Brave Woman

Adventures of a future nurse-midwife

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No Reaction

Posted by Lucille on December 25, 2011 at 7:30 PM Comments comments (0)

All of the Chem 1A students, bleary-eyed and clutching their number 2 pencils, showed up in the same echoing warehouse of a room for the final. Our GSI was late. When he came in, our entire section burst into applause. He looked ready to murder us and the other GSIs were trying not to laugh. One of them handed him a stack of scantrons and he came back to pass them out.

       "You're finally here!" someone greeted him. He gave no reaction.

       "His Gibbs Free Energy is negative," someone whispered. Everyone burst out laughing-- some people were in tears. We were asked to start the test, and muffled laughter continued to break out for the next few minutes. That guy deserves an award.

Aerial Silk

Posted by Lucille on December 11, 2011 at 11:55 PM Comments comments (0)

THIS DAY

Posted by Lucille on December 10, 2011 at 12:55 AM Comments comments (0)

A day in the life of a Berkeley student.

       Around midnight I got ready to write my French paper, then discovered the prompt had been on a handout I'd lost. I tried my best to remember it and could not, so I sent an email out to the class asking if anyone else had it and went to sleep. Nine hours later, no one had replied, but it didn't matter because I'd woken up knowing exactly what the prompt was. It was two hours to deadline, though, so I busted out a two page French essay in that time, ran to Dwinelle to turn it in, then ran all the way back to make it to work for my shift.

       I needed to buy groceries and remembered that someone on the floor above me had been really sick. I would have loved it if people volunteered to pick up food for me when I was sick, so I decided to go see if she needed anything. I knocked on the door, and suddenly everything went quiet, and then I hear someone say "Sh*t!" and a male voice starts laughing. Then someone moving things around, and the door opens. Her hair was all over the place, her face was flushed, and her shirt was on backwards.

       "I'm...just going to the store, and I remembered you were sick, so I wanted to see if you needed any..."

       "I'm fine, thanks."

      I glanced over her shoulder, and there was a guy with no pants on sitting in her bed, absolutely cracking up. She closed the door looking mortified, and I made it all the way out the front door before I started laughing. I guess she's feeling better.

      I got groceries and had just finished putting them away when I got a text from a friend that said, "Come to Moffitt Library. Naked run starts in ten."

       I learned, by calling a friend on my way there, that this is a Berkeley tradition. Every semester in dead week (on a secret date, so that you can surprise the people studying) a bunch of people take off their clothes and run through the library naked. I went mostly to watch, because it seemed like an important part of the Berkeley experience. But I was apparently late, because when the elevator doors opened there were naked people running past. One of my friends waved to me as she went by, and I thought, "What the heck, I'm only going to be here for this once," threw off my clothes, and ran.

Things I learned: 1. The naked run doubles as a crazy hat contest. 2. Hats are good for modesty when there's a traffic jam and you end up standing there for a few minutes naked in front of a bunch of people. 3. A disproportionate amount of the participants have bicycle tattoos. 4. Naked running people look ridiculous.  5. Shared ridiculousness is one of the best feelings in the world.

       I ran into a bunch of friends from the sorority. "Yeah! FUCK, yeah, Lucille!" one yelled, from which I gathered that she approved of my participation.

       Then I ran into someone from the doula workshop as I was getting dressed. "You don't even go here!" I yelled as I gave her a hug.

       "I know! But isn't it awesome?" and then the crowd of newly clothed people heading toward the door pushed between us.

       When it was all over, I started toward home, and then heard someone behind me. "Hey! Lucille!"

       A guy was running after me, and I would have sworn I'd never met him in my life.

       "I'm sorry, I'm blanking on your name."

       He introduced himself and stuck out his hand. "We met at an Amnesty International meeting."

       In my head I'm thinking, "That was three months ago, and it was a movie screening--I'm pretty sure I didn't talk to anyone the whole time. What the hell?"

       "I'm really sorry, I don't remember you." I'm still trying to figure out what's going on. "That was three months ago, did you recognize me from behind..."

      It trailed off into a question, and he looked down and shrugged. "I was studying in the library. You ran past me."

       Oh. Well that's a hell of a way to meet someone. To avoid commenting on that, I said, "Where are you headed?"

       "Unit 2."

       "Oh, cool! I live right by there."

       So we ended up walking together.

       Awkward pause, in which I blurt out something about leaving in four days and wanting to get the full Berkeley experience as an excuse for why I had just been running through the library with no clothes on, to which he shrugs, "No, I understand." It fades to silence.

       In unison, "So what year are you in?" We both laugh.

       "Freshman," I say, and then realize I have just revealed my ignorance. Because less than half of college students graduate in four years, the term is first-year. Only first-years use the labels from high school.

       "Fifth-year. I changed majors."

       "Interesting. So what are you majoring in?"

       "Bioengineering. I'm pre-med."

       "Nice! I'm pre-nursing."

       "Really? How did you get interested in that?"

       This led to the maternity ward in Africa story, and he started asking questions about birth, including the anatomical advantages of various positions, nuanced differences between the scope of practice of different people on the birth team... He just seemed fascinated, and it occurred to me that he was the first male my age I'd met who was willing to talk about, much less interested in, reproductive healthcare. You know how they say that when you meet new people, you should try to ask questions about something they care about, because it makes them feel interesting and intelligent and makes them like being around you? Well, it works. I told him he was the first guy I'd met to be interested in this kind of stuff, and he shrugged and said, "I'm pre-med, I like anything that has to do with human biology."

       We talked animatedly all the way to the front of Unit 2. As he was starting to leave, he stopped and turned back. "Lucille..."

     Wow, people do that it real life? I thought it was only in movies. I'm not sure if he's doing a Hollywood style debating-whether-to-ask-me-for-my-number or a Berkeley style waiting-to-see-if-I'll-come-up-to-his-room, but after a minute he shook his head, waved, and left.

       I walked home, pretty stunned, still exhilarated from my Moffitt Naked Run adventure, and wondering what the hell just happened. And possibly chanting in my head, "There will be cool guys at PSU...There will be cool guys at PSU..." Why could we not have met (in a less creepy way) at the start of the semester?

       As I was walking through the house to my room, I overheard a snippet of conversation, "You know, I really can't decide if I love or hate this cycle of taking Ritalin through the week to get all my homework done and then knocking myself out with weed on the weekend trying to relax."

       Yep. Alternate reality.

A Wise Man Once Made Movies

Posted by Lucille on December 8, 2011 at 3:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Unbeknownst to me, today was Student Appreciation Day at work, and when I went to the office to sign in there were cookies and coffee, and small gifts for each of us. The parents had left these the day before, and I got several sweet notes, a box of chocolates, and an amazon gift card. All the teachers were there and gave us our evaluations and we all talked and shared stories until the first kids started to arrive.

       One of the babies was fussy today. He'd been crying and crying because he was so tired he couldn't fall asleep. I tried holding him, walking with him, rocking him, leaving him alone...he still kept crying, this exhausted, hiccupping wail. All of the other teachers were busy with the other kids. I lifted him up to my shoulder as I walked back and forth. Come on, Lucille, think! How do you make a baby stop crying?

       Well, in Disney movies, the princesses always start singing, and babies fall asleep, and all surrounding animals immediately come to their aid. I haven't sung much since I stopped taking choir a year ago and there were other people in the room, but it seemed worth a shot. I couldn't remember the words to Hush-a-by Baby, and the baby was from Israel, so on a whim I decided to sing the lullaby from Prince of Egypt.

       "River, oh river..."

       The boy's head fell against shoulder, sound asleep.

       Disney knew what he was talking about.

I Need A Time Turner

Posted by Lucille on December 8, 2011 at 3:35 AM Comments comments (0)

I got an email from PSU informing me that I need to attend an orientation before I can register for classes. The two remaining dates are the day before school starts (not appealing) and two days after finals (when I'll still be in Berkeley). I called my dad, hoping against hope that he would be able to change the days he had off (again) so that he could come get me earlier and I could make it to the first orientation. Because he is the best dad ever he asked his supervisor if she would consider, as he put it, Bring Lucille Home, Plan 3. She laughed.

       "Are you kidding? Go get your daughter! What are you still doing here, go bring her home!"

       Would it be weird to give my dad's boss a hug?

Pick Up Line: Let's Make A Piranha

Posted by Lucille on December 7, 2011 at 11:30 PM Comments comments (0)

At work today, one of the teachers sent me over to the toddler room with one of the older babies. It was crowded, and gleeful, screaming kids were running all over the place. I think you can imagine the mindset induced by bringing a baby into the toddler room. She's toddling around, excited to be somewhere new, oblivious to the running toddlers that keep almost stepping on her. You become completely focused on protecting the bubble of open space around that child and pretty much oblivious to things outside of it.

       She crawled over to the bottom of the slide, and one of my favorite toddlers, a blond boy who looks incredibly like Noelani, ran over for a hug. A group of toddlers had just gathered around the bottom of the slide, babbling in high pitched gibberish, and as I reached in to pull the baby out of there, the boy, less than a foot away from me but without me noticing, started crawling up the bottom of the slide just as another girl went down it head first, and he looked up and bit her right under her eye. The kid's like a piranha. An adorable, cuddly piranha.

       It was bleeding like crazy and one of the teachers whisked the girl inside to get ice and call her parents, someone took the baby I'd brought over back to the infant room, and the other teacher handed the boy to me and asked me to take him to the other side of the yard. I took him to a quiet area. The poor boy was looking around, confused and frightened by the commotion, with no idea he'd done anything wrong. So I got to hold him until the other teacher came back, and he just curled up in my lap and played with my hair. Most adorable vampire child I've ever seen. Are you sure I can't keep him? 

I Think In A Past Life I Was Buddhist

Posted by Lucille on December 7, 2011 at 6:15 PM Comments comments (2)

My preschool teacher came down to the bay and invited me to join her at an evening of 'enchanted dharma'. There were chants, beautiful music, and guided meditations. I cried, predictably. Life is worth tears.

My primary experience with meditation is of crawling around my dad's lap while he tried to meditate, and this was the first time I'd gone to such an event of my own accord. The idea, as I understood it, was to let go of the masks and constraints demanded by the outside world, always requiring you to behave in certain ways, and allow yourself to see what came up for you and simply be. I cleared my thoughts and waited, and what came up for me was a strong desire to roll around under the chairs, go root around for snacks at the back table, or sneak into the side room and try on everybody's shoes. I had assumed, erroneously I think, that simply being meant sitting still, and that was definitely not what my body wanted to do. It actually took a fair amount of effort- once I had recognized those childish desires- to sit peacefully like the adult I supposedly am, when every part of me was dying to go investigate the pillows in the corner and maybe dance or just crawl around under everybody's legs. But the music was beautiful, and I loved singing with the group, so I was content.

       Because of the people I hang out with, things like past lives, astrology, and spiritual age seem to come up in conversation a lot. As for my spiritual age, I'm told that I'm either 5 or 80. It's still a toss up.

All The Single Ladies, All The Single Rooms

Posted by Lucille on December 7, 2011 at 6:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Every time I head home and remember I have a single room waiting for me I feel that rush of giddy relief all over again. I can go to sleep when I want, and get up when I want, and play music without getting dirty looks...eat in my room, leave things out, and even lip sync into a hairbrush naked if I feel like it. Oh, the freedom! Praises, praises for the world.

Dead Week, Day 2

Posted by Lucille on December 7, 2011 at 5:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Today was the last sorority business meeting, followed by our holiday party/white elephant gift exchange. I gave away an elmo head (yes, really.) I remember when I was packing for college and struggling to stuff it into the outer pocket of my bag, and my mom asked what on earth I thought I would need that for. Even elmo heads come in handy now and then. We were playing the version where you can steal gifts from people ahead of you, and the girl in front of me got a pair of super fuzzy Christmas socks I was planning to steal. Then I opened mine, and it was a pair of super fuzzy socks AND gloves! Win.

       We ate chocolate and played charades for a few hours and then I went up to Kidd Hall for their holiday party. More hot chocolate, and cookie decorating, too! The secret santa gift exchange was hilarious and had all of us rolling on the floor trying to breathe through our laughter, and then someone would snap a picture, and the sight of our facial expressions would make us start laughing all over again. Plus a grad student I'd expressed interest in earlier in the semester (before being told regretfully that, as a Berkeley student, he did not have time) caught me as I was walking under the mistletoe to wish me a good term at PSU. I like the holidays.

Dead Week

Posted by Lucille on December 6, 2011 at 3:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Because Berkeley is on the semester system, we have a whole week off before finals. I've never had a dead week before so I wasn't sure what to expect. I now understand. Dead week is purely magical.

       In the morning there was a note on my desk from my roommate, letting me know that she would be going home for the entire week. Hallelujah. I ran upstairs and made myself chocolate chip pancakes, and then grabbed my camera to go with a family friend and his partner to Point Reyes. After a beautiful drive we got lunch at a cheese shop and then went out to the ocean and hiked until dark. We saw cows, vultures, hawks, sea lions, elephant seals, deer, and a great horned owl, and they all had babies: calves, pups, and fledglings, Point Reyes was alive. As the sun was setting we hiked way up over a cliff to try to see the green flash. There was an enormous bull elephant seal on the beach below us that looked up at us and started doing his mating call.

       When the sun had set we drove back to my uncle's for pizza. Coming back after Thanksgiving, I was struck again by the surreal qualities of Berkeley. No one walks in groups. Even when the streets are crowded, everyone walks by themselves, their eyes on their little screens... 40,000 undergraduates packed on campus, and none of them look at each other. Talk about an alternate reality. So spending the day with my bay area family was absolutely exhilarating, a source of some much needed human contact, with some of the most compassionate, intelligent, and goddam funniest people I know. Then I went to an all night Israeli dance marathon. Best. Day. Ever.


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HIPAA Disclaimer

Sometimes I have the privilege of being a part of intimate, powerful moments in other people’s lives. I cannot and would not share these stories, because they are not mine to tell. However, they touch my life and become part of my own story. When I share these moments here, you can trust that I have not broken anyone’s confidentiality. The characters are invented. They are not real, but could be. I take creative license to communicate the essence of my experience while respecting the privacy of others.