Sunday, December 24, 2006


Luck be a lady/elf/magi tonight!

Like most other people you know, the Betrothed and I decided to kick off our holidays right -- in a casino. This, actually, is our second annual day-trip to Atlantic City, NJ for the Christmas holidays. I thought that the Betrothed's private pilot's lisence was good for, like, trips to mom's without involving I-95, scenic blue-ridge trips in the fall or trips to mom's without involving I-95. Last year, on December 23rd, the Betrothed woke me up (no easy task) and eagerly asked if I'd be up for flying to AC to start the season of our Savior's birth at a roulette table. Can you really say no to that? It would be un-American and down-right un-Christian.

Once we arrived at our casino de jour (The Tropicana -- if for no other reason than that was the one the cabbie took us to last year from the airport and we had a pretty sweet time -- why not head there again and try to duplicate the memories?) the Betrothed gave me a quick kiss and made a bee-line for wherever it was that he wanted to find his money a good home. Big roller that *I* am, I went to a bar and read (which I quite enjoyed seeing as how I wasn't going to be tested on it at any point). Then when I was feeling particularly lucky and ready to roll the dice, I left the bar and went and got a Jersey-style manicure (that I was afraid I'd have to take off promptly after leaving the salon, but it ended up being a very pleasant experience -- regardless of the fact that I have giant red, shiney nails. ) It's not wearing-a-colored-leather-jacket-with-buckles-and-chomping-gum-with-a-giant-perm Jersey manicure, but more like I should be dancing on a stage with The Boss with these meathooks. In any case, it's a sure source of delightful fodder for good, old fashioned Christmas family-mockery when I get to my mom's tomorrow.

A quick rendezvous with the Betrothed and I again found myself alone in a different bar (this one complete with tux-wearing lounge singer who was owning the lounge-style kareoke that backed him up). Needless to say, I got very little reading done this time.

The Betrothed ended up coming out on top -- even with my manicure calcuated "a loss" to the grand total. We hailed a cab to head back to the airport. And that's where I had figured our story would end. Seriously, end. Like, pushing up daisies - end. The cabbie was doing close to 90 on the expressway to the airport, decided only when he saw the cop to slip into his seatbelt and managed to curb the whole cab on a median before we arrived. I focused on maintaining a straight face but managed to see the Betrothed peeling "oops, you loose" tip-bills off of the wad he was setting up to give the driver as payment.

We set up to take off -- but not before I spied a dead fish in the airport's General Aviation's lounge. "Um, I think your fish is dead," I said.
"Is it the gold one?" called the lady.
"Um, nope, it's the dead black one. Or else it's taking a really convincing nap."
"Oh, it's the sucker fish? Maybe it's just sucking." she assured me.
"Um, yeah, just basically sucking at living, really. Unless this is the cue for a Christmas miracle."

They were scooping and flushing as we took off. The beauty of the Cessna flight is how close you really are to the ground. The flight back -- over Atlantic city, Philly, Baltimore and finally, DC was positively a-glow with Christmas lights and jammed parking lots. Over the flight radios, each pilot ended their code-laden shpeel with "...and happy holidays to you all.."

I'm scurrying now to feverishly bake cookies and side dishes for tomorrow's dinner with family. According to those who track it, Santa's already on duty. I assured my neices that Santa would know to leave all our presents with my mom and not come to our empty house.

We carve the roast beast with my mom and all the other Hoos tomorrow -- but I wish you all the very Merriest Christmas -- or the Happiest Holiday.. Whichever you prefer.


Friday, December 22, 2006


I...played... HARDBALL

Could you imagine that during my one shot to appear (even momentarily) on national TV I chose to set & forget the Tivo? {to catch all the lollygaggers up -- Hardball with Chris Matthews did a taping a week ago at George Mason (my newest alma-ma). I was there. I touched the Matthews, etc.} Though generally uneventful I sensed that at one point I was being particuarly singled out by the camera man and filmed -- thinking that it would either be a clip to be played at MSNBC Christmas parties for years to come where I was mercilessly mocked in absentia or else just my national television debut as a gum chomping tool with a funny expression.

I admittedly watched 5 minutes of the end of the taping and quickly exhausted the patience of the Betrothed with my frequent, "Hey! See that blurry head? My head is the really blurry head just behind it that you can see for just a sec... oh, let me rewind, you have to look really fast! See, that's me! I'm on TV!" moments.

When I decided to spend some more decided quality time with my Tivo today I discovered that I made my MSNBC debut around minute 35 for a solid 4-5 seconds (which is an audience-scanning eternity!). I appear, close-up, thoughtfully clapping with a pleased, pensive, yet easy-going smile on my face. It's really complicated, actually. I was really trying to express more political-edginess with a touch of more mature, subdued applause. I hope it came across. Of course, the Betrothed saw little of the clip and more of me jumping off the couch screaming, "HOLY SHIT, I'M ON HARDBALL!"

If you need to touch my arm or beg for an autograph I'll be in my bathroom pretending it's a dressing room. Oh, and if you missed all of the taping, be assured that I shall treasure that morsel of Hardball-goodness forever. You can come share in the grandeur.

For those sad moments when the world gets me down, I'll have that 4-5 second image of myself clapping on Hardball to cheer myself up.

Friday, December 15, 2006


Here endeth the lesson..

It's been an eventful 7 days, let me assure you.

Last weekend I journeyed with the Betrothed (and family) to a absoloutely refreshing and breathtaking resort which boasts the largest holiday light display in the country -- and it's smack dab in the middle of WHEELING, WEST VIRGINIA.

A few thoughts on Wheeling. And if you are from, related to someone who is from, known someone from, heard of someone visiting or even seen a roadside for West Virginia forgive my next paragraph. In fact, skip it alltogether. West Virginia is indeed "wild", but "wonderful" is going to require a little more of a stretch of the imagination. Actually, I think John Denver (R.I.P) had it right -- "Almost heaven, West Virginia." Almost. It's amazing that such a beautiful and scenic state can be filled with a bunch of people who care very little for its upkeep. I, myself, have not spent copious amounts of time in West Virginia -- I am surely no great expert in all that is W.Va. -- and the vast majority of my experiences there have been limited to the occasional non-stop, car ride inadvertantly passing through the state, or this, my third annual visit to Wheeling (but really, Oglebay, the oasis in the West Virginia desert, as it were.).

So, Wheeling. The town that time forgot. Indeed, based on my brief encounters with the Wheeling-ians, they all appear to have, collectively, been hotboxing it in someone's car for the last 6 months. That, or they've all been smoking, like 5 packs a day, for like, ever. {and please, as most of you remember my former-smoker status, I don't judge the smoker or the smoke. I judge you because you don't have the sense to at least squirt some Fabreeze in your direction after smoking what seems to be your filter-less Lucky Strikes or other somesuch menthol firestick.}

The weekend was glorious -- a little snow, face-scrunching cold and a very warm fireplace. We ate, we worked out and we pet llamas -- but not in that order. A favorite highlight of the weekend came from my future brother-in-law who may be the most inquisitive person I've ever met. He's interested in everything. And given my new seemingly endless journey into the healthcare profession, I usually end up very engrossed in a conversation about odd diseases that cause one to digest one's own internal organs or some such or just exrcement. While the others were engrossed elsewhere he and I actually sat down and did us some math. What we figured: If you could take all the poop you ever pooped in your life and formed it into regulation bricks and built a wall, single-brick-thick, 2 feet high -- how long would that wall be? He's doing some home-repair these days and has the dimensions of bricks and walls, etc. and what we decided was this -- you probably poop a brick (shit a brick, even) every other day. We feel this accounted for baby-days when you poop your life out to your golden years when pooping may only be a weekly event (questions about geriatric constipation? Ask me!).

That wall? Just about 1700 feet long. In cubic yards, that could fill just about 4 cement trucks. Pretty impressive, huh. Now you're all going to look at your poop calculating your bricks. If nothing else, it's a good bar story. {So this girl I used to know calculated how long a wall made out of your own poop would be...} It's a conversation starter.

As if returning from a nice little vacation isn't a downer enough, I was propelled right into exams. So far, so good. Today, however, was the most dreaded. Most nursing schools have gotten on board with this new "exit exam" of sorts. Your performance on this exam can predict a student's future success on the nursing state board exam withing 98% accuracy. If you didn't today pass the certain benchmark score, you'd be banished to a remidal test-taking class next semester to hone your question and answer skills. I'm pleased to report that I passed -- and with a decent amount of breathing room from the dreaded benchmark.

One of my test questions was: "A client has been diagnosed with epididymitis (which is an infection in the testicle) which has been colonized by E. Coli (which is pretty much only ever sent with love from the butt). You will instruct this client to:...." I wish I could tell you I was kidding when the answer was (and I got it right, but not without some odd facial expressions and mental images) "avoid the penis coming in contact with the rectal area." A fellow classmate remarked after the test, "Wow, I mean, wow. I'd ask if he had a brother."

Yesterday I was able to score a ticket to see Hardball with Chris Matthews being taped at George Mason University on the Hardball College Tour. Why George Mason? Not a clue. I suppose even Hardball has to slum it sometimes, right? In any case, his guests, who I sat a mere 25 feet from, were Robert DeNiro and Matt Damon promoting their new movie "The Good Shepard". It was an uneventful interview -- I spent most of it staring with wide-eyed imagination at Chris Matthews (who is the picture next to "Awesome" in the dictionary). I gleaned special satisfaction from having the stage director get the whole auditorium to shout, "Let's play HARDBALL!" The show they taped will air this Monday, 12/18, at 7PM on MSNBC. If you want to watch it like my mom squinting and pausing to make sure you can see me, I was sitting in the crowd, about 4 rows back, just next to the band. The big tubas that say "G" "M" "U" -- I was near the "U" in a green shirt. I think they were filming me at one point so I made an effort to not chomp my gum and instead to make pensive, thoughtful faces. Which means I'll look like a tool. I was hoping to get in on the question and answer, but decided that if all I had to say was, "Uh, Mr. DeNiro.. No questions, but could you just quote something from "The Untouchables" or yell at me like "Casino"?" I was better off not saying anything. The highlight was not when they kept us all in the auditorium after the show so that they could whisk DeNiro and (an unimpressive Damon) out of the building without incident, but more when I rushed the stage to meet Chris Matthews. I touched his arm, whispered my "I love your show, it's such a pleasure" sweet nothings to him and had him sign my ticket. I can't even be sure we actually made eye contact.

Phew, it's been a big week. I have a poop wall, all my Christmas presents wrapped, Chris Matthews' autograph (and probably his undying love, right?) and a passed nursing exam. How was your week?

P.S. We'll be the best of friends if you got the title's reference.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Psych Trek: The Journey Home

You'll be pleased to know that today was, in fact, my last day of the semester's classes. And even if you aren't all that pleased, or hell, even really care at all about my academic calender, I'm freaking ecstatic. And though the semester was long and painfully exhausting, I'm happy to report that it ended on a strangely high note, or more honestly, just a strange note.

Yesterday was the last day of my psych rotation -- and coincidentally, my birthday. And what I learned yesterday was that there are some gifts that you just can't wrap.

I arrived on the unit around 6AM and waited at the glass doors to be let in by one of the nurses. (It's a locked unit). As I waited, I looked in and saw the elderly gentlemen I mentioned last week -- the one who would stop crying when he held hands with me. He was sitting in the main lobby with another client. When he saw me, his face lit up and he began waving. I happily waved back. He smiled his wonderful denture-less smile at me and stood up. And that's when I stopped waving. Love him the most, but the man was naked from the waist down. Happy Birthday to me!

Later I was caring for a patient who is an honest-to-God, textbook psychotic (and thankfully he remained clothed). In all seriousness, I have never met a person who was completely vacant behind their eyes -- he, though interactive, was cold, unattached and essentially lifeless. It was creepy, at best, and I think I'd remember his empty stare for the rest of my life. But, to turn a frown upside down, I had asked him why he was there at the hospital (it's a pretty standard, approved and acceptable conversation starter). He replied, "The haters." I'm thinking - this is a man who knows about 'haters' which just might be my most favorite and overused word. He may be psychotic, but he's got one thing right. The proverbial 'haters' always want the proverbial 'you' to be in the proverbial 'here'. Would it be un-therapeutic to remind him that as Bono says, "Don't let the bastards drive you down." I refrain.

It was as if the psych ward was just the birthday gift that kept on giving. In a moment of my own mental retardation, I piped into a conversation with a hispanic patient. Well, it was hardly a conversation. It was more like the therapist asking him questions at the top of her lungs because she functions on the "You'll suddenly comprehend English if it's at a loud enough volume" mindset. I asked him how he was, in Spanish, and then promptly forgot every other Spanish word Sra. Via ever taught me in highschool. Worse yet, dude was so pleased to have a translator that he followed me around the unit for the rest of the day tugging on my sleeve and twittering wildly in Spanish about something. Or many things, really, I don't know. I really couldn't tell you what that something was. Our interactions consisted of his very long strings of words I didn't know and me saying, "Lo siento! No comprendo." Fue awesome.

Shortly before we left for the day (and for good), we all attended the group exercise/activity therapy. [Sidebar: When it was my turn to lead the group exercise, I went against my first thought to have them all run a 10 miler, going with, instead, my famous and trademarked "Butt Dance". I had the entire ward of psych patients doing my "Butt Dance". It was a moment of sheer pride for me.] The therapist passed around a large book of CDs and asked each of us to pick a song that she'd play and we'd all group-exercise to. Mr. No-Pants and I selected the Stevie Wonder CD, Mr. No-Hablo-Ingles gusta la musica y chose a nice salsa album and the way-elderly man on the unit picked the Boyz-2-Men CD, and more specifically, "Motown Philly" (not too hard, not too strong.. Boys-2-Men, goin' on... I'll stop now cause it's in your head for the rest of the day..). There is really no textbook answer on how to react to the oldest man you've ever seen, who is also on a psych unit, when he picks a CD you probably wore out in the 8th grade (or else just the tape single) but haven't given much thought to since then (unless "End of the Road" comes on the radio every so rarely, but you hear it, leave it on and sing along because you know all the words (sung and spoken) until by the end of the song you're weeping with the angst of your 8th grade unrequited love who you would secretly whisper the words to and hope that he'd fall deeply and madly in love with your totally sweet 8th grade self who sometimes wore koolots...... Oh.. was that just me?). Moving on!

I find it kind of sad that the last day of the psychiatric rotation is the only day we really got the full gamet of psychiatric patients. Life's tough. In any case, I'm pleased to have it behind me.

Later that evening, BFF and the Betrothed took me to a steak house for dinner. The choice was made primarily because BFF was led to believe that instead of singing 'Happy Birthday' to me, they'd, instead, have some chorus or other that involved yelling, "Yee Haw". Oh, how delighted she really was when it turned out she got her chorus of "Yee Haw" whilist I sat on a saddle that was affixed to a saw-horse on wheels (as to embarass people with a little more rolling power). She and the Betrothed enjoyed themselves so much at my expense and laughed so hard that I'm pretty sure a little pee came out of at least one of them.

And so, I am meant to leave you for a charming winter weekend in Oglebay, West Virginia with the future-in-laws to enjoy Christmas lights, early Christmas presents and warm hearths (but to secrely study and read textbooks) before I come back to my exams next week.

Monday, December 04, 2006


Let's get physical, physical: I want to hear your body talk-body talk.

My recent (going on 8 months now) a/de-scent(however you chose to define it, really) into athleticism has been more than just lower cholesterol (total cholesterol: 150 -- beat that, bitches.) and a sweeter ass. It has included a painful and all-too-much-like-my-regular-inbred-Catholic-guilt-about-everything-else guilt when I don't work out. When my schedule (and as of late, my left knee) doesn't permit a good old fashioned work out, I improvise.

Tonight -- between baking birthday cupcakes for school tomorrow (ahh, when was the last time you got to bring cupcakes to school for your birthday?!), picking up my stranded BFF from the car dealership that commited vehicular manslaugher on her wallet and preparing for the last and final installment of Cathy: The Mental Hospital Days tomorrow -- I decided on dusting off my pilates workouts. On VHS. And that's hardcore. Is anything still on VHS?

The funny part was this -- the Betrothed wanted in on the pilates action. After the look of shock and wonder left my face (and indeed, after I was fully convinced he wasn't just smearing mental chocolate sauce all over the girls in the video -- who are so buff they could pummel him with their minds (over VHS, no less) for even thinking it) I moved the coffee table and made room for our mini living-room gym.

There was, and there always is, a stipulation. The Betrothed, willing to learn and do Windsor Pilates (on VHS) with me, insisted that he be able to at least keep Deal-Or-No-Deal (hereafter: DOND) on mute on picture-in-picture while the pilates video was running.

And really, it wasn't a problem. The Betrothed learned that he couldn't (and really, why should be be able to?) fully extend his leg up in the air at a 90 degree angle without bending his knee. I assured him it would be possible after a few more workouts and once Mari "Call me 'Pilates'"Windsor was done with him. I also directed him past the spandex clad exercise-hench-women to the lowly man bandished to the back of the video. While his female counterparts are all wearing green lycra in different variations (a la: Destiny's Child - Pre-Solo-Beyonce - when they showed up in the same dress, but one was long, one was short, one was two piece, etc. Please don't fake like you don't know exactly what I mean.), dude was wearing grey baggy sweatpants and a loose blue wife beater. The Betrothed takes one look at this man who is effortlessly tossing his leg over his sholder without causing any apparent pain and says, "Yeah, he can do it, but he is clearly gay. And he's IN the workout video." A good point. I shouldn't be comparing my Phi Beta Kappa brainiac Betrothed to the sweatpants' high kicks. Clearly, the Betrothed can achieve much higher mental kicks. Apples and workout-video oranges, man. I lay corrected on my exercise mat.

I was so entrenched in "using my powerhouse" and "breathing in through the nose" that I had completely forgotten that DOND was on. Completely forgotten, that is, until the Betrothed occasionally would blurt out, "SUCKS! He opened the $750,000!" or "Did you see that? He just lassoed Howie!"

When it was all over the Betrothed agreed that he liked it and would do it again. In fact, he was so moved by all the little places "where it hurts" that he refused a sneak preview of the fresh-from-the-oven birthday cupcake. We may be onto something.

You just wait. By next summer I'm going to have my very own, homegrown running partner. I'm going to start small now while he's least suspecting.

It's pilates with DOND today -- and tomorrow it'll be 5Ks with (me singing) Outkast's"Hey Ya".

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