Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lessons In Doctoring

{We took the kids to this most amazing amusement park called 'Dutch Wonderland' a few weeks ago. Imagine a clean amusement park geared entirely toward the 3-6 set. Imagine that there are no lines. Imagine no rowdy teenagers walking around and imagine your 3 yo being able to ride 90% of the ride. Sound like heaven? Pretty much. All the ensuing pictures are from there.}

**Tiny was a big fan of the face painting booth. And the lipstick (ahem) that the girl added at the end."

Lonely. Defeated.

Those would be the words that probably best captured my mood in the first few months of medical school. I was an English Major from California suddenly living by herself in a basement apartment back east, surrounded by science textbooks. Fish out of water, much? Being at the beginning of that medical road was probably the hardest for me. Yes, I still had lots of energy and none of the fatigue that can come later, but I could also not conceive of such a path ever ending. It looked interminable from where I stood.

**Luckily our Lil' Drummer did not mind the interminable merry go round rides we took him on.**

And it wasn’t that I didn’t have amazing people around me. My sister lived a short drive away, and I met some of my favorite women in the entire world the first week I moved out.

So why was I lonely? I think I felt lonely in the work I had to do. You know when you’re overwhelmed by a task, but you know it’s no one else’s but yours? Yeah, that’s how I felt.

**Being pronounced 'Lady Tiny'...now that's a lot of responsibility.**

Then soon after school began, I flew out to CA to attend the weekend wedding of a cousin, which was delightful. I didn’t want to go back and face the grind of school again. But I had no choice but to get back on that plane. If only I had known that I had the beginnings of a cold! The congestion hadn’t been enough to catch my attention until I was 30,000 feet above ground, and then—yowza! My ears were in a world of hurt. Even when I landed, my ears wouldn’t pop and the pain wouldn’t stop.

I slept at my sister’s because I was a little freaked out by the pain. Well, I didn’t sleep much.

**A little freaked out by his first ride EVER.**

**Tiny got freaked out on this ride since we were spinning out of control. The ride attendant, who introduced herself beforehand, didn't really play along when Rockstar asked her to reassure Tiny that the ride wouldn't be so bad. Tiny started protesting and calling, "Sarah, Sarah! Stop the ride!" once the whirling madness began.**

Finally I dragged myself into the student health clinic, hoping they would be able to offer some kind of treatment.

I sat on the crinkly white exam table paper with all my pain and frustration buzzing just below the surface.

A female doctor, probably in her 30’s and brunette, entered the room. She sat down and asked me what had brought me in. I told her my story, and then she noticed on my chart that I was a medical student.

**Mama's Boy**

“Oh! I see that you are a medical student?”
She paused, and I think she could see through the fragile shell holding myself together.
“How’s that going?”

The shell cracked and a tear slipped out. Then the crack was a chasm, and I was crying visibly.

“Not very good,” I said. “I’m tired and lonely and it feels like too much.”
She put her hand on my knee and listened.

**Sometimes life pushes us out of our comfort zones. Exhibit A: Tiny's first rollercoaster.**

“I remember that, too,” she said. “The beginning is hard. But you can do this. It will go faster than you think.” I can’t remember what else she said, but I remember how she said it.

So kind.

We didn’t talk more than a few minutes. She gave me a prescription, and I stood up to leave.

The feeling I walked away with has left an indelible mark on my mind and my practice as a physician:

My ears still hurt, but I felt healed.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

This and That

**Drummer appears to have his dad's percussion gene. Hence why I call him Drummer. If he has maracas, he will walk around shaking them until the cows come home. Luckily my in-laws stock all sorts of instruments to feed his fascination.**

*This week we're having an ice cream social to welcome our new class of interns. We'll feed them yummy treats, give them a pep talk,and then proceed to take them over body and soul come July 1st. Mwahahahaha... I kid! Sort of. ;) If you want to read what I wrote right before starting my intern year, lo these many years ago, go here.

I tell you what, I kind of get palpitations just thinking about it.

**First Harvest! Tomatoes taste better when you grow them. Or maybe it's my imagination.**

*Have you heard about this? I think it's a good thing that they are trying to attach some reality to the habit of smoking habits by posting these graphic pictures on tobacco prodcuts. Some people fear that smokers will get annoyed at a perceived government intervention, and stubbornly keep smoking. Perhaps. But I think if it can give some of the younger smokers pause--if it can make them contemplate consequences they'd rather ignore, then I say kudos. It's worth a shot.

**My in-laws also stock their own costume collection and this one has been deemed 'sleeping beauty'. Boy does she put on an amazing show in their living room. Dancing faster than a speeding bullet!**

**She signs autographs. And it is serious business.**

*That P.9-0.X is a real doozy, eh? I tell my patients that they need to be in an exercise routine, so at some point I needed to start taking my own advice. I mean, I've always been intermittently active, but the routine? Therein lies my struggle. So I started attending this weekly boot camp class a while back, which was fun. Then our instructor moved, so another friend offered to lead us in P.9-0.X. Have you tried this? Exceptionally effective stuff, but I tell you what, I busted my shoulder the first day. Which means exercise is bad for you I am now under my own doctor's orders to rest up. I think that's one prescription I can most definitely follow through on. :)

(I intentionally mistyped the name of the exercise program to avoid it coming up in what I'm guessing is a frequent google search!)

*This year, So You Think You Can Dance is especially awesome. I love that show.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Five Favorites

1)Doctor-Patient Relationships
**Tiny learns the ins and outs of a stethoscope.**

This week I had to say goodbye to a family I've been taking care of for a while. They are moving up north, and that means I no longer get to see their boys grow up.

It kind of broke my heart. But I'm okay with that because it means these relationships really matter.

I think it's fabulous that family practice allows me to really be a part of people's stories. I love that I meet them and their children and their friends. I love hearing about their lives.

These are the reasons I chose primary care, when it was not the hip thing to choose at my east coast med school. I knew that I wanted to be on the frontlines of medicine, and I knew that I wanted to build relationships.

It's good to see that come to fruition.

2)3 year old dressing

This deserves a post of its own, which I will get to sometime soon. But I think we should all just throw caution to the wind this weekend and mix patterns and colors like we just don't care. And maybe put our shirts on backwards.

3)Curbside Shopping


I bought this vanity a few nights ago after seeing it up for sale on a neighbors lawn (priced all cheapity cheap given the damage). I drove by it on the way to work and saw the potential immediately. I convinced Rockstar to walk up there with me and the kids after dinner, and he didn't put up a fuss when I decided to make an offer on what will surely require a bit of elbow grease on my(his) part.
He's learned that even though there is no obvious place for this piece in our home right now, I have a deep 'where there's a will there's a way' streak in me. Especially when it comes to inexpensive antique furniture. Which is probably not what my mother had in mind when she used to drill this phrase into my head.

**It's the detailing I can't get over.**


Water makes kids happy. The end.



5)Taking care of little sprouts is the best. No?


Happy Weekend!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Not Lost

**Changing identities in a superman shirt and mom's secret agent glasse.**

I read another article the other day by a mom who talked about how we lose our identities in the monotonous work of motherhood. And I’ll tell you what, this idea bothers me. It’s such a common theme in writing by moms: you will lose yourself in motherhood, and you must reclaim your old self to regain sanity!

It bothers me because of the assumptions it makes about motherhood—that the process is a constant drain on who we are, and we must somehow stem the tide by carving out more time for ourselves. It must be said that I am all about finding space for ourselves in the process of raising kids. That will be different for everyone. My space is my job, my friends, my books and writing.

But when I seek those things out, it is not because I feel like I need them to get a grasp on my identity, but because I find enjoyment in them. In fact sometimes I do more honest self-examination in the minutes after I’ve lost my cool during a toddler’s tantrum than I do when I’ve got endless time to sit and think.

Here are my assumptions about motherhood: That motherhood is a calling. That it is an honor. That motherhood is absolutely one of the most important things we have the opportunity to do in our lives, and that what we do with it and what we learn from it, matters. I think the work of motherhood is part of a great process of becoming.

**Which is important to remember since we do not get certificates of achievement as we go.**

Because I believe powerfully in the importance of not just the result (kids) but the process of motherhood, I think, ‘This idea can’t be right. It can’t be this great tragedy that the work of motherhood robs us of our true selves and we need to move backwards to find them.’ Anyway, is the answer ever in trying to reclaim the past?

It occurred to me, though, that without the right context to frame the experience, motherhood probably does feel like a great vortex that your past life gets sucked into.

**Looking a little lost in the vortex of dance class.**

But in the context of the assumptions I named, I think it’s more like a fire—like any refining fire that purifies. So when your childless self—full of hobbies, free time, and socializing—gets thrust in, it can feel like the old self has all but disappeared. Ouch! This is the resounding cry I hear in these articles. “What happened to my old self?” they wonder, as they watch that life seemingly melt away. The form and function of our lives irrevocably changed.

**Scenes that make me happy my life has changed. My boys unintentionally match and make each other laugh.**

But in this process, the fire is burning out of us the less desirable parts—the selfishness, the pettiness, the pride. The sleepless nights and the high fevers; the worry and the play; the monotony and the heart-bursting joy. The love, the love, the love. It is purifying and strengthening. The fire burns out parts of the old self, but I believe the core of us is never lost at all. What is our identity anyway? It is the be, not the do.

The essence of who we are is more than a list of our hobbies or accomplishments. It is in how we have learned to care, to serve, to work, to change, to rally, to be strong.

Yes, through this process, we are transformed. Stronger in the end. Not in spite of all the carpools we have driven and the diapers we have changed. But maybe, just maybe, also because of it.

You know when you meet mothers who are older, gray-haired, and wise? The ones who have a certain wisdom and a loving grace bred by years of experience? Such characteristics, I’m confident, were hard-won. I never look at them and think that they have lost themselves in the process. Rather, I think they look more themselves than ever.

No, in the work of motherhood, we are not lost, though it may feel like that sometimes. We are remade, reborn. And we are stronger and better because of it.

**Like the feeling after a good workout (or sackrace, as it were), Motherhood is a good burn.**

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


My sister and I were reviewing our mornings on the phone and she said, "The kids were all up early, so we got in the car and went to IHOP."

I laughed since my sister isn't really the IHOP type. Then again, we spent many Saturdays in our youth going to diners with my Grandpa, so maybe this was all part of a post-California nostalgia syndrome? Regardless, I loved it. Because you know when you take your kids to IHOP on a random Tuesday morning? When it's summer vacation, baby.

It's summer. I don't think the Calendar has officially heralded the change in season. But the sticky heat and fireflies are here, and the pool is open. So, in my book, it's official.

I love a lot of things about summer and all the things it means we get to enjoy.

I love both the abundance of fresh fruits and veggies and all the delicious frozen treats.


{Side note: did you know some people think popsicles might be the next nostalgic treat to supplant cucakes on the throne of trendy desserts? I thought this couldn't be true. While I can enjoy a popsicle here or there, it's certainly not something I crave. So when we made a stop at our local custard shop, I never even considered trying one of their new fancy popsicles. Until I saw Rootbeer Float as a flavor. It was amazing. Seriously, I don't know what's different in this new European pop-maker, or what ingredients she used, but color me impressed. I've been craving them every day since. Tiny tried the peach one, and I took a bite. Holy Deliciousness, Batman. I swear they were straight up frozen pureed peaches. I'm rethinking my stance on popsicles.}

**Tiny's a fan**


Summer means we have a green thumb after all. See all those green tomatoes? Yay for the little garden that could!

**When does growing become overgrown?**


Summer means building our immunity, cause guess who's playing in eating the dirt? The kid knew just what to do with a shovel. He is determined to undo Rockstar's meticulous mulching. (Random alliteration is just part of English Major disease, I think.)


Summer means t-shirts and shorts. And kissing those cheeks all day, cause hey--his shirt told me to.


Summer means feeling better about the world. Rather, looking at this face means feeling better about the world. That face. Oh, that face.

I'm coming up with my list of things that I want to see, do and experience this summer. First up is a weekend trip to a kids amusement park. Also, I need to get a better popsicle mold. The dollar bin one I have would make, but not release, all popsicles I attempted to make last year.

I'd be curious to hear: what are your favorite summer traditions? IHOP anybody? ;)

Also, any good summer book recommendations? I'm finishing my last book club book, and am in the mood for a summery read.

Well, I'm off to bed. You never know when the kids will decide to wake up early. And you've got to be well rested to fully enjoy an order of shortcakes at IHOP, right?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Leaving Home

WARNING:Sentimental post ahead. Not that this should surprise you.


Yesterday I drove away from my chidlhood come in California. Unlike all of the other thousands of times I have pulled out of that driveway, I knew that this time was the last time I'd pull away from it as my house. And after thirty years of pulling away from this house as my house, it was quite a blow.

With my parents off on adventures of their own, which will ultimately lead them back to my part of the country, the last of my family connections to Northern CA are gone. I'm super excited that I'll get to have them closer, but the bitter next to the sweet is the fact that it also means cutting ties to my original community.

All weekend, on our farewell tour around town, my sister (who never cries) and I would tear up unexpectedly. We cried at things small--our favorite ice cream flavor (Chocolate Malted Crunch), the worlds best cream cheese (Walnut Raisin), and the hay and grain store we bought all the animals we'd then smuggle home(the latter mostly my sister's doing). We cried at things large--leaving the homes of people who have been more like family than friends.

We took pictures of everything.

**The view from my my driveway**

We tried to pretend that we'd have reasons to come back every six months like we'd been doing ever since college. But we all knew that with no remaining family there, it wasn't likely.

That's the double-edged sword of having roots. When you have to leave them behind, oh, does it hurt.

**Home is in the People. And in the view by the Bay.**

But I wouldn't trade it for anything. I wouldn't trade the idyllic main street, and the way this town made me feel safe. I wouldn't trade the roads I've driven so many times I know them bone deep. I wouldn't trade the hills whose rolling beauty speaks to me in a way most landscapes can't match. I wouldn't trade that there are so many people who have known me my entire life, and who I love like crazy. They are people who feel joy and sadness right along with me in the ups and downs of my life because they have been there for all of it. They can't wait to hear the updates and see my children and I love the closeness bred by decades of stability.

**Home is where the fog renders it cool (and windy!) in the summertime.**

I walked around my house and touched the places of so many memories: the doorstep of so many prom nights and late night talks. The basketball court of a thousand pick up games. The trampoline of a thousand sleepovers and choreography contests. The room where I stayed up doing algebra and talking to friends. The windows my sister taught me to climb out of when I was in timeout. The living room where we had wedding receptions and family reunions. The family room that housed Christmas magic and spontanoues theater productions over the years. The kitchen table of so many shared meals and conversations. The love the fairly radiates out of every corner of it.

Oh, it is magical.

I tossed and turned all night on Monday night. I think my body couldn't process that this was the last time I would sleep in my bed. But in the morning light, when I got up to catch our flight, I had three final thoughts as I walked away from a place that has helped to define me and provided a solid launching pad from where to go off into the world:

I hope the family buying this house knows exactly what kind of magic they are getting.

I hope I can give this kind of gift to my children.


The beauty of roots, I suppose, is that we never really leave them behind at all. They aren't cut off as if they never mattered. They find place deep inside of us, intertwined with the branches of our new journey. The substance of who we were, then, never too far separated from who we will become.