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November 1, 2004

November 2004 Archives

November 30, 2004

Our classes done, our home shut off, our cat stocked with way more food and water than necessary, we took off for St. Cloud and the Wurzberger Thanksgiving. With his blossoming reputation as a cook, Joel was allowed to help with the eponymous bird of Turkey day, a task that he fell to with relish. Who could have known that the container of peppercorns was rigged to explode when tampered with? There were enough corns left for the turkey’s brine, but a fair number wound up in the silverware drawer, underneath the carpet, in the coffee maker, in Joel’s badger-nest hair-do, and some remain unaccounted for to this very day.

Kitchen Pals

Sort of Muppet Thanksgiving

On the way up to Bemidji we stopped to visit Lucette Diana Kensack, Paul Bunyan's sweetheart.

Aimee and Lucette-Diana-Kensack

Note that she doesn't have a humongous animal partner. As he is now in retirement, fertility-wise, we nominate Boris, the 1060 lb. pig owned by the Miron's neighbor Pat Olsen.

Two creatures, great and small

Large animals was kind of the general theme of the weekend, actually:

Laughing Milkmaid

Pyramus and Thisbe

Nine seems to have taken a page out of Boris' book. We left her at home with a self-feeder system. She now has a noticeably larger heft when picked up, and her new-found pendulous belly seems to have thrown off her balance a little bit. And isn't that what Thanksgiving's all about?
Posted by Us at 06:36 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 23, 2004

In three hours, I'll have taken my last final: Gross Anatomy, and Aimee and I will be on our way to St. Cloud for the Wurzberger Thanksgiving. On Friday we head up to Bemidji for some time with the Mirons. On Monday, I begin histology (piece o' cake) and physiology (like biochemistry, but less abstract).

It's kind of odd, one of the things that a lot of people know about medical students is that they dissect cadavers. In fact, if you talk to a random sampling of incoming students, that's one of their primary concerns or sources of excitement, depending on how inexperienced or touched by the forces of the undead they are. And it's over. Not counting neuroanatomy in the spring (which is just brains brains brains all damn day), I'm done dissecting cadavers.

I won't say that I'll miss it, but it was both a great way to learn and a very... interesting way to spend my time. One of the fellow dissectors on my table is married to an English lit graduate student and we'd be doing something... undescribable in a public forum, and she'd mention how interesting this sort of thing made their otherwise ho-hum "How was your day?" conversation we married people all have.

Wife: "How was your day?"
Husband: "Oh, fine. I read some really execrable papers on 'The Awakening', then Cagney and I had an argument about Williams Carlos Williams. How was yours?"
Wife: "Well, we cut our xxxxx in half today, which allowed us to get really good access to the xxxxx, which is surprisingly small, and flimsy. Here, lemme show you."
Husband: "No! That's okay. Um, say, what's that in your hair?"

So, I'm done with a semester of med school. It went well, and I think we're both very happy and not at all burnt out. I know that happy people are pretty boring and irritating, so let me stress that all is not perfect in our world. Not at all. I really need a haircut, for instance. I'm starting to look like friggin' Kenny Rogers over here.

Will things get harder for us? Impossible to say, of course. But I'm not expecting them to. Which is fine, I think. Aimee and I have built enough character.
Posted by Joel at 10:19 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 17, 2004
Ketchup Days

These days are the good days for Joel and I: We’re allowed to be insanely self-absorbed for the sake of our education. I suppose that the practice of becoming educated is a self-promoting sort of venue (as opposed to mission work, for example). Is our smug, self -interest less abrasive considering that we’re being educated in fields that facilitate healing, or at the very least, palliative care? At this juncture, not in the least, as our delinquency from this site has suffered only in part due to class attendance, paper-writing, and studying ... No, we’ve also chosen to heartily celebrate my birthday, visit Joel’s grandmother Mar in Clarkson, Nebraska, and even watch episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in favor of hammering out a fascinating diatribe of our lives for you ... Today, the guilt has finally caught up with me.

I present to you, dear readers, a synopsis of what we’ve been up to ...

After a particularly trying afternoon last week in the computer lab attempting (and failing) to complete one of the required modules for my Introduction to Computers class, I stumbled home and collapsed on the couch amid yards of uncompleted knitted projects and unfinished nursing assignments. Cat-like, I lounged in the chaos and waited for Joel to come home and my birthday to begin ...

Many young-and-middle aged adults I know believe birthday celebrations are for small children and people over sixty ... I heartily disagree; the achievement of any age (even between 12 and 59) is cause enough for me to whip out the trick candles, gather some friends together, and sing the old anniversary anthem at the top of my lungs. Thus, I am impatient for birthdays, especially my own. Friday the 12th was no exception ...

I practically pounced on Joel as he waltzed in the door at three o’ clock under the pall of not one, but two exams he’d endured during the day. It took but a moment to decide that despite the still robust afternoon sun shining through the windows, it was indeed time to break out the champagne. As Joel fired up his new Fry Daddy (a Caesar opening night gift deemed much more appropriate than carnations) for a batch of impromptu cream cheese puffs, I poured out the first flute of bubbly. In true Miron fashion, we’d make it through three bottles of the family favorite, Cook’s Brut, before the clock struck twelve and I turned into a pumpkin. To me, my early November birthday has always heralded the forthcoming, lavish holiday season, and this year rang in loud and proud with scores of well-wishes, several lovely gifts, a couple of roasted Cornish game hens, a ripping game of Trivial Pursuit, and well, a partridge in a pear tree ... Or, something like that ...

After recovering from the birthday feast, Joel and I were off to engage in further decadence awaiting us to the south at Mar’s place, nestled in the rolly-polly hills of northeastern Nebraska. The highlight of the trip, aside from passing a restful and filling time with Mar, was a program we attended at Mar’s library. On Sunday afternoon, surrounded by an ample audience of Clarkson residents, we listened to traditional Lakota stories told by Oglala nation member, Mr. Kills Small. His stories were delightfully captivating and sometimes nostalgic, peppered with impromptu Lakota language lessons ...

During Mr. Kills Small’s recitations we learned that the suffix “la” in Lakota means “one you love” or “beloved,” as he described a small child, leaning out of her farmhouse, calling her favorite dog into the warmth from the windy prairie night, shouting “Puppy-la, Puppy-la, Puppy-la!” Joel whispered in my ear, “Joel-la.” Although, I spell it differently (Joelah), I have called Joel that pet name since we moved to Oregon, maybe even before in the rocky-mountain Colorado days. Not only was this personal connection to the Lakota language enchanting, but I was reminded of how Joel, the one with the overgrown hair, toothsome grin, and penchant for not cooking the onions completely, is the one I love ...

The crazy one I love ... These past days for Joel have been fraught with examinations and final outcomes. Although the medical school classes are unique to this program, these professors, and that half-of-a-building, Joel’s final exams are nationally standardized. Just like the MCAT, Joel is competing with scads of other first-year medical students, all vying for that brilliant Biochemistry or Anatomy score. Additionally, the final shape of the exam results are a true Bell Curve, meaning there most certainly will be winners and losers. So, think of him in these test-out days ...

And, also, tell him that driving up to Sioux Falls tomorrow to take a break at the Barnes and Noble cafe isn’t such a bad idea ...
Posted by Aimee at 09:50 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 15, 2004
Flame On!

In keeping with our fine tradition of writing about things a week or two after they’ve finished, allow me to tell you all about Spontaneous Combustion!

Here’s how it works: On Friday night several people (in this case seven) volunteer to be writers. Other people declare themselves as directors, and fourteen people refrain from flirting and navel-gazing long enough to assert their status as actors. The seven writers spend the next twelve hours doing the writer thing: sitting alone in the dark awaiting the descent of the muse. The actors do their thing: mostly going over to Joel and Aimee’s for drinks. And if you’re Rusty, drinks means two 40s of King Cobra brand malt beverage.

In the morning everyone is equally tired and grumpy, but no matter! It is time to rehearse. The directors take the ten-minute plays generated by the writers, grab two actors, and spend the day putting together the show and, this is key, getting the actors to remember their lines. At seven o’clock everyone is terrified. But no matter! It is time to perform. For an audience.

And, to our surprise, it worked. Without any sort of organized agreement, the writers all cranked out a variety of quality pieces, ranging from tragic to absurdist comedy… alright, let me just list the shows, with some universally glowing commentary:

Turbulence: Two strangers sitting in an airport, ostensibly waiting for a plane. Comedy laced with menace and dipped in a fine chutney of smoked salmon. This show made me realize that the time had indeed come to laugh at the terrorists.

Giving Dandelions: Really sad. I was sitting in the front row, a few feet from Marcie as her heart broke, and I wound up traveling past catharsis into some dangerous other place where I really wasn’t sure that everything would be alright, ever again.

Burgle: I don’t want to sound too reductive when I describe this little number as a sort of criminal game show that, if I was an elderly person, a woman, or a felon, I might have found irretrievably offensive. As I’m not any of these things at the moment, I found it very funny.

Room For All: Phillip K Dick could only wish he was this funny. [Spoiler Alert!] Apparently in the future, prisons have become overcrowded to the point where it has become necessary to send the souls of convicts back in time. With hilarious consequences.

Extra Sensory Perception: As I didn’t get to see my own show (always a weird facet of live theater), I’ll refrain from praising it. I will say that it was very rewarding to work with Kade and young-Yaroch-who-shows-so-much-promise.

The Jingle: The actors never played their lines for laughs, which was crucial for this office drama’s humor to work. Kari managed to sneak in a fair bit of dry social commentary amongst all the innuendo and, at the end, having lived and learned, I found myself craving a hot dog.

Down and Dirty: Am I a sick freak for finding the spectacle of an over-eager salesgirl sitting on the floor of her store howling with grief and throwing her designer shoes at a flamboyant dandy deeply satisfying? There was something primal about this drama of fashion, it spoke to me like a cave painting.

Compared to Julius Caesar, this theater was raw, under-rehearsed, and not written by Will Shakespeare. It was a little like playing street football, a little like driving at night without headlights, and it was great fun.

Especially when juxtaposed with studying for finals, which is what I should be doing right now. I knew that if I just waited patiently, medical school would deliver something that really irritated me, and low and behold, here it is: the cumulative test. Man, August 2, 2004 was a long time and a lot of lectures ago.
Posted by Joel at 06:13 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 09, 2004
Lost Weekends, Stolen Smooches, Promises (sort of) Kept

Didja ever put down your camera, perhaps at a party or Disneyland, perhaps just for a moment, and when you picked it back up again it felt... somehow unfamiliar? As though it had been places and seen things without you, and that in some ways the camera had been through a lot, had grown and lived and cried, and maybe it's not really even your camera anymore.
There is the old familiar native story (and the old familiar Twilight Zone/Amazing Stories/Tales From the Crypt episode) of a camera stealing its subject's soul. But what does the camera get out of the bargain? What if the moment it has captured, whether it be an incriminating tryst, a lap dog in a humiliating costume, or an elderly celebrant striving in vain to blow out all those candles, was one it would rather have done without?
The camera, alas, is just a machine. It has no voice to express its opinion of the subjects captured. Until we come up with artificially intelligent cameras with vox boxes (preferably programmable to sound like Sean Connery: "Ach, good God man! Arrye really takin' ano'er picture of a shunflower in front of a shunshet? We get the bloody point!") we'll never know. Until that happy day, we can only lug our dumb cameras to likely situations, shoot pix, develop, and ponder the results.

Posted by Joel at 06:53 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack
November 08, 2004
To the Happy Couple

There was an old saying in college: “Drink beer and then liquor, you’ve never been sicker. But drink liquor and then beer and you’re in the clear.” This past weekend’s (well, two weekends ago) wedding festivities has inspired a new couplet to what may grow to be a whole sonnet of dissipation: “Drink martinis then champagne, and they might not find your remains.”


No, really, it was quite a lovely weekend full of old friends, familiar sights, and sparkling conversation only occasionally interrupted by shouts of “Miron! Stop dancing before someone gets killed!”

I pretty much only dance at weddings these days, partly due to the fact that the only venue large enough for a display of my… talents is a hotel banquet hall with all the tables pushed to the sides. And anyway, I’m pretty much only moved to dance with wild abandon by something akin to the union of two wonderful people like Nate and Lissa. And the aforementioned martinis and champagne. As I never grew tired of telling people before, during, and well after the reception, when you dance at a wedding you are under solemn obligation to dance your heart out, anything less would bring dishonor upon the happy couple. At weddings, some people are asked to sing arias, play airs upon cellos, or read scriptures and love poems. Of others, nothing is asked, because you want them to save their strength for The BeeGees’ “Stayin’ Alive.”


It really was a beautiful service, the kind that makes you realize that these two people have a relationship set apart from all others, particular to themselves, and anyone who is lucky enough to brush up against them stands to learn a thing or to. I cried at the service, along with Aimee, the pastor, the groom, and most of the rest of the audience. The bride grinned at us indulgently and gently allowed us to get hold of ourselves. And we did, gradually, and with the aid of a couple of martinis.

Posted by Joel at 03:17 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 04, 2004

Lectures on stress abound in both our nursing and medical school curricula ... Not stress and coping, not stress and disease, not stress and a prom date, but stress and being a student. Quizzes, entitled “Stress Warning Signals,” have appeared on our desks with straight-forward, unforgiving stress-related questions:

Do you have difficulty sleeping?
Do you have a critical attitude of others?
Do you bite your nails?
Do you feel angry?
Do you feel you’ve lost your sense of humor?
Do you have a lack of creativity?
Do you constantly worry?
Do you feel that you are a marytr?
Do you doubt?
Do you feel apathetic?
Do you feel like hiding?
Do you feel resentment?

This questionnaire alone causes my hands to tremble, my back and shoulders to tense, and catapults me toward an over-analyzed freak-out. If empathy is the cornerstone of nursing than I am empathetic to a stress-induced fault. When Joel awakes on any given morning and complains of the old-soccer-injury knee pain, immediately my right knee twists and writhes in response. During lectures, when a professor alights on a bizarre emergency room story that she feels will illustrate a point about seatbelt safety, I carry the images of the anecdote around throughout the day until I am convinced that, even though I safely sat studying on my sofa all afternoon, I am undoubtedly suffering from a closed head injury and have massive internal bleeding. Thankfully, due to the restrictions on our current health insurance plan (i.e., “We don’t want to see any claims from you. Ever. Unless you're truly bleeding from the head."), I have never acted on this phantom pain.

My once-a-week clinicals keep my prone-to-insanity brain in check as I assist patients, bearing the real-life anxiety and pain from metastatic tumors, paraplegia, amputations, and a colorful myriad of wounds and sores. This week, as I cleaned a twelve inch long abdominal wound for a patient, I wondered “What keeps this guy afloat with a wound like this?” I looked to his face and saw that he was giggling at the television, watching an old Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan film. Later, when questioning the same patient about his memory and mental capabilities (an assignment), I held up a felt-tipped pen and asked him “Do you know what this is called?” He flashed me a wicked little grin before saying “It’s an idiot stick.” We both erupted into laughter, acknowledging the idiocy of both the pen and the test. In my short time as a student nurse, I have found that humor is a pervasive touchstone that keeps us all sane.

Our public and private atmosphere has been electric with stress about the election since last Spring. Dodging debate has never been my habit, but earlier this summer I had to agree with my mom when she said, “I haven’t listened to my favorite radio program in weeks, because it just makes me too angry to enjoy my evening after work.” There is a wide gray line between being informed with hard-nosed facts and being over-informed with the incendiary venom of talk-show hosts. In the end, we toe our own line by voting or not voting. Regardless of all the analysts and commentary in favor of this politician and opposing another, the simple duty of making it to the polls on a busy night, waiting in line, and casting a vote is important in its own right. A free act, a liberated participation, that makes the whole process empowering for the individual.

I remember watching a documentary on the rising seas threatening the city of Venice, Italy. The film-makers interviewed several local politicians who boasted of varied and expensive methods for saving the city. After all the unchecked smiles, handshakes, and promises of the mayor and his attaché, they interviewed an old woman who had lived in Venice all her life. She’d devised a simple approach to keep the water out of her first-floor kitchen by using a recycled plastic baby gate covered in sheets of saran-wrap. She said, “I don’t really care what the city commissioner does in his office all day, but I told many of my friends how rig up this gate in their own houses.”

In the face of a trusted politician’s defeat or World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, I look to letters from Joel’s mom about the quality of her autumn harvest, PBS reality television (i.e., Regency House Party - could anything be anymore brilliant?), and the completion of the left sleeve of the Skully sweater for buoyancy among the troubled waters of current events. Somehow, those letters, bits of escapist humor, and knitted stitches act as a solid shield combating the fray with a shrug and a reminder of what really matters: keeping the water off the kitchen floor.
Posted by Aimee at 07:46 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Well, I hope that Spontaneous Combustion doesn't wear you guys out too much! I'm uber-excited that you'll be around. I miss you. *single tear* I hope things are going well.

Posted by: Kari at November 4, 2004 08:24 PM

Your stress questionaire reminds me of a similar one the alcohol awareness group used to put in our college mailboxes:
Do you ever drink four or more drinks in a single night?
Do you ever go out with the main purpose of getting drunk?
Have you ever done something you regret while drinking?
Have you ever gotten sick or blacked out from drinking?

The list went on for ten questions or so followed by the ominous warning that you may have a drinking problem if you answered yes to three or more of the questions. My roommates and I could usually score around seven (each). Then, after laughing hysterically about this, we'd go have a drink.

Posted by: Pam at November 5, 2004 07:14 AM

The 'Are you depressed' diagnostic checklist is similarly broad, and freak-inducing...

Still, I actually believe that more people are depressed than are willing to admit it.

Posted by: Dana at November 5, 2004 02:34 PM