Brave Woman

Adventures of a future nurse-midwife

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The Real Deal

Posted by Lucille on April 19, 2012 at 1:55 AM Comments comments (0)

We nailed it. All of us. We even got Dr. Smith to laugh. We all got A’s, and afterwards everyone ran together for a group hug, and we all went across the street to get frozen yogurt.

Honors Presentation

Posted by Lucille on April 19, 2012 at 1:55 AM Comments comments (0)

My honors teacher is Dr. Smith (name changed). Not Smith, not Mr. Smith, not even Professor Smith—Dr. Smith. He’s one of the most supremely intelligent, and intimidating, teachers I’ve ever had. He doles out constructive criticism freely, and if you take it, learn from it, and come back the next day, you earn his respect. He will reward you with more attention (in the form of criticism). The joke is that his patronus is an 18th-Century banker.

       For honors this week, our group was supposed to put together a three person, twenty minute presentation. The group selected me as the first presenter. Twenty people in our group, and they chose the new girl. I got this news 24 hours before we were supposed to do a practice presentation in front of Dr. Smith. It also happened to be Valentine’s Day. (M got me a Firefly poster.) I did actually read the whole 30-page article, but I didn’t take notes or do any kind of in depth analysis.

       On Wednesday after class, our group stayed to do the practice round. I thought we were going to meet to talk about what exactly we wanted to cover, make an outline or something, but everyone just looked back at me as though to ask what I was waiting for. The first two minutes went fairly well. And then I made eye contact with Dr. Smith.  Everything I was about to say flew out of my head. I’ve given 20 minute presentations on the fly before, without a problem. I knew what stagefright was, but I had always assumed it was a metaphor for momentarily freezing up. I literally went blank. I didn’t even know what the article was about anymore. I stopped making clear sentences and then I stopped making sense entirely, and the whole class was looking at me like I’d lost it. Dr. Smith frowned and began noting something on his clipboard. He kept me up there for ten minutes afterward to tell me everything I’d done wrong.

       The other two presenters both started strong and right about the second minute, they both made eye contact with Dr. Smith. One started talking a mile a minute and the other looked like she was going to throw up. They both did better than I did, though. The only way I could console myself was remembering that if I do really well during the actual presentation, it will seem even better for having set a low expectation.

Inheritance

Posted by Lucille on April 19, 2012 at 1:55 AM Comments comments (0)

I picked up my copy of my book the other day to get back into editing it, and mentally fell flat on my face. In the same way that you speak what you hear (Mom is still teasing me about having picked up Berkeley slang), you write what you read. And I haven’t been reading anything in English except my Economics and Chemistry textbooks. M proposed a solution to this by lending me the last book in the Inheritance series. I was a little skeptical, because the last two books, though good, didn’t quite meet my expectations. I flew through this one in about a week, and it absolutely blew me away. Christopher Paolini has been an idol of mine, because at the time I started working on my book, the ‘Author’s Note’ in the back of Eragon showed him at about the same age. Reading through the last dramatic chapters, I felt genuine pride for him, and quickly chided myself. This man has published a complete series and made several bestseller lists, and I haven’t even finished my one book. But I still closed Inheritance glowing with pride on his behalf, and tucked it on my shelf to return to later, knowing that this was going to be one of my favorite books of all time and a series I will read over and over again. You have done well, Paolini. You have done well. I still haven’t started editing my book again, but I’m thinking that when I do, I’m going to go through it backwards.

Vagina Monologues

Posted by Lucille on April 19, 2012 at 1:55 AM Comments comments (0)

A friend invited me to go the PSU’s Vagina Monologues with her. I got there early so I could explore the vendor stands. This was an interesting exercise in becoming aware of my own biases. I stopped to chat by the Latinas United booth for so long the girl asked why I was talking to her, swapped volunteering information with the lady at the planned parenthood booth, and had a great conversation with a woman who sells labia-inspired ceramic art, but skipped the sex workers resource booth, and the one selling vibrators, and I could not justify why.

       The first monologue was awkward. “Oh, no,” I thought, “I’m stuck in here now for two hours to listen to girls that have no acting experience at all tell me a bunch of depressing facts about gender-based violence.” And from that moment on, it was one of the best plays I’d ever seen. I laughed, I cried, I did both at the same time… This is a play that everyone, every woman, man, and variations thereupon, needs to see a least once in their life. I’m probably going back tomorrow.

Madame Butterfly

Posted by Lucille on April 19, 2012 at 1:50 AM Comments comments (0)

I have made a wonderful discovery, one made by many before me, but brilliant and life changing none the less: student rush tickets. A group of friends from honors invited me to join them to go see Portland Opera’s Madame Butterfly. As we were laughing and talking in line, it occurred to me that everyone else in the group was either gay of Jewish. I’ll admit I sought out those groups for the sense of community in Berkeley, but I was amused that it had carried back to Portland. The play was about a Japanese girl, Butterfly, who marries an American sailor, who tells his friend at the beginning of the play that he intends to abandon her when he goes back to America. He deceives her and tells her that he will return. Three years later, his friend visits his wife to make sure she has moved on, and finds that she has a son and is living in poverty, waiting for her beloved to come back to her as he promised. The sailor returns with his American wife to save his son from poverty, and when Butterfly learns that he has returned only to take from her the one thing she has left, she kills herself in their wedding bed. While the sailor sang of his remorse (and everyone in the audience cursed him under their breath), I watched the still body of the main actress, identifying, naturally, with Butterfly. All of the audience probably was, because nearly everyone has had their heart broken at some point. But for that many people to have their hearts broken, there can’t be one simple villain. We all share in the responsibility of the breaking. I looked down at the sailor, who had fallen at the bedside of his former love, with new sympathy and horror. “I’m him,” I thought, and immediately, tears started falling into my lap. Travis, who was crying openly next to me, handed me a tissue.

Wake Up

Posted by Lucille on February 7, 2012 at 4:35 PM Comments comments (0)

 At about two in the morning I woke up to my roommate shaking me awake. "Hey. Hey, wake up. There's a fire! Come on, put your computer in the desk drawer, grab your shoes and coat, let's go!"

The hallway was thick with smoke, which flashed silver in the light from the alarm. People were crouching and running for the stairs. We filed out, heads ducked low with our pajamas pulled over our mouths, and half-ran across the street to an empty parking lot. Hundreds and hundreds of students followed. Then the firetrucks started coming, one after another-- at one point I could see nine just from where I was standing. The alarm lights were illuminating the windows, and you could see from the ground that every floor was filling with smoke.

People started navigating through the crowd, looking for their friends. A lot of students had no shoes or coat, but were clutching their laptops. You have to take what's important, I guess. A friend of mine has a pass to the architecture building, so we got a small group together and went in there to stay warm. We watched from the third floor windows. There were a number of firefighters suited up, but they seemed unsure where to go. An hour passed. Someone remembered that the architecture building has a lounge with couches. There were six people and three couches, but someone initiated a vote for the people with midterms in the morning to get priority, so I got to sleep for a bit.

We got let back in at around four. It turned out someone had been smoking in the laundry room and threw the cigarette down the trash chute, causing the trash bin in the basement to catch fire. With nowhere else to go, the smoke went back up the chute and out into every floor, which is why it took so long for them to figure out where the fire was. Most of the rooms hadn't been filled with smoke and only a few had sprinkler damage. They set up big fans in all the hallways to blow out the smoke. Adventures in dorm living.

Travis

Posted by Lucille on February 7, 2012 at 3:50 PM Comments comments (0)

 I joined Travis (the guy who gave me his card) for tea at a cafe a few days later. I was a little nervous. I consider myself good at keeping friends, but making new friends is a process that has always flummoxed me. How exactly do you make that jump from acquaintance to something more? Perhaps it comes from being the much older sibling with much older parents, but I notice that I feel comfortable talking with older adults, and enjoy playing with kids, but always start to feel nervous around people my own age. What if we didn't have much in common, and the conversation stalled, and we were both just sitting there... He had a class at 11:30, but I could probably make up an excuse and leave early if I needed to.

I need not have worried at all. He caught me up on what I needed to know for the class, and then we talked for hours. Just about every topic in the world seems to interest him. He's double majoring in biomedical physics and mathematics, which gave us a lot to talk about right there. I asked him why he chose biomedical physics. "Because it sounded hard. I'm not really sure what I want to do at this point...My plan after college is to get a backpack and go to Europe, maybe South America, go see the world and see where life takes me." He's from the bay area originally. (Most of the people I've met have been, oddly enough. Out-of-state in Oregon is cheaper than in-state in California, so they're flocking here in droves.) Eventually I started looking for common interests to use as conversation topics. (Dance? Trained in ballroom for four years. How about creative writing? Now that you mention it, I'm trying my hand at writing a novel. No way! Me too!)

Eventually we looked at the time and realized he was already late for class, and as he grabbed his bag and dashed for the door, he looked back and said, "Same time next week?"

 

Honors

Posted by Lucille on February 7, 2012 at 3:20 PM Comments comments (0)

 Psychology, Statistics, and Choir are all pretty straight forward. I found the rooms, met the teachers, read the syllabi... Check, check, check, exactly as I had expected it. And then I went into Honors.

The teacher was a pale obese woman with dyed red hair (not red as in redhead, red as in bright, firetruck red) and glasses that made her eyes look like Christmas ornaments, who couldn't pronounce the letter 'r' and had the voice of Alvin the chipmunk. I took a seat just as she was raising her fist with enthusiasm to proclaim, "The dwiving foce in Galileo's weseach..." The other teacher, a man, was tall, thin, and ancient-looking, with gray hair pulled back in a ponytail, a hooked nose, and round, clear blue eyes that made him look distinctly like a bird. He observed the class sternly, and, when invited to speak, took a deep breath and a thirty second pause before answering.

And yet, within the first five minutes of the class, I felt certain that these were two of the most intelligent people I had ever encountered. I couldn't follow a single thing they said, but it felt like the first time you read Shakespeare. You know you're reading gold, but you have to adapt to the register before you can tap into it. I tried to take detailed notes but I had to listen so attentively to stand a chance of understanding what they were saying that I all but forgot about the pencil in my hand.

In the last ten minutes of class, we split up into groups to talk about the final paper. Everyone else seemed to already know what group they were in, and I was left standing by myself in the middle of the room for a moment, before a kind and intelligent-looking student tapped my shoulder, addressed me by name even though I hadn’t introduced myself (he told me later that I was the only new student in the class, so he had looked for my name on the attendance sheet we passed around) and invited me to join his group. I accepted gratefully.

I felt miles behind at this point. I was still worried about getting the right books, and we were already assigning tasks for the paper that's due three months from now in a format I've never learned. The students were eagerly chattering all around me, and I was sure that if I didn't do something, I was going to be left in the dust. I remembered the first day of my chemistry class in Berkeley, when another student came running after me to ask for my help. It was time to take a leaf out of his book.

The bell rang, and everyone stood up to go. I ran ahead of them to physically block the door, waved my arms in the air, and said, “Hi, I’m Lucille, I just transferred here, and I'm feeling pretty new to this whole process. I was wondering if there's anyone with a little extra time in their schedule that could, you know, just help me get up to speed..."

People were jostling to get by me, but I felt a hand on my arm and turned to see the same guy that had invited me to join his group earlier.

He smiled. "I could go over some of what we learned last term with you. Maybe we could go out for tea?”

“That sounds great!” I said with relief. “Let’s see, should we exchange emails, or…”

“Here, why don't I just give you my card." (People have cards?!)

This is going to be an interesting term.

 

On My Feet

Posted by Lucille on February 7, 2012 at 3:15 PM Comments comments (0)

The doctor presumed I had the same virus that was going through the dorm, but because of my recent and severe case of secondary bacterial infections, I was put on penicillin anyway. I stayed home for a couple days (we got snow, so I didn't even miss class!) and was back at school within the week.

Party in Portland

Posted by Lucille on January 17, 2012 at 1:20 AM Comments comments (0)

I have tonsillitis, my roommate has tonsillitis, two of my friends have tonsillitis, and we all have probably exposed our boyfriends.

       It's a tonsillitis party.

       The doctor's office opens tomorrow.


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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.