of foods I eat in a single day, the more uncomfortable (or nauseous, or in pain) I feel by the end (or over the next few days).

For the last three months or so, I have been running 3-6 days a week (note: this has lowered my weight even below what the last six months starvation did, and allowed a maintenance in that range -- I have not been this happy with my body since high school).  Over the last three, I began to notice an ache in my lower left abdomen during my run.  I disregarded this as side ache and was simply careful about drinking water beforehand.  Today, however, the pain was deeper and more distinguished, and I realized I had probably aggravated the Crohn's Baby. 

Today, therefore, I held back on the pressing urge to consume the newandexcitingitemsinmykitchen, and opted for an afternoon of cooking and a summer meal.  Cold cucumber soup with baguette, fresh pesto and tomato.  I am definitely not sitting here munching on leftover baguette and tomato...

Notice the new color in my diet!!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

of fish, tutoring and Tudors

The child in a "UW" shirt manning the fish booth at the Marquam Hill farmers market today told me that his salmon was filleted.  My nausea had subsided for the moment and I was feeling indulgent.  Since skins were all that showed on both sides of the packaging, I assumed this equated to two smooching cuts.  I was confused, therefore, to find that the meat, upon unwrapping, was actually not but decapitated and de-bellied.  Having fished only once in my life -- to the disappointment of both myself and the fish as it was tossed half dead back into the stream because my mother didn't understand why we had to kill it -- I had no clue how to fillet a fish.

I took a four min tutorial, found my sushi knife and went at it.  Being both a noob and too lazy to find my knife sharpener, I mangled the poor thing to within an inch of... well, between my dulled-by-fish-spine knife and pulling the needle bones out with my fingers instead of kitchen tweezers, it was an anhydrous maceration and we'll leave it at that.

Fortunately, I cooked it supremely well and hid my mutilations beneath fish fats and seasonings.  The caramelized onion and rye loaf -- my other market indulgence of the week -- helped.  *please note that this time, the broccoli was cooked to perfection.  

For the day in general, it must be said that no matter how near-comatose or drained of motivation I am, I love teaching.  I miss coaching gymnastics, I frequently reminisce about assistant teaching biochemistry, and my enthusiasm soars when summer students come through our lab to do a project.  N&O arrived on Monday -- to-be high school seniors -- and I must admit that I found myself ill-prepared.  However, a morning's realization that despite coming from a math & sciences magnet school these kids had had no more neuroscience education than a brief chapter in anatomy class snapped me to my senses.  This would not begin at dopamine circuits; this would begin at defining a neuron.  And I loved it*I also loved that my coworker was there to provide entertainment and explanations when I needed to step aside to deal with my own data back-up

A most fulfilling day and delicious dinner were followed by the season finale of the Tudors (shout out to Kara).  Yes, I watched all 4 seasons religiously once I found out they existed.  Yes, it took me a while to adjust to the incredible amount of sex and exposed boobies but I got over it for the sake of historical film.  Yes, I love every historical film/series -- with the exception of Spaghetti Westerns -- for the sheer intrigue of the particular inaccuracies that are sacrificed by each director/ writer for the sake of modern appeal (which was brilliantly done by Ciarán Donnelly/ Michael Hirst in the Tudors).  Yes, I sucked H.K. into liking it, too.  Yes, I want all four seasons on blu-ray (come on, videogame riches...!).  And yes, I am pissed off that they ended the show without developing Edward, Mary or Elizabeth's reigns.  *of all the things that bothered me about this series -- and they are a huge discussion in themselves -- this was the greatest tragedy

Elsewise, I am a very happy lady with very bright upcoming weeks, and I am completely elated... if fatigued as hell.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

How to Acquire Accommodations for the GRE

Well folks, after nearly a year's hiatus from GRE goodness, I decided it was time to take it up a notch.  For posterity, in hope that the repetition that ensued during my own experience may be obviated.

You don't want me, Stanford and UCSF?  That's fine.  I will go Crohn's Ninja on your asses.

Out of paranoia that the medical crisis that occurred last year might happen again this summer, I planned ahead and applied for Disability Accommodations from ETS, the good folks in charge of graduate school examinations [note: yes, I did go back and re-read that post, and had a good laugh, but then took a moment to appreciate that the content of this post may, in fact, have been the sole incident standing between me and acceptance to my programs of choice last year]. 

Namely, I acquired a note from my doctor, filled out an application from the ETS Bulletin Supplement, pre-paid for the exam, and am now sitting pretty with 60 min of break time and 150% total testing time on each section.  How did I accomplish this?  Well, let me tell you; it was one fascinating journey.

Step 1aAsk your GI months ahead of time for a letter in support of the specific element of accommodation you are seeking.  For instance, I asked in my application for 150% total testing time.  Although I was fairly specific over email, my GI did not understand that a particularly high level of detail was required (frankly, neither did I).  His original note read something very similar to, "Ms. S has active Crohn's disease which is a painful and chronic condition... I support her request for accommodation."  I sealed this in an envelope with my application and check, hoping that the word of a doctor was enough backing,  and sent along.

Step 1b:  Make sure your GI is exceedingly thorough in describing your condition, and exactly why it warrants each specific accommodation that you are requesting.  Dr. GI's letter was not sufficient, and I got a letter from ETS saying that I had been approved for "up to 60 min of break time."  What?  Where did I ask for any break time in my application?  I had not, and so I called ETS to find out what mis-communication had occurred.  What had happened was that since Dr. GI's letter had not described the specific side effects that made additional test time important, the ETS Disabilities "physician" decided that if I was in pain, all I really needed were a few breaks to collect myself and then all would be hunky dory [note: it will be explained in Step 3 why I was so infuriated by this deviation from my request, and how silly I thought the ETS "physician" was].  To solve this issue, I made an appointment with Dr. GI explicitly to coach him through writing this letter.  It was a chore.  I learned that having an MD does not mean you have communication skills, or any aptitude for grammar or spelling.  Dr. GI basically ended up writing what I dictated, and then I edited it myself with the assistance of his resident.  This was the most curious doctor's appointment I have ever had. 

Step 2: Acquire from institutions of employment or education any documentation of testing assistance you have had in the past.  Fortunately, I have had this kind of assistance all my life, whether or not I've actually used it.  In high school, I had what they call a 504 plan, which is essentially a disability program for kiddies: it granted me 150% test taking time.  In college, I had identical accommodations.  Finding these dispensations in my medical history files, and receiving letters of support from the people who granted me them me, I copied and included them in my second submission to ETS along with Dr. GI's upgraded letter.  I have no such files from the Occupational Health center at my place of employment for two reasons: 1) I am a badass and a work-obsessive; 2) I have a private plan worked out with my boss that says I keep track of my overtime myself and deduct from it when I need a vacation or sick day.

Step 3:  Write a personal narrative.  What ETS calls a "narrative", I refer to as a cover letter, which is infinitely more intuitive and suggests a more appropriate format and content, but who cares about being professional or intelligent -- this is only your graduate career on the line.  The letter should frame the GI letter and other medical dispensations in context of the exam, because otherwise it may prove difficult (read: nigh impossible) for the ETS "physician" to translate why this information supports your claim for specific accommodations.  It need not be lugubrious.  Below -- because I know that if ever a future Crohnie is in this situation, they will want to refer to my exquisite example -- is my "personal narrative".  You may notice that I seem to be addressing a child; this is not an illusion:

To whom it may concern:
The documents enclosed are in further support of my request for 50% extended time on the GRE test; please add them to my existing file.
I am currently approved for 60 minutes of breaks during the test, but denied the 50% extended time I have requested.  I provide additional support, here, for the necessity of extended time.  Were my condition a psychological one alone, it would be logical for me to have breaks during the test to exit the testing atmosphere in order to refocus.  However, since my cognitive impairment (read: disruption of concentration) is an artifact of systemic physical pain/discomfort and the stress it causes, it is not adequately accommodated by break time.  Break time accommodates only episodes of painful diarrhea.
The reason I have requested 50% extended test taking time is that the nature of the pain accompanying Crohn's disease is not alleviated by stepping outside of a room.  It is a chronic condition where when episodes of pain occur, they take hours to attenuate and often include brief spurts of escalated pain.  Getting up to exit a room when these latter spasms occur can, in addition to not helping solve the problem, worsen the condition.  Therefore, it makes more sense for me to be granted additional test taking time in which to overcome lapses in concentration than for me to have to leave the test room.
Please see the enclosed letter from my gastroenterologist, a letter and records from the Disability Services director of my undergraduate university who granted me 50% extended time, and my high school 504 Individual Education plan which granted me the same.
Crohn's Ninja

Step 4: Leave yourself time to acquire ETS approval.  ETS will take several weeks (read: 6-8 weeks) to process your application -- even longer if they are compelled to ask you for more medical advocacy.  Leave yourself buffer room for this waiting period so that you're not taking your test a week before graduate program application deadlines.

Step 5:  When registering, have your letter of approval on hand.  Your approval code assures that you don't have to pay twice to register for the test, and (hopefully) communicates that you have been approved for special testing conditions.  How efficient this aspect of the process is, I will report on in August/September...

I am feeling 150% better than last August, but having improved only to the place I was last April I am preparing for the possibility that I may be high on nausea pills and painkillers during my exam.  Hopefully I will not need to use my accommodations, but if I do, I have them.

Friday, June 18, 2010

this is a wedding, not a birthday party

While attempting to negotiate a code problem in publishing my more appropriately themed post-in-press, here is some much more frivolous drivel.

I am familiarizing with the strain that weddings put on relationships.  Without going so low as to say, "you find out who your real friends are," it sure exudes disingenuity.  I've tried so hard to be understanding, but the lack of peoples' communication smacks of disrespect and, since these are my dearest friends, quite frankly, is beginning to sting.

1) Friend 1 confirms attendance at my wedding, at which I am shocked but thrilled.  I proceed to find discounted hotel rates and see if Friend 1 can fly in with JLD, who is coming from the same location, and get flight rates.  One month later, Friend 1 emails so say she just can't swing it financially.  At this point I have found a hugely discounted flight scenario and free room and board for the entire week.  I sent this information to Friend 1 a month ago and never received any sort of response.  What I really would have preferred to hear was that Friend 1 was already attending so many cross country weddings this summer that she could not afford another.  I would have appreciated that, and found it more pleasant than finding out along the line via Facebookery, and after doing so much work on Friend 1's behalf.

2) Friend 2 immediately declared non-attendance because of financial binds, without even a second thought, which was actually fine.  A few weeks later, Friend 2 announces their own engagement and wedding to take place less than a month following mine.  Friend 2's wedding is already costing far more money than my entire shindig.  Again, free stay for the week and ticket discounts hunted for by yours truly were not even considered.  This is a lifelong friend -- we're talking about birth onward -- whose wedding I will be attending a month after my own.

3) Friend 3, who is also getting married in the near future, consequently (fun fact: Friends 2 and 3 and I were all declared spinsters not too long ago), just retracted their affirmative RSVP due to a sudden obligation to a new job.  This one, I have a lot of trouble begrudging.  But at this point I have had so many loved ones flake or balk or fail to communicate entirely that I'm a little burnt out upon hearing this three weeks in advance, and somewhat less enthused about attending Friend 3's bridal shower in a week and her own wedding after mine.

4) Friend 4, another very important and long-standing friend but also a long-time flake, never responded to the original invitation.

Anyone else?  Three weeks, folks.  There is still time to back out.

By the way, none of these people read this blog.  No worries.  It took a long time for me to develop a degree of hurt from these less-than-admirably executed bail outs, but I'm tired, I'm frustrated and I just want to be in California... I was also awake until 2am stressing about bridal shower gifts for Friends 2 and 3 after an 11 hr work day -- something which, since I am not having a bridal shower, they will not be doing for me.  To clarify, I'm less offended by the bail outs themselves and more so by the sneakery and lack of sincerety with which said bail outs are being conducted.  Makes a lady feel loved.

H.K. says that knowing my friends, this is not shocking and to not let it get to me so much on that basis.  Several of his friends, if required to travel, would likely have backed down as well.  On one hand, he has a good point.  On the other, this is a wedding, not a birthday party. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

this day in history

Hi.  My life is currently more amazing than it has ever been, and may ever be again.  I just wanted to clarify: I did notice.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Crohn's Affair, Part Deux

As requested by Lovely Lisa (my foodie Crohnies; drop. by. this. blog.), an update on weddingness as July 10th, 2010 becomes increasingly imminent. 

1) Location: Travel is proving to be a greater burden on people than I'd suspected.  People travel for weddings all the time, I thought.  People travel to Hawaii for weddings, I thought.  If I find enough hotel discounts and couches to surf, no biggie, I thought.  Ahem.  Announcing the total of six (count 'em, six) beloved guests who have, to date, lost their invitations and email follow-ups, and have required a re-send.  I know my friends and family -- I saw this coming a mile away (or 2800 miles, in JLD's case).  To my great fortune, H.K. is a brilliant graphic designer, and our homemade invitations and inserts are saved in easily accessible and even more easily emailable pdf format.  What the hell do people with pre-ordered invitations do when this happens?..

2) Cake:  The adorable German cake maker in charge of the pièce de résistance of our wedding is so excited for our theme (to be disclosed at a later date for those not currently privy).  It's going to be quite classy, and classic, and killer awesome.  H.K.'s mom has been kind enough to do our cake tasting for us, as we are not in the state.  As it stands, I want one kind of cake and H.K. wants another; thus, we have decided to have each tier a different kind.  I decided that since it's pretty unlikely I'm going to want to eat anything my wedding day anyway, it wont hurt to skip the dairy-free expense and make my guests happier at less cost.  If I need a bite of cake, a single forkfull (read: handful) will not be my undoing.

3) Food:  Should be perfect and flawless.  And almost twice as expensive as I originally hoped.

4)  Wine:  Having had several very successful test runs, I have decided that I can now drink wine again (for the moment, and in small doses), and will be doing so on my wedding day.  Suck it.

5)  Drugs: Back-ups acquired.  Thank goodness we've decided to drive; I've been embarrassed before carrying so many search-meriting bottles onto a plane.

6)  Hair:  My mom figured something out in less than five minutes of messing around.  Never, ever would I have been remotely interested in a side bun, but in my half-bald condition, it works... weird.

7)  Dress:  Well, I cried after trying it on for the first time after the seamstress added the straps.  I thought I looked like uncontainable whale blubber.  Dwarf-sized.  Then I discovered that with the straps I no longer had to wear the $7K bra I had purchased (and left the tag on through each fitting.. muahaha), and stopped crying, but am still freaked out.  Maybe it's just that I do not wear dresses?

8)  Bachelor/ette Parties:  "What bachelorette party?" We tagged on an evening of night-out excitement in SF the night before the rehearsal dinner that I finally realized was probably a good idea to have ("What rehearsal dinner?").