Saturday, March 31, 2012

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Bieber Bomb Revisited.

Yes. Yes! It's The Bieber Bomb revisited!

Man! There's been so much heaviness going on in the world these days that I pulled this on up today for a guar-OWN-teed smile. It made me laugh so hard that I had to bring you in on the fun, too.

Now this? This little snippet captures the dynamic between my boys perfectly. I will always cherish this little slice of their childhood caught here. Always.

Oh yeah. . .and for those who haven't heard this before-- the main crooner is Isaiah putting all his heart and soul into every word! And the rest? Yeah. That's courtesy of his little brother, Zachary. Also known as The Zack Attack.

(By the way--it was bedtime and we were in the dark singing lullabies. That's why you can't see anything.)

(If this doesn't appear because you are on a phone or an iPad, check it out later on your laptop or desktop. It's worth the trouble.)

Night night. Sweet dreams.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . . our favorite bedtime lullaby as sung by JT. Love. This. Song. Forever.

(P.S. Stace, I know how much you love this--this one's for you and the boys!)

Full of it.

as texted to me today: two ticks chilling on rounds
Medicine Nerd Textapalooza, today at 2:23 PM.

Her:  "Check this out!

Me: "DUDE! Full as a . . . .tick?"

Her:  "A deer tick!"

Me: "Holy cow! Is that real?"

Her: "Yep!"

Me: "Whoa. So cool."

Her: "Oh yeah."

*moment of silence*

Me:  "Syphilis! Syphilis! Syphilis!"

Her:  *throws down phone and runs off screaming in glee with hands waving all over*

Okay, okay! I admit --  Syphilis has nothing whatsoever to do with ticks and tickborne illnesses.  But. This multimedia text image I received today? It just shows you the kinds of things you might get randomly texted when your good friends just happen to be Infectious Disease medicine nerds. (In addition to heartfelt campfire discussions about syphilis.)

Ah hem. I'm just saying.

Happy Friday.

P.S. Remind me to tell you later about how much they also love tuberculosis. *cough* Yeah. Remind me.

Ladies first.

Yesterday I was in the clinic working with one of my favorite residents. I have known her since her first day of internship and have had the distinct pleasure of supervising her every week for nearly two years. She is smart, mature, thoughtful, logical, helpful and simply a delight to work with. Furthermore, she has this quiet confidence about her that I deeply admire. She makes it all looks so effortless.

Surely she must know how great she is, right?

Half way through her internship, I told her, "You are one of the very best residents I've ever worked with. You are truly the total package. I wouldn't be surprised if you became a chief resident in a few years." And then I explained to her exactly why I felt that way. Every single time I've given her feedback since, I have been careful to tell her more than just "Good job" or "Strong work." I explicitly review just what she is doing that is so great and how, with those skills, she can take that great even to the next level.

And she always listens intently and takes it all in.

A few weeks ago, I learned that she had been selected to be one of the chief residents from her class. This is a tremendous honor, particularly in a program as large as ours. I hadn't seen her in a few weeks since hearing the news--and it isn't usually fully public outside of our Residency Leadership Team.  I'm sure I caught her off guard when I pulled her aside to congratulate her.

"Have I seen you since you were notified?"

"No, I don't think so," she replied with a big smile.

I put both of my hands on her shoulders and looked her squarely in her eyes. "I am SO proud of you. You know I think the world of you and am elated that you were selected to do this. You will be amazing,  I just know it. You truly deserve this. You do. Good for you!"

And her whole face turned beet red and her eyes began to glisten. She was smiling from ear to ear and everything about her body language showed me how humbled she was by the all of it.

It amazes me how wonderful and able women can be sometimes, yet we always--me included--are so surprised when someone affirms it for us. What I think this means is that we just have to love on each other and build each other up. Pat each others 's backs and say, "You are wonderful." And then be specific why we feel that way.

And this morning, I'm just thinking. . . .I just love being a woman. I especially love being a woman in medicine. And I'm proud that I was there to see and help this young woman in medicine evolve from an earnest intern to one who has been singled out for being excellent in her field.


Happy Friday.

Now playing on my mental iPod. Because girls are awesome, man.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Rock, Paper, Scissors.

I thought to do what we always did on rounds that morning:

"Rock, Paper, Scissors--SHOOT!"

That always seemed to make him feel better. But today, there was something heavy in the air. I decided to hold off.

"How are you today?"

He looked up at me with tired eyes. Round like big, brown marbles and almost doe-like. "Today is a tired day."

This response gripped my chest, especially since it was coming from someone so young. "I'm sorry," I replied.

"I'm tired," he answered. He laid back in the bed and flipped his cell phone over rhythmically like a flapjack in his hand.

"Tell me. What can I do for you today. To give you a little bit of sunshine today?"

He seemed to like that ambitious offer. Those bright eyes fixed onto my own and widened a bit. The near fluorescent hue of his jaundiced sclerae were like another kind of strange sunshine. Almost like that you'd see on other planets.

"Start me over without this disease. Let me have a do-over. That would make this day better."  I curled up one side of my mouth and furrowed my brow because I didn't have that in my little bag of internal medicine tricks. He seemed to feel bad for me after he said that. "I'm only kidding. It's just one of those days." Again the flapjack cell phone flying higher and higher in the air.

"How is the pain? Is it under control?"

"You know? It's probably like a '5' on a scale of 1 to 10, which for me isn't bad."


He kept tossing that phone and then changed the subject. "Dr. Manning? How did you know you wanted to be a doctor?"

Honestly? I wasn't sure of that answer. I thought about it for a moment and then answered, "I just knew I was good with people. So I guess I decided that something with people would be good for me."

"Damn, you sure aimed high." He let out a weak laugh, but only because his body was weak. It was meant to lighten the mood.

"I guess so, huh?"

"Yeah. You could have been a greeter at WalMart. That's totally a people gig," he mused.

"Hmmm. Never thought about that. You're right." I laughed with him while silencing his IV pump.

"Dr. Manning? Does anybody in your family have sickle cell like me?"

I stopped fussing with the IV and gave him my attention. "No."

"You're lucky. It's not a good disease to have, you know."

"Mmmm."  I started to say I know, but then I realized that I don't really know.

"Do you know what it feels like when it flares? It feels like someone breaking all of your bones at once. In a food processor."


"It's not fun."

"It doesn't sound fun."

This time he threw that phone so high into the air that I feared it would hit the ceiling. It didn't though. Finally he caught it and clasped it in his hands. "But you know? It's such a part of who I am now. As bad as it sounds, I wouldn't be me without it. And I like being me."

Just in that instant those words moved me deep in my soul. I almost felt like crying. "Liking yourself is great. So many people don't."

He shrugged his narrow shoulders and gazed at me with those golden rod-framed brown eyes. "I know my heart is good."

That moved me, too. Especially hearing that coming from someone who wasn't even twenty yet. "How do you know for sure? That your heart is good?"

Once I said that I wondered if it sounded like an insult. Fortunately, he didn't take it that way.

"I know because I can see the good in people. Even when they aren't nice or are acting ugly, I can see the good in them. I see the best in most situations, too. You need a good heart to do that."

"I reckon you do," I agreed. I thought for a moment about my own heart.

He must have read my mind. "What about you? Do you think you have a good heart?"

"I sure hope so," I responded quietly. "I try to."

"I can tell." He smiled at me with the wisdom of someone three times his age.

"You are wise, you know that? You are wise like a village elder."

He pressed his lips together and shrugged again. "I'm just me."

"And you know what? You is good. I like you."

His mouth turned downward feigning a smug expression as he nodded his head up and down. Flipping the phone once again, he raised one eyebrow at me and replied, "And I like me, too."

I smiled for a moment and savored his words. Then with a playful and decidedly more energetic laugh he got down to our daily ritual.

"Rock, Paper, Scissors?" His raised eyebrow went up again. This time even more exaggerated than before.

"Let's do it."

I put those words in my pocket for later realizing that no matter who would win at Rock, Paper, Scissors that I was already the victor just for being there.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Top Ten: Tripping and Bugging.

tripping : v. 1. When someone is overreacting or getting all bent out of shape over something small; 2. a reaction to something baffling, surprising, or incredulous. 3. bugging.

example: "Katie Couric was tripping off of Sarah Palin when she couldn't name any magazines." "Dude! I was, too!"

bugging : v. 1. The same thing as tripping. 2. Acting crazy.

example: "I can't go see The Hunger Games 'cause my mom is bugging about the violence." "Dang. Your mama be tripping." "Totally."


Man. There's SO much that I'm tripping off of these days. It's hard to share it all. But today I have narrowed it down to the top then things that I'm tripping off of this week.

And bugging off of, too.

#10  Honeycrisp apples? Honeychile, please.

Have you had these little bombs of juicy joy? If you haven't, then let me just tell you: They are like a crispy, juicy, yummy party in your mouth. But. The part I'm bugging about is how RIDICULOUSLY EXPENSIVE they are. RIDICULOUSLY. (Especially if you're cheap like me.)

Ssshhhhh: Is it bad that I bought my family some Gala apples and told them they were Honeycrisp? Is it bad that I was laughing under my breath as everyone at the table gushed about how TOTALLY, deliciously superior those PSEUDO-HONEYCRISPS were to all other apples?


Well. A mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do

#9  Easy weight loss.

Man! I gave up Diet Coke on February 1. And! I lost like 4 pounds--without any other changes. I've been reading about how diet soda makes you eat more and how you'll lose weight if you stop drinking it. Well. From my little experiment it appears to be true. Mmm hmmm. Not even kidding.

And the good news? I totally was craving it like crazy at first. Then I pulled on a skirt that had previously been too tight and it fit. I have decided that I like fitting my clothes more than Diet Coke.

#8  This POLLEN!

Seriously? What is UP with all this pollen in the southern United States? I have been an itchy, snotty mess. Remind me to talk to a doctor about that. And to get my yellow-coated car washed. For real.

#7 Zachary the Mango Boy.

I feared that Zachary was going to turn into a mango. The kid sits and eats mango until his entire mouth is raw. Then he keeps on eating them and whimpering between bites. Today, he took it too far. He just announced:

"I am not a mango boy anymore."

That's cool with me, because those damn things almost cost as much as Honeycrisp apples. Plus, there's no Gala version to trick him with.

#6  People being Rude about the person that got Rue-ed.

Not this Rue, though. They were cool with her.

Alright. You all know that I devoured The Hunger Games trilogy several months back. Yes. I contributed to that $155 million opening weekend for the movie. You bet I did.

Well. Have any of you ever read a book and then it was made into a movie? And when you saw the movie you were like, "Hmmm, that's not how I imagined this character in my head." Of course you have! Then you moved on, right?

Well not if you were all the people who were fit to be TIED at the fact that one of important characters in The Hunger Games movie-- this beloved character named "Rue" -- was cast as a . . . gasp! . . . black girl.

Uggghh! Sorry, y'all. I hate to even bring up anything else race-related this month. Really-- I tried to stay out of this discussion but seriously? This is one of the things I'm bugging off of this week so I had to include it.

Alright, alright. . .so Rue is black in the movie. Sound the alarms why don't we? Better yet--how 'bout we do this instead: Why don't we just revisit the EXACT language used by the author in the book to describe young Rue, shall we? Don't mind if I do!

"And most hauntingly, a twelve-year-old girl from District 11. She has dark brown skin and eyes, but other than that, she's very like Prim in size and demeanor."

 Uhh, hello? This is what the author wrote VERBATIM. Matter of fact, just Google "dark brown" under images and see what comes up. Or even "dark brown skin." It's okay, I'll wait.

Welcome back. See? Nothing cryptic about that, now is it?

Now, here's what I'm mostly bugging off of: While some were just flat out n-word-using offensive about their surprise and disdain over this sweet-faced actress (Amandla Stenberg) being cast as Rue, many not necessarily unkind people simply said on the message boards, "I just never imagined her as black. I imagined her as more. . .like. . .I don't know. . . olive."  You mean "olive". . . . as in the word used by the author to describe another character? Oh, I see.

Shall we go the text once again?

Katniss, the protagonist, phenotypically describes her mate, Gale, her sister, her mother, the people in her district AND herself here:

"[Gale] He could be my brother. Straight black hair, olive skin, we even have the same gray eyes. But we're not related, at least not closely. Most of the families who work the mines resemble one another this way. That's why my mother and [sister] Prim, with their light hair and blue eyes, always look out of place. They are." 

This all has me baffled. I read the entire book seeing Rue with dark brown skin (as in that of a black or Indian/South Asian person) and Katniss (the protagonist) as having, well, olive skin (as in that of a person who tans easily.) And I won't even go all up into how disturbing all the mean racial twitters have been. My friend Angella does an excellently diplomatic job of describing all that here.

I guess it fascinates me how we're all wired to see things. Under nearly every other circumstance if something is described as "dark brown", it is just that. But for some reason. . . many people never, ever conceived that for this cherished heroine that "dark brown skin" might actually mean. . . . well. . .dark brown skin. Fascinating.

You know what? I think I'm just tripping off of ALL of the crazy racial things going on this month. March 2012 has been bananas, I tell you. And from young people, too! This month has been like the Ides of March for real. Those crazy tweets came from what looks to be teens and tweens! I was like, "Damn! Et tu, Brute?"

Plus, I'm imagining how hurt that sweet actress Amandla Stenberg's feelings must have been when she heard all of those mean things being said about her--just because of her race.  Boo hiss, man.

Damn, America. Really?

But seriously? Who CARES who's cast as long as they can act and the screenplay is good? Not me, that's for sure.

PLUS, I was talking to my Gradydoctor-friend Lesley M. today and we agreed that EVERYONE knows that the movie versions of characters almost NEVER all stack up to what we imagined in our heads! (The one caveat is Harry Potter, but Lesley pointed out that they had illustrations to go by.)

# 5 And speaking of all that. . . .Help me out, will you?

When I read the book "The Help" I imagined that sniveling blabbermouth "Hilly" as being quite overweight--as the author described. The woman they cast in the role for the movie? Not overweight at all. I also pictured the main character Aibileen as much older, too. And she wasn't old at all. HOWEVER, the screenplay rocked and both women were amazing actresses. So I quickly got over it.

And I'm saying. People loved The Help, too. That book went viral and the characters were absolutely our own. So I'm tripping off of why a slim Hilly and a youngish Aibileen didn't fire people up as much as a (not even dark brown, hello?!) Rue.

Damn, America. Really?

Okay. I'm done with all of that. For real, I promise.

#4  Keep it syphilitic, stupid.

New England Journal of Medicine image

You know what? My friends who are Infectious Disease (ID)specialists loooooove to talk about syphilis. I'm for real. They will stop whatever they're doing if you just say that magic word: Syphilis.

Syphilis, syphilis, syphilis. (See? One of them just fainted. )

When it comes to syphilis, ID people get all giddy and foamy at the mouth the minute you ask about it. The only thing they like to talk about more than syphilis is syphilis + HIV infection. Once I sent a group text message with a syphilis + HIV question to my two favorite ID-doctor girlfriends, Wendy and Shanta. And I kid you not, my cell phone exploded from all the texts that followed. Exploded. No, for real. It did.

Syphilis, syphilis, syphilis. (See? One of them just ran out of their front door screaming in glee.)

I love that about them. Plus, I think I am secretly a closeted Infectious Disease nerd. I, too, get very excited about syphilis which I think is the litmus for the ID gene.

Case in point: Shanta Z. texted me some interesting pictures of this thing called the jarisch-herxeimer reaction which is this scary explosive rash people get when they first start getting treated for. . .you guessed it. . .syphilis. But even though it's explosive, this rash goes away in a few hours. Well. I was sitting in the movie theater waiting for The Hunger Games to start and literally started getting giddy and foaming at the mouth a little when Shanta sent me a picture that she'd seen on her recent ID travels. In fact, I was disappointed when the lights went down and I had to stop texting. Ha.

Now pardon me while I run out of my front door screaming.

#3 Can you hear me now? Not good.

I am bugging off of how many DROPPED CALLS I am getting on AT & T these days. Ugggghh!! Right now they are an EPIC fail in my book. I would call them and complain but I don't have a signal.

#2 My parents and their commitment.

What you youngsters know about this? 

Dude. Dude! Have I ever told y'all about how my parents packed up all four us kids into a Lincoln continental and spent six weeks driving in a complete circle around the ENTIRE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA in one summer? This was before the DVD player, the Nintendo DSi, the iPad, the iPhone, navigation and seatbelt enforcement. Yes. Yes!

I was in the fifth grade, my younger sister was in fourth, my older sister in seventh and my brother was in ninth. I think. But either way, my dad and mom did the total old school thing and got a BIG OL' TripTik from triple A mapping the whole thing out! THEN they commenced to drive us LITERALLY on a tour of land of the free and the home of the brave.

Not. Even. Kidding.

We saw the Grand Canyon, The Washington Monument, dairy cows in Wisconsin, Mount Rushmore, and even the Hoover Dam. And when we got home from this painstakingly thoughtfully organized trip and all the impressed people asked us, "What was your favorite part?" Guess what we said?


0_0 -----> look on my Dad's face.

Seriously? Seriously. Talk about ungrateful and uncultured. Ha!

Now that I am a parent, I cannot even begin to comprehend the ENORMOUS sacrifice of time, energy, and sanity that must have taken to plan and actually execute. I cannot. But thirty one years later,  I do appreciate it. Especially because I can't quite see when my travels will take me back to South Dakota again. Bananas!

Mom and Dad? You guys were some parenting BEASTS. Oh, and I mean this in the GOOD way.(Picture me on knees bowing up and down.) That was both CRAZY and . . .uhhh. . .kind of crazy.

#1  Glitterati.

I'm tripping off of how good I've felt about letting my gray hairs come on in as they please. It makes me feel unusually confident, which I didn't expect. This could also be because--thanks to Zachary--I now see them as swanky "glitter-sparklies."

That's all I got today.


For the record, there was absolutely NO point whatsoever to this post. But sometimes, those are the best kind of posts, don't you think?

P.S. I'm tripping off of the fact that it's been more than 20 years since we were in college like these ladies! Dang!

Oh and Coach B? This was for you. I had nothing profound to say, but at least it counts as a post!

Happy Hump Day.

Monday, March 26, 2012

His name is my name, too.

John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt
His name is my name, too.
(You better believe it!)
Whenever we go out
the people always shout,
'There goes John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt!'

Trayvon Martin, family vacation photo
This is Trayvon Martin.

His name is their name, too.

Trayvon Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton.

Because her son was our son, too.

Mamie Till, picture with her slain son Emmitt.

And so was her son. (You better believe it.)

Just like Sybrina and Mamie, I love my children. And no matter who you are or what color you are, my guess is that you love yours, too. These mothers both lost their sons to senseless acts of violence triggered by racism followed by the authorities turning a blind eye. It's hard to decide which is more hurtful. The sad truth is that there are many, many Trayvons--and Trayvinas--all over the world.

And no, Mr. Rivera, it wasn't the hoodie that killed Trayvon. Just like it wasn't whistling that killed an innocent middle schooler named Emmitt Till over fifty years ago.  Uhhh, no.

You got that, Geraldo?


This evening in Atlanta, Georgia. . . .

. . .just a few blocks away from Grady Hospital at the State Capitol . . .

. . .people of all ages came together to rally for justice.

Black, white, old, and young. . . . 

. . .together and peaceful. . . .

. . .and all asking the same questions, "Where is the justice?" and "When will this end?"

. . .or worse--asking this question:  "Am I next?"

These kids were in middle and high school.

The energy was somber yet uplifting. . . . 

. . .solidarity under magnolia trees. . . .

. . .mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, families and just people there demanding justice. . .

. . . and hoping for ways to keep their sons safe.

We proved that wearing hoodies shouldn't be punishable by death.

But killing innocent people should be punishable by something.

We were there. Together.

Me and wise Jada, my fellow mom, med school classmate, and gross anatomy lab partner extraordinaire 
Students from Georgia Tech 
Jada and I even ran into some of our "little" Delta sorority sisters from Georgia Tech, too.

This man told me, "I am so sad about this." And I said, "It's okay for us to share the sad." 
We told Noah that he'd appreciate being here more when he was much older.  
He said, "I appreciate it now."

Damn. If only your name had been John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt.
Maybe then we could have protected you. Or at least got you some justice.

Then again, maybe not.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

One moment in time.

Give me one moment in time
When I'm more than I thought I could be
When all of my dreams are a heartbeat away
And the answers are all up to me
Give me one moment in time
When I'm racing with destiny
Then in that one moment of time
I will feel
I will feel eternity

~ from Whitney Houston's "One moment in time"


So it all started with jury duty last week. I was sitting there in a big room in the courthouse minding my own business and happy as I-don't-know-what that they had WiFi and even happier that I had thought to bring my laptop. I watched the obligatory video, which for whatever reason, wasn't so bad this time around and even managed to write a blog post. Even though I was in jury duty, it was all good.

Then I did what I'm sure many people sitting in that holding room did. Exactly! I checked my email. Yawn. Nothing too exciting really. Work-related stuff and reminders about things that I needed to be remembering. Otherwise, not too eventful. Amongst those uneventful emails was an email from a medical student. Also not unusual--at all. Anyways. This email was inquiring about our residency program and whether or not we had any openings which we did not. I quickly shot the student back an email thanking her for her interest but letting her know that we'd filled all of our positions in the match for the coming year.

And this was also not at all unusual. Because I get these kinds of emails often--so often that I can probably type that response with my eyes closed.

So there I sat in jury duty with nothing to do but wait. I'd already blogged. I'd forgotten to bring a magazine. And I wasn't in the mood to read anything on my Kindle queue. So clearly I did what any bored person would do. Of course! I checked my email again.

And there it was. A response from that student. Just like that. Explaining a bit more about her situation but not so much that it felt like TMI. She had attended college in Atlanta and was visiting with friends. Here for spring break, she wondered if my schedule would allow us to chat. 

Chat? Chat about what? I didn't have any positions. I'm sure she was nice and all but I couldn't exactly hire her or anything. And truthfully, I can't just be meeting up with any and every random person who emails me. And don't even judge me for saying that because you know you can't either. 


Since I was held captive in that courthouse, I went ahead and responded. 

"Was there something in particular that you wanted to speak with me about?"

Of course that was wrapped around a few other diplomatic sentences, but that was the gist of it. She responded back in the snap of a finger.

"We don't have to meet in person. I'd really just hoped to talk to you so that if you had something open, you'd have more insight into me."


I liked the humility in the email, but still. Why did she want to meet me or even talk to me if I couldn't necessarily give her a position? Maaaan. I'm a bleeding heart and all but seriously? I just don't have time. And look, y'all. Before you give me the hairy eyeball, you have to understand how residency programs work. People not only from ALL OVER the U.S. contact program directors about positions but also applicants from all over THE WORLD contact you, too. Setting up times to chat up all of the folks that email you--despite how wonderful they surely are--could take up your entire week. So I generally try to avoid it.

I prepared to quickly reply a kindly worded decline to her, but decided to just chill for a moment. What was the hurry? Hell, all I had was time in jury duty which, at the rate things were going, was about to be good and plenty. 

Then, just two moments later I hear the clerk shuffling at the microphone. 


And I sat there waiting. More like yawning and waiting because I knew my name never seemed to get called in the first few batches of people. Since this was batch three, I listened just enough to see if somebody I knew was also unlucky--err. .. .had the honor of serving their time in jury duty that day, too. 

That's when I heard it. 


I thought it was some kind of joke. I looked up from my laptop incredulously. 

Awww man! Already? Dude!

"Uhh. . .HERE!"

Great. Getting called meant going upstairs to an actual courtroom. And going up to an actual courtroom meant no more WiFi and no more catching up on emails and friends' blogs. Talk about a buzz kill. 

He kept rattling off names and horribly mispronouncing a few of them. Great. None of them even seemed fun. Man. This was totally going to be the group mandated for the next OJ trial--I could feel it. I closed my laptop and prepared to scuttle off to wherever we were going to be scuttled off to next. I took a deep breath and prepared myself to be a big girl about it.

Your civic duty. Your civic duty. Your civic duty.

And then this:



Shut the FRONT DOOR!  Dismissed?!  Hush yo' mowf!!  

I looked at the time on my iPhone--10--fricking--23 AM. Shut. Up.  

I skipped out of that courthouse and past those security checkpoints whistling Dixie. Like literally. 

So I get out in the sunshine and realize that I'd expected to be in that building all day. Hell. I didn't know what to do with myself. I just sort of stood there with this dorky grin on my face smiling at people who looked at me and my big blue JUROR sticker on my chest. Kind of like this:

Who DOES this when they get out of Jury Duty? (Me.)

No. Exactly like that. I started to do the running man dance for a minute, but remembered that the last time I did jury duty, one of our big-boss deans was there, too. For all I knew, the dude could walk up while I was mid-stride.

Anyways. I sit on a bench and pull out my phone. For whatever reason, I looked at that email again from that same student. And then--and I'm not sure why--I pushed the hyperlinked number at the bottom of her email and called her right then and there.


"Hey there. This is Dr. Manning. How are you doing today?"

"Uhhh. . . Dr. Manning?" she cleared her throat hard. "I'm good. Very good." 

She sounded stunned as hell that I'd actually called her. But also she sounded pleasant, professional, and driven. We exchanged a few pleasantries and then I started to hear more about her story. 

She was at an excellent medical school and preparing to graduate this spring. Without going too much into her business, I learned that she was sort of in a jam.  Match day had been bittersweet and while she DID get into an advanced program, she did not secure the mandatory preliminary year. Now she was trying to get a one-year spot--so she wouldn't lose the position that was to follow. That, I couldn't assist with.

But as I listened, I also figured out that we had a whole lot in common. 

Like me, she was an African American female who had attended a historically black college. Like me, she had roots in the south. And she seemed to have spunk. She was almost scrappy--kind of like I was as a medical student.

I listened. I responded to her queries. And I liked her. Instinctively, I liked her.

It dawned on me then that although I couldn't help her out with her particular situation, I could put her in contact with a friend of mine at another institution who potentially could. A friend who'd gone to medical school with me who was now in a high position elsewhere. 

So I called her. And she listened, too. And together we decided that we'd try to help. 

And since that phone call last week, I have talked to that student four other times and emailed/texted even more than that. I've made at least fifteen calls to other people on her behalf. 

And today, I called just to be of encouragement.

"Just called to remind you that you will succeed in this."

"Thank you, Dr. Manning. After last week and us talking I am really feeling that way, too." And I could tell that she meant every word. 

You see, I'm not sure if you all realize it but medical school is hard. Like some parts of it are really hard. But it's not just because of the complexity of the facts you're trying to master. The environment breaks some people long before the school work. Yeah. The medical school and residency environment can be really rough for any person who is different in any way. And by different, I mean a lot of things. I mean things like being black. Or being older. Or having a kid. Or being from a foreign country. Or having some kind of disability. Or even something as simple as just being married with children (since most medical students are not.)  

Unlike this young woman, I attended a historically black college AND a historically black medical school -- which meant I never felt or was treated like a minority as a medical student. But once I went to residency and then came here, I realized that black students and residents can feel pretty isolated sometimes. No, this isn't unique to my institution or where I did my training at all. In fact, my good friend who leads a program way off in another state talks to me all the time about this very thing and how it manifests at her institution, too.

So my point is--it's an everywhere thing.

Anyways. At some (and by some I mean many) academic medical centers, black medical students get lost. Especially the ones that are very good and full of promise but not necessarily stellar on paper. They get overlooked or misunderstood. And unless there is some great mentor advocating on their behalf and helping them to slug it out, it can be a hard row to hoe. 

Man. Tonight when I spoke to that young lady, she sounded so encouraged. Like my time and attention had meant so, so much to her. And for the record--my friend and me had not sorted out her problem yet. We hadn't secured her a position or anything like that. But I can say this: We did listen to her and try to see what we could do to help. And when I talked to her I did my best to inspire her to keep fighting because I believed that if she did she would win.

And she said to me, "You know what, Dr. Manning? I believe that, too. I truly do."

We got off the phone and I just sat there at my kitchen table lost in thought. Then, without warning, tears started rolling over my cheeks and splashing on my lap. Tear after tear and I couldn't make it stop.

Crazy right? Maybe. Maybe not.

Like. . . .do you ever have these pivotal moments in your life that start as something super tiny but while they are happening you just know it's the start of something big? 

Oh, you don't? Dang.

Well, I do. Like what if me being a student at Meharry and then a faculty at Emory and still friends with a classmate from Meharry who happens to be on the faculty at another institution AND who also happens to have connections all over the place. . .like what if all of that was just a part of a drum roll to this moment in time? All setting me up for that one moment where I randomly decided to cold call that student after being sprung from jury duty. . . .like what if that was the case? 

What if the time I took--that we took--to at least try to see what we could do to help her but even more to just mentor her and inspire her -- just what if that changes her life? What if reading her emails without distractions and then calling her was like that movie Sliding Doors -- you know, the one that shows how an entire life can change with something as simple as making it onto a subway before the doors close on you?

I spoke to my other good friend, Jada R., who happens to be Meharry classmate, too. She helps me process in times such as this so I called her up. And you know? I couldn't even get the story all the way out before I started crying. 

"This is so crazy," I blubbered, "I don't even know her, Jada. I don't even know her."

And Jada just listened intently and replied softly, "Of course you know her. We both know her. She's us, Kim." 

Of course. She's us. 

That did nothing but make me cry even more.

So now I am just reflecting and rambling about these moments in time and what we do with them. I am sitting here with a giant ball of Kleenex partly because I'm hormonal but mostly because I'm feeling so full just imagining how much one human being can do for another . . .and how just maybe the entire universe has been waiting for one of us to do this tiny part in something enormous. 

Just maybe.

Jada and I always speak of this black female physician who had us over to her home for dinner when we were fourth year medical students rotating up at Case Western SOM as visiting students. We had just passed our second set of boards and had done well--and we were SO HAPPY. I'm talking CRAZY, INSANELY happy. But according to her, we were a little too happy.

"You're so. . . happy and relieved, wow. But I think I hear too much relief in your voices. This is interesting."

And we looked puzzled. She went on and said this:

"At some point, you will have to get comfortable with succeeding. You'll have to stop treating it like it's some kind of accident or fluke and accept that you are fully deserving of it. Why not? You deserve to win."

She said that while buttering a roll or sipping wine or whatever she was doing. My point is that it was just a tiny moment at her dining room table, you know? Like I doubt if it was even a big deal to her, you know? But those words--those mighty words--changed our lives, do you hear me? Changed our lives.

We talked about those words all the way home. We spoke of them around commencement time. We revisited them during residency and again when we were both asked to serve as chief residents at our respective residency programs. And even to this very day, Jada and I speak of that one moment in time at least once per year. That one moment in time.

Anyways. . .back to the student.

Honestly? I was actually very disappointed when all of our phone calls and discussions didn't end in some fairy tale ending to that student's situation. That would have made this story a hell of a lot better, right? But in my heart of hearts I know that she will be fine. In fact, she will be more than fine. She's going to win. And I told her just like that doctor told Jada and me seventeen years ago: "Why not? You deserve to win." 

That may have been a bold thing to say to someone I don't even know. But you know what? That woman who said that to me didn't know me either.

But then again, maybe she did.


Once I ended my hyperemotional babble in Jada's ear, I finally said, "Girl, I just can't stop feeling like . . . I don't know. . . this was some kind of destiny. Like I was supposed to be in her life to. . .I don't know. . . to help nudge her to the next level."

And wise Jada responded, "That could be, sister. Unless, of course, she was supposed to be in your life to do that for you."


That could be.

What are you doing with your moments in time?

Happy Sunday.

And now playing on my mental iPod which is covered with snot after just one play of Whitney Houston singing this:

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The boy in the hoodie.

My boy, Isaiah on the way to school. . . .in his hoodie.

A boy was walking with a hoodie on. Walking through a neighborhood talking on his cellphone with a hoodie on. A man saw him and didn't like what he saw. The hoodie, the way he was walking, the all of it.

"Something's wrong with him," that man said. "He must be on drugs or something."

But he wasn't on drugs. He was simply on the phone. Talking to his girlfriend. With a hoodie pulled over his head. Did I mention that it was raining? Oh, well it was. Perhaps that could explain the hood on his head.


That man who saw the boy kept watching. The more he watched the more he worried. He even called 911. 

"There's a suspicious guy out here," he told the dispatcher.

And that dispatcher listened and asked questions. Questions like, "What does he look like?" and "What is he doing?"  

And that man shared that he was a black male. And that he was walking. But that it looked suspicious.

The boy was talking to his girlfriend and felt worried by the way this man was watching him. "Run!" she told him. He agreed that this is what he should do. To get away from those scary, accusatory eyes that were on him. So that's what he did. He ran.

"He's running!" That's what that man told the 911 dispatcher. And through pants into the phone he repeated it. "He's running!"  

The dispatcher asked that man if he was chasing the boy. When it was obvious that he was, the dispatcher calmly told him, "We don't need you to do that." But he did it anyway. He sure did.

He chased the boy. And eventually he caught up with him. They scuffled a bit. In fact, they scuffled more than just a bit.

That boy was afraid. He was screaming out for someone to help him. Someone, anyone help. And then, a gunshot. Straight to the chest. 

And the boy was gone.

Just like that a boy with a hoodie, a cellphone and a pack of Skittles in his pocket that he'd just bought for his brother was gone. A son, a brother, a grandson, a friend. Gone. 

What happened next is even sadder.  The man who shot that gun said he'd done so in self defense. And without further questioning, he was let go. Just like that.

Somebody's son, brother, grandson, and friend was gone in an instant and it didn't even warrant much more investigation. 

Turns out that the boy in that hoodie didn't have any criminal record. Turns out that he was an athlete and a kind big brother who would run to the store to get candy for his little brother during halftime. Even if it was raining. 

It also turns out that the man who shot him had a history of calling the police. In fact he had called the police more times in that year before than many of us will in our entire lifetimes put together. He'd even assaulted a police officer before. He sure had.

But that part wasn't taken into consideration that day. That day when that man shot and killed that boy, all the police saw in his corpse was his hoodie and, of course, that suspicious black skin of his.

And this is sad. Very, very sad.

Yes, I think this was about race. Yes, it hurt me somewhere deep because that black boy in the hoodie could be my son or my nephew or my godson or the child of any one of many of my friends. And yes, being a black woman and a black mother of black sons, this cuts me straight down to the white meat. Yes, it does.

But all of this makes me sad for other reasons, too. I hate it that there are black boys in hoodies that do kick in doors and hold people up. I hate it that for many complicated reasons this country has so many black boys in hoodies that feel like they have nothing to lose. 

My husband was once pulled over on the side of a major street in Atlanta. Pulled over in his own car that happened to be a BMW. A "black man in sweats" had just carjacked a woman for her BMW that happened to fit the description of the one my husband owned. "Get down on the ground," the police told Harry. He refused. And fortunately, before it got ugly, they ran his license and plates and learned that he was not that "black man in sweats." 

But what makes me sad is that there was a black man in sweats somewhere. The one who did take that car. At least, allegedly there was.

That makes it hard for boys like Trayvon and men like Harry. And for children like Isaiah and Zachary? That sucks.

Yes. I want racism to go away. I want someone to run it out of town until it never comes back. But. Just as much, I'm tired. Tired of driving down the street and seeing my little brothers standing on corners with pants slung under their bottoms. I'm tired of seeing them passing tiny plastic bags filled with rocks to my sisters and aunties and uncles, too. I hate seeing their faces on the evening news or captured on hidden cameras in convenience stores wielding guns in scared shop owners' faces. Because that isn't helping things. At all.

Sometimes I hear a story about a crime and automatically start chanting, "Please don't be black, please don't be black, please don't be black--damn, he was black."  And I wish I could count how many times that has happened to me. But I can't. And that pisses me off that my boys and my husband  and people like Trayvon Martin and Troy Davis are up against this kind of reputation.

We've got to love on our children and build them up to believe that they, too, can be Barack Obama. Teach them, show them that they are more than sagging pants and poor choices. But that takes time and love and consistency. That takes nurture and resources and a belief that you can and are raising kings and queens. It also helps if you grew up with some sort of template of how to do that. And when it comes to blacks in this country, that isn't as easy as it sounds.

It kind of makes me think of the day I wrote about what happens when people don't "represent." Or rather, when they do represent all of us by doing things that make us all seem suspicious. And as long as that continues, woe to the boy Trayvon Martin, and woe to my sons, too.

I'm sad. Sad that this happened. Sad that we are even talking about this again. Again.

I honestly think that man who shot Trayvon Martin was mentally off. No, that doesn't excuse him but anyone who calls 911 as many times as he had and who had assaulted a police officer is probably not right. 

And the cops who blew it all off? Who had so little regard for that boy's life that they immediately assumed that he had it coming? That chills me to the bone. Just like it chilled me to the bone when the police in Atlanta assumed my husband was violent enough to order him to lay on some dirty concrete just because he looked like someone who stole a car.

Sigh. I don't even know what else to say about all of this. It's just so layered. 

But I will say this:

Man, America. We've got to do better. Period.

 Now playing on my mental iPod. . . . if only more of our kids knew that they were this.