Monthly Archives: May 2010

Book Reading: CAKEWALK, by Kate Moses

During a recent family visit, I was asked by my father-in-law what I like about living here in the San Francisco Bay area.  While my list remains complicated (I am still in the flux of feeling excited over the trillions of things to do here, and missing the small town comforts of Bozeman) one item that remains atop my “likes” list is the literary scene.  There is so much vibe here…an endless supply of writerly opportunities.

Last night, I attended a book reading at Palo Alto’s Books Inc. book store by Kate Moses.  The reading was from her new tome, Cakewalk: A Memoir.

Moses made herself lyrically famous and prize-worthy with the publication of her previous novel, Wintering: A Novel of Sylvia Plath along with her editorial work at Salon.com and upon compiling a couple anthologies of essays written about and for women and mothers.

From the jacket description of Cakewalk:

“…Filled with the abundance and joy that were so lacking in Kate’s youth, Cakewalk is a wise, loving tribute to life in all its sweetness as well as its bitterness and, ultimately, a recipe for forgiveness.”

Sprinkled throughout the book are family heirloom recipes, perfected by Moses herself, as they pertain to the adjacent familial anecdotes.

“…There is the mysteriously erotic German Chocolate Cake implicated in a birds-and-bees speech when Kate was seven, the gingerbread people her mother baked for Christmas the year Kate officially realized she was fat, the chocolate chip cookies Kate used to curry favor during a hilariously gruesome adolescence, and the brownies she baked for her idol, the legendary M.F.K. Fisher, who pronounced them “delicious.””

Moses delivered a humorous, lovely reading last night and–perhaps best of all–she brought with her the aforementioned chocolate chip cookies and brownies–the brownie recipe that was just printed in the New York Times–which are truly melt-in-your-mouth TO DIE FOR.

At the end of her reading and during a brief Q&A session, I asked Ms. Moses what her advice is to burgeoning writers like myself who struggle to break into the presently unwelcoming publishing industry.

“Keep writing,” was her summation.  “Things will get better soon.”

Having shared a brief story of her first experience with publication–a short story in a local SF rag when she was twenty-four–she said she wasn’t ready to be published, that she didn’t know her own voice yet and wasn’t ready to put it out there into the world.  But by forty, she was more than ready and her persistence at the keyboard paid off.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Living, Mommy and Motherhood, Writing and Publishing

Confessions from a Medical World Drop-Out

When you make a major life choice, and do so with the hopes of not looking back, chances are, you’ll look back–a lot.

Once upon a time, I was young and enthusiastic, and thought I could change the world.

Wait–doesn’t everyone feel that way, at some point?

For me, that enthusiasm turned toward the world of medicine:  as an inherently compassionate, intelligent person, I thought I could bring some sweet, albeit well-informed, spirit into an industry that has, in many cases, lost its bedside manner altogether.

I was twenty-four years old when I enrolled in PA school, and didn’t know what I didn’t know.

Fast forward six years, and I found myself reeling from the ambush of experiences I wasn’t emotionally mature enough to handle.

In my short tenure working in the world of medicine, I experienced what I realize now were some very traumatic scenarios–scenes that a majority of human beings just couldn’t handle being witness to without some sort of long-lasting repercussions.

While working in the surgical world and less than a year after finishing PA school (mind you, I was now just twenty-six-years-old) I found myself in the operating room, harvesting veins out of people’s legs for cardiovascular surgeons to use in bypass surgeries.  Harvesting veins is tricky business with fragile specimens.  If you offer up a harvested vein with any nicks or holes in it, the implanted vein could leak, and the person could potentially bleed to death–in a matter of minutes.  That’s hefty responsibility for a new grad.

While working in orthopedics, I functioned under a womanizing, industry demigod who required me to satisfy the requests of his narcotic-seeking patients…despite my better judgment and the risk to my own license.  I handled the paper work for worker’s compensation patients–for those who didn’t want to go back to work and did everything they could to avoid it, and those that did want to go back to work, but were too injured to be able.  I witnessed accidents in the operating room that rendered people permanently injured–and a lack of honesty during those post-op visits about what actually transpired while the patient was asleep.

While moonlighting in the ER–working a few extra hours in hopes of paying off my student loans a bit faster–I saw women miscarrying the fetuses that would’ve been the babies they so desperately wanted.  I performed chest compressions on a seventeen-year-old kid who’d been shot by his best friend with the hand gun the two boys had snuck out of the friend’s dad’s gun safe (or bedside table drawer?)  I performed chest compressions on that kid–his lifeless chest heaving under my efforts with me winded so easily, five months pregnant with our first child at the time.  The bullet exit wound on his upper abdomen (bullets have a strange way of ricocheting around, once they’ve entered the body) was only finger breadths away from my compressing hands–so innocuous looking.  So Hollywood make-up like.

I was thirty-years-old.

I surgically assisted in not one, but three of the most graphic, horrendous surgeries known to (wo)man: hemipelvectomies:  a procedure in which a person’s entire leg, and half of their pelvis are surgically removed…a hopefully life-saving procedure (with a low percentage for success) for an aggressive form of metastatic cancer.  While in the OR, the joke usually went around–whomever was the least senior person in the room (by years of tenure, not by professional rank) had to be the one to carry the leg away from the table.  Guess who was usually the least senior one in the room?  Can you imagine the weight of an adult man or woman’s leg and half pelvis?

I was less than thirty-years-old during those surgeries.

At what point does a person become emotionally mature enough to handle these types of things and avoid being permanently scarred?  Would I have had a better shot at succeeding in the career I thought I wanted, had it not been for these early on experiences?  Do other twenty-something-year-olds who pursue a career in medicine experience the same types of things and not become permanently  scarred by them?  If so, what does that say about those people?

Every time I find myself talking with someone in the medical industry–a former colleague, a friend, an acquaintance, a health care provider for our family–I can put on my old hat again.  I can talk the talk, share in the lingo, operate intelligibly.  I go away from the conversation missing that part of my life a little–being apart of a club, a fraternity, a society in which not just anyone can belong.

And then I remember how I felt for all those years when I struggled to decide:  do I belong in the world of medicine?  Do I, really? Or is there another place for me…a place in which I can have an effect in the well-being of people who consume our medical industry, but from a drastically different vantage point?

I am now in the process of researching grad school options for myself–again. I have thoughts to communicate, things to do and changes to create.  I feel it in my bones.  But those thoughts, things and changes will enter the world through a different avenue this time.  For me, I am sure, a more successful avenue.

2 Comments

Filed under Balancing career and motherhood, General Health, Uncategorized, Writing and Publishing

Hello, My Long Lost Friend

What better way to start a Sunday morning, than with a warm cup of coffee, peach pie left over from last night’s dinner party, and a return to a long-lost companion…this blog.

What has kept me at bay all these months, you ask?  Life, I suppose.

As you may recall, my family and I underwent a HUGE transition a few months ago–we moved from small town Montana to the San Francisco Bay area on January first of this year.  The ensuring four + months have been full of new school transitions for our three kids (now ages 3, 5 and 7), establishing new friendships, finding a new church to attend, frantically exploring the millions of things to do around here, hosting visitors, working at the co-op preschool our boys attend, getting our youngest started with a new speech therapist, researching grad school options for myself, getting a new puppy and, oh yes, finishing my latest manuscript.

In short, life in the Hull household is the same as always.

Now that spring has finally sprung around here (it was apparently a much rainier spring than normal in these parts) we are enjoying the warmth of the sun, the multi-color floral blooms in our rental house back yard, our frequent visits to the beach, and family life in a new setting.

And now, some photos for you to enjoy:
( I promise, I’ll be back soon…)

See the Pacific Ocean for the First Time

Nursing Mermaid in Ghiradelli Square

Flamingos at San Francisco Zoo

Sand sculpture Buddha

Ano Nuevo State Park

4 Comments

Filed under breastfeeding, family, friendship, From One Mother to Another, Kids, Living, Religion, travelling with kids, Writing and Publishing