26 August 2010

book club bloggers - the giver

well, here we are, with my contribution to the first monthly installment of the book club bloggers: lois lowry's young adult novel the giver. be sure to visit the daily snapshot to see what everyone else has to say!

the basic premise of the story is the coming-of-age of a twelve-year-old boy, jonas, in a world that has removed weather variations, color vision, animals, controversy, individuality and self-determination -- as well as any true emotion -- in the consensus that the absence of all these sorts of things brings a simpler, easier, safer life for everyone. at the age of twelve, all children are assigned their adult role in their community and begin the training that moves them beyond childhood to a productive, responsible member of society. jonas receives a special, prestigious assignment that exposes him to the entire human legacy: pain, fury and desperation as well as joy, love and hope. jonas and his mentor make the decision to lead their community away from the sheltered existence they'd known for generations back to the full potential of mankind's experience.

i first read the giver in sixth grade. i don't recall if it was within the school curriculum, or something i read on my own, seeing as i was reading everything and anything that had printed word and stayed still long enough for me to take a look at it. =) i don't remember much of my initial reaction to the book -- i know that i really enjoyed it, and that the idea that "equality doesn't mean everyone is the same" really resonated with me.

reading it again, my reaction has the added depth that ten years' worth of education bring, including having read other political-utopia-focused science fiction (1984, brave new world, and animal farm all come immediately to mind). lumping the giver in with the rest of these works may seem strange, given the very dark nature the adult books possess. however, i think it is just as compelling, and that the lighter tone of the giver makes the sinister nature of the world it describes that much more chilling.

i was also intrigued in this reading to note the ethnocentrism visible in the homology of the community described. if we were to "average" humanity today together into one homologous race we'd be some shade of brown; however, the community only included one non-english name, and jonas had never even heard of a dark-skinned person before inheriting the memories of prior generations. i am pretty confident that this was intentional, as it reinforces the stark contrasts -- or rather, lack thereof -- in the story. i hope also that, as our nation and our experiences become more diverse, the association of social homology with an intrinsically flawed society, however perfect it may appear superficially, will contribute to the development of acceptance and value in our young minds.

speaking of young minds, i certainly believe that this book is a valuable contribution to a 5th or 6th grade classroom. i know it has received controversy, particularly regarding the protagonist's first recognitions of sexual maturation. however, we start teaching public school kids about puberty and their upcoming physiological developments as early as fourth grade (at least, my district did) -- and well we should! to do so without addressing the psychosocial development that they may also experience is a disservice and an incomplete preparation. besides, it's very tastefully handled, and any potentially controversial content -- a discussion of a dream that jonas is confused and uneasy about -- occurs in the initially benign context of the suppressive, rule-abiding community. kids are more likely to glom onto the far more shocking discussions of death and ritualized homicide, which are also presented in an age-appropriate manner. one mention of an incident of adolescent suicide may raise a red flag, but i think presenting this book in an academic setting with a guided discussion to help kids work through these difficult but important concepts would be far "safer," if there is any concern, than banning it, having kids encounter these ideas on their own, and not have an opportunity to process in a productive way.

regarding the ending of the book, i think i always assumed in earlier readings that the boys had died, but hoped that i was wrong. it's a bittersweet but hopeful ending, and just ambiguous enough to allow for several interpretations. when i snagged this from the library i also picked up gathering blue by the same author -- a story of another society, though very different, that has a sinister secret rippling under the surface -- which mentions in passing a youth who may or may not be one of the boys whose fates are uncertain at the end of the giver. i like that (though, honestly, i'm not certain that the two worlds described in those books can exist together), i like the ambiguity. with no concrete ending, this story retains its might-have-been/might-yet-be quality, serving then not just as a novel but also a cautionary tale, and one of hope.

...well, this was fun! what's next?

24 August 2010


do you want to know one of my favorite places to browse through online?

shabby apple.

lovely dresses. classy and modest but oh-so-fun. i don't remember where i originally came across the site, but i've kept an eye on it ever since.

so when i saw the current giveaway of the cider dress, i had to participate. (hence this post!) something that lovely? cider, an autumnal staple (which i fear i will be missing this fall =/) with a special place in our household? yes please.

and so, pretties. things of inconsequence that let my brain rest from medical school. =)

21 August 2010

365 days ago...

it's been a wonderful year.

(see more wedding photos here; re-posting seemed redundant)

18 August 2010

checking in

medical school is everything i thought i would be, and more. including the i'm-barely-keeping-my-head-above-water feeling. (yikes!)

i've heard a professor describe the pancreas as "flirtatious." (actually, his initial description was "lascivious," which is an excellent word.)

i have another professor who frequently professes his love for the liver. he's also swiss; someday, i'm going to wear my ich liebe meine leiber shirt, and maybe i'll get extra credit.

i have [unintentionally] dropped nasty dissection bits down the inside of my shirt.

i have actually gotten tired of mac-and-cheese...after eating it two meals a day for a week straight.

i have made so many trips to target and ikea that i've lost count.

i've somehow broken the new blog i was going to debut for friends and family to keep in touch with us. =/

i've only gotten more than six hours of sleep one night since the beginning of august, and that was when i went back home to madison for the weekend.

i've had to get over my inherent trepidation of city highway driving.

i've been told i "should charge admission to see [my] dissections." =)

i've already used up my 500-page printing credit. (?!?)

i have a scheduling/organization system that WORKS! =)
...and not enough hours in the day to do all the studying i schedule for myself. =/

i have honed my craigslisting skills and acquired new furniture...for free.

i've gone through oakland, and i survived.

i've learned crazy-awesome things about my own body, and how to use omm to help it heal.

i have a mid-term exam on monday.

medical school, and life on the left west coast is everything i'd hoped for,
and like nothing i could have expected,
and i have no idea what i'm doing,
but there's nowhere else i'd rather be.

06 August 2010

happy feet

this is a story about my first week of medical school, but really, it's a story about shoes.

medical school began for me this week on monday, the first of three days of orientation. since the dress was business casual, i wore the nicest shoes i have with me, which were sandals. however, since my feet are my temperature regulators and they were exposed all day in the actually-rather-chilly bay area climate, i was freezing. unacceptable.

i got a cheap-o pair of closed toe shoes at target for the other two business casual days. these have absolutely nothing to them, structure-wise, and we were doing a lot more walking up and down the campus hills these two days. at the end of day one, my feet were aching; day two made me want to cry. also unacceptable.

thursday was our first day of actual medical school classes (!) and my first class was a multi-hour anatomy cadaver dissection lab, dress code: scrubs. i wore my running shoes with custom orthotics, which i haven't used that much before. bad idea--half an hour into lab my feet were screaming, and there was still a full day to go. absolutely miserable, and completely unacceptable.

(i have a sinking feeling that i threw out the original inserts for these running shoes, figuring i would only wear the orthotics going forward. i sincerely hope not, because the shoes are new and nice and i liked their original inserts worlds better than my current ones.)

i came home yesterday and really did cry. it's been a long, lonely week. i got some majorly disappointing news right as i was leaving school. i haven't had a good, home-cooked meal in who-knows-how-long. and, my feet hurt. making-me-miserable, completely-destroying-my-ability-to-concentrate hurt. i threw on my chacos and went out to run errands.

i stopped in to rei to check out some shoe inserts i'd tried there before and liked. i never made it to the inserts, because before i got to them i saw this:
do you know what that is? that's a chaco.

chacos now makes clogs. closed-toe, leather, professional-looking shoes (or, slightly less-professional, if you get the open-back clog) with the awesome, anatomically-beneficial footbed that makes me love my sandals so very much. i put them on and started leaking tears of joy. solid plastic-rubber doesn't seem like it would be the source of blissed-out foot nirvana, but believe me, it was. i like this footbed even better than my sandals (the arch seem slightly higher), wearing them made the aches and sores the week had inflicted on my poor feet go away, and their solid shoe nature meant that i could appropriately wear them to anatomy lab, clinical rotations, or even interviews. and you know i'm going to. they got me through today--with all the same scheduled stressors as yesterday--with no aching feet. incredibly wonderful!

this was in no way a solicited endorsement; i paid every cent of the rei retail price for these shoes. this is just my way to express supreme satisfaction with my discovery of a new product, declare my brand loyalty, and share my frustration at finally having years of abusing my feet catch up with me.