Friday, August 31, 2012

The other side.


As doctors, we see patients, hear their stories and carry them inside of our hearts. We do. But the truth is that, no matter how much we care, we go home and carry on with our lives. And our patients take their realities home with them and live with them until the next time they see us again.

They sure do.

Like today, I laughed out loud with a patient very close to my age who was just diagnosed with insulin dependent diabetes. Recovered from life threatening diabetic ketoacidosis and was now doing his best to get used to this new diagnosis. He's a runner and a biker. Not a bicycle-biker but like the Harley Davidson hog kind of biker that rides cross country in a tasseled vest with all of his friends.

He asked me yesterday if I thought that being diabetic would put the kibosh on all of that and I simply said, "My guess is that there is a person on insulin who has successfully rolled out on a Harley onto open highways." He seemed to like that.

Today he was showing me this app that he'd downloaded to his smartphone. It's called "Diabetes Buddy." So when I came in, he said, "Hey! Have you seen my little buddy?" And I looked totally puzzled until he showed me how it all worked on his iPhone.  So I started clapping and so did he.

A few moments later he said, "I wonder how this will affect my long runs? I carb load usually when I do those. This is going to be kind of a buzz-kill. Damn."

And I looked at him and said, "You know what? Serious health stuff can be a buzz-kill." I sighed and went on. "I want to say something really encouraging right now but the truth is that you're going to have to make some major adjustments. But eventually it will be second nature."

He looked at me and smiled. "You know? I appreciate that, doc. That diabetes educator lady was in here earlier and when she left, I just sort of sat there by myself with all that information. Finally, I was just like, 'Damn. This is kind of f--ked up.'" Then he chuckled which made me chuckle, too.

I twisted my mouth and sat on the edge of his bed. "Yeah. But it kind of is messed up."

"Excuse me, I said f--ked up."

"That too." We laughed again.

"It's kind of funny. People waltz in and tell you all this stuff that's about to change your whole damn life like it ain't nothing. 'Here! Shoot yourself with needles! Hey! Track all your carbohydrates!' It's a trip."

"Yeah. It sounds like a trip."

"I like that you basically called it for what it is. This shit is a big deal. And some times it is gonna be a buzz-kill, for real. But I will be okay. I know I will."

"I know you will, too."

And after that we shook hands and I showed him two other cool apps that he might also like. A running one and a food log one. Then he asked me if I am a runner and I admitted that I am totally Alyson Felix but only in my warped imagination. Otherwise, no, I'm simply a wanna-be runner.

He seemed to like that, too.

So that visit was good because it made me think. And I pretty much like anything that makes me think.

My patient was showing me something that I rarely think about. The other side. The things that happen when the clinic wraps up and the discharge papers get signed. The hard knocks and realities that get forgotten. By me, too.

This morning I shared photos of a little girl named Ella who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia two years ago. I engaged in a little bit of that discussion that makes us all squeamish because seeing that and hearing that means it's no longer hypothetical. I call that the other side. The side we don't like to think of and that we fear that, when assigned to someone real, could somehow make it. . . .I don't know. . .  contagious?

Yes. I said it. Contagious. Like, if I say something or think something or ask something or do something with them, the universe might throw a bulls-eye onto my back just for doing it.

Crazy, I know.

Anyways. It's funny that this is on my mind today because just as I got home with the boys, I sat at my computer to read a few of my favorite blogs. One of those belongs to my amazing friend Elizabeth who writes such raw and beautiful words about her real-life walk on the other side that I go back to reread her posts just to make myself a better doctor. She's just that fantastic.

Interestingly, Elizabeth is an Atlanta native that now lives in the Los Angeles area--the direct opposite of me, the L.A. girl now living in her old stomping grounds. She is the mother to three amazing children--Sophie, Henry and Oliver. She writes about many things, but among those things she writes about their life with her daughter who has a severe seizure disorder. It is brave and eye-opening. Especially to read it as a doctor. Because even the most well-meaning of us struggle with truly seeing the other side--the side that talks about what to do when your child has seizures at the dinner table or when your other children are crying because someone used the word "retard" to describe any and everything.

And see, that? That is the other side. Elizabeth takes us there. Grips our hands and pulls us into the reality of it even if it makes us squirm. Ella's mother Katie does the same thing.


Today on Elizabeth's blog she shared a video project that she'd been working on that just knocked the wind from my chest. It is the other side in high definition . . . . and in their own words.

See it. Feel it. Share it.



Fellow health care providers and medical students, try this exercise:

Allow yourself to imagine what will happen in the twenty four hours after you discharge your patient from the hospital or clinic. Think of everything from the car ride home to how they will manage to get into the pharmacy to pick up the medicines you just prescribed to what they will tell the loved one whose birthday party they missed because of a minor setback.

Because all of that is the other side. It sure is.

Happy Friday. Again.

Meet Ella.

Photos taken by Katie Van Gheem
 Isn't she lovely?
Isn't she wonderful?
Isn't she precious?
Less than one minute old
I never thought through love we'd be
Making one as lovely as she
But isn't she lovely, made from love

Isn't she pretty?

Truly the angel's best
Boy, I'm so happy
We have been heaven blessed
I can't believe what God has done
through us He's given life to one
But isn't she lovely, made from love?

~ Stevie Wonder

This is Ella.

Ella is the beautiful, funny, spunky, brave daughter of my friend Katie. And from what I know about Katie, it is obvious where Ella inherited these qualities. Katie and her husband are talented professional photographers. Katie took all of these stunning pictures and you can see more of the work they do here.  In addition to sweet Ella, they also have an empathic, happy, and caring son named Josh. The only thing more breathtaking than pictures of Ella are pictures of her and Josh together.

Interestingly, I've never met any of them in person. We have connected through this blog community. Yet, still, I consider myself a friend of the Van Gheem family. Today I am hoping that you will become a friend, too.

Ella was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) exactly two years ago to the day on August 26. Since that time, Kate has chronicled this journey through words and photography. I have no idea how I found my way there. But I am so happy that I did.

Did you know that September is Childhood Cancer Month? Well it is. And just in case you want to do something or if perhaps the sweet twinkle in Ella's eye above has moved you in the deepest parts of your soul, you can put your passion into a donation to Ella's page for the upcoming CureSearch Walk where she lives.

The facts about cancer in children suck. Every day, 36 children are diagnosed with a childhood malignancy and 7 of these children will not survive. Cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children. Though the cure rate is now 78% – up by 40% in the last 20 years – that's not good enough. The goal is a 100% cure rate. Period.

Yesterday, I was at a reception for newly promoted faculty members. I mixed and mingled with other Emory physicians from all over the institution and, at one point, met one of our pediatric Heme/Onc specialists whose expertise happens to be bone marrow transplantation. For those who don't know much about BMT, just know this: the patients go through a whole, whole lot. Essentially chemo is given to wipe out things in the bone marrow. Then the transplant is given to build back a healthy replacement. Wiped out bone marrow equals infections and lots of vulnerability in this patient population.

So was does this mean? It means that the physicians like this woman put their entire hearts into what they do. Just like the parents and families like the Van Gheems do.

I guess knowing Ella and Kate made me think of this chance meeting with a pediatric BMT expert differently. She was talking about how busy her service was and how she felt tired. I wanted to hug her and thank her for fighting the good fight for children like Ella.

I almost did. But figured it would be weird to do that over hors d'ouvres and Malbec.

It's the day before the start of Childhood Cancer Month. And in honor of all of the fighters -- the patients, the mamas, the daddies, the siblings, the nurses and the doctors -- I just wanted to put them all in your heart, thoughts, prayers, and minds. 

Yes. This is Ella. And she is a fighter who is winning.

Isn't she lovely?

Happy Friday.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . .Isn't she lovely as sung by one of my favorites--Mr. Steveland Morris aka Stevie Wonder.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mean Mugs: A small group tradition.

 mean mug (n. or v.) : 

When someone gives you a hard look.
Best when done for no apparent reason whatsoever. 
Can also be done in parking lots or while standing on street corner.
synonym: "ice grill" or "hairy eyeball"

Zachary perfects his mean mug for football

When my first small group of medical students first joined me in 2007, somewhere early on we developed this funny tradition with photos. With just about every group photo opportunity we'd take the standard happy posed shot. . .followed by what we affectionately called "the mean mug." I think it all started one day when I was teaching them and one of the students was scowling for some reason.

"What's up with the way you're mean mugging me?" I asked.

They all erupted into laughter. The term stuck and eventually became something handed down to my other small groups.

So here's a few of our mean mugs through the years. . . .started by Small Group Alpha and carried on by Small Groups Beta and Gamma. I'm pretty sure I'll have some snapshots of Small Groups Delta and Epsilon mean muggin' before you know it.

Shall we take a walk down Mean Mug Memory Lane?

Mean muggin' at Pure Taqueria, our SG family's go-to Mexican restaurant
Mean muggin' at the AIDS Walk

Mean muggin' at Dougie's wedding

Again, us mean muggin' on Match Day. (That's apple cider. I think.)

Mean muggin' at 2011 graduation banquet

Why not mean mug somebody at commencement?
And why not do it again the following year?

Family mean mug at AIDS Walk 2011

Yet another family mean mug at my house--significant others included.

At Dougie's request: Mean mug on the wards with our team. (with some novice mean muggers)

The tradition continues: Mean muggin' at Pure Taqueria Mexican

Quasi-family mean mug. Zachary has the meanest mug-- even in a tie!

Mean muggin' at the White Coat Ceremony. James had the best one here on the right.

And mean muggin' with the Gammites (SG Gamma) last week. Except for James who is paradoxically happy.
Oh--and my favorite: CQ STILL mean muggin' as a second year ENT resident in the OR! (This is an advanced mean mug.)

And what does this have to do with their medical education? Absolutely nothing.

Happy Thursday. Again.

Haiku on a Thursday: Have it your way.

In front of Grady
rocking a Burger King crown
('cause that's how he rolls)

Happy Thursday.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Top Ten: Little Shifts.

Sometimes I look up and realize that something that I have done or someone that I've seen on a regular basis has gone away. I realize that I miss those moments, those people and that part of my routine. Though I try to savor times and moments, sometimes I don't fully appreciate what I had until it's gone.

Oh, how cliche.

I'm sitting at my kitchen table. Drinking a cup of coffee. And thinking of how tiny shifts in life can shift you away from some of your favorite things. Such teeny-weeny adjustments that you pause and later realize were seismic. Like changes in the seasons. You welcome the next but at some point miss seeing the fireflies or hearing leaves crunch under your feet. Stuff like that.

I'm not talking about things like your best friend moving across the country or your children moving away. But then again, maybe I am because changes like those leave you missing little itty-bitty things. Like, for example, when Harry is out of town, I obviously miss him in major ways. But I also miss things like brushing my teeth beside him or sniffing his clothes to see if they smell like fabric softener (clean) or soap (his perpetual scent.) Fortunately, he doesn't leave town often enough for me to miss such things.

So my point. Oh yeah, that. It's that we all probably ache for some of the smallest things at times. Or at least pause and smile when we reflect upon them.

I wrote a little top ten about it. Like to hear it? Here it go.

#10  -- Mr. Brown.

When Isaiah was in kindergarten, he took the bus to school. We decided that it ended up being too long of a day, so we shifted to dropping him off. Every morning, I used to wait at the bus stop with him and every morning, we both greeted Mr. Brown, his bus driver. What a delightful soul! I would instruct Isaiah to always start off with, "Good Morning, sir!"or "Hello, Mr. Brown!"

And he would. And Mr. Brown would say, "Well hello, sir!" or "I'm good and you, Isaiah?"

Every single day.

On days that I was hustling out of the door, he would patiently give me time and smile and shrug like it was no big deal when I came huffing and puffing to the curb in a robe. I appreciated that.

I learned that he retired this year. That kind of made me sad because even though I miss him, it never felt permanent until then.

#9  -- Glenda, the Good Witch.

Our mail carrier for the first several years we lived here was a woman named Glenda. She would cover mail in plastic on rainy days and put packages in safe places. She'd leave us cards for holidays and even once left puzzles for the boys.

She always signed everything, "Glenda, the Good Witch."

We always left her gifts at Christmas and even figured out her birthday. Her route changed last year and just like that, we don't see her any more. She did remember to leave the kids a Christmas card last year, though.

I miss her.

#8  -- One cup coffee maker.

I used to have one, and sometimes I miss it. Harry gave up caffeine earlier this year so it would have come in handy now that I'm the only one on the pot. It has made me drink a little more coffee but oh well. There are worse things.

I don't miss those expensive pod thingies, though.

#7  -- Pre-Schoolin' it.

Zachary's preschool was small. The families were like a family of their own and the teacher had been with many of the kids since she'd departed their last school and opened this one. Pickup was like happy hour. We'd stand around and shoot the breeze. Laugh out loud. Walk out of the door empty-handed because that chat ended up leading to an impromptu playdate.

I especially loved and still love Zachary's teacher, Ms. Heidi. She remains a good friend of our family, but something about not going there every day to see her just isn't the same. We all cried crocodile tears on the last day he was there.

#6  --  Camp PaPa.

Okay. I talk to my dad every day. And I've lived away from him since I was eighteen years old and now I'm a few days shy of forty two. As all of you know, my boys go to Los Angeles to spend 4 weeks with him every summer. During that time, I love the joy in Poopdeck's voice when they are there. It is quite possibly the happiest I've heard him in a long, long time and seeing as my dad is a VERY happy person at baseline--that is saying a whole lot.

Whenever they return, I miss that sound in his voice. Especially since, when they first return, it gets replaced with this wistfulness that makes my heart hurt.

I am blessed to have him. So are they. I know that. But I still miss him with them and the loftiness of his voice.

#5 -- Small Group Alpha.

This was my first small group of medical students that I began advising on their first day of medical school in 2007. They are all in residencies now and I hear from them often. Two of them were here in Atlanta last year so it made the rest of them feel near. This year they are in San Francisco, New York City, Washington D.C., Chicago, Detroit, and St. Louis. Even though they send me sweet messages and updates, this week I acutely missed seeing their smiling faces twice per week.

I miss that time.

#4  -- Coach B. 

Last year, like a crazy woman, I had my sons at two different after school programs. One program didn't take Pre-K kids and the other was the one Isaiah had already been a part of in kindergarten and didn't want to leave. Oh, did I mention? They both attend the same school.


So every day when I picked up Zachary from his after school program, I would walk in and see Coach Katie B. sitting in the office with a walkie talkie. Initially, we would simply greet one another and she'd call for Zachary. But over time, we developed a friendship. Those brief snippets were punctuated by stories about her work in a downtown homeless shelter, her daughter who happens to be a Grady nurse AND a newly wed, her grand baby that was born last year, and sometimes nothing much at all. She's an avid runner and on some days I would just lament about my horrible-ness when it comes to running and she would always smile and encourage me.

I will always remember the day I got stuck in traffic and reached after care nearly twenty minutes late. When I arrived, she was sitting on a chair reading a book to my baby. She didn't look annoyed or anything. In fact, she was so gracious that every single time I imagine that day, it makes my eyes sting.

Now that the boys are both at the after care program closer to my home, I realize how much I miss those every day meetings. I still see her directing traffic in front of the school or waving when I pass through the carpool lane but it isn't the same.

I miss that time, too.

#3 --  The best next door neighbors ever.

Dave and Beth lived directly beside us until last summer. Our relationship has been authentic from the very start and they have become like family to us. Their kids are all grown up, but they have two big dogs who are as fun loving as our boys and could quite possibly be two of the most FUN people we have ever met.

We always affectionately called each other "the best next door neighbors ever."  And we especially said that on the late nights on their patio during Camp PaPa where we drank red wine and smelled the aroma of Dave's cigars.

Which reminds me. Dave always smokes a cigar after work, and the smell of it is something I associate with being home and off of work in the evening. It would waft over the fence and into my yard and Isaiah would always say, "Mr. Dave is home!"

Crazy enough. I miss that smell.

Dave and Beth moved literally four houses around the corner from us. We can throw a rock at their house through our back yard so really they aren't gone. But they aren't our next door neighbors any more and I miss that. Our new ones are nice. They are.

They just aren't Dave, Beth, Moosey and Chancey. (The last two are the dogs.)

#2  --  Mrs. Reed.

Mrs. Reed was Isaiah's first grade teacher last year. What I will say is that she changed our lives. She changed my life. That is all I can say without crying.

She also works in after care with Coach B. I really miss seeing her there and also knowing that she is Isaiah's teacher. His new teacher is amazing, too. And just maybe I will fall in love with her as well. But something about that year with Mrs. Reed will always feel divine.


#1  --  Body Pump.

I used to faithfully go to my Body Pump class at the YMCA on two early mornings each week. The regulars were there and we'd all moan and grown as Lisa K. our awesome instructor whipped our backsides into shape. Everyone looked a hot ass mess because it was at 6 am and that was part of the bonding, I suppose. We'd push each other to do push ups and nudge each other to add more weight or not give up.

Now that the kids are in school it's hard to make that class. I miss that specific work out, yes. I miss the people and the experience far more.

Bonus one:

Fox 5 Good Day Atlanta.

I used to go there every single week to talk about medical topics on local television. They had some management changes so our schedule coming changed, too. It was amicable and I do still come here and there, just not weekly. It was a lot of work and often a hassle to fit into my schedule but people in the community really seemed to appreciate it. The camera guys, the security dude, and all of the people in the background are surprisingly what I miss the most. You'd think I'd mostly miss the "being on TV" part.


I loved talking to people in the grocery store about what I'd talked about or even at the park. It helped me connect to more people and was my favorite part of doing that piece of media so regularly.

And perhaps this is why I love connecting with all of you here so much.

If you weren't here, I'd miss you, too.

That's all I've got this morning.

Happy Wednesday.

How 'bout this 80's jam for your mental iPod? "Seasons Change" by Expose. Yes. I just said Expose. You're welcome.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Be a lion.

Ted Ross as The Lion in "The Wiz"

There is a place we'll go
Where there is mostly quiet
Flowers and butterflies
A rainbow lives beside it

And from a velvet sky
A summer storm
You can feel the coolness in the air
But you're still warm

And then a mighty roar
Will start the sky to cryin'
But not even light'ning
Will be frightening my lion

And with no fear inside
No need to run
No need to hide
You're standing strong and tall
You're the bravest of them all

If on courage you must call
Then just keep on tryin'
And tryin', and tryin'
You're a lion
In your own way, be a lion. . .

Come on. . . be a lion.

~  "Be a Lion" as sung by Diana Ross in "The Wiz"


I have learned a few things after being in medical education for more than a decade. I've learned that there are many things that we have to offer our learners. More than just medical knowledge or concrete instructions on how to perform bedside procedures. A whole lot more.

Some of my colleagues are masters at helping residents and medical students understand complicated theories and pathophysiology. Others have a knack for teaching them how to cannulate tiny veins and arteries on the first try. And while I am no slouch when it comes to either of those things, I don't consider that my strength.

It sounds kind of silly, I guess. But me? I'm an encourager. I think I'm good at shining lights onto learners which ultimately gives them a safe space to let their own lights shine. There's something about seeing someone evolve from slumped shoulders and disappearing behind shadows. . . . into chest back, shoulders up confidence that excites me. And actually. . . encourages me.

More than you could ever imagine.

When I was an intern I spent August of 1996 rotating in the intensive care unit (ICU.) As I've said before, it was the setting that I found the most terrifying of all. My attending that month was . . . intense. He was serious about those patients and he had no qualms with tearing any and every person a new one who stood in the way of them getting as close as possible to a full recovery.

This was how our mornings went. We'd be standing there shaking like leaves and our attending would review the numbers on the ventilators. He'd then ask us about the overnight events (that our resident and fellow had advised us how to deal with) and then. . . .

"Aaaaaggghhhh!" Then he'd smack his face and shake his head. And that was the feedback.

Next, the fellow or the resident would begin defending the management and eventually he'd calm down. My fellow told me over and over again that he was harmless. That this was just his passion for patient advocacy coming out and that it was never personal. But despite all that reassurance, I was terrified.

Eventually, I became so afraid of this attending (coupled with this setting) that I would become paralyzed on rounds. I'd stutter and apologize. And seriously, the only thing that made me not look the most horrible of all the team members was the fact that he scared my co-intern even more. She even burst into tears two different times on rounds.

That didn't exactly make me feel better about being there, though.

I wasn't nervous only because of that attending. I didn't trust myself with these patients. I was too junior, too green to be writing orders on their charts or progress notes in their records. The resident, who was slated to be a chief resident, would pat my shoulder and remind me that we always had "supervised instruction." Still. I just didn't feel good about being there. Not one single day.

I wasn't fully organized. That was one of my problems. I wasn't sure how to keep track of all that data or how to retrieve it quickly when Dr. Intern-slayer asked me for it. There would be papers falling all out of my pockets one day. A giant clipboard with way too much stuff the next. And eventually, I settled on a stack of index cards that I spent more time fearing I'd lose than anything else.

But then there was this one night where I took call with the cross-covering fellow on call. She was only with me for the night--only there to cover me on call. Her name was Shobhana and she was highly competent, confident and smart. I knew that she'd been a chief resident prior to her critical care fellowship and often saw her in passing at conferences. Every time I encountered her, she was kind and attentive--if only for a moment in the hallway. Though I didn't know her well, that little bit of background was enough to make me feel safe on her watch.

Initially, we were busy that night. We admitted a few new patients and dealt with some active issues with the ones who were already long term players. Shobhana was right by my side for all of it, and I was deeply relieved. I double checked every single move with her and constantly apologized for bothering her with my questions. Eventually, things calmed down and we were sitting in the resident's workroom talking and snacking.

That's when Shobhana decided to go there.

"Kimberly? Why do you say sorry so much? You are a good intern. You water yourself down that way." And she said that as she pulled seeds out of a pomegranate, carefully popping each one into cupped hands to avoid staining her scrubs.

"I guess I didn't know I did that. And I don't know about me being such a good intern. I'm not totally horrible, but 'good' might be pushing it." I meant those words, too. I didn't think of myself as a good intern at all. At least not here I wasn't. More like one who wasn't an assassin.

"Why would you ever say such a thing?" Shobhana pressed.

"I'm nervous. I don't know enough. And I don't feel so organized." And right after I said that, my eyes welled up with tears. Her eyes softened in response and I started to full-on cry. "Ugggh. I'm sorry."

"Stop saying sorry! Listen. You've got to start seeing yourself differently. Knowing that you belong here because you do. So yeah. Read and get organized. Then you won't be nervous. But mostly, you have to be a lion." She patted her closely clipped nails on a brown paper towel that she'd brought over from the bathroom. It was covered with pomegranate drippings and seeds which, since then, have always made me think of her whenever I see that fruit.

"That's easier said than done." I let out a half-hearted laugh.

"Noooo. Not at all, sweetie," she replied. Abruptly she stood up. "Come on. Come. Let's get your nerves out."

So she looked at my system for tracking my patients and gave me some pointers. We printed out a unit census and, at three o'clock in the morning, started rounding in that unit. And Shobhana listened to me and coached me. She stopped me mid-sentence and gave me do-overs. Told me to stand up tall, lift my voice, and not say 'sorry.' She also affirmed the things that I was doing right with high fives and sistergirl applause. It was awesome. She easily spent two and a half hours with me that night. Pushing me, encouraging me, and helping me to get more organized with both my patients and my learning. And you know? Maybe it wasn't 2 and a half hours. But to me, it felt like an eternity.

I never ever forgot her kindness. It proved to be a pivotal moment in my medical education. And one that I have vowed to always pay forward.

This week I spent some time with a few learners who needed encouragement. All at different levels and all needing different things. No, I didn't inundate them with cutting edge medical information or anything of the sort. Instead, I simply tried my best to do for them what Shobhana did for me. Coached them. Encouraged them. Pushed them to be the lion that I could see inside of them.

Because in medicine, sometimes you've got to learn how to be a lion.

So I had one of those meetings today and on my way to it, I heard Diana Ross in my ear singing the words that I swear it feels like Shobhana sang directly to me that night in the ICU. Her voice was just like that music. Her hand claps and high fives made my confidence rise up like bubbles, lifting my feet from the ground. And just like when Diana Ross' Dorothy was first purring and then belting out those lyrics into the ear of that cowardly lion at some point all of it erupted out of him into his big, bellowing, celebratory finale.

"I'm a lion! In my own way!"

I've seen that before in medical students and residents. I've seen it in junior faculty. Hell, I've seen it in myself. A simple nudge. . . .giving someone the courage to be a lion. Yes! A lion. In their own way.

It's as important as the medical knowledge. Or the procedural skills. Teaching and helping someone to believe that they're as good as the potential you see in them is critical to making it in this field. Hell, it's important in most fields.

And just maybe some call that mentoring. But I'm not so sure. I think it's something more than that. It's one of those things that takes time and patience and a heart for people.

So no. I don't remember every medical fact. I can't tell you the odds ratios of every study in every journal. But I do have a heart for people and try to do my best to encourage anyone that I can.

Perhaps that's why I felt so tired this week.


But you know? I wouldn't trade that part of my life for anything. Yes, it can be exhausting. . .but the pay off is so great. And I'm starting to realize that as long as I save some time to encourage myself, I'm good.


Look. I don't know what's going on with you right now. But truly I hope that you have someone in your life that's waiting side stage and singing softly in your ear. Inviting you to be a lion and convincing you that you can be one. Over and over and over again. . .  until finally you feel strong enough to step out into that spotlight.

And if you do or if you have, it's your duty to pay it forward to someone else. Just like somebody did for you.

If you don't, consider these words for you -- and apply them in whatever part of your life is calling for you to be a lion.

Come on. . . be a lion!


The Lion's part:

I am standing strong and tall
You're the bravest of them all
If on courage you must call
Keep on tryin'
And tryin', and tryin'
I'm a lion
In my own way
I'm a lion

Happy Tuesday. Again.

And, of course, the song playing on my mental iPod. . . .please listen if you need to feel encouraged today.

None of your busy-ness.

Together? Leaving Grady. . .on a Saturday night? Uhhh. . .yeah.

It's been seven hours and fifteen days. . . .since I've exercised or really done much of anything for myself. I looked in the mirror yesterday and heard the words to this old R&B song called "Seems You're Much Too Busy."  The song says:

Seems you're much to busy
and I can't stand it
Seems you're much too busy these days
and I can't handle it

That's how I'm feeling this week. Like I just have too much going on. I'm amazed that I've even managed to write in the last few weeks considering that, technically, I do that for me. I guess that begs the question -- do I still see this as something for me? Does the fact that this has been quasi-maintained mean that I do, in fact, have my ducks in a row? Or does it mean that it has somehow scooted over into the realm of things I do for others?

Yikes. Those questions are too heavy for it to be this early in the morning.

Someone said it seems like I have it "all together all the time." All together? All the time? Ha. Nope. I so very do not. When I'm on wards, my boat begins to capsize. The balls I'm juggling start to fall. And usually those balls are the ones related to ME.

"How do you do all those things?" a friend asked me on Sunday as our kids splashed in a pool.

"Most days, I simply prioritize. But this week I'm not doing that so well." And to make my point, I lifted my leg and showed her the unfortunate stubble growing on my unshaved legs. Which, now that I think of it, was beyond what qualifies for stubble.

I even missed a hair appointment. And y'all know how I feel about the beauty shop.

Man. It seems I'm much too busy these days. . . for me. Do you ever feel this way? I do. Especially on wards. It's so love-hate. I love, love, love it. But the time commitment, the worrying, the teaching, the everything gets to be a lot.

Seems I'm much too busy these days. And I can't stand it.

But let me tell you--this will be rectified. I have some time off next week after the long weekend. Sure do. And in that time I will exercise. Drink some hooch. Listen to some good music. Shake my hips. Write some prose. Read something non-medical. Give a TED talk in my bathroom mirror about a whole bunch of nothing. Whatever it is, know this--I'm going to do something, anything for me.


Happy Tuesday.

Here's that song playing on my mental iPod. Enjoy.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

More "Free to Be You and Me".

After the last post, we spent a lazy morning watching videos from "Free to Be You and Me" and reading through the book. For that book and soundtrack to be from 1974, it's amazing how ahead of their time they were. Here are some of our favorites for those who aren't familiar.

Isaiah said, "THAT'S Michael Jackson? Whoa."

Used to love this one. . .now my kids do, too.

And Princess Atalanta was pretty bad ass. Love the definition of "living happily ever after."

And this one? This was pretty doggone awesome for the 70's, man. Can you say BULLY? Ha ha ha. I wonder where that William is now.

And hands down my absolute favorite of all. Love that this big ol' lineman Rosie Grier is making it okay to show some emotion. I sing this to the kids all the time--much to the BHE's chagrin.


Happy Sunday. Again.

Brothers and sisters.

Sisters and brothers, brothers and sisters
Ain't we, everyone?
Brothers and sisters, sisters and brothers
Every father's daughter, every mother's son

Brothers and sisters, sisters and brothers
Each and every one
Sisters and brothers, brothers and sisters
Every mother's daughter, every father's son

Ain't we lucky, everybody
Bein' everybody's brother?
Ain't we lucky, everybody
Lookin' out for one another?

~ from the soundtrack of "Free to Be You and Me"

They are old friends. But more than that, they are siblings. These two go way back like car seats--all the way to Boppy pillows in the infant room at their very first daycare. Cooing and babbling like it was a full conversation. They went through a total of three early childhood education centers together and something about knowing each other since before they even had words created a special bond between them. He used to always refer to her as one of his "old friends" because I'd once described a childhood friend that way. Then I sang him that song about how one is silver and the other is gold. From then on, he designated her that way because, to him, she is gold.

But then one day they decided that they were not only golden old friends but "brother and sister" instead. And let me tell you--once they decided that, there was no arguing with them. At all. She even wanted to include a picture of Zachary on her "family tree" poster for a kindergarten project last week. And became downright red in the face when someone suggested she shouldn't since he wasn't her "real" brother.

She won. Because, to her, that is her brother. And everything about that is real. Zachary would tell you the very same thing.

Now they go to different schools, live in different neighborhoods, and have always had a few other, perhaps more obvious, differences, too. But none of that matters to them. It never has. Because to them,  they are family. Brother and sister. Sister and brother. The real kind.

It's as simple as that.

Zachary looks out for her. She looks out for him. They talk in a language that is, at times, not understandable by anyone but them. Their jokes make sense only to them which is fine since neither would let you in on it anyway. And sharing with each other? That's a no brainer. Whether it's a cookie or crayons, what belongs to one will belong to both. (Which if you know my Zachary is saying a whole lot.) Now that I think of it, the only fight Zachary ever got in during his preschool years occurred when he thought someone was treating his sister unfairly. He put up his dukes and made it clear that he wasn't having it. No way, no how.

So here they are yesterday. Scooting on scooters on a humid summer night. Laughing and talking in their own language. And doing the things that siblings do.

No matter how young you are, you can learn to be a friend. A real, true friend even. And the sooner we realize the importance of preserving the ones that are are gold, the richer our lives become.

(At least, that's what I think.)

Ain't they lucky?

Happy Sunday.

And now playing on my mental iPod. . .a song and a scene from one of my favorite books and soundtracks of all time. Do you guys remember "Free to Be You and Me?" I read it to my kids often and have given them the gift of this collection of stories and songs just as my mother did for us. This song is "Sisters and Brothers" and was performed by The Voices of East Harlem in 1974. The talking part with Marlo Thomas and some kids comes before the song on this clip--stay with it to hear the awesome song that I can't stop hearing in my head. If you grew up in the 70's and 80's like I did, this will warm your heart. Enjoy--and go straight to Amazon to order Free to Be You and Me for your kids if you don't already own it!