I looked at my homework, and wrote this instead.

I’m having a problem I very much don’t know what to do about.

See, my mother died about 10 days ago. 6 days before that she collapsed in front of me on the kitchen floor, at about a quarter to midnight. I was at my computer watching episodes of The New Statesman and staying up far too late. I had been to school that morning, my mother having driven me because I was never able to drive myself for various reasons; lack of ownership of a vehicle being an obvious one, but the dynamics of hers and my relationship being such that I was never given offer to learn and I ceased asking half a life ago.

I heard the sound of her fall, and whipped my head around in time to see the tail end of the fall. I flew to her, shook and called out to her, but I could see her eyes were going dark and the gasping breaths she rasped were merely autonomous. She had fallen in the narrowest path between the small kitchen and dining room we have, knocking the wall hanging corded landline telephone off its hook. I stood, picked it up, and reset the dial to call 911. Propping the handset under my jaw, I knelt again over my mother and tried to coax her into trying to breathe while bracing my arms to begin chest compressions.

The 911 operator asked for all the relevant information and coached me through the compressions as well. I got up briefly to unlock and open the front door for ease of access by the paramedic crew and returned to her on the floor to continue compressions. The medic crew arrived within three to five minutes, taking over for me with much better equipment.

I was asked if she was DNR (that is, “Do Not Resuscitate”; a preference made by many that if their heart is to stop they are not to be revived), and I told them “Yes, please do R!” and paced around my computer chair, trying to stay out of the way while also remaining calm.

She was taken to Banner at Thunderbird Hospital as a Code Blue. For 6 days she was monitored and on the final day, the consultation with the neurologist went exactly as I expected. Phrases such as “no meaningful recovery” and “O2 deficiency” and “cognitive brain cell damage”. She had gone too long without oxygen to her brain; her autonomous systems were working (pain response, all other organ functions etc.) but she would not wake up and would not breathe without the respirator. So we let her go.

All this is not in fact the problem I mentioned at the outset of this piece; the problem is that this all happened in the first week of my final class before earning my Associate’s Degree in Medical Occupational Studies. I am supposed to be organizing resumes, researching employers and deciding “what I want to do”. Next week is supposed to start my externship and I haven’t so much as attended lab practice, let alone filed any paperwork. It is honestly all I can do to keep myself entertained, and adjusting to living alone with my father is somewhat awkward. Add on top of all that, the absolutely imperative need to acquire my driver’s license before I can go anywhere at all on a set schedule. I have not managed to master driving skills over the space of a weekend, while all this emotional and household turmoil is going on and while also somehow managing to focus on homework I simply do not have the heart for yet.

It has only been 10 days. I cannot process through the stages of grief in the space of two weeks. I don’t know how to convince my instructors to give much of any lenience. I have in fact been given 0% attendance score on the day my mother died. Even if I turn in all my homework at its best quality, I will be graded as late. These two courses (the resume/interviews and externship) are required courses and cannot be failed without failing the entire program. If I do not graduate I will owe the Federal Government something like $41,000. I have never earned more than $11,000 in one year, once.

What would help me most would be the ability to simply move the course to the next available mod. I need to get my driver’s license before I can commit to any employer. I need to bond with my father for a while. I need to process this grief before I am able to sell myself in an employment interview. I have asked for this and been told “Well if it was the first week you could…” and when I said “It happened in the first week…?” and simply got a shrug as response; apparently I should have arranged for this earlier, somehow?

So I am stuck. All my work is expected to be submitted as if nothing happened. I sat down here, tonight, to look at the homework. I ended up writing this instead.

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On Nature & Medicine

This was written by me for a discussion post in a pharmacy class, the question given being “List 3 places where you can find more information on herbals… what did you learn that might influence you to lean/or not towards natural medicine?”

I am a fairly ardent believer in evidence-based medicine. The terms “natural” and “organic” and “holistic” have long been appropriated by purveyors of woo and are typically red flags pointing straight at quackery. It’s unfortunate that the genuine meanings of these words have been twisted, because evidence-based medicinal treatments can (and indeed do) come from “natural” and “organic” materials. Setting aside the pedantry of what is or is not “organic” (Chemistry fans please remain in your seat) and what is or is not “natural” (Physicists and Biologists, simmer down please), I think it’s important to remember that science doesn’t actually care about labels. Whether the product was brewed as tea from the leaves of a willow tree (as in the case of acetylsalicylic acid; that is, aspirin) (Aspirin Foundation, n.d.) or whether it was synthesized in a laboratory, what makes medicine “medicine” and not “alternative medicine” is rigorous application of the scientific method. Once a product has been demonstrated to be effective with better-than-random statistical effect by study, testing and peer-review only then can it be considered an actual medicine.

I’m going to show my obvious bias here but one of my main resources on understanding homeopathy was given in a TED talk by James Randi. He explains homeopathy in this way:

“What is homeopathy? It’s taking a medicine that really works and diluting it down well beyond Avogadro’s limit. Diluting it down to the point where there’s none of it left. Now folks, this is not just a metaphor I’m going to give you now, it’s true. It’s exactly equivalent to taking one 325 milligram aspirin tablet, throwing it into the middle of Lake Tahoe, and then stirring it up, obviously with a very big stick, and waiting two years or so until the solution is homogeneous. Then, when you get a headache, you take a sip of this water, and — voila! — it is gone. Now that is true. That is what homeopathy is all about.” (Randi, J. 2007). (Entire lecture seen here)

I’m honestly having a hard time coming up with any internet resources regarding “natural” medicine which I feel comfortable endorsing. Anything written outside of a peer-reviewed journal by chemistry and biology PhD’s is untrustworthy to me; I can’t imagine that for all the lab work and multitude of researchers poring through the properties of various matter have never looked at (or even more unlikely, refused to publish) any genuine evidence that, say, cashews are the cure for depression or that pomegranates “HELP NOURISH YOUR BRAIN” (exact quote) (Levinovitz, A. 2014). Most of these types of claims are based on misunderstanding (or rather, hoping that paying consumers will misunderstand) how drugs like SSRI’s work or how carbohydrates are needed to help other chemicals pass through the blood-brain barrier.

All that said, however I also understand the influential role psychology plays in physical health. Having suffered from chronic atypical depression I am keenly aware of the ways that perception effects health; sometimes the need to believe that a treatment will or will not work may make all the difference in a patient’s response to treatment. For example, while I personally believe prayer is ineffective I also know that it can do a lot to comfort a person’s psyche, if they are so inclined (it would in fact only give me stress and discomfort but to me this is more evidence of the truth that psychological states have almost everything to do with physical health). Believing that bowl of mom’s home made chicken soup will relieve your flu will indeed make you feel better, if perhaps only emotionally. I think it’s important to understand the realistic limits of this though; hugging your childhood stuffed teddy might relieve some pain but rituals will never make a limb grow back.


Aspirin Foundation. What is aspirin? (n.d.) Retrieved from: http://www.aspirin-foundation.com/what/timeline.html

Levinovitz, A. This article is fortified with antioxidants. Slate.com (2014). Retrieved from: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2014/05/pomegranate_supreme_court_case_food_industry_nutrition_claims_sound_scientific.html

Randi. J. Homeopathy, quackery and fraud. (2007). Retrieved from: https://www.ted.com/talks/james_randi/transcript

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Rare and Random

I stumbled upon my old high school Creative Writing teacher today, who said the most touching thing to me. When I pointed to the scrubs uniform I was wearing and explained that I’ve been going to college and studying to be a clinical lab assistant, he says “The last time I saw you, you were working at Taco Bell, right?” He points to his temple and says “You’ve got way more up here than those places ever needed out of you” and smiled, seemingly pleased at my choice of profession.
When he was my teacher and I was in high school, he had a heart attack, and when I stumbled upon him some years ago while I was working, I recall he may have mentioned having had other incidents since then. With no disrespect intended, I’m amazed he’s still alive. I’m so glad he’s still alive, apparently enjoying life and I’m so lucky to have come across him today; there was more kindness and assurance in those few passing minutes than I’ve been shown since I’ve been an adult.

Thank you Mr. Steve Austin, that was the sweetest moment I’ve experienced in a very long time.

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Dental Health, Hiring, and Expectations

Every month (or module) at my school I am tasked to write a short essay on my knowledge and research of various soft-skills, apparently to gauge my readiness to enter a professional career. This month the subject was dental health and how having bad teeth can effect the hiring process. I stopped short of simply stating “Good teeth is not a soft-skill.”


Dental Health, Hiring, and Expectations

             I have to admit that this topic has been difficult for me to write, as I can find no correlation between dental care and soft skills, most of which describe qualifications that have no basis on appearance (such as being a “goal-oriented self-starter” and ability to multitask, as noted by Larry Buhl in an article posted in the career advice section of the website monster.com) (Buhl, L. 2014). The major determining factor in oral health appears to be access to affordable dentistry; something that is not ubiquitous and which impacts poor communities the hardest (Wallace, B.B. & Macentee, M.I. 2012)

            Breaking away from the association between soft skills by definition and having nice teeth, I’m going to address the definite fact that a lot of people do worry whether the appearance of their teeth will make it harder to get hired. A reader at the Ask A Manager blog writes in to ask if her dental accident might be effecting her chances of being hired, worrying that “it marks me as someone who doesn’t care about their appearance or is unprofessional”. The blog host writer, Allison Green, responds with a story about an applicant who asked her to forgive the chip in his front tooth, and explains that she would have never given it thought until he mentioned it. She then implies that it may be a bigger problem for her than for her interviewers by saying “I do wonder if your self-consciousness about the tooth is affecting your confidence and the way you interview, or even making you less likely to smile, so pay special attention to that.” (AskAManager, 2010).

            Not being a trained psychologist, I can only surmise that this kind of worry is largely due to insecurity and an individual’s ability to scrutinize and judge ourselves far more than others generally do. We humans have a particular skill when it comes to performing the spotlight fallacy; that is, to find significance in a few but extreme moments of criticism but dismiss or not even recognize the instances within which our faults were overlooked (or not an issue at all). I find that a lot more people worry “Will they hate my teeth?” than worry the same from the other end. I don’t find people writing about how worried they are that their next applicant will have bad teeth; and if I can get a little more opinionated here – I wouldn’t want to work for someone who did.

Halitosis and the appearance of cracked or bleeding gums might indeed be justly judged as unfit for a position, especially ones that require face to face client interactions or in visual media (such as television, fashion, photography etc.). These problems indicate a medical issue that is of greater importance than mere looks.

Of all the stressors that we bear in life and in the pursuit of career, I think that this is merely one more that we pile upon ourselves. If any soft skill can be demonstrated in this area, it is the ability to let go of insecurities that might hold back your performance.








AskAManager. (2010). is my dental problem scaring off employers?.  Ask a Manager RSS. Retrieved from http://www.askamanager.org/2010/07/is-my-dental-problem-scaring-off.html

Buhl, L. (2014). Soft Skills That Could Land You the Job. Retrieved from http://career-advice.monster.com/job-search/getting-started/6-soft-skills-that-could-land-you-the-job-hot-jobs/article.aspx

Wallace, B. B., & Macentee, M. I. (2012). Access to Dental care for Low-Income Adults: Perceptions of Affordability, Availability and Acceptability. Journal of Community Health, 37(1), 32-39. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21590434

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How many “No’s” does it take to get to the center of an antisocial bitch?

This is a comment to a post written by the awesome Miri at Brute Reason discussing the troubles with navigating persistent propositions. My comment ended up being a longer story than I thought it would be, so I’ve posted it here, to document the memory of the incident.

I had a persistent suitor just a few weeks ago; a classmate who overheard that I play video games for entertainment and struck up some conversation. I explained how I require a minimum of 6 hours daily, that I intentionally don’t go anywhere (both by desire and for the fact that I live with elderly parents – so I have no private space for guests), and described the last 3 boyfriends I had were met playing video games. I said something to the effect of “Guys meet me playing video games then wonder why I want to spend all my time playing video games…” and chuckled about how I had ultimately dumped them because I didn’t want to devote much attention to them. (I’m not exaggerating – I once told a guy, after sex “Yeah I’m done, I’m gonna go play now. You can hang out and watch if you like, or go home *shrug*”.) So for every explanation of exactly why I don’t go anywhere or have anybody over, he had some idea of how to get around it. When I said I couldn’t go anywhere because I am not my own ride (which is 100% true, and like hell am I bothering to take a bus to go out when I don’t even want to be out at all), of course he offered to pick me up (which is, of course, a perfectly nice thing to offer) and when I countered that with “well but I’m still on my parent’s schedule, I have to serve dinner, do chores etc” he says “Oh that’s okay, you can just spend the night!”. Which makes me repeat the “no I don’t go anywhere”, which gets the response “How bout after school? I can give you a ride home and we can stop for a burger on the way” and I say “No, my mom is already scheduled to be here then” so I get “well call her and tell her not to come” so I say “no she’s not good with schedule changes” and oh god this went on for 5 days in a row. Not once did he attempt to get to know me any better than “she plays video games”.

Finally, on a smoke break during class, amongst a large group of colleagues, he starts on it again. Opens with the assumption that I have indeed agreed to go out with him, but we only need to sort the details; “I got my xbox in the truck, I figured I could just give you a ride home and we could hang out.” (And to me, this is borderline offensive. If he knew anything about me even as merely a gamer – let alone a person, he would have known that bringing me an xbox is like bringing a bicycle to a hotrod race. PC 4 lyfe, yo!) So, being fed up I repeat with an exasperated tone that I intentionally don’t have friends I meet anywhere, that THIS (being at school) is the extent of me going out, and no I don’t want to go anywhere after class. When I finish (with several people watching in silence) he looks dejected and I turn away to walk back into the building, hoping to avoid any response. I return to my seat and a few moments later the lady who sits next to me returns as well, having witnessed the whole incident. She tells me as she sits down that when I walked away he said “I just lost all respect for her” and I rather loudly snort “It’s clear he didn’t have any in the first place! He just proved my “no” right! Hah!” and she laughs along with me (whether out of social graces or genuine understanding I have no idea, as this is a pretty nuanced interaction).
He hasn’t spoken to me since, outside of sharing a lighter on break or whatnot. I certainly don’t expect him to continue to pursue, and am grateful that he hasn’t, but I’m amazed that he never even attempted to approach me on a friend level. Get to know me on any level. The only point of relation we had was the video games, and he didn’t even try to have games-centered conversations. Did he know I hold the world’s record for Tomb Raider 2 completed with the harpoon weapon only? Nope, and maybe I shut him down too hard to have had the chance. Or maybe 5 days is plenty of time, my world’s pretty tiny (again, intentionally so). I just think it’s pretty damn telling.
When mom picked me up that day, I told her about it (knowing it wasn’t the best of ideas but whatever). Her first response was “well you gotta think how hard it is for guys to gotta be the one to ask…” which made me burst out with a “HAH that’s HIS expectation, not mine!” I was equally amused as I was outraged, because I don’t expect a progressive or feminist view on anything from my mother. She did however concede that since I wasn’t wanting a relationship, it’s hardly my responsibility to give him one. Plus my relationship with her is much better when I’m not trying to have relationships with people anyway.
This whole scenario played out pretty benign; everyone walked away only slightly miffed (as far as I can tell). But this is what happens when you say no but remain friendly. I spent a few days afterwards debating to myself “so which is it, am I supposed to be a bitch right off the bat?” I’m still fuckin confused; what was I supposed to say, that first day, to protect this man’s ego? Was there ANY thing I could have said that wasn’t “ok, got condoms?” And why is it my problem how this random person’s ego feels?!?!?!?!?!
Moral of the story: Damned if ya do, damned if ya don’t

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Rena Rants a bit about abortion

——–Trigger warning: Clueless abortion arguments———

This is a copypaste of a discussion I’m surprised I bothered to have, in the Unofficial Church of Satan Facebook group. I don’t know what compelled me to say anything, as I know the internet is a lot of talking into a void alongside a billion other people talking into the void.

This may or may not require an update, if any other relevant responses appear. The commenter’s name has been redacted.

Original Post was a general “for or against abortion?” query.

[Commenter] 1-I agree with abortion but with some reservations. I don’t agree with abortion as a contraceptive method, as many women do. If proven that, the woman should never be allowed to have kids. Tough luck, there are lots of orphans waiting to be loved if she decides latter in life to be a mommy.

2-In case of rape, it’s for the woman to decide.

3-Malformation, personally i think everyone should choose to abort, but socially it should be up to the parents, and NEVER the woman alone. If having a normal kid by accident fucks up your life (most of the times), then having a deficient kills you for life. It’s my opinion. Malformed animals die in nature. Deal with it.

4-“Normal” accident should really be up to both in my opinion, but we all know it doesn’t work that way. What can be done when the woman wants to abort, and the man doesn’t? It’s basically women call, and they should abort if they feel they should, though some degree of conversation between the couple should exist.

[Serena Klein] My only argument here is going to be against the assertion “as many women do”. This is a sweeping statement which not only doesn’t reflect the lived experience of the people who have been involved in such a decision, but it seems to be made from a perspective which *can’t* know what ‘many women do’.
Beware narrow perspectives.

[Commenter] “Many” was not supposed to sound as “the majority”. In Portugal there are roughly 100,000 births per year, and 10,000 aborts. 10%. In data I found (just to make a point), the number of births in US in 2008 was 4.2 million, and there were 1.21 million known abortions made by choice. 25%. So yes Serena, many women do abortion for a simply lack of responsibility, almost like a “last measure contraceptive method”. When there are women that have multiple abortions in their lifetime (some times more than 10). It’s quite impossible to know the lives of everyone, but it’s quite obvious, at least, that there are many abortions made because lack of responsibility, no?

[Serena Klein] It’s not at all obvious that there are women who have had 10 or more abortions, nor that this is common enough to warrant a blanket assertion about “many women”. Also “in US in 2008 was 4.2 million, and there were 1.21 million known abortions made by choice” is being equated with the “many women” you say are choosing to use abortion as contraception. Let’s ignore the availability of actual contraception (because no person is going to choose the extreme option when a simpler one is available – would you prefer skin cancer treatment or do you like having access to sunblock lotions?) and assume…… wait a minute, did you just imply that there were nearly 3 million US abortions what were made NOT by choice? I can assure you, pressure and coercion aside, nobody makes a decision like that flippantly.
And I’d like to ask you, this responsibility you seem to think sex-having people bear, who is it owed to? If it’s owed to “unborn babies” that’s about as nebulous a concept as ghosts or astrology. You might as well tell me I owe it to the spirits of the forest to plant trees just because I enjoy trees. If it’s owed to you or humanity in general, you can feel free to fulfill that imposed obligation yourself.
I said I’d only argue the “many women” point, I didn’t mean to reveal myself as a woman with opinions in public, but oh well. It’s just hard to take people seriously before they can demonstrate a wider perspective.

[Commenter] The “abortion as a contraception” is simply a way of saying that the abortion would never have happened if people were responsible in the first place. So, you don’t think that with the information available the number of abortions by choice is proof that many people were simply irresponsible? Well I’m sorry, but the numbers indicate otherwise. You don’t think sex-having people bear any responsibility when they have sex? And where the hell did i say 3 millions US abortions that were not made by choice? And how can you even say nobody makes that decision flippantly? That’s, perhaps as wider perspective as my many. If you know anybody that works in an abortion clinic ask them how many women return there frequently. I never said people prefer the extreme option by choice, but it like they do. When you drink 2 bottles of vodka and than drive and have a accident is like you were asking for the accident, as many couples ask for accidents, don’t giving a real fuck in the occasion. I ask you then: people don’t bear any responsibility in making mistakes? That’s like saying that “oh you killed a person by accident while driving drunk. No problem since it was an accident you should bear no consequences”. Most abortion happen because people were too stupid to begin with. That’s the simple truth. This is not a country that you have trouble finding contraceptive methods. At least the world i live in, most abortions could be avoided if people were responsible.

[Serena Klein] Sex is irresponsible behavior, I get it. It’s just like driving drunk and killing someone. The driver (sex-haver) should definitely be punished.
21st Century Satanism or 14th century Catholicism? I can’t tell D=

So I figured since it’s rare for me to write about this, here ya go.

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A Short Street Harassment Story

I was sitting sideways on the saddle of my 20 inch BMX bicycle which was leaned up against a metal post hoisting a bus stop sign at the base of Sunnyslope Mountain on a cool night around 10PM. I’d just left a friend’s apartment after hanging out and picking up some weed. I was alone and this bus stop had no seating and was situated between the apartment parking lot and a street which sloped very slightly southward as it curved around the base of the mountain.  I don’t remember what sound I heard which made me look behind me, but it was otherwise quiet and dark apart from the cars passing on the street. My back was to the parking lot which had a low stucco wall about four feet away. The parking spaces nearest to me were occupied with various vehicles, dark and seemingly empty. Between the two cars directly behind me was a man with a grin on his face and erect penis in hand. He was white, shiny-headed bald and aged somewhere between 18 and 35. He was shirtless and muscular. The distance between us was maybe a good 15 feet. I blinked for a split second and said “Oh jesus…” in a tone that sounded like a big sister being bored with her brother’s booger jokes, but my brain was freaking out in a way that I can’t describe. I grabbed the handlebars of my bike, hopped on and sped off as fast as I could, not knowing whether he had attempted to close the distance between us where we stood. I raced to the next bus stop and sat for a few moments, debating on the possibility that he might board the bus at the previous stop and thus I would end up on the same bus as he. I rode my bicycle the rest of the way home.

I don’t remember if I told my husband at the time about it.

ed. This incident occurred in roughly 2002 or 2003. I would have been 22 or 23. Before anyone asks what I was wearing, it was probably jeans, boots, a black sweater and black backpack.

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