Thank You

As a bio major, I usually know when the end of the term comes, I’ll see my professors again soon in some capacity or another. Whether it’s just wandering the halls of the building or in another class, I know I’ll bump into them. But when I wrap up electives, it’s always bittersweet. I never really know if I’m going to see these professors again around campus, and sometimes I’m not really sure if, beyond this 10 weeks, they’ll remember me or I’ll remember them.

But for the most part, my beloved English teachers have always stayed with me, whether it be in my memory or through email or through my writing. Today wrapped up my American Literature class. My professor was a kooky, fantastic older lady who is just wonderful. From the very start, she had us engaged in some type of discussion, albeit slightly awkward. But as my roommate always says, in awkwardness you find beauty. And so we did. This class always flew by. Three times a week for an hour, I never knew where the hour went. She was always finding ways to make us talk to each other, to challenge us, to make us step outside that comfort zone. And great things came out of that.

She was also extremely knowledgeable. I know all professors are, but some simply shine when they talk about their passion, and hers was forever English. When we really delved into a book, short story, or poem, I saw how much she loved it and how much she wished we didn’t have to go on. She was so great at imparting that love of literature on to us, or at least on to me. I met with her twice throughout the term during office hours for help on the papers. Each time, we had a good hour-long (or more) discussion about not just the paper, but literature and life. And it was wonderful. I loved talking with her. I always came out of that office feeling better about my work and just myself in general.

Today, our last day, she took the time to tell us that our class had submitted, consistently, a high level of work. I got the impression that she didn’t say that a lot, and she even later said that she doesn’t say things like that likely. So it was nice to hear that from someone who’s been around a while and seen a lot of classes. It might sound like something a lot of professors say, and I’m sure they mean it, too. But this meant a lot to me. What surprised me, though, was she took the time to then stop each student as they packed up to leave, to give them an individual thanks for their contributions to class. When she got to me, and thanked me and said her piece, I was truly moved. I wanted to hug her, and I kind of wish I had. All I could say was, “Thank you, thank you so much,” and hope that she understood I was thanking her for everything she’d given me. I know I’ll be visiting her office next term just to check in and see how things are. Because that’s the impact she had on me. I couldn’t quite put it into words at the time, but they’re on paper now, as they should be.

Review: Sisters Red and Sweetly

This weekend was the last before finals week for me, and with Hurricane Irene raging outside for the past day or so, my roommates and I spent our time indoors. With only my anatomy practical to worry about this week, I decided to give myself a break and relax by doing one of my favorite things in the world: reading. I know, I’m so cool. It was while looking for a story to lose myself in that I found two books belonging to a wonderful series called Fairytale Retellings.

Jackson Pearce created a gripping, fantastical world in her novels Sisters Red and Sweetly. The idea behind both novels is to take the basic elements of popular fairytales, and use them as the foundation for a much larger and intricate story. Out of the two, Sisters Red is my favorite, because I utterly fell in love with the characters and the storyline. But Sweetly was also very well-done, if more mysterious. Both stories, though, have grim and captivating prologues that immediately drew me in and, despite thoroughly creeping me out, made me want to keep reading to see how these characters would be affected.

Sisters Red is about the March sisters’ hunt for revenge against the Fenris, werewolves who prey on young girls. The story takes elements from Little Red Riding Hood, with the prologue even including the line “All the better to see you with, my dear.” Beyond that, though, the prologue and the story are much darker and grislier than the fairytale ever was. Scarlett and her younger sister Rosie are forever scarred when, at age 11, they witness their grandmother’s death at the hands of a Fenris. Since then, the two have learned to fend for themselves and become hunters of the Fenris, donning red cloaks during their hunt to lure the wolves. Their close childhood friend, a woodsman named Silas,  often helps with the hunt as well. The story is told from the alternating points of view of Scarlett and Rosie as they take turns narrating chapters.

Pearce’s writing helps us see the world from two very different points of view: Scarlett, who is emotionally and physically scarred by the Fenris; and Rosie, who feels she has no choice but to follow her older sister. We feel Scarlett’s love for the hunt as she lures Fenris, and her subsequent rage as she makes them reveal their true forms before the kill. Rosie’s devotion to her sister is unparalleled and relatable, yet we also root for her to follow her own dreams, which differ from her sister’s.

Silas is often the voice of reason between the two sisters, as well as comic relief. It’s interesting to watch his relationship with Rosie deepen while he strains to continue helping Scarlett. He was probably my favorite character in the book simply because of his free-spirited, easygoing nature. His bond with each sister is very deep but also very different, and yet it’s easy to see why the three make such a good team. He understands them both very well and is reluctant to come between them, but at the same time tries to encourage Rosie to pursue other interests besides the hunt. He also isn’t afraid of Scarlett, and gets away with a lot around her, simply because of their strong friendship. Pearce effectively shows how Scarlett and Rosie’s bond as sisters and friends is tested when they realize their passions are different. It’s a wonderful journey to take, and I loved it from beginning to end (although I wish it didn’t end and would love to see them in later books).

Another reason I loved the book so much is the sweet relationship that develops between Silas and Rosie. I won’t spoil anything except to say that Pearce captures the beginnings of romance between two old friends very well. From the start, when Rosie can’t pinpoint her shyness around Silas, to his realization that she is more than his friend’s younger sister, their relationship is very sweet to watch. Seeing it from Scarlett’s point of view also made me feel for her, and reminded me that not everything was roses and butterflies in their world.

Pearce’s companion book, Sweetly, just came out a few days ago. The book is well-written and fast-paced, and the characters are definitely intriguing. I didn’t fall quite in love with Sweetly as I did Sisters Red, but that’s alright. It’s still a good book; it just didn’t stay with me as much as the other one. This one takes its basis from Hansel and Gretel. Our main characters are Ansel and Gretchen, a brother and sister who lost their twin sister to a monster in the woods at a young age. Fast-forward to years later, when they are kicked out of their house by a stepmother who no longer wants them after their father’s death.

The story is told entirely from Gretchen’s point of view. She is a sympathetic character, and her struggle to overcome being a victim of her sister’s disappearance is heartbreaking at times. In this story, though, I feel as though the supporting characters take on a much stronger role and are even more interesting at times. Sophia, a young woman we meet in the small town of Live Oaks, is cheerful and bubbly on the outside, but an underlying sadness threatens to overtake her at any minute. We, along with Gretchen, wonder what the sadness is due to, and for a while she is surrounded by more questions than answers. Samuel, a young man who helps Gretchen face her fears, is also haunted by personal loss. He feels like a breath of fresh air, though, for both Gretchen and the reader. The pieces of the puzzle come together in a fantastic, chaotic clash at the end of the book. Despite being less invested in these characters, the final, climatic scene was thrilling as ever, a testament to Pearce’s great storytelling and writing.

Pearce’s next book, Fathomless is not due out until the fall of next year, making me one sad reader. But having these two books for company this weekend certainly made my imagination that much happier 🙂

Little things

I spent a good 2 hours of my day creating the new photostrip you see on the side of my blog now. And I’m damn proud of it 😀 Despite the triviality of this little marvel, I’m uberly happy that I finally accomplished this. My previous background was created by none other than my fabulous roommate, who also blogs her awesomeness over at Looking Through the Test Tube Glass. She has been blogging far longer than I have about her creative crafts, adventures, and of course, the glue that binds us together, science 🙂

But yes, two hours of my day was spent creating the new background simply because I realized I didn’t want to just blog about medical or science-related topics, but basically anything and everything. And I’m enjoying it so much. I already had several non-sciencey posts, so I wanted to change my background a bit to reflect that. I’m so easily pleased…it’s quite sad. Yet I’m also a perfectionist to a fault when it comes to some things, so of course I had to get the thing just the way I wanted it. Then there was the matter of figuring out how to position it, etc, so it wouldn’t block out my text and all that other stuff.

Anywho, I finally figured it out, and I’m happy with the result. It’s a small change, but one that makes me happy because I managed to do it myself. It feels much better. Though you can expect some minor tweaking in the coming days, I’m sure 😉 To quote Zombieland, one of the most awesome movies ever:

Rule #32 – Enjoy the little things.

The badassness that is Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson).

Laurie R. King, author extraordinare

I’m a huge bookworm. I love love love books. And I have a lot of favorite authors and characters and trilogies and series that I love and will probably post about another time. This post, though, is all about Laurie R. King, probably one of my Top 5 writers of today.

I love writers who take something or someone familiar and turn it on its head and say, What if…? The brilliant writers are the ones who get it right, and create this whole new side to things and people that you thought you already knew. t’s like seeing an old friend, but in a new light. It’s just fantastic. Laurie King does the same thing with one of the most beloved characters of all time: Sherlock Holmes.

She takes the character we all know so well from Arthur Conan Doyle’s books, and, while keeping the essence of the character, looks at what might have happened had Sherlock Holmes, much later in life, taken on an apprentice. A younger, female apprentice. It’s just such an interesting idea, that someone would challenge Holmes later in his life, when he (and readers) least expected it. Beginning with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, King tells the the story of Mary Russell, who literally stumbles upon Holmes and, to his amazement, displays an keen eye and level of intelligence he has not encountered for some time. Her books take us from the start of their partnership onwards, from Russell’s training to her full participation in Holmes’ cases. King’s website has a list of all her books 🙂

Watching (and I say watching because when I read, it’s like a movie playing out in my head) these two is like a battle of wits. King writes Holmes wonderfully, keeping him in character as a callous, grumpy old man who nonetheless has not lost any of his remarkable detective skills; if anything, he’s gained some. He takes on the task of teaching Mary about his world, and as she gets sucked into his cases, so does the reader. Their relationship is a beautiful back and forth; Holmes and Russell are well-matched in so many ways and are always entertaining.

Her latest novel, Pirate King, is set for release on September 6. But until then, King released a short story to tide us over. Beekeeping for Beginners tells the story of Holmes and Russell from the beginning, but this time from Holmes’ point of view. All the other novels are from Russell’s witty and often hilarious perspective. With this story, King gives us a glimpse into Holmes himself, and his first impressions of the young lady who would quickly charm him (and us readers). We revisit familiar events through Holmes’ eyes and ears in a delightful and still thrilling journey from the country into and through busy London. I wish this was longer, because I love the characters so much, but I know it’s a short story for a reason. I’m just happy it exists at all.

King’s novels are a wonderful series of stories that I hope will not end anytime soon. I so enjoy following Holmes and Russell on their captivating adventures. King has created a fantastic series of books that make Sherlock Holmes accessible to yet another generation of readers. Her books, and reading itself, heed the third rule of beekeeping: “Never, ever, cease to wonder.”

Beginning of the end

As I wrap up my summer term of school in a week, I started looking ahead to the next two terms. I’m so amazed that four years have gone by so quickly. I really can’t believe it. People always tell you they will…but you just have to go through it to understand it, I guess. In six months, I will be a college graduate. That’s exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time.

I know I want to apply for my post-baccalaureate program as well as take the MCATs one more time. And yet, as college has taught me time and time again, most things will not go according to plan. So while I have some type of roadmap for where I’d like to go, I’m trying to allow for some flexibility because you really never know what could happen.

At the same time, I do know what I want. I’m scared of failure (again). The original plan was to go to college for four years and then medical school. Then it was, take a year to do a post-bac, but still take an MCAT prep course and knock that exam out of the way. Now, I’m down to yet another backup plan. I’m just praying this one works. I’m going to put my all into it, as I always do. But last time, my all wasn’t good enough apparently. And it scares me to death that that might happen again.

But I know what I want, and I know that if I can make it through these next few years and get to medical school, I can do anything. I have to keep the faith, I guess. I can’t go anywhere if I don’t have that.

Music: Lady Antebellum and Hunter Hayes

I’m going to put it out there, in case you couldn’t tell by the title of my post: I’m a huge country music fan. It took me a while, but I started listening to it a while back and finally fell in love with a lot of the artists.

Lady Antebellum was the main catalyst for my venture into country music. I loved Need You Now (like everyone else in the world) so freakin’ much that I started to look more into the band. I fell in love with the first few songs on their album, especially American Honey and Our Kind of Love. But as I played the CD in my car on my way to work, I slowly fell in love with the other songs also. It was an album that sort of creeped up on me. I didn’t think I liked some of the other songs, and then the more I listened to them, the more I went, “damn, this is good!” And I love when that happens. Some songs were just fun, and most had beautiful lyrics too. I also listened to their first, self-titled album. Run to You is one of the most romantic songs ever. Last Night Last, a gem I found on youtube, is also a great song. But from Need You Now, When You’ve Got a Good Thing is in my top 5 romantic songs. I just love it so much. So thank you, Lady A, for making me love country music.

Their new single just came out: We Owned the Night, from the upcoming album Own the Night. Superexcited for that. Their first single, Just a Kiss, was just the sweetest song ever. I just love them. Anyways, before I end up gushing about that song, I want to talk about We Owned the Night. It’s not a typical song, or at least I feel like it’s not. It just has a really different feel to it. There’s a really cool guitar melody (I don’t know the technical term) throughout that just gives it a really unique chord sound. I love that. The chorus itself is interesting; I know it’s going to take some time to grow on me, but a lot of their songs have done that and are now my favorite, so I have a feeling I’m going to grow to love it pretty soon 🙂 I love all their voices, but I especially love the songs where Charles takes most of the lead vocal. His voice just makes me melt and swoon everywhere. I could just listen to it all day. Love it. So I know he’s going to win me over with this song also. And I’m totally okay with that.

The cover for his single, Storm Warning.

The other new music I found today was thanks to USA Today. I usually can’t go a day without reading this paper. I love it exactly for reasons like this. I read this article about one writer’s playlist of the week and was immediately interested in a few of the songs I read about. I know, I know. Country again. I’m in that mood. Anyways, I looked up this young kid he was talking about, Hunter Hayes. He’s super interesting. Apparently he’s been a musical kid all his life, experimenting with different instruments and songwriting from a young age. Then I listened to his single Storm Warning, recommended by said writer. Hello! This boy has a voice. It’s a really nice country voice. I’m picky about some country singers. Blake Shelton is just not for me. I like the guy, and I love Miranda Lambert too. But his voice is a bit strong for me. (For now, at least. Never know.) But Hunter! Loveee his voice. It’s like a young Keith Urban/Rascal Flatts tone. The Rascal Flatts bit came from my best friend, but she’s totally right. I just like his voice a lot. This is a good single too. It’s very catchy, definitely has get-stuck-in-your-head potential. He has a few other songs out; Wanted is very sweet. The lyrics are exactly what any girl would want to hear. Somebody’s Heartbreak is also great, I absolutely love the chorus lyrics. I can definitely relate. But Storm Warning is my jam for the next two days as I attempt to bang out my English papers back-to-back.

Good old country music gets the job done.

Statistics

There are no words for my hatred of statistics. P-values, F-values, t-tests, collinearity, multiple regression and a lot of other stuff I don’t understand is making my head spin beyond belief.

It’d help if we actually studied or practiced problems that related to medicine or health, or hell, even science. One of the problems in the book today talked about gamma-aminobutyric acid and its role in the brain, and I was so excited to see biological terms that I didn’t know what to do with myself. That type of problem would be interesting. But unfortunately, I don’t know what to do with the given data because up until now, we’ve been talking about the likelihood of chickens laying eggs depending on the type of plot treatment given, etc. I DON’T CARE ABOUT THE CHICKENS!

Fine. Maybe I do on some really deep level. But right now, I don’t give a crap. All I want is for this godforsaken exam to be over so that I can focus on my English papers for two much better and more deserving professors.

Also, it doesn’t help one bit that I just found out Netflix is streaming seasons 1-4 of Mad Men.

Eagles player diagnosed with brain AVM

Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Mike Patterson suffered a seizure during Wednesday’s practice this week. The team medics did their best to help him until the paramedics arrived about 10 minutes later. One of the team’s rookies and volunteer firefighter, Danny Watkins also helped the medical team until the the paramedics took over.

Patterson was taken to Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, Pa., near the team’s practice field. Originally, it was thought that dehydration or something football-related was the cause of the seizure. But doctors diagnosed him earlier today with a brain AVM – arteriovenous malformation. According to the Mayo Clinic, this is an abnormal tangle of blood vessels (arteries and veins) within the brain. The cause is unknown still, although it is believed to be congenital and sometimes occurs during fetal development. Males are more likely to have this condition.

AVMs can occur anywhere in the body, since blood vessels will run pretty much everywhere. But the brain and spinal cord are the most common places for AVMs to occur. When the blood vessels are tangled, normal blood flow to the area is prevented. In the brain, this is critical, because now it is not receiving blood or proper oxygen.

An AVM may not be diagnosed until outward symptoms appear, like what happened to Patterson. Other symptoms involve headaches and progressive numbness. More severe symptoms, like paralysis, vision loss, difficulty speaking, and massive headache, point to a potentially ruptured blood vessel, or hemorrhage. These symptoms also mirror those of strokes.

In addition to the usual CT and MRI scans, cerebral arteriography can be used to diagnose brain AVMs. In this test, a tube is inserted by the groin, threaded up towards the brain, and dye is injected. This allows doctors to identify the location and group of blood vessels affected, for a more detailed diagnosis.

What an AVM looks like before treatment

Surgery and radiation are the most common forms of treatment, and appear to be the options under consideration in Patterson’s case. Surgery would remove the affected vessels, while radiation causes the vessels to clot slowly, preventing blood flow to the area completely and causing blood to take a different route.

Vessels after treatment of an AVM.

It’s still unclear, though, which route Patterson and his doctors will decide to take, and what this means for his football career. Obviously he would like to get back into the game quickly, but with a condition like his, it may take time and more caution on his part, especially in such a contact sport as football. Hopefully Patterson will be able to recover from this well and return to the team and the game soon.

Anxiety and Medications

One of my best friends was recently involved in a car accident. In a moment of distraction, her car swerved, went into a ditch, and after over-correcting, ended up flipping over a few times before stopping on its head. All things considered, she escaped unscathed, aside from some minor bruises and cuts, thanks mostly to her seatbelt. She was really lucky. Her car, however, wasn’t. It was pretty much totaled and towed away somewhere.

Ever since this accident, she’s had heightened anxiety issues, and also what she describes as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. She’s had anxiety attacks since high school; they come a few times a month for at least 10-15 minutes. Lately, they’ve been coming on more and more, to the point that they’re getting in the way of her daily life. She got frustrated enough that she scheduled an appointment with her doctor to talk about all of it. Her doctor was really receptive and offered some suggestions for helping with the PTSD. Mainly, she recommended talking to someone, possibly a psychiatrist. For the anxiety, however, her doctor wants to try antidepressants, and a fairly high dose at that.

Now, I’m a pretty paranoid person, so I tend to oppose a lot of medications in general, because I just don’t want to mess with the natural state of my body. I think there are many things that the human body can handle on its own, given enough time. But I feel like people are so ready to just self-medicate their problems away these days, and that shouldn’t be the case. There’s also a freaking pill for everything, which doesn’t help at all. I’m not saying my friend is one of those people or that she shouldn’t try the antidepressants. But this is a pretty big step, and I wonder whether or not the anxiety was exacerbated by the accident. To have anxiety attacks since early high school and yet not try to do something about them until now, several years later, makes me think that the accident is some type of catalyst for her heightened anxiety.

I’m not a medical professional, I know. But she is one of my best friends. And I just worry about medications and how they will interact with her body, because she’s also on birth control. And birth control, despite all the good things it does, has longlasting and un-researched effects on the body. It is just one more thing that is unknown, and adding in another medication just feels very scary to me. But she, as the patient, should have say in what she wants to do. And it’s her body, so if she’s willing to take that risk, if it’s worth it to her, then she should do it. I know she’s conflicted about it, as she should be. It’s not an easy choice to make.

The other thing I know she will eventually have to face is the financial burden of these pills (and possibly psychiatrist visits). As a working college student, she’s focused on paying off her school bill and keeping up with her loans. And that’s how it should be. But this will only add to her list of financial concerns, and ultimately, cause more stress. More stress = more anxiety = more problems.

There are just so many sides to this, and I probably haven’t covered them all in this post, but it just goes to show the magnitude of the issue. Also…she’s only 21…how are we expected to grow up so fast?

Maybe I’m just overly paranoid about the whole medication thing. That’s fine. I’m okay with that. But it’s just really scary to me how quickly things can change, and I guess how easy it is these days for medications to be the answer to so many things.