Friday, August 27, 2010

One Week Down . . .

That is to say I have completed my first week as a sufficiently-part-time-to-receive-financial-assistance-student. Of my two classes I've found them both at least satisfactory if not enjoyable.

Medical Terminology has felt ridiculously easy so far. There hasn't been much in the way of instructor or student interaction as yet in this course but I don't really perceive that as a negative. For one there's no classroom component to the section I'm enrolled in, it's wholly online. Additionally, the structure of the course is basically to work within a workbook that is very well structured to familiarize oneself with the subject matter and prepare for weekly quizzes. Finally, it's one credit. Only one credit. I don't feel like I'm being robbed if I end up not interacting with anybody very much for this class. For what it is it feels like it's well arranged.

Principles of Chemistry [first course in a 2 semester sequence] has been totally different. Also an online course, the interaction level has been pretty high at least between me, the professor and a fraction of other engaged students. The professor seems really good and the slide-show lectures he's made up using Power Point are very well made. So far the subject matter has been pretty basic and foundation, about half of it was a refresher on essential math and problem solving skills. There have been some good discussions on the class message board, and I feel a degree of pride in that I think I helped a fellow student gain a better understanding of the principles dictating significant figures in an equation. Next week I expect we will begin delving into chemistry in earnest and that should be cool. We also will start having labs, mine meets Tuesday evenings after I get off work, and I'm interested to see how that goes. If I'm being totally honest with myself I'm a little bit nervous too; it's been a looooooooong time since I've participated in a scientific lab experiment. I've already completed my reading, homework and quizzes for both courses for the week. I guess I'm pretty excited about the whole experience of being back in college and working towards a career as a veterinarian.

On a different topic relating to personal growth I have volunteered to put together the opening devotional for the next Nineteen Day Feast at the Baha'i Center of Minneapolis for the month of 'Izzat which means might. I intend to try and find five to seven might themed passages to be read at the beginning of feast. They could reference either the might of God, or the strength that one draws from one's faith. I had a somewhat silly idea to see if I couldn't find appropriate passages starting with the letters for Captain Marvel's magic word Shazam as sort of a hidden bonus that I don't expect anybody to pick up on. So I guess it would just be for my own amusement, but there's not necessarily anything wrong with that. I'm glad that I'm doing this, introvert that I am, I am very conscious that I am not necessarily super active in the Minneapolis Baha'i community and this is a way for me to make a contribution that feels safe to me. At the same time I feel a bit of extra weight in having volunteered for this because I feel like life is very busy for me and my family in the immediate moment and I know I basically volunteered myself for an extra-credit homework assignment that was never assigned. Those apprehensions aside I think this could be a really fun activity and I'm looking forward to the satisfaction of putting together something that I hope others will find spiritually engaging.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Saturday Morning At School

This morning I attended a new student welcome session at MCTC. During the course of the morning and into the noon hour I identified the location of my Tuesday evening lab, patiently waited to have a student ID created for me and visited the student bookstore where I purchased a student bus pass allowing me unlimited rides on public transportation through the end of the year.

This comes hot on the heels of the first communications being issued from the instructor of one of my two courses, Principles of Chemistry I [of II]. I am impressed with my professor so far. The online lecture I've already viewed (put together using power point) was rather straight-forward and visually effective, and the audio presentation is synchronized well with the visuals. There are also lots of links through which one can watch experiments displayed in snap-shot form on the lectures as full videos. Very high caliber stuff. I'm looking forward to the semester which starts on (yikes!) Monday.

Later in the afternoon I paid a visit to Comic Book College. In addition to picking up 2 weeks worth of new comics (which now amounts to only 3 issues) I dropped off the copies of the six pages of content from my Spanish Civil War comic with Comic Book College Yearbook organizer/publisher Dave. It's somewhat exciting to me that some of my work will see publication again, even if it's only on a local level. Dave and I also talked about the possibility of doing a larger compilation for next year's CBC Yearbook where the same comic would be reprinted. I like the idea of that, not least of all because it may give me the opportunity to create additional content or to re-draw some of the panels and/or pages from the original work that I feel I could better illustrate now than when I initially produced it back in early 2003.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tell Me Where It Hurts Pt. I

I pushed through what probably should have been my bedtime last night in order to finish Tell Me Where It Hurts by Dr. Nick Trout. This book was really great, a sort of composite memoir based on the professional experiences of Dr. Trout, a veterinary surgeon in the Boston area. I'd like to revisit the topic of the book at some point and review it a little more thoroughly when I have it at hand (at the moment I do not) to reference and perhaps quote excerpts from. That said I will sum up my reaction by saying that this was an excellent book that did a good job of reinforcing my desire to pursue a career in animal medicine. Having had a rough week last week I have backed off my pursuit of volunteer opportunities in veterinary clinics and/or animal rescue operations for the time being. Part of me still wants to hold out for an opportunity, sparse though they are in a community with the suburban sprawl of the Twin Cities metro area, to work with large/food supply animals, but I now feel that there is just as much for me to be gained by working with companion animals at an urban clinic or shelter for the moment.

In other news I joined an old friend who [entirely coincidentally] lives half a block away from me for a trip to the gym last night. I had a pretty good workout and didn't feel too sore afterwards. I also, despite going to bed later than I ought to have last night, felt much more well rested than I have in over a month. Maybe the good workout helped. Maybe the adjustments I've made to the supplements I'm taking are proving beneficial (I've stopped taking vitamin D pills. I'll start again when the time available for me to be out in daylight wanes again as winter approaches). I think a major factor has to do with the changes in weather conditions that began a few days ago. It is a bit cooler, and humidity & barometric pressure levels have dropped significantly. I really think that this has helped my ability to sleep comfortably significantly (yes, even with the air conditioning in my bedroom). I know I have actually had dreams the last evening or two. I don't recall exactly what I dreamed but I know I did dream which suggests a deeper and more restful sleep than I've had in ages. Thank you, God.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Psychological Cripple

I've been experiencing varying degrees of anxiety almost constantly for upwards of a month at this point. It has made it very difficult for me to interact with others, and I think placed strain on my relationships. It has hampered my ability to focus. It has negatively effected my ability to think rationally. It is scary and sometimes paralyzing and it sucks. My heart is too often racing. My attention too eratic. I have difficulty calming down. I sleep restlessly. I've tried to dismiss it as having passed, or as being circumstantial, but it's beyond that. There are things that have definitely fueled it. my birthday. the assault on August 4th. trying to make plans for gatherings with friends. consistently busy weeks and weekends. irregular sleep. sorting out school scheduling and financial assistance. coping with a job I often find frustrating or boring. being the sole bread winner for my home. All of these things weigh on me and make it that much more difficult. I feel isolated and alone and as though this, fuelling my anxiety further, is creating a snowballing self-fulfilling prophecy of isolation from others. I feel like I almost have to isolate myself to protect people from my toxic emotional state. I want to hide and cry and throw up until I'm so exhausted I just sleep until I'm refereshed. But when I wake from sleeping it's still there. I've been encouraged to accept and embrace and experience the emotons, and I'm trying but they're so intense that it is terrifying and overwhelming and I feel like I just keep going in deeper. Why can't I be a robot? Why do I have to feel and be so fragile. My insides burn, and my thoughts mislead me. My muscles ache. I feel my blood press against the walls of my skin. I leak emotional poison like a plague carrier. I radiate madness to infect anybody not so emotionally repressed and guarded to resist it. It hurts. It hurts so much. Emotionally yes, but there are now physical sensational symptoms too (maybe psychosomatic, maybe not), and it's effecting my mental faculties as well. Feel so totally lost in a crowded wilderness of madness. Scared of ending up on the street or an instititution. Affraid of hurting somebody.

Help. Please God. Don't let me become the Joker.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Long Days Call For Long Exhalations

What a busy day it's been for me. Incoming calls were steady before I went to lunch, but shortly after one of my co-workers inexplicably disappeared for the day, this in addition to the one who had taken a vacation day, and those of us left barely had a moment to breathe in between calls. Compound it by the fact that our office floor is now between 5 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than usual due to renovation of the windows and it was a pretty grueling day.

In spite of this I managed to find time to pursue some of the goals I stated for myself in the entry I drafted last night. I managed to cobble together an initial contact email to Dr. Cyndi Wolf of the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine; alleged to be an enthusiast of small ruminants including the maintenance of her own goat herd. Hopefully this effort at first contact was not overly clumsy and should prove an initial step in setting up an informational/occupational interview. If I'm really lucky it will even lead to opportunities for me to work on a goat farm.

I also called Uptown Veterinarian in Minneapolis. I was reminded by Kristin over the weekend that they had suggested I might have an opportunity available to me there to shadow one of their vets when we brought our younger cat, Katie, there for her final boosters last winter. I spent my afternoon break on the phone with their office manager, Kate, who informed me that they could not offer me volunteer opportunities (what I am really seeking) due to their level of liability insurance being insufficient in the event I were to be attacked by a patient. Shadowing one of the doctors was weighed as a possibility, thought that particular vet wasn't on duty today and could not be consulted at the moment. In spite of their facility being less than prepared to provide me opportunities for on-the-record animal interaction in a professional environment, Kate was very forthcoming with suggestions of other clinics and hospitals that might have more opportunities for the sort of volunteer-time, informational interviews and opportunities to shadow a vet I am seeking. Multiple facilities in South Minneapolis and the near suburbs off of the main street closest to my home were suggested, and a a Humane Society facility in one of the suburbs closest to my corner of Minneapolis was identified as a likely place to be able to log some volunteer time, particularly on the weekends. I will have to look into this further tomorrow. With any luck work will be a bit slower and I can make some other inquiries and also attempt that Craigslist experiment of offering myself up as a vet clinic/hospital volunteer. I have no idea how likely it is, but it might turn something up.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Inspiring Birthday Weekend

Yesterday was my birthday, and over the course of the weekend I've had a lot of things come my way to encourage me in my career pursuits. A lot of this came in the form of gifts. Kristin gave me two books: Tell Me Where It Hurts by DVM Nick Trout and the Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook. The former is, as near as I can determine, the only contemporary memoir by a veterinarian describing modern veterinary techniques and interactions. It's very good so far, fascinating and compelling, but I wish there were a similar text written by a food supply vet; Dr. Trout is a veterinary surgeon in Boston and so far all his tails [*rimshot*] have featured dogs. On the other hand that means that maybe there is a need for a latter day James Herriot to author a book that does deal with food supply/large animal work in the present day; a need that could be filled by, oh, I don't know, an aspiring large animal vet who enjoys writing *wink, wink*.

Elsewhere in the gift department my Parents and Sister purchased me some very helpful items. Foremost of these (from a practical standpoint) is my textbook with online package for Principles of Chemistry I this Fall semester. This has saved me some money and shows support for my efforts to fulfill the necessary curricula to begin applying to Vet schools (slogging though my pace may feel right now). They also surprised me with some Schleich toy company animal figurines. I am now the proud owner of an imaginary hobby farm consisting of juvenille food supply animals: a donkey foal, [my personal favorite] a dwarf kid, a lamb, a Scottish highland calf and a Swabian-Hall piglet. I find myself sorely tempted to expand upon this collection in the future, but for now these delightful miniature farm friends offer me inspiration and motivation not to let up in my pursuit of a career in animal medicine.

Speaking of not letting up in my pursuit of a career in animal medicine, I had a conversation with Kristin on my birthday which kind of lit a fire under my backside pointing out that I really need to get some involvement. My overtures last year and this spring to get in some time working with large animals haven't really been fruitful as yet and I've let my pursuit of them fall to the side with the tunnel vision I've had on school for most of the Summer. I need to broaden my horizons I think and accept the fact that the most readily available opportunities for me for volunteer work, shadowing of vets and occupational interviews lie in the seemingly innumerable companion animal clinics in the Twin Cities. I also still need to attempt contact with the U of MN Veterinary program professor I was referred to back in July who shares my proclivity for goats and is alleged to have a goat farm not too far outside the suburban sprawl of the metropolitan area. My goal for this week is to initiate a first attempt at contact with the goat/sheep professor, to attempt to make an arrangement for something (volunteering, an interview, anything) with a local companion animal vet/clinic and to put up a post on Craigslist (this may be totally insane) announcing my interest in opportunities for direct work with animals in what little free time I have. If I have to make time, I HAVE TO MAKE TIME. Oh and I'm going to challenge myself to read Tell Me Where It Hurts in full this week. Goals established, strive to satisfy them Jon; don't get discouraged or distracted!

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Yesterday I was the target of an unprovoked assault.

I was walking from my car to the sushi restaurant I had just dropped Kristin off at and decided to cut across the alley-like parking lot of the neighboring liquor store. No big deal, I've done this dozens of times before. About half way across the lot I realized that the background noise of somebody shouting was directed at me when a guy in his early to mid twenties ran up behind me and slapped the left side of my face hard enough that my glasses came off. He proceeded to shout semi-coherent things at me, referring to me as "punk" and shoved me as I continued to move through the parking lot to my destination. I don't know if he was hoping to mug me or just attempting to pick a fight, but when I neared the edge of the parking lot he backed off and slunk back in to it. I went into the restaurant and told Kristin what had happened and that I was pretty shaken up. She encouraged me to call the police and file a report. Me, of all people, call the police. There was a time where I NEVER would have turned to the police. When I actively avoided law enforcement.

We ate our dinner with me feeling a degree of agitation as the initial shock wore off and the pain in my left cheek, brow and jaw set in. I started to worry that this clearly angry and unstable person had seen me leave our car and that he would have damaged it, but I was becoming scared to go back to the vehicle without seeing the police first. Especially with Kristin there. I'm trying not to be misogynistic there, but she's my wife and I feel protective of her. She is also still recovering from a Yoga related injury to her knee. Right around the time we received our check the police officer arrived to take my report. The guy had fled the scene, my car was fine, and the officer filed the incident as a fifth degree assault.

*sigh* I don't know how to talk about or even think about this. I think maybe I feel emasculated. Weak. It isn't like I got really beat up. I didn't get robbed. I just have thought of myself as a tougher person than that. Somebody who defends others. Not a victim. On the other hand, I guess I'm more hard on myself than I am on anybody else; hold myself to more unreachable standards. I may jump to the defense of others, but how often do I really stand up for myself in non-physical confrontation.

Well . . . at least I've got something significant to discuss in therapy tomorrow. Happy almost-my 29th Birthday.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Delicious Dining

In the mist of not writing entries lately due to the state of exhaustion I've been in since last Sunday (3.5 hours of sleep a very busy day and not really catching up on successive evenings is not conducive to a stable frame of mind) I have strangely managed to prepare no less than 3 really fantastic meals adapted from cookbooks my Wife checked out from the Minneapolis Public Library system. From a cookbook for casseroles I prepared a Turkey Wild Rice Au Gratin casserole which was devastatingly tasty. Monday and Tuesday of this week I prepared recipes from The Ayurvedic Cookbook [which has a very, very direct and accurate title]. Monday night featured the recipes "Dark Leafy Greens [I used curly kale] with Cumin" and a variation on the tofu and vegetables recipes where I merged chicken [in substitute for tofu] with the recipe for mushrooms and peas [substituting fresh chopped and steamed green beans for peas because we had just eaten peas in the Turkey Wild Rice casserole]. Tuesday the brown rice I prepared both evenings was accompanied by a dish called "Tofu Middle Eastern Medley". This time out I used chick peas/garbanzo beans in place of the tofu. I don't have anything against tofu, but it doesn't always agree with Kristin, and it falls short as a protein for me in a lot of recipes, so if I have a suitable alternative I'll often take it.

If the word Ayurveda is unfamiliar, well I should probably just refer my readers to my Wife's blog, but to cover the basics here, Ayurveda is a centuries old system of medicine originating in the Indian subcontinent. Ayurveda heavily links diet, body type, physical health and mental/emotional health and utilizes a diet appropriately balanced for the individual to promote all aspects of health.

On an interesting side note, relating to my career goals, Kristin sent me a link to this web page discussing Ayurvedic analysis and care for typical [North American] house pets. This got the gears turning in my brain. While I found the information on the page interesting, my primary interest as a [hopeful] future Veterinarian is to specialize in food supply animals rather than companion animals. I find myself wondering and brainstorming about the prospects of integrating ayurveda for the care of animals such as goats, sheep, cows, chickens, hogs, etc. I think there definitely is room to apply some of the practices. Kristin checked out another book from the library about ayurveda that made mention of ayurvedic veterinary medicine in ancient and early modern India (including ayurvedic veterinarians dedicated wholly to the care of elephants!). I don't think that there necessarily is anything contrary to ayurveda about working with food supply animals and, by extension, promoting dietary practices that are not vegan or vegetarian. Indeed ayurveda isn't necessarily vegan at all; ghee, clarified butter is absolutely an animal product and is a staple as a cooking oil in many ayurvedic dishes. While excessive meat consumption is discouraged by ayurveda it is not significantly more so than excessive, imbalancing indulgence in anything else. I've got food for thought I guess. Pun intended.