Poem: To the New Year

Posted under: philosophy, psychology.
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New Year
At the start of each year people talk about making “new year’s resolutions”; however it seems so obligatory and somewhat banal (as are many holidays and traditions, in my opinion). We should be consistently doing self-evaluations and bettering ourselves–all year long. Not only that, but I think we value and focus on the wrong things which don’t truly make our lives richer and more fulfilling. Writing is therapeutic for me, and I enjoy writing poetry occasionally. A few months ago I wrote the following poem about making resolutions:

To the New Year

We welcome in a brand new year; it’s time to change our ways.
“Out with the old; in with the new” spurs goals for coming days.
We hear the vows and pledges made, like “I’ll commit to be
More productive, end bad habits, be a better me.

I’ll be more patient, thinner, fitter, be a better friend.
I’ll have drive and discipline,” at least to the month’s end.
Striving to be better, seeking changes and solutions
Should be constant—not reserved for “new year’s resolutions.”

Cheers to our resiliency, to conquering our fear,
To challenges we faced and overcame throughout the year.
To living life with passion, I would like to make a toast.
Invest in the relationships with those who matter most.

Seek out rich experiences, and open up your mind.
Don’t count the days, but make them count; minutia left behind.
Engage in things which cultivate your curiosity.
Life’s not a destination, but a meaningful journey.

Until death comes appreciate the time you have before you.
Strive not to be successful, but rather be of value.
Live each day to the fullest, let enrichment be your cause.
Don’t be sad because it’s over; but smile because it was.

–January 3, 2013

Comments (4) Mar 24 2013

An Expression of Gratitude

Posted under: philosophy, psychology.

Most of you who are reading this post probably know that I have had a difficult past several months due to serious health problems. Since July I have been diagnosed with diabetes insipidus, type 1 diabetes, cushings syndrome, severe osteoporosis, and neuroendocrine cancer (with known tumors on my liver, in my iliac bone, and in lymph nodes in my neck). Much of this is a result of excessive ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) production and consequently excess cortisol (stress hormone) levels. I went to the emergency room due to extreme confusion and disorientation from my high cortisol levels. During my hospital stay I had a bilateral adrenalectomy to stop the cortisol production. While I was there as a patient I fell and fractured my neck, so I also had neck surgery. It has been a long, eventful, and stressful seven months.

One of Conor's beautiful sand dollars

One of Conor’s beautiful sand dollars

I am overwhelmed with gratitude to all our friends and family who have shown their love, concern, support, encouragement, help, and generosity throughout all this. I greatly appreciate the many visits and hugs from friends, meals prepared, monetary donations, gifts, words of support and encouragement, and offers to help, especially with the girls.

One of our favorite places to hang out here in Saco is the local Starbucks. We have gotten to know most of the baristas there and made some good friends. I have recently become friends with Conor, one of the baristas. She collects sand dollars on various beaches, cleans them up, and creatively decorates them to sell. A couple months ago she gave me a sack full of them–all beautifully designed–that the girls and I could use to decorate or give to friends as gifts over the holidays. It was incredibly sweet. She texted me a few days ago to ask if I could meet her at Starbucks that afternoon.

When I walked in she treated me to my favorite drink (green tea latte). She then sat down with Brent and me to have our drinks and handed me an envelope. Inside was a card and some cash. Conor had collected, decorated, and sold as many sand dollars as she could with the help of her colleagues in order to raise money for us. Conor said that she had approached our friend Jill one day, and learned that she was distraught about my condition after visiting me in the hospital, and concerned for Brent and the immense burdens that he is carrying. When Jill expressed her desire to do something for us, Conor came up with her sand dollar idea.

The timing was opportune, as I have just lost my medical insurance after transitioning from short-term disability to long-term disability. The medical bills are continuing to pile up, and I am still not working. I was so incredibly touched by their thoughtfulness and generosity. Brent and I each gave Conor a big hug and thanks, but it seemed impossible to adequately express our feelings in words.

I appreciate the company and the hugs from the many concerned and well-meaning people who have visited me, and the many well wishes and encouraging words I’ve received through social media and phone calls. I am glad for the opportunities I’ve had to get out and meet with people, especially after feeling so isolated from the world. It it wonderful to have friends and family who reach out not only to see how I’m doing or if I need anything, but who have demonstrated their concern and support for Brent and the girls who I believe need it more than I do. Thank you, my amazing friends. :-)

Comments (0) Feb 08 2013

Linguistic Taboos

Posted under: education, philosophy, school.
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Wicked Pissah ShirtSkye came home on Friday very upset about reactions she received from some of the staff members at her middle school regarding a t-shirt she’d been wearing which simply said “Wicked Pissah,” a common phrase in New England, which means really awesome or really crappy. Her teacher thought the word “pissah” might not be considered appropriate for school and sent her to the office. The lady in the office reprimanded Skye for wearing a shirt with this phrase, considering “piss” to be a “bad” word. She said it would be a distraction, as well as offensive to others. She ordered Skye to either turn her shirt inside-out, zip up her sweatshirt, or change to a shirt provided by the school. Skye was unable to work the zipper on her sweatshirt, so she turned her shirt inside out. The office administrator told Skye to come back afterward to make sure that she’d fixed it.

Skye later told me that Harry Styles, member of the English-Irish pop boy band One Direction, turned 19 that same day, February 1. Teenage fans at her school celebrated by drawing whiskers and black noses on their faces to represent Harry and his fondness for cats. I found it interesting that none of these kids were reprimanded or asked to remove their face paint, even though Skye mentioned how much of a distraction it was in her classes and that several of the teachers seemed annoyed by it. However, not one classmate complained about or was distracted by Skye’s shirt, nor did any teacher (except the one who sent her to the office) comment negatively about her shirt. One, in fact, thought it was quite humorous. Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (6) Feb 03 2013

Sound of Music Sing-Along

Posted under: entertainment, family.
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Brent learned that the Merrill Auditorium in Portland was hosting a “Sound of Music” sing-along on Friday night, February 1. He asked me if I would like to take the girls and surprised me with tickets to the event. It was so sweet and thoughtful of him. I love the opportunities I have to spend quality time with the girls, especially now as my health and length of life are deteriorating.

Jenna seemed to be the most excited, especially when she learned that the audience was encouraged to participate and dress up in costumes. She immediately performed a “Google Search” to look at pictures of the characters from the musical and put together an outfit that looked similar to that of the Von Trapp girls. She decided she would be Brigitta. She loves the story and knows many of the songs by heart. She listened to the soundtrack in preparation, knowing she would get to sing along to the songs during the movie. Hayley was excited as well and enthusiastically searched for an appropriate costume to wear to the event, also one of the Von Trapp children. Skye didn’t seem thrilled about it, partly because she knew she’d have to wake early the next morning for a ski trip with her class from school. However, she liked the idea of going out and spending time together. She had no desire to wear a costume, but she did change her clothes to look like a teenager going out for a night on the town. Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (2) Feb 03 2013

PopTech 2012

Posted under: education, philosophy, psychology, science, technology.

Me with my official PopTech badge.

PopTech is a great source for positive change and collaboration. It brings together a global community of innovators from many fields to share insights and work together to create lasting change. Brent has been volunteering for the audio visual crew at PopTech in Camden, Maine, for the past few years, helping presenters with their slides in the green room. I’ve always enjoyed watching the videos on the website and hearing about Brent’s interactions with the amazing speakers. I decided to volunteer this year. After I was registered, however, I ran into a plethora of medical problems which included hospitalization and rehabilitation. I told Mary, the event operations manager, that I was limited as to what I would be able to do. She expressed to me how much they love Brent there, and that he’s been so good to PopTech. She’d also read Brent’s blog about my medical condition and offered me the amazing opportunity to attend the PopTech 2012 conference this weekend. Executive Director and Chief Creative Officer of PopTech Andrew Zolli kicked off the conference with an inspiring talk about resilience and adaptation, the theme of PopTech this year. I thanked him afterward for allowing me this opportunity to attend. I will highlight the presenters which resonated the most with me. Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (2) Oct 23 2012

Finding Truth Through Fetal Cells

Posted under: education, health, philosophy, science.
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I enjoy listening to Radiolab, a podcast about science, philosophy, and human experience. In the episode “Fetal Consequences” (which can also be read on the NPR blog), hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich discuss how fetal cells remain in the mother for decades, possibly having effects on her body. Originially it seemed that that fetal cells were solely beneficial to the mother. The hosts shared a story about sheets of fetal cells turning into healthy liver cells and healing the mother’s damaged liver. It was later proposed that perhaps fetal cells might actually be harmful to the mother in some cases due to a variety of causal factors.

I found the study about fetal cells fascinating, but what I thought was especially significant was what Tufts University professor and scientist Kirby Johnson said regarding his personal stake in the work:

Of course I wanted to help out, but if I find out that’s not the case [that my fetal cells made no difference when my mother was ill], well, that’s the truth. And as a scientist, I want to find out the truth; whether or not the truth is wonderful or the truth is horrible…at least I know what the truth is, and both as a son and as a scientist, that would be of value to me.

This is true science. The scientific method can, and should, be applied to all aspects of life. Too often people stop asking the questions when they find the answers they are looking for. Any new evidence or ideas that challenge one’s beliefs, or cause discomfort or uncertainty are discounted or completely dismissed. As skeptics, scientists base their opinions on good evidence, and are not afraid to have that evidence challenged.

The strength of the scientific method is found in its ability to detect error as well as its ability to detect truth. It describes a way of obtaining knowledge that is based on observation, repetition, transparency and correction. It would behoove everyone–individually and as a society–to value and engage in scientific thinking: Deep curiosity about the world, rigorous and critical examination and testing, unbiased and objective scrutiny, and openness to new ideas and perspectives–regardless of the palatability of the outcome.

Comments (0) May 28 2012

What I Learned in Nursing School

Posted under: education, health, nursing, philosophy, school.
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I made it! Today I graduate from the University of Southern Maine with a Bachelor of Science in nursing. It is time to begin vigorously studying for the NCLEX and to find a job. There are so many things that have interested me. Now that I have finished my clinicals I am most drawn toward mental health and neurology.

One of the biggest challenges with nursing is connecting everything together. It’s difficult not to get caught up in the minutiae and consequently missing out on the big picture or other significant details. Throughout nursing school we have been assured that with time and experience, we will move from being task-oriented and routine-focused to seeing everything as an interconnected, fluid process, and being able to anticipate and manage rapidly changing non-routine events. I feel that I’ve gained extensive knowledge and learned valuable skills throughout my lectures and labs. However, until interacting with actual patients in a real clinical environment, I could not fully understand, appreciate, and apply all those concepts. My clinicals significantly increased my understanding and have hopefully prepared me for the complexities of nursing practice. I have included some excerpts from my journals of my various clinicals throughout the nursing program:
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Comments (6) May 06 2012

Book Review: The House of Tomorrow

Posted under: book review, philosophy.
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My friend Kate B. intrigued me with the storyline of The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni, and recommended that I read it. I’m glad she did, because it truly was a good read.

This is a novel about a teenage boy named Sebastian who is raised in a futuristic geodesic dome by his grandmother whom he calls Nana. She home schools Sebastian under the teachings of the dead, futuristic architect and philosopher Buckminster Fuller. Nana is convinced that Sebastian is destined to save humanity. She also tries to prevent him from uncovering or thinking about the past, particularly in regard to his dead parents. She asks him at the end: “Just tell me how were you supposed to innovate if you were constantly stuck in a past you didn’t even remember?”

But when his Nana has a stroke and is temporarily incapacitated, Sebastian is forced to venture out in the world and befriends a boy his age named Jared, as well as his mother Janice and his sister Meredith.
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Comments (0) Aug 09 2011

Book Review: Incognito

Posted under: book review, education, philosophy, psychology.
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Neuroscientist David Eagleman proposes in his book Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, that most of what you do, think and believe is generated by parts of your brain to which you have no access. His writing provokes thought and understanding.

The title of this book refers to its theme that we don’t really “know” ourselves. Eagleman describes how most of our thought processes are unconscious and not accessible to us, most of the activity going on without our being aware.

Almost the entirety of what happens in your mental life is not under your conscious control, and the truth is that it’s better this way.Incognito When consciousness meddles in details it doesn’t understand, the operation runs less effectively. One does not need to be consciously aware to perform sophisticated motor acts. We are not conscious of most things until we ask ourselves questions about them. The brain generally does not need to know most things; it merely knows how to go out and retrieve the data. It computes on a need-to-know basis. We are not conscious of much of anything until we ask ourselves about it. We are unaware of most of what should be obvious to our senses; it is only after deploying our attentional resources onto small bits of the scene that we become aware of what we were missing. Before we engage our concentration, we are typically not aware that we are not aware of those details. So not only is our perception of the world a construction that does not accurately represent the outside, but we additionally have the false impression of a full, rich picture when in fact we see only what we need to know, and no more. (p. 28)

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Comments (0) Aug 06 2011

Book Review: Packing For Mars

Posted under: book review, education, science, travel.
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Packing For MarsOK, so I didn’t read this book thoroughly cover-to-cover. I read Roach’s first book Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, which I really enjoyed. So I figured this book would also be pretty good; and since Brent was going to the NASA Tweetup to watch the final shuttle launch, I wanted to learn more about space flight and behind-the-scenes astronaut life. Although I skimmed over parts of the book (Brent read it too, and he caught me when he tried discussing certain parts of which I wasn’t familiar), I did learn a lot of interesting things and enjoyed Roach’s writing style. She gets actively involved in her research and incorporates humor in clever and unexpected ways. I like how she explains gravity:

Gravity is the prime reason there’s life on Earth. You need water for life, and without gravity, water wouldn’t hang around. Nor would air. It is Earth’s gravity that holds the gas molecules of our atmosphere–which we need not only to breathe but to be protected from solar radiation–in place around the planet. The term “zero gravity” is misleading when applied to most rocket flights. Astronauts orbiting Earth remain well within the pull of the planet’s gravitational field. Spacecraft like the International Space Station orbit at an altitude of around 250 miles, where the Earth’s gravitational pull is only 10 percent weaker than it is on the planet’s surface. Here’s why they’re floating: When you launch something into orbit, you have launched it so powerfully fast and high and far that when gravity’s pull finally slows the object’s forward progress enough that it starts to fall back down, it misses the Earth. It keeps on falling around the Earth rathe than to it. As it falls, the Earth’s gravity keeps its tug, so it’s both constantly falling and constantly being pulled earthward. (p. 86)

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Comments (0) Aug 06 2011