I've been using the factors that are most important to me and drawing up a "PA Program Comparison Chart" in Numbers (the new Excel-like program that I got with this new computer), just to try to get all the details down on paper in one spot rather than scattered throughout five different websites. Too bad I can't paste the (nice, neat, beautiful) chart onto the blog, but in plain English, here's what I've come up with so far. Please weigh in (in the comments section), because I really need some outside opinions!
DUKE: Perks include the school's great reputation, the fact that it's located here where I already live, the option to do an international rotation, the fact that they have a club swim team, and the dress code of "smart casual" (meaning presentable, but not overly dressy). The only real drawback is that I wouldn't be allowed to use my shiny new Mac. Tuition would be around 57k, and the cost of living is moderate.
PACIFIC: I love the fact that it's a small private school with a lot of focus on its place in the international community; my linguistic skills would be highly valued and I'd be able to do a rotation practically anywhere, from Kenya to Australia to Mexico. We'd be on the brand-new Health Professions campus (accessible within a few minutes by *train* from Portland), I'd be able to use my Mac, and the tuition rate is actually the second-lowest of all my options, only around 54k. Drawbacks include the lack of a club swim team, the required "professional" daily dress code, and the fact that the school is in Oregon (...though that's actually kind of exciting, too).
MEDICAL U: This is the most expensive school, with tuition of 74k, a very high cost of living, and a rotten parking situation. There's also no swim team. On the plus side, the beach is ten minutes away, Macs are allowed (even encouraged -- their entire library uses the Mac platform), rotations abroad are available, and there is no dress code (hello, flip-flops!). It's also a large, fun city, right in between Raleigh and Jacksonville, with lots of options for L to get a job.
UNIV OF FL: The tuition would be ridiculous as an out-of-stater (75k) but the cost of living is relatively low, and this is a town I'm familiar with and like a lot. They do have a club swim team (as I know from personal experience!), Macs are permitted, they use full cadavers in their dissections (which almost no schools do), and the dress code is royal blue scrubs. No international rotations, though (which is a bit surprising, considering the strength of their study-abroad department).
ECU: This is far and away the cheapest option, with tuition of only 18k and a low cost of living. I'd most likely be living in a fantastic apartment complex right across the street from the health sciences building, so the two mainstays of my weekday would be within a football field of one another. I'd be able to use my Mac, and there is a club swim team. The downside is that this school is quite limited with regard to what it can offer -- all rotations are in the state of NC (so don't even think about trying to go abroad) and there isn't even a choose-your-own-elective included in the rotation list, as there is at almost every other school. It's a solid program, and I admit that it's kind of 'pulling' me, but the only real reason to choose it over the others in this list would be the cost... and I haven't yet decided how important a factor that is to me.
At the moment, having only visited Duke, MUSC, and ECU, I can't say exactly what my preferred ranking is. It depends on the gut feeling I get from the remaining two schools and whether or not any of the five offer me money. Though I gotta say, UF is really impressing me so far with its degree of communication, clarity, and preparedness for the interview (which is in two weeks!). I haven't heard a darn thing from Pacific or Duke since I submitted my application two months ago.
As far as easy decision-making, worst-case scenarios would include all five schools accepting me but nobody giving me any money, or some sort of in-between, like Duke accepting me with no aid and ECU and UF both offering me full rides (I don't think that's a common occurrence in PA school, but if it's going to happen, those would be the schools for it). That would make for a really, really hard decision.
Any other opinions, comments, ideas? Please leave comments -- I really need some input.
So I promised to post about the contest all the nurses at work are doing -- it's our version of The Biggest Loser. A bunch of us are trying to lose weight (some just want to lose 5 pounds, others are trying to lose upwards of 50 pounds), so we decided to turn it into a twelve-week contest to give ourselves some motivation. There's now a huge whiteboard in Jen (our nurse manager)'s office, with all our names down the left side, divided into 12 columns (one for each week). We're each paying a dollar a week to participate, dieting and exercising on our own as we choose to, then weighing ourselves at the end of each week. At the end of the contest, whoever has lost the most weight will win the entire pot of money -- probably at least $120 and maybe a little more, since we also have to pay a dollar for every pound we gain.
Nobody wanted their actual weight recorded on the public chart, so we chose one nurse, whom we all like and trust, to be the Weightkeeper. Each week, she comes into the triage room with us one at a time to do our official weigh-ins (on the fancy-schmancy, fly-to-the-moon digital scale), then does the math and writes down only the difference on the whiteboard, whether it's up or down. I'm hovering around fourth place right now, having lost almost three pounds last week during week 1. I weigh again tomorrow, so we'll see what happens. I know I've gone down a little more, but I'm sure it's not as much as last week. I don't have as much weight to lose as some of the others (I actually weigh the exact same thing now that I did during my senior year of high school), so I'm not holding out too much hope of actually winning, but I at least want to put up a good fight.
So we spent last weekend in Asheville, staying with our friend Tiffany before heading to another friend's wedding just across the SC border. We got to Tiff's house late Thursday night after having worked all day, and immediately crashed on her futon until 10:00 the next morning, when we drove the 20 or so miles to my old summer camp, Camp Ton-A-Wandah. (Yeah, yeah -- don't judge. :)) It was drizzling off and on, but the girls were still on their regular activity schedules, so we walked around for an hour or two and checked out the barn, the dining hall, the waterfront, etc. It was strange to be stared at as we strolled around -- I spent eight years at this camp in various capacities, and it was odd to feel like a stranger -- but it was really neat to see the old place again, too. I even saw two new counselors who were knee-high-to-a-grasshopper campers the last time I saw them. A lot of things have changed, but a lot has remained the same as well. Memories were assaulting me at every turn -- when we peeked into the dining hall, I remembered being on table-setting duty as a camper and racing to be the first one to ring the dinner bell; walking around the barn made me remember riding Flowerchild through a course of four jumps during the horse show. The gym brought back more recent memories -- winning the Counselor Balloon Stomp and Counselor Volleyball for the Mohawk tribe, and swaying with my arms around the other counselors during the candlelight ceremony, as we all stood in one line at the front of the gym singing "Friends". Finally, seeing the waterfront -- which looked exactly the same -- and looking at the current lifeguards all sitting around the round table on the dock, I actually got tears in my eyes. One big blond girl resembled Jackie, the teacher from Tennessee who was fluent in sign language, while a smaller brunette looked like Belinda, a many-year camp veteran from Australia. Of course, neither was there -- it all had to do with who I was expecting to see. I think I realized at that moment that it was the people who had truly made this place so special for me, and that although I would always have a place in my heart for the buildings and grounds where so many happy memories had taken place, I would probably never be back.
(Of course, I then later spoke with some women in town who mentioned Camp Merry-Times, the camp for children with cancer which is held at Ton-A-Wandah the week before the 'real' camp starts, and immediately thought, "Hmm, maybe I'd like to do that!...")
After leaving Ton-A-Wandah (but not without buying a camp sweatshirt!), we walked around Hendersonville's main street, buying lunch and a few small items like water bottles. Many of the old familiar storefronts were still there (Mast General, of course, and then Kilwins, where I got an orangeade), and there were even two women selling puppies on the street (I had to drag L away). It was a nice small-town afternoon in the mountains.
After that, we drove back to Asheville and went into town to find some dinner. We ended up eating at a vegan restaurant called Rosetta's, which was surprisingly good (I had a veggie burger and vegan mac-and-cheese), and then just walked up and down the streets, ducking into any little shop that caught our fancy. We didn't buy anything except ice-cream cones, but saw a lot of things we wanted, including star-shaped hanging lights and square handmade mugs with faces painted on them. At one point, we noticed a lot of people heading in a particular direction, and when we followed the crowd, we found a tiny park with an impromptu drum circle that had apparently just sprung up out of nowhere. It was amazing! It appeared to have started with just four or five men who had brought their bongo drums out to the park, but when we arrived, hundreds of men, women, children, and babies -- most of whom had been simply passing through, like us -- were all jumping and dancing to the music, waving their arms, getting soaked in sweat, picking up sticks and beer bottles to bang to join in the joyful cacophony. We stayed for over an hour, just soaking it all up. Where else but Asheville would you find something like that? In a strange way, it was almost spiritual.
The next day was the wedding, and so we drove to our friend (I'll call her "M")'s Lutheran church in Simpsonville, SC. She looked stunning in her dress, and it was great to see so many of our "UNC friends" again, who scattered to the four winds after L's class graduated two years ago. There were nine of us -- L, me, Tiffany, Karen, Amanda, and the two Amys and the men in both their lives. After the ceremony, we all hung out at the hotel bar for a couple of hours before the party began, just chatting and catching up, then crammed nine chairs around one of the tables and continued to have a great time during dinner. It was a fantastic mini-reunion.
However, having our lone table of "Chapel Hill hippies" seated in the middle of a ballroom full of what was otherwise (almost entirely) a conservative Lutheran population really put things into perspective. There were several things mentioned in the ceremony and reiterated at the dinner which made us all collectively wince (namely, "The key to a successful marriage is a submissive woman," which was asserted in some form at least six or seven times throughout the day) and then, during the singing, the groomsmen twisted the words of the Flintstones theme song to end with, "...we'll have a NOT-gay old time!", which caused several jaws to drop around the sole liberal table in the room. I understand that it was M's wedding and that she deserved to have the sort of ceremony and celebration that she was comfortable with; I just found it odd, because although M certainly has her own beliefs, she's friends with all of us -- gay, straight, atheist, religious, liberal, and conservative alike. She's definitely not the type of person to be pushy or to force her beliefs on anybody, and as such, I found it somewhat sad that her wedding -- at least to me -- didn't really reflect how she lives her life in a practical sense. Her personality and her wedding day are two very different images that I'm having trouble reconciling. I'm happy that she's happy, and I'm happy that she's found someone that she wants to spend the rest of her life with, but I can't help but feel a little conflicted about the way that commitment was made. Not that it should affect me at all, but I was there, so... yeah.
(As an aside: even the oldest son in that uber-conservative Discovery Channel family, the one with 18 kids -- whose wedding was on Discovery Health last night -- who didn't even KISS his bride before the wedding, chose to leave a little room for interpretation by including "...submit to your husband as is healthy" in the vows. I guess I never saw M as more conservative than the Duggars. :))
What do you guys think about this? Am I, from my biased liberal standpoint, judging others unfairly? (Which is very possible...) Leave a comment!
Odd to have a day filled with so many good things (new laptop, great hotel room, excitement of an impending wedding) contrasted with such sad news. Right as we were all sitting down to the rehearsal dinner, smiling self-consciously around the table and asking one another's names, my phone rang. It was my mom, calling to tell me that my grandfather had passed away. Earlier in the week, during a good day, he had told her out of the blue, "You don't have to worry about me," which she'd thought was an odd thing for him to say. Now, we have to wonder if he knew.
After a quick trip to the bathroom to compose myself, I had to put it out of my mind for the next couple of hours in order to be "bright and shiny" for the remainder of the rehearsal dinner. My sister and I texted back and forth for a while near the end, each asking if the other had heard anything and what we each thought was going to happen. After the meal and the toasts, I went out front to take a walk and call my mom back. "He never stopped eating, right up to the end," she said, a sad smile in her voice. "Fred fed him beef stew an hour before he died. He always said that a POW would never miss a meal..."
After we hung up, I started crying. Finding a bench to sit on, concealed by the pitch darkness, I was suddenly distracted by a loud noise. I looked toward downtown Winston-Salem and saw, over the trees in the distance... fireworks. A full, colorful display. In August. For no apparent reason at all.
Somehow, that made me feel better. Watching the colorful bursts of light, I smiled, wiped my tears, and murmured a goodbye.
He's been ready to go for a long time. And he and my grandma are together again, if you believe that sort of thing. But one way or another, he's okay now, and that knowledge helps.
To start: I AM TYPING THIS FROM MY BRAND-SPANKIN'-NEW MACBOOK PRO!!! WOOHOO!!!!!!!!!!
OK, now that that's out of my system...
I absolutely love this computer. It's fast, it's gorgeous, the keyboard is backlit, the battery lasts over seven(!) hours (compared to 20 minutes for my Powerbook!), the display is glossy (and soooo much brighter than the Powerbook), and I have access to all the new features of Leopard, like Stacks and Spaces and Front Row and iLife '08. Not to mention that I got a great tip from an Apple salesperson about a month ago, when I was buying my laptop case -- he suggested I make a personal shopping appointment if I was planning to come over tax-free weekend. Although I felt silly doing so (I mean, "personal shopping"... honestly), truer words were never spoken. When I arrived this morning -- at 9:30am, no less, 30 minutes before the usual opening time -- there was a line stretching out almost to the parking lot. Yet I was in and out in under thirty minutes. Rock on.
Also, whilst avoiding the financial minefields of AppleCare and MobileMe, I did let the "personal shopping" salesgirl talk me into iWork, and I'm really excited about it. Like Microsoft Office, it's made up of three programs -- Pages (=Word), Keynote (=PowerPoint), and Numbers (=Excel) -- but, like everything Mac, it's far easier to use. I don't think I'd have made the leap just based on my first look at Keynote (which is very much like PowerPoint, just a little more functional and smooth as far as graphics, effects, and transitions), but Pages does absolutely amazing things with layouts and graphics (which can then be exported to Word in order to be compatible with PCs), and Numbers, well... let's not get into all the trouble I have with Excel (I consider L to be a functional genius, purely based on her knowledge and ability with Excel), but Numbers appears far easier to use, right down to the included editable fill-in spreadsheets for common things like household budgets. If I bought the whole package with the purchase of a computer, it was only $50 -- a drop in the bucket compared to the $1600 I was spending on the computer and the up-front cost of the iPod (which I'll receive a refund for) -- so I caved in.
I can't wait to start trying it all out. I'm currently sitting in our suite in the Marriott Residence Inn in Winston-Salem (which we got an outrageous deal on, thanks to Hotwire), and the Internet doesn't appear to be working, so I may stroll over to the clubhouse for a little while and try out their wireless, just to post this and get some of the basic things set up like Mail (which I'll finally be able to use, now that I have a computer with enough RAM to deal with it). I'll have to wait on Time Machine, iPhoto, and iTunes until I get home to my backup hard drive, but I can handle that.
L is napping on the bed... poor thing, she's been out of town every weekend for the past month (D.C., TN, Asheville, and now Winston-Salem) due to various obligations, and is getting really sick of not getting any real, restorative downtime. I'm glad we'll be at home next weekend.
I'll post again in a day or two about last weekend's Asheville trip (lots to talk about) as well as the new "contest" we (the nurses) have started at work. Stay tuned.