Monday, February 25, 2008

The Book Meme

Romulus Crowe, tagged me for the book meme. I've seen it around and have actively avoided it because even after selling over $1500 worth on and giving a bunch more away, there are still books in every room of my house. Naturally, the bulk of them are psychology and neuropsychology related, but I have a couple of shelves' worth of cookbooks and another shelf of just sheet music. Romulus would be pleased to know that I also have a couple of tomes on ghosts, although none on UFOs, even though I'm quite fascinated by them.

So without further ado, here are the rules:
1. Grab the nearest book (that is at least 123 pages long).
2. Open to p. 123.
3. Go down to the 5th sentence.
4. Type in the following 3 sentences.
5. Tag five people.

Since so many of my books hold tightly guarded trade secrets about psychological and neuropsychological assessment, I'll skip those in the name of ethical considerations.

I thought I sold the book that caught my eye, Madness in America: Cultural and Medical Perceptions of Mental Illness before 1914. It was penned by Lynn Gamwell and Nancy Tomes. Page 123 is in Part III: American Nervousness. The paragraph is about a journalist, Nelly Bly, who was sent by a New York newspaper, the World, to infiltrate Blackwell's Island asylum in 1887.

"After Bly was confined for ten days, the attorney for the World, Peter A. Hendricks, went to Blackwell's Island, accompanied by cartoonist Walt McDougall, to arrange for her release. The following Sunday, the editors of the World featured Bly's expose, along with gleeful reprints of the articles written by their hoodwinked colleagues on newspaper row."

Since there are only about 3 people who comment regularly and all 3 of them have done it already, if you're lurking, consider yourself tagged. Have fun.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Girl Is a Rawk Stah!

The Girl racked up yet another musical accomplishment yesterday. She earned a first division on her flute solo, the 3rd movement from Stamitz's Flute Concerto in G, played from memory. If you get a minute look the piece up. It's fun to listen to & The Girl says it's way fun to play. Earning that first division means that she gets to advance and compete at the All-State solo & ensemble competition in May. This is amazing considering that it's like pulling teeth to get her to practice - ever. Woohoo! Go Girl!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I Guess It's Really Official

My diploma finally arrived from the calligrapher last week. I had shrunken copies made for Medicare and the insurance companies, then took it to Michael's to have it framed. They were having a half-off custom framing special, but it seems like they always have that going on so maybe it's not really so special. At any rate, they called me last night to let me know that it's ready. I'm going to pick it up today and can hardly wait to get it on the wall. I'll have to move a few other things like my Master's diploma around, but already have the spot picked out. The corrected transcripts that show my successful completion of the neuropsychology concentration also arrived last week, so now the only thing I'm waiting for in the way of documentation is the neuropsychology certificate, which should get here any day. It will go under the PhD diploma. I'll post a picture when I get everything arranged.

My copies of the final, bound dissertation arrived Valentine's Day (I got one for Mom, too and of course she teared up when I gave it to her - then she had me sign it, haha). The bindery made the cover in blue hardbound with gold lettering. It's weird to see my name on a book as the author, but for some reason I wasn't expecting it to say my full name, followed by MA on the cover. I guess it stands to reason that since the dissertation was the last (seemingly neverending) project before the doctorate was conferred, that it should read MA instead of PhD. Still, I'll have to explain why it doesn't say PhD at least 40 times since we tend to have a lot of company and it's the current coffee table book.

Mom had her first book signing at a Borders book store on Saturday. I went along to help out and handle the money. Since the book store didn't order any of her books because the publisher won't allow them to be returned, they allowed Mom to sell from what she has. It was cold and raining like all hell so even though it was a Saturday in a normally pretty busy store, there just weren't many people there. Mom was a little discouraged but was happy nonetheless because she was actually getting to have a real book signing. As we were leaving, the manager asked how many we sold. When Mom told her she sold about 6, the manager looked puzzled and said, "You've had a successful signing. I've had big name writers come for signings that didn't sell any." That made her feel a lot better. Her next signing is February 29 at the library in the town where she lives, but I have other plans that day so I can't go help out.

In other news, The Girl is going for orientation for a job that she got at a Mexican food restaurant. Since she's under 18 she can't wait tables because they serve alcohol, but she can do other jobs like make the tableside guacamole (which is the best part about that restaurant), bus tables or hostess. She said that she'd rather bus tables or run the fryer before hostessing. When I asked her why, she flipped her hair, rolled her eyes and in her best everso blonde Valley Girl voice said, "Because they're just, like, so hostess-y." She's so funny.

The Man and some of his buddies are starting a sideline business of catching feral hogs to sell at a rather high price to high-end restaurants, who will then put them on the menu as "wild boar," even though they're just feral hogs. Whathefuckever. The little ones still taste amazing. They made and set out half a dozen traps last week. There are 4 in the traps today so the guys are on the way to retrieve them. Somehow I don't envision these now-wild animals quietly loading on the trailer. This evening's post-game analysis should be interesting. Gotta scoot - I think I want to do a little yoga now that the house is finally empty.

Monday, February 18, 2008

How To Be a Republican Today

To be a Republican today you need to believe:

1. Jesus loves you and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton.

2. Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's Daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him, and a bad guy when Bush needed a "we-can't-find-Bin-Laden" diversion.

3. Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is Communist, but trade with China and Viet Nam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.

4. The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority is enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq .

5. A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body, but multinational drug corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulation.

6. The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches, while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.

7. If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex.

8. A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our longtime allies, then demand their cooperation and money.

9. Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy, but providing health care to all Americans is socialism. HMO's and insurance companies have the best interests of the public at heart.

10. Global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.

11. A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense, but a president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.

12. Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet.

13. The public has a right to know about Hillary's cattle trades, but George Bush's driving record is none of our business.

14. Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness and you need our prayers for your recovery.

15. Supporting "Executive Privilege" in perpetuity for every Republican ever born, who will be born, or who might be born.

16. What Bill Clinton did in the 1960's is of vital national interest, but what Bush did in the '80's is irrelevant.

17. Support for hunters who shoot their friends and blame them for wearing orange vests similar to those worn by the quail.

18. Life begins when everyone agrees with you.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Not-So Idle Hands

"Work is a sovereign remedy for all ills, and a man who loves to work will never be unhappy."

Ellen Henrietta Swallow Richards (1842–1911)

I'm the kind of person who is happiest when busiest. Paradoxically, the busier I am, the more I get done. If I don't have much to do, I'll sit around and do pretty much nothing, but maybe play solitaire and generally feel icky and guilty about not getting anything accomplished. So this whole business of not having enough work to do has had me in a weird place both cognitively and emotionally.

When I approached the psychologist under whom I served the bulk of my internship about coming in on Fridays & Saturdays to perform assessments for her while the office is technically closed, she jumped at the chance to have me back on board - at the same rate I'd been paid before: 55% of whatever I generate. My business partner is doing her internship there but has a small consulting business on the side and has offered to let me do her assessments when she has to be out of town for her other business. So I was to have had 2 evaluations on Thursday, 1 on Friday and 1 on Saturday. Two of those canceled, but I still got to do 2, and even used my upselling techniques from my old sales career to get a neuropsych eval out of Texas Rehab Commission (TRC).

Saturday's patient had a documented traumatic brain injury (TBI for short) nearly 2 years ago - and was revived after being dead for at least 5 minutes. She had bled out and needed over 20 pints of blood and was in a coma for a couple of weeks after being t-boned by a semi going about 70 mph. The evaluation I was to perform was just a general psych battery (IQ, personality & academic achievement), but she was exhibiting and describing some behaviors that are likely residual to her head injury. I called TRC to ask why they didn't order a neuropsych eval on the patient, given her medical history. The caseworker said, "I didn't know anyone around here could do that. We have a lot of people who need that kind of service who want to see a woman, but I didn't know of any."

"I'm it." I said, giving him a few more specifics about my qualifications. Then I asked him to obtain any prior test results from SSI and TRC (since they're really just different divisions of the same entity) so that I could compare where her cognitive function was a year or so ago when she was tested versus now so that we could better serve her rehabilitation needs. He happily agreed and told me he was happy that I was available to do that kind of work. Cha-ching - my payment nearly tripled, which more than makes up for the two cancellations, because now my name's on the list of women who do neuropsych evals out here in the sticks.

The only other person who does neuropsych out here is a guy and he's about to move on to another position. I know him very well, and it takes him months to get a report back. Mine are done in a couple of days, tops. I don't get paid until the agency gets paid, so since I like to get paid sooner rather than later, I crank 'em out with a quickness. To facilitate that, I set up shortcuts in my report writing process during internship. The agencies we contract with want basically the same information in the same order over & over so I set up a template using Excel and mail merge from Word. I type the relevant info into the appropriate boxes in Excel then pull up Word and after a couple of clicks a new document is generated with the info from the patient stuck into the appropriate spot in the report. Then I take a few minutes to edit for clarity, spelling/grammar & I'm done.

The neuropsychologist I've been working for since 2001, Dr. H, called me last week wanting me to do 3 evals over the next couple of weeks, for a total of 19 hours in testing, scoring & write up, adding, "I can only pay you $30 and hour." That's more than I've been making so let's rock & roll, pal! Most of the postdoctoral work I've been doing for him has included marketing activities and studying for my oral exam, so I'm happy to have some hot juicy clinical work. Assessment is my favorite...neuropsych assessment doubly so.

On top of getting a few clinical assignments, I'm still looking for an adjunct academic position and have gotten a couple of nibbles from a couple of programs but nothing serious, mostly just requests for my resume and one request to fill out a written questionnaire in lieu of a telephone interview for an online position. The thing about trying to get a job in academia is that it takes forever because everything has to go through committees. Bleh. The university where I got my BS also has a Master's program in counseling psychology and the director was one of my favorite professors when I was there so I gave him a call. -It's separate from the psychology department for some reason - probably some stupid political thing. He told me that one of the profs in his program died of a horrible neurological disease just the week before and that the funeral was just the Friday before the Monday I'd called. So there's definitely an opening there, but man I felt like it was really creepy of me to call that soon, even though I had no clue about the guy's death.

The state board of examiners of psychologists has cashed my check for the fee to sit for the oral exam so I guess I'll be doing that in July. I was researching passage rates a couple of weeks ago and it turns out that the oral exam seems to be more of a rite of passage than anything else. I found a document by the board that states that over 95% pass the first time and of the ones that have to come back and do it again in the afternoon, most of those pass, too. They're just looking for basic entry-level skills, and it's really kind of no big deal. Nevertheless, I'd still appreciate any suggestions for good neuropsychology casebooks if you know of any.

Anyway, thank you all for your kind words and support. I really appreciate you. Everything's going to work out fine. I just have to get through this little rough patch by cobbling together whatever I can. Gotta scoot - these reports won't write themselves - well, almost, but not really.

Saturday, February 2, 2008


I apologize for not posting much of late. A lot's been going on. I've been waiting patiently for my provisional license paperwork to go through since early December. It finally came in last week. The state board will even allow me to sit for my final oral examination for full licensure while I'm finishing my postdoc year. Since they're only conducted in January and July, I've sent in the money (while I still have some) to sit in July . That way come December 4, I'm ready to practice on my own. I even got to pick my specialty area - neuropsychology. That's the good part.

The bad part is that I can't do a damn thing with a provisional psychology license, even though it's supposed to be a step up from the Associate's license I've held since 2004. Despite the fact that I've been doing neuropsychological and psychological assessment for the last six years and have somewhere in the area of six thousand hours in practicum, specialized clinical training, research practicum, internship and doctoral research, without that last piece of paper apparently I still don't have enough experience to do anything without having my hand held. Part of what my postdoc is supposed to entail is testing geriatric patients (my area of expertise, by the way). These people inevitably have Medicare. After wading through the national Medicare website and the state Medicare website for what feels like months and not finding information relevant to the questions I had, I was randomly picked to participate in a survey. Several of the survey questions dealt with the type and relevance of information that came up in the search results (1 search term = 10,000 irrelevant hits, 2 search terms = 20,000 irrelevant hits), the availability of customer support (nonexistent) and how satisfied I was with the service overall (yeah right). I posted my unvarnished opinions - in polite language, no less, gave them my contact information, and hit "submit."

The next morning a customer care representative named Jennifer called me from the state Medicare servicer. She was very sweet and polite and not at all the typical government drone. She actually wanted to help. I explained to her that the information I was finding was inconsistent and confusing and that I was frustrated with the process. She apologized and said that unfortunately, my complaints were not at all uncommon, in fact they were the norm and she knew what a joke it all is. She didn't know the answers to my questions, and didn't know where to find them, but wrote them down to go ask her supervisor and called me back within ten minutes.

Turns out that of the 3 separate sets of Medicare Part B paperwork, that I have to fill out all 3 and my boss/business partners also have to fill out all 3. That's 9 iterations of the same information. Yes, they'll be submitted in triplicate to the Department of the Office of the Division of Redundancy Department. That's irrelevant right now anyway, because with my license I can't bill Medicare. I have to be fully licensed to bill Medicare, or anyone else, despite the fact that had I pursued an MD which is a lower degree, and easier and faster to obtain, I would be able to bill Medicare with my provisional license. Stupidheads.

Why did the great bloated and lumbering government bureaucracy cross the road? Who knows? Why the hell do they do anything?

Now I can still do the testing, as long as my boss is actually in the next room (nevermind that I've done it for six years already - mostly in a public hospital, so I've Seen. It. All.), but I can't bill for my time. He can bill for me at half the rate, noting that the testing was done by a "technician," then turn around and pay me an as yet to be determined flat hourly rate as an employee. Granted, this frees up some of his time to test other patients, but we were planning for me to go out and do rural geriatric outreach. He can't be two places at once so that's out and now I have to come up with a Plan B so that I can get some money coming in. I can't wait until December to start getting paid. I like my car and want to keep it. That old Merle Haggard song, "If We Make It Through December," keeps running through my head. Most of the work I've done in the last six years has been unpaid but now that I've gotten the PhD, the student loan fairy doesn't come here anymore.

The Man, who is officially retired now and also has no foreseeable income, was great about it though. When I told him, I was really expecting much grumbling, bitching and blaming along the lines of, "Spent all that money and worked your ass off for ten years working for free and now you have the doctorate and you can't get paid? Why couldn't you just stop with a bachelor's degree like normal people?" et cetera. Instead, he shocked the hell out of me by putting his arms around me and saying, "Sorry about that, Babe. We'll make it. We always do." This is true. I've soldiered on through far worse than this - and for longer than 10 months. I'm trying to be pissed off about not this latest wave of bullshit to slog through, but after blasting through four degrees and nearly a quarter million dollars in ten years, more than anything I just feel empty and frustrated and hobbled. I've already let the student loan companies know that when my payments start coming due in late May, that I'll be needing those deferment papers immediately because I can't pay what I don't have. Sigh.

So this is where I explain my blogging silence of late, dear readers. I've been busy looking for a job that I can get paid for doing. I've put in applications to teach psychology at every possible online university I can think of, and some more that I'd never heard of. I even put in an application at the university where I earned my BS degree to teach there, which I wasn't planning to do for several more years - like after I'd gotten my student loans paid off and was getting ready to retire from clinical work. It was the only one that really looked promising. University policy is to throw away incomplete applications. There were 17 applicants and of the 17, only one other person besides me submitted all of the requisite application materials. The other person only has a Master's and is ABD in a PsyD program. That position doesn't begin until August. I've also called one of the docs I worked under during my internship. My friends who still work for her say she's begging for people to do testing for the neverending parade of people applying for social security disability and Texas Rehabilitation Commission benefits. She has 14 therapists sharing 4 offices Monday through Thursday, but I'm going to see about going in on Fridays and Saturdays when the office is officially closed to do the evals. We'll see. Cross your fingers that the "get paid for working" fairy pays me a visit.