Brave Woman

Adventures of a future nurse-midwife


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To Hire or Not to Hire

Posted by Lucille on May 4, 2013 at 6:00 PM Comments comments (0)

I've been monitoring Portland job sites for the last few weeks and applied to at least a half dozen positions, but so far no one has called me back. There are a fair amount of summer jobs for students, including lots of camp counselor positions, but they are almost all 9-5 and don't leave room for a couple hours of class each day. I had almost given up when I found one assistant camp counselor position with flexible hours. Okay, one more.

       I got a call the next day to schedule an interview. I answered the interviewers as well as I could. I knew I was qualified for the position, but I had no idea whether I was giving them the answers they wanted, because both interviewers were studiously non-expressive. As soon as the interview was over, they both broke into big smiles. "You're certainly qualified. You're over qualified. Hell, you're more qualified for my job than I am!" She laughed, but the other interviewer looked sad.

       " we don't evaluate your schedule, we're just here to screen the applicants...but I think it's important for you to know that realistically, I don't think there's any chance they're going to have anything that fits your schedule. 9-5 on some days of the week but not all they can do, but I think it's really unlikely that they're going to hire someone for part-days."

       I nodded.

       "We loved you, though. You're absolutely wonderful," the first interviewer said, still laughing, "We'll definitely recommend you as our top choice. Who knows, maybe something will happen and they'll end up needing someone with exactly your schedule." I thanked them as I gathered my stuff, and one of them followed me into the hallway to give me her card, asking me to call her when I graduate so she can hire me. I walked out blushing with a weird mix of disappointment and gratitude. I'm looking forward to getting the GRE out of the way.


Posted by Lucille on May 4, 2013 at 5:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Remember that general chemistry class I took at Berkeley? It was by far the most challenging and fastest paced class I'd ever taken, harder than anything I took in IB, because it's a filter class for the whole chemistry program. When I got sick, I started falling behind in all my classes, and was actually told by an advisor that I had missed too much work and that I should drop out and register again next semester. I got more and more sick and ended up flying home. When I got back to school a week later (finally on antibiotics), I showed up with a stack of completed work as thick as a textbook, every single assignment I had missed up to that point. My chemistry teacher declined to accept it, citing the no late work policy, and I had to climb all the way to the dean of the chemistry program, twice, to overturn that decision and get credit for the work I had done. By the end of the term I was tutoring the people who had tutored me, and even though it was a competitively curved class (meaning your grade is determined by class rank, not score) I ended up with a solid A.

      Most of the classes I took correspond to single-term classes at PSU, and the credits transferred fine. General chemistry is a semester at Berkeley and a year-long class at PSU. Apparently, they decide how to transfer the credits based not on subject matter covered, but number of hours spent in class, and because a semester equals only 1.5 terms at PSU, I received credit for one of the three required terms of general chemistry. Over the last year, I have been going from person to person in the chemistry program, trying to find a way around this. I have already passed Organic Chemistry, but this doesn't matter. I could pass an exam in a heartbeat, but no credit-by-exam option exists. As a business it is to their advantage to make me pay to study things I have already learned. Today I ran out of ideas and was informed that if I intend to major in biology I need to take another two terms of general chemistry and there is absolutely no way around it. It's a prerequisite for classes I need to take next year, so this summer I will be stuck in Portland going to school full time, while Travis goes back home for three months to do some construction work for his parents. It would be dishonest to say I am not fuming. But, I'm trying to look on the bright side. A few easy-A classes will be great for my GPA, and I'm looking into things to do with my extra time. There are a handful of entry-level summer jobs available. In case that fails, I bought a GRE prep book so I can work on getting that out of the way, and I'm thinking about learning Spanish.

Lovers in the Park

Posted by Lucille on May 4, 2013 at 4:20 PM Comments comments (0)

The sun came out today. Three days ago the temperature was in the 50s, but today the city lit up with 80 degree weather and people flocked outside in their summer clothes to enjoy the sun. I was wandering through the crowded park blocks when I saw two people I recognized from my days at the women's resource center: the two friends, now a couple, that I wrote about before, laying out on the sunlit grass. She was sleeping with her head in his lap. I almost didn't recognize her. Instead of the black, baggy outfit she had before, she was wearing a light sundress. She lay peacefully and without a hint of fear, while the mottled sunlight that came through the trees danced on her bare legs, and smiled serenely in her sleep.  He played lovingly with her hair, and occassionally waved to the tight rope walkers and gymnasts practicing around them.

       Sometimes, these things really do have happy endings.

Self Care

Posted by Lucille on May 4, 2013 at 3:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Our last SARC training was really hard. To understand the connections between the porn industry, rape culture, and sexual violence, we took a trip to the dark side of the internet. I felt good about keeping my composure, swallowing my instinct to cry by reminding myself that I knew horrifying, sexist crap like this existed, and that all it does is make this volunteering position an even more important use of my time.

       I was fine afterwards. I went home, helped with the evening routine at my parents' house, drove to class early the next morning, cleaned up, made food, entertained guests, worked out, went to class again, and at the end of the day went over to Travis's. Within a few minutes I was pretty sure he was in a mood. He was so high energy. I tried to move things toward getting ready for bed. It was still early, but it was the end of a long week, and all I wanted to do was curl up under the covers and sleep until Monday. But he wasn't tired, wouldn't calm down, and denied that he was in a mood at all. He suggested that I might be projecting, that I might be in a mood. Of course not. I felt fine. I'd been fine all day. He got frustrated that I was frustrated, I was frustrated because he was frustrated, and we got trapped in a cycle of badness for a few minutes. I tried to change the subject, and he suddenly looked at me with a concerned expression. "Are you okay? You look like you're about to cry..."

       I had no desire to cry and hadn't even considered it, but at his look of concern, suddenly I was sobbing. Travis switched gears and held me while I sobbed full out for twenty seconds, and then the feeling passed just as suddenly as it had come, and I was overwhelmed by a rush of blissfulness and relief.  I laughed and let it wash over me for a moment. "I was wrong, you were right, you told me so, I'm sorry?" I said, smiling through tears.

      Travis laughed, kissed my head, and handed me a tissue.

       The take away message, as far as I can tell, is that I need to be a little more intentional about my self care. While I am grateful for Travis's support, and will undoubtedly need it at times, it's not fair to him or to me for me to walk around burdened with unprocessed heaviness, whether I'm aware of it or not. I made a list of self-care ideas, and one that I'm really excited is an art project. I got a canvas this weekend and painted it black, and got some other bright color paints. I'm going to do a finger print for every cold call (just talking on the hotline) and a handprint for every hot call (when I get called out to meet someone in person). I'm hoping this will be a good way to make my own closure for calls, visually represent my journey and impact on the line, and give me something to look forward to at the end of every shift.

Scrapes and Shovels

Posted by Lucille on May 3, 2013 at 7:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Because I'm driving out to Beaverton three times a week for SARC training, and I will need to be able to drive somewhere quickly when I'm on-call, I am borrowing the van for the moment. It turns out the parking structure under my apartment building is terrifying. There is one turn in particular, where there are only a few inches on either side of my mirrors. For the last three weeks I've made it through every night successfully, but this time, I missed, and the concrete pillar scraped along the back end of the car. It was late at night and I had just come back from training. I finished parking and started the walk up to Travis's, crying out of shame, and also out of guilt and confusion, because I had just spent three hours learning about truly horrible things that happen to people, and I was crying about scraping a car.

       I got to Travis's building. You need to have a key card to use the elevators. Usually I wait until someone else is going up and just step in with them, but tonight I didn't want to wait. I did my best to compose myself and not look like I had been crying, and stopped a girl as she stepped out of the elevator to ask if she could scan her card for me. "Yeah, of course," she said, staring at me, which told me I had not done as good a job of not looking teary as I'd thought. "Umm...I know I don't really know you, but...I'm sure you're awesome. And it's going to be okay. Do you need any--" I shook my head and thanked her as the elevator doors closed, and started crying harder, because of her kindness. (Somehow, to my tear ducts, that makes sense.) Travis's room was unlocked, and he took one look at me and immediately curled up with me on the bed, holding me tight while I slowly got through the story. We lay quiet for a while, and he played with my hair while I steadied my breathing.

      "Travis? Did you ever run a car into anything?" He's an excellent driver, so I knew that if he'd had a driving accident too, it would make me feel better.


       Oh. Great. Guilt rose in my throat again.

       "Well, I didn't run the car into anything, but I did hit a squirrel once."

       I looked up. "Really?"

       "Yeah. It was horrible. I was pulling into our driveway, and this squirrel just ran right under my tire. I got out, and it's squirrel friend was there, kind of tugging on it, like 'Hey, man, come on! What's wrong?' It was really hurt, but it wasn't actually dead yet, so I had to kill it with a shovel..."

I was crying again, this time because I was shaking so hard with laughter. Are you sure there's a rule about not proposing to someone until you're out of school? (Dad has provided confirmation. Yes. There is a rule.)

Intro to SARC

Posted by Lucille on May 3, 2013 at 7:20 PM Comments comments (0)

So, it turns out SARC is awesome. There is something truly wonderful about walking into a room full of women and knowing that every single one of them is extraordinary. Yes, the subject matter gets pretty heavy sometimes. But so far I have been very impressed by how consciously the organization addresses self-care. We have all been paired with an experienced advocate so that we have someone to check in with, and we hold group discussions on self-care ideas and trauma stewardship every few trainings. I realized pretty quickly that thinking of this as something I'm doing for school credit and patient contact experience is not going to lead to a very healthy mindset, and is not, at the core of the matter, true. I am doing this to help people, because I believe whole-heartedly that every single person who calls our line deserves support. The fact that this is also going to further my academic and professional goals is extra fantastic.

Spring Term: Business Meeting

Posted by Lucille on May 3, 2013 at 7:10 PM Comments comments (0)

I was exactly one (one!) point away from having straight As last term. I've got a really good feeling about this term, though. This time, it's going to happen for sure, no ifs, ands, or minus signs. My classes are: SARC internship, biology (last term of a sequence), molecular biology (okay, I haven't finished the prerequisites for this one, but I'm jumping in anyway), and geology of the national parks (I actually get to use this for my major!). The geology teacher is a champion of the 'free classes for seniors' program, so a lot of the students in the class are retired. In his words, he tries to design the class so that people will want to come at an age where choosing to spend an hour of your time somewhere really matters. He got the room with the biggest screen and best projector, and it sounds like a large part of class will be spent flying through the national parks on google earth. I'm super excited.

Spring Break

Posted by Lucille on April 24, 2013 at 7:05 PM Comments comments (0)

The last three weeks of term felt as long as the first eight, but at long last, the papers and projects were all in, the finals were done, and it was time to make like the geese and head south. Travis and I packed our bags and waded through the hail and puddles to the station, and watched the rain disappear into the distance from the warm, dry, and comfortingly humming car of a train.

       We arrived at five in the morning, leapt off the train as it paused on the tracks, and drove over to Travis's parents' house. We opened the door as quietly as we could, not wanting to wake them, but just then an ecstatic and full-grown Lena came bounding down the hall and bowled us over in welcome. His parents were still sleeping, and we felt very awake from all the excitement, so we decided to stay up for the last few hours until daybreak and clean the kitchen to surprise them. That was the plan, at least. I woke up to the sound of a camera.

The next week was a heavenly blur of playing with Lena, taking bike rides in the park, exploring the shops, cooking with the whole family, debating healthcare policy and quantum physics, finishing the last season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and curling up in sleeping bags in the backyard to watch the stars.

       On the last day, we went on a hike with some of Travis's friends that I had met on our last trip. The park was absolutely gorgeous, with big splotches of yellow and purple flowers that looked like God had let his paintbrush drip all over the hills, dotted here and there with trees, and mama cows with their calves.

We stopped for lunch in this cool little grove full of manzanita trees.

Yeah, I probably set myself up for that. :)

Too soon, it was time to go. I hugged everyone goodbye twice, and way too early in the morning, we left for the train station, ready to head back for another term.

Humanity: +1

Posted by Lucille on April 24, 2013 at 6:55 PM Comments comments (0)

I went to the store today to get groceries and a box of cookies for my Honors class, because it's finals week, and accidentally bought too much. I was able to stack a couple bags on top of a package of toilet paper and started heading home, stopping every few minutes to rest. There were two guys ahead of me that kept glancing back. After a few blocks they stopped.

       "Hey, we seem to be going in the same direction. Do you want any help carrying all of that?"

       "Thank you! I've got it though. I'm almost there. Wait..." Just then I recognized him as the guy that had offered me a ride to the clinic when I broke my ankle. We laughed and chatted for a few minutes as we headed down the street, and when they turned into an apartment building a few blocks from mine, I opened the box of cookies and gave them a few. Dear humanity, thank you for being awesome.


Posted by Lucille on April 24, 2013 at 6:45 PM Comments comments (0)

I got an email reminding me that the deadline to turn in my internship form to the Honor's Program was in a few weeks. Filing for Planned Parenthood and answering phones for the Women's Resource Center don't count, which means my choices pretty much came down to SARC. It seemed like the most relevant patient-contact position out there, anyway, and it's an important job that someone needs to do. I filled out the application and sent it in. I can be strong enough to do this if I choose to be.

       Though there is no doubt that I am not ready to be on the line right now, there is a 50-hour training as part of this position, and presumably I will feel ready on the other side of that. 48 hours and an interview later, I was signed up to volunteer next term. Here we go!



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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.