Sunday, December 30, 2007

LOST addiction issues

Scene: Giant statue on LOST island viewed from the sailboat by Jin, Sun and Sayid. Olaina and Justin on couch. Justin makes noise.

Olaina: What are you jealous?

Sayid: "I don't know what is more disquieting: The fact that the rest of the statue is missing or that it has four toes."

We laughed so much that we had to pause the DVD and start it again.

Diana and Kevin hit us with this ridiculous, severe addiction. All these smart people--watching LOST with the same sort of intensity with which we watch political speeches, the returns of elections and world news.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Female Pakistani Former Priminister Benazir Bhutto Killed in Suicide Attack

I cruised down the channels of Basic Cable, looking for news--checking on the world today. Truth be told, I was thinking about the weather and the traffic for today because my parents are driving down from Huntington Beach to visit us for a belated Christmas celebration. When I finally got past the cartoons, sitcoms and commercials I hit C-SPAN and saw the "Western White House, Crawford Texas" emblem with President GW Bush walking away from the press conference podium. Then they flashed her beautiful photo and 1953-2007.

I sucked the air out of the room, wondering how this world will change again, wondering if there can be any hope of peace anywhere with violence erupting everywhere.

Please God, do not let President Bush believe that another invasion of another country is a solution to anything. Time cannot tick quickly enough toward the end of his miserable tenure as our embarrassing national and (sadly) world leader.

Here are some reports from The Times of India: news of the assassination

I will not rest till terror is rooted out of Pak: Musharraf
27 Dec 2007, 2206 hrs IST,AP
Declaring a three-day state mourning over the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto, Musharraf called it a "terror attack" and appealed for calm.

Bush tells Mush to stay on path to democracy
Bush said that Benazir knew her life was at risk when she went back to Pakistan, thus absolving his administration which is credited with engineering her return from exile.

Bhutto aide blames military-security establishment

I don't understand fighting for peace or prosperity or leadership with violence. I do not understand the need for violence.

Admittedly, I have not fully researched the Pakistani-Indian region conflicts, but add it to my list of worries, my doubts of any glimmer of possibility of peace--world peace, country peace, state peace, three generations of one family killed on Christmas Eve near Seattle... a little girl was killed in our city... I'm sure it was an accident of random violence. I can't bear to think of these families killing families.

So, the birth of Jesus and the promise of Grace and Peace that He brings continues to be a Promise in waiting.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Where'd She Go?

I have been practicing fierce independence.

"Fiercely independent." I remember my first female boss using that phrase when we were in her office and I was filing papers while discussing marriage with this unhappily married mother of an infant. "It's hard to be married, especially if you're fiercely independent."

I am happily married. Marriage does not equate with discarding freedom, it just means sharing the decision making process with an equal shareholder in the life of two.

Two for one. And two.

But this winter is "interview season," so the other partners of fourth year medical students and I spend a lot of time in intermittently long distance relationships.

Gone three days, four nights. Two days, three nights. Home three of the next 14 nights.


Somewhere. Check the chart.

I set up my art booth alone three times. (Three trips per show; Sentra with the seats down still doesn't have room for canvases and walls.)Found a buyer for some prints. Lost my purse. My cell phone. Found them. Slept on both sides of the bed, diagonally, the couch when I forgot to move. Rented movies with females stars and tears and laughter and real life, and no one said a single word while I fell into their world and let it be. I remembered the canvas bags and bought wine and cheese, yogurt, granola, mascara, juice, fruit, two gallons of water and carried it all back myself. "You know that'll be heavy?" the checker said. Yeah, I don't have far to go. The mascara wasn't in the bag. Still have to do something about that.

I have a plan for cleaning the house, but doing all the laundry takes all the day. Then there's work. They pay me, so the house remains the same. I need bigger things, like an SUV but I'll wait for the hybrid and the paying jobs, a studio but I'll wait for the news, a puppy but I'll wait...

March 20.

Match day.

The day the silent partner buys out our equal shareholder and we all decide how to do what's next.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


I was sad when we left Chicago. Not sad like crying-sad, but wistful sad. As we took off I said to Justin, "Well, that's either the last time we go to Chicago or we'll be moving here in June."

He said we'd go back for conferences and the like. He's very non-committal about the residency thing.

Then, as we flew into San Diego, I said, "Hey, you know I could leave here right? I mean, I like it and everything, but we don't have to stay here."

He is convinced that I don't want to leave San Diego. Maybe it's because I burst into tears on the sidewalk after we left the hotel on the way to meet our ride to the party at the hospital. But that was after he liked his interviews, and before I met all the people at that party. Even then I told him it was a big idea to adjust to, and that he knows I'm always bad with change before it happens, but once it does I usually settle into it.

Today we wandered around three more Chicago neighborhoods, looking for places we might like to live. There are a couple of areas where we feel comfortable.

Later, as our feet became painfully cold because the temperature dropped even as the snow melted into dirty yuck car-exhaust-brown and dog-pee-yellow, I said, "What about your foot?"

It hurts his foot to walk so much in the cold weather and he slips and slides a lot. It's also really difficult for him to walk up and down hills because his left foot doesn't bend with the prosthetic in the shoe and he doesn't have toes for pushing off to go up or gripping to go down. (Come to think of it, I'm not sure how he gets around at all. Super Justin!)

San Francisco has hills everywhere, 365 days a year. Chicago has no hills, and is only cold... not all year.

I guess home is just where Justin is. The rest is just a costume change.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Two Faces of Chicago

We flew out here because we thought a county program would be right up his alley. It's "community medicine" and serves underprivileged populations. It is also the larges ER facility in the United States and serves three times as many patients as other hospitals such as UCSF, UCSD and Northwestern.


There's also that thing that people have on first dates--that chemistry that sparks or doesn't.

On one of my first dates with someone, they guy kept shocking me with comments that implied a lack of respect for other people and a self-centered attitude I feared might create a relationship wherein he treated me poorly.

Meanwhile, the so-called Ivory Tower emanates warmth and sincerity that drew both of us into its fold...

I have to stop trying to plan the future, over which I have little to no control. Meanwhile, tomorrow we will check out neighborhoods we might want to live in if we come here for Justin's residency.

Meanwhile, I keep checking myself and pushing Justin's buttons, just to see/prove that I'm not just some girl following a guy and his dreams instead of staying focused and developed on mine. I know that marriage implies this kind of loyalty and support, and I know that Justin supports me in so many different ways, but it just feels so "stand by your man" to move to another state or city because of his career.

I do like it here though. It would be such an adventure to leave San Diego and renew my life-license in some other town.

One other funny thing--all the Ivory Tower residents say you can live in Chicago without a car, whereas all the county kids say there's no way to live here without one. County is a bit outside the deepest downtown center of the city, "cabs don't come to this hospital" one resident said, because it is a slightly scary section of town. But it's interesting to see the personality contrast between people at a hospital that touts itself as a service hospital, versus a hospital that is private, but where the caregivers seem to really care for the patients and the world and want to make it a better place. I am sure the county people care, but I know from experience that a ridiculous and unrealistic client load leads to severe burnout and inability to serve people to the capacity one might have hoped to reach.

It looks like the underdog is winning the race...

go figure.

The Snowy Night and Morning

He had to let me meet the people

Now I love it too.

The people at Northwestern were instantly lovable. While conversation floated into the application process and the program at the dinner we attended last night, it also held its own in the realm of the real world.

People were charming without trying to be.

I have a pretty good radar for character and it was beaming last night. The girl that drove us to the house where the "Rosen Night" (named after an academic who's funny yet important in the ER field and therefore his work is studied extensively) was a lot like me, except maybe a little more glamour oriented. (She had painted nails. Is that even allowed for doctors?) Nevertheless, she graduated from Columbia in 1997, then lived in LA for six years before returning to Medical School at Wash U in Minneapolis and the starting her residency at Northwestern (which is located in the heart of Chicago--the hospital,not the undergrad campus). So we chatted about the lifestyle adjustment and also the difference between a County and a private hospital. It seems the key lies in the resources--obviously Northwestern, which is referred to as the Ivory Tower and the first hospital I have ever entered where I haven't felt certain I was going to become instantly ill, is flush with money whereas County is "more work than ER, more drama, less pay." (It's the setting for the fictional TV drama of Thursday nights.)

Rosen night turns out to be less of a book club and more of a dinner party than one outside the medical field might expect. (I've already spent nearly four years with medical students and know they are some of the most serious partiers I've ever met. What with the need to stay up all hours and work constantly... when they let loose or need a boost they really go for it.)

One of the faculty members holds 90% of the monthly events in her home--the other 10% are held in other places. She has a gorgeous dog named Chealsey and a beautiful little girl. She also cooks for the entire event (except the desserts). We're talking baked brie, chicken encrusted with almond slices, stew, cheese asparagus casserole for the vegetarians, bottles and bottles of red and white wine and then a jeopardy game of the topic du jour (last night was psychiatry so I actually could participate) to make it medically kosher.

I told Emily, the hostess, she has an incredible skill set--she's not a "wife of" like me, she IS a physician and Assistant Professor in the ED.

When we first got their I met a lovely woman named Jamie who seemed quite down to earth and also around my age. Justin and I were chatting with her about the program, the weather, our lives thus far, when I finally asked her what she does. "I'm the Director of the Residency Program," she said.

My face must have flashed a look of "oh! and hear I am talking to you like you're just another new friend!" So she said, "Kind of intimidating, huh?"

"Actually, not really," I replied making a face that indicated I was considering whether I should be intimidated. I'd already decided I liked her before I knew I had to at least act like I liked her, so I couldn't figure out why a 33 year old woman who has been a director of programs but doesn't have an MD should be intimidated by another woman of significant caliber. Perhaps that's what sets me apart from the 23 year old applicants and their significant others.

Then we spent quite some time chatting with the Professor and Chair of the ED. With him, a man who served medically in the Air Force, I launched into a commentary on the war in Iraq, our lives in a military town and how it affects our perspective of the war as compared to most Americans who do not live in military towns. He pursued and instigated the conversation, knowing many of his students and colleagues who were deployed to Iraq several times despite their National Guard status. We know how the families are being affected, we know the toll, we know the end is not in sight any more than the Korean War is over as we guard the demilitarized zone and negotiate a tenuous peace in a place where government doesn't work in the healthy fashion in which government needs to work. I tossed in a, "so much for not talking about politics at dinner parties," but he waved it away in an apparent desire to continue having an intelligent conversation about our government and our wars.

So I liked him.

Then there was Mike, an Associate Director of the Residency program. He told me he liked Justin, which I seconded with, "Me too, I am going to keep him forever." He successfully sold me on the weather and the charm of Chicago, though I know first snows are always charming--it's four or five months into this freeze that people become miserable.

He was a very likable, honest, punchy guy who seems to have bought me and Justin as a package deal. He insisted that I have all the power and that I was the one they needed to win over.

I know that I don't have all the power, just a substantial maybe even equal vote in this two voter process of ranking the order of where we would like to spend our next three or four years.

And as for the program itself--it is different, it is interesting, it has some qualities that the other programs do not, like the three "schools" (academic, research, administrative) and the time spent in the ICU and not so many wards, plus the organized time of classroom didactics.

Justin really likes it.

They're good people, which helps me feel like I could make friends and survive this town better than yesterday, when I didn't know anyone.

Plus, we'd experience seasons together for the first time in our lives for four years running. We would really know what we were looking for in our life--like we tried the UCSD UTC area, the suburbs and then the city in San Diego. We like city life.

One more grand adventure with this man could be a very enriching experience. More enriching than four more years leading into 60 more years in San Diego, which we already know and love.

Plus we can move back.

Maybe we need this giant leap to help us realize where we really want to land together.

Plus, one of the faculty members shared her story of adopting a Vietnamese child and still working on adopting a brother or sister for him. It was such a real conversation that she initiated and that we rolled carefully along with as she drove us back to our hotel on her way to their city home. (They also live in the suburbs, but in the snow she wasn't going to do the drive at night and in the morning, even if her husband and baby were going to be away from her for the night. Seems like a good decision given the separation time a car accident would cause, not to mention hours on the road instead of sleeping...)

It's just been such a human experience.

Thus far, at UCSD it's been more of an exploration and an experiment in sociology for me. Here, I feel like I could make some real connections, whereas there I have felt more tenuously tied by the "old foggies club" and "the happy-marrieds" status. The spouses have been the extra elective.

Maybe in Chicago I could create a new life for myself again.

Maybe this time I'd be creating a life as myself, instead of some impression of myself, some inward need to project the person I am "supposed" to be according to the definition of success in the realms I have inhabited as Indian daughter, honors high school student band member, college academic star and journalist, teaching machine and journalism factory of award-winning students, writer or artist or photographer.

Maybe here I could invent myself from my inside out because no one would know "what Olaina is supposed to be."

Maybe here I could surprise myself with my Self.

And maybe my Self would enchant people (or not) and I would be OK with the responses of others as long I as felt like I was being honestly Me.

Maybe in Chicago I would grow more whole and fully re-cog-nized.

Maybe Chicago would not shape me, but I would shape myself.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

He likes it here.

I'm going to have to kill him now.

Who lives in a place because it's cold? Who lives here after San Diego?

We might.

We might not.

I've been trying to get over the shock.

Meanwhile, Justin has been dizzy since Saturday or Sunday but hasn't gone to a doctor. (Despite being surrounded by them for so very long.)

I'd miss him if I killed him, but at least I'd get to live in a warm place.

I suppose depending on where I did it.

Anyway, here's some pictures from today:

(they're lost?)

Chicago Photos

Three Hours Remaining

I'm told I have three hours until the snow warning takes affect. I should go out and eat some lunch and stock up on supplies before I have to batten down the hatches.

Justin just called me--he said the program looks like it's a pretty good place. The connection was terrible, so I thought he said, "This doesn't look like it's the place." My heart lept as I said, "So why don't you come home?"

I mean after all, why hang out and interview when you can play in Chicago with your wife?

He said he still had interviews and that the dinner is at 6 p.m.

"But we're not going to that, right!?!"

"No, we are!"


That's when I figured it out and also he told me that he would text me instead of trying to talk through the static.

So we might end up living here.

I'd better go outside and practice being cold.

My kind of town?

Chicago is?

Chicago is a gorgeous city. I knew that before I arrived here for the second time. Last time, I had the advantage of beautiful weather--San-Diego-like weather of sunshine and warmth and a simple breeze. Even when we arrived Sunday, Justin was shocked and vociferously cold while I marched along with bravado: 'It's not that cold, it's fine, I would have bought you a scarf to go with your beanie, but you said you weren't a scarf person.'

But yesterday, as the hours passed in the blasts of icy wind hit us in the 30 degree Fahrenheit weather (-1C !!!), my tolerance waned. First we bought gloves for me and a scarf for him. We had to continue in the quest for gloves for him because the ones at the GAP and Eddie Bauer did not fit well. Finally, at Macy's (formerly Marshall Field's) he got gloves that are made to be able to use your cell phone and MP3 player with ease. There are little buttons on the thumb and forefingers!

Still, by 5 p.m. we were both painfully cold. We had walked the Magnificent Mile from the Tribune building to Macy's and back to Millennium Park while I shot photos and he waited patiently and also guarded me (he said it was my day--since today and tomorrow he's out interviewing all day) while I knelt and stopped in the middle of the street if I saw a good view. We finally retreated to our hotel and decided to eat at Shula's--one of the best steakhouses in the United States--so that we didn't have to suffer the chilling blasts on the walk to Ditka's (another sports worshippers' steakhouse.)

Now, the question is how does a girl like me spend a day like this?

I could go to the museums or just trudge around taking more photos of the architecture and holiday decorations. But it's below freezing out there. A snow advisory is starting this afternoon, but until it does we've got the wind that is blowing the "weather system" toward us. I don't want to go out into the wind to get to anything. I want to go back to sleep. It's two hours earlier in my real world. After some rest I can work on some preparations for my art shows.

We shall see. I will post photos as soon as I upload them.

The good news, Justin would have to see an extraordinary program here to be persuaded to move to Chicago.

It is at least 40 degrees warmer at home.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Time Travel and Love

One of my favorite commentators, the old guy, from Romania who now lives in New Orleans, did a piece about jet lag and trying to figure out what day and time it is, but it becoming irrelevant. (I'll add a link later. He's smart and has a great voice.)

Neil, my amazing 31 year old brother, did the Iron Man Race in Australia yesterday--December 2, 2007.

Justin and I are flying to Chicago today, December 2, 2007.

We thought we'd miss tracking Neil's race on-line because we'd be in transit, but instead we missed it because I was at work and Justin was in Los Angeles visiting his step-dad.

And now it's 5:30 a.m. and I'm supposed to have gotten a whole lot more done by now, but waking up at 4 a.m. is hard to do.

A friend of mine said something interesting yesterday, at work, when I told him we were going to Chicago and I was stressed out because I have so much work to do.

"Why are you going?"

"Because he asked me to go. He needed the support and that's what you do when you're married. You support each other emotionally, financially, physically."

"But when it affects your finances maybe you should say, 'no.'"

At the time I think I said something like, "Yeah, well..."

But now, when we are to leave our house in just a couple of hours, I am reconsidering these words. Both Justin and I, in our mere five and a half years of marriage have almost died. He got sick the first month of our marriage, and I got sick about four years into it. Never, during those hospital visits, did we want anything more than to be with each other for a lot more years.

I'm reading Tuesdays with Morrie right now--my brother recommended it and I dug it out of the recycle bin at the library across the street, a perfectly clean not even cracked hard back copy--and I'm getting ready to travel with my husband. While we are gone, I will miss out on making minimum wage for walking dogs and serving restaurant customers.

I don't imagine I will ever remember these days as an important time if I didn't spend them supporting my husband by actually being with him.

I don't imagine we'll miss the money more than we would miss each other if we couldn't be together.

I've been to Chicago once for a journalism convention and I can show him around, I also could rely on my memory to know it's a nice place where I wouldn't completely mind living--not like the South, which I've endured and which I forbade him to even consider applying to residency programs. But as Justin said, "You were there with kids in Chicago. You weren't there with your husband looking for a place to live."

In marriage, our lives are intertwined around presence, not money. This being together is what matters. Maybe I can get some work done there--maybe just taking photos, maybe some mounting of photographs while he interviews. I just have to remember that life has many opportunities and, the real question to ask is, "Am I being the person I want to be?"

Am I being the person I want to be?

Right now, perhaps more so than ever before in my life.