Friday, February 28, 2014

Listen.



Listen. . . . 
I am alone at a crossroads 
I'm not at home in my own home
And I've tried and tried
To say what's on my mind
You should have known


~ from the soundtrack of "Dreamgirls"



_______________________________________

The patient

"No need to remove your coat," the nurse said to me. Her eyes were half mast and she looked a little bored. By the time she'd said it, though, I already had one arm out of it. Besides--there was no way I was going to let anyone weigh me with an extra layer on.

I'm pretty sure I heard the tiniest of groans when I ignored her request and piled my coat and pocketbook on the chair beside the scale. Especially considering the fact that I also kicked off my shoes just before stepping on to the little square platform.

"Did you see Scandal yesterday?" Another nurse popped her head into the room where we were to greet her counterpart. In response, my nurse started laughing and covering her ears.

"Girl! Don't tell me! I mean it, Jackson--don't say anything!"

"Aaaah! You're killing me. How could you not have watched it?" The drive-by nurse swung her head over toward me and smiled. "How you doin' this morning, ma'am?" she asked.

It took me a moment to realize she was talking to me. "Uhh, who me? I'm okay."

"Did you see Scandal?"

"Oh. . .uh. . .me? Umm, no." I'm not fully sure why I said that since I actually had seen that show the night before and had plenty that I could chime in. But admittedly, my mind was far far away. I was too busy staring at digital display on that scale:

231.4 pounds.


The doctor

"I love Ms. Parker to death but I swear seeing her feels like that movie Ground Hog Day." I pushed back from the desk and leaned back in the rolling chair. I had seen enough of her chart. Weight up four pounds since the last visit from 227 pounds to 231. 231.4 to be exact. Pain on a scale of one to ten was "eight" in her knees which makes sense considering they bear all of that weight on her 5'1" frame.

"I don't think I remember that patient," the nurse working with me said. "But I'm sure I will when I see her."

"She was just getting triaged. Didn't you do her vitals?"

"No. That was Jones, not me. But now I think I know who you're talking about because I popped in while she was getting triaged. Nice lady."

"Yes, very. But seriously--every single problem she has from a health standpoint would be better if she wasn't so heavy. Her blood pressure, her diabetes, her joint pain, and maybe her ability to do some exercise. She's young, too." I shook the mouse on the computer screen to refresh the electronic medical record bearing her information. "Thirty seven to be exact. Which really kind of sucks." I pointed at the screen and spoke to those numbers. "Ms. Parker? You need to lose some weight. A whole lot of it."

Nurse Jackson raised an eyebrow as she smoothed out the paper roll covering the examining table. Her backside was shaking when she reached over to pull on it, as were her pendulous upper arms. Right then, I inwardly coiled-- realizing that she, too, struggled with extra weight. I immediately felt like a jerk but didn't know how to fix it. So I just stopped talking which left a rather awkward silence.

Nurse Jackson did a couple of industrious things around the room without speaking. That only made me feel like more of a heel.

Finally, she paused and looked at me carefully. "I can assure you of one thing, doctor. I doubt that Ms. Parker wants to weight 231 pounds. I'm sure she's just as frustrated, if not more. Matter of fact--I know she is." Nurse Jackson reached for the door handle and put her other hand on her ample hip.

"I just. . . I'm sorry. I didn't mean to--"

"Doctor? Just understand that being fat is about a whole lot more than food, okay? A whole lot more."

Nurse Jackson stepped through the door and left it slightly ajar. I could hear her calling for my patient--the one I'd just insulted right along with her, my nurse.


The patient

If it wasn't for me needing my medication refills, I'm not sure I'd ever come to the doctor. Everything about it is shaped to seem so objective when I know that so much of it isn't. Sure, there are guidelines about things like my blood pressure and my cholesterol. But I also know that some of it just comes down to a line in the sand drawn by the doctor.

And that? That's subjective.

Like just how fat do you have to be before your doctor completely gives up on any chance that you'll lose? What BMI must you get up to before your doctor throws up his or her hands and decides that it's just no use? And when does your obesity reach that place where those suggestions about your diet and exercise are more a formality than anything else?

I just wish there was a way to just get my prescriptions and leave.

The doctor

I really like Ms. Parker. I do. But honestly? I don't get it. I don't get how someone can keep every appointment and express over and over again that she wants to lose weight but still drink full sugar Coca Cola and eat fries from McDonalds. That part perplexes me.

Then there's these requests for things to give her a "jump start." Like a pill or some kind of injection or something. Which is senseless to me if you refuse to stop eating. Well. Not stop eating but rather start eating the right things.

231.4 today. Up four full pounds since last time and that was only six months ago.

But I do like her, though. I do.

The patient

My doctor is a slim little fellow. Narrow about the waist and hips with slender wrists and delicate features. I find myself wondering if a person like that could ever be overweight. My guess is no.

"Hey Ms. Parker. It's good to see you." My doctor slid into the chair next to where I was sitting.

"Hey there. Good to see you, too." I did my best to smile and look cheerful. Even though I didn't exactly feel like all of that.

"So, Ms. Parker. How have things been going since the last time I saw you? What's new?"

What's new? I could tell him that my mother's mind is even further away than it was before. That she looks at me like she isn't sure who I am and that my brothers are absolutely no help. But that's not really new, is it? Maybe I could tell him about my oldest son and how he got another girl pregnant even though he's not even twenty. And how the first one is four but doesn't really talk or make eye contact or even let me hug him and how I'm worried that something is really wrong with that baby but how I'm not really sure. But really, none of that is new since the last time he saw me. Unless you count the new pregnant girl.

"Me? Oh. Not much. Things are okay."

"Ms. Parker, your blood pressure is a little up today. And your sugar was 220 in triage. Did you get a chance to take your medications today?"

"I took everything except the water pill. And my insulin I didn't take because I hadn't eaten."

"Ms. Parker." He groaned and then typed something into the computer. "Okay, I'd like you to make sure you take all of the meds before you see us, okay?"

I nodded. I wonder if he's ever known the feeling of riding the MARTA train and needing to pee? Especially if you had three kids and your bladder just don't hold water like it used to. But this? All this was fine as long as he didn't start talking about my weight.

"I want to talk about your weight."

Here we go.

"You've picked up some pounds. I was hoping some of the changes that we made might have helped you lose a few instead."

"Yeah. I know," I answered. "It's just a lot harder than it looks, doctor."

I saw him scrolling through screens on that computer. He was twisting his mouth and studying some list. "Did you make it to the nutritionist?"

You mean the one with the twenty dollar co-pay? "No. I didn't make it."

And that's when I saw it. The point where his body language shifted away from feeling disappointed or frustrated that I didn't do what he'd asked and more towards me being a lost cause. Too far from helping and not even worth trying to create some plan to try.

The doctor

So. . . no nutrition, no compliance with the medications, no nothing. Just great. If she doesn't care I just can't let myself either. I'm so super tired. Of all of this. Hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol. That's what I'm sticking to from here on out.

"Okay. Let's retake your blood pressure and look at the rest of your exam and labs."

"Okay."

And that's what we did.

The patient

I couldn't sleep yesterday. Or the day before. I sort of want to talk to my doctor about it but he seems "all business" and besides all that, I think he's a little exasperated since I didn't take my water pill this morning. Or my insulin.

I ate some spaghetti when I was up last night. Technically, I hadn't really had much for dinner but I know that nothing good could come from eating at that hour. There was garlic bread, too. Just being honest. But it seems like with all the worrying I do, I sleep less. And a lot of times I look up and I've eaten something that I didn't even mean to have.

So I'm thinking about all of this while he inflates that cuff on my arm. I look down at it and notice the stretch marks on my skin which means I know that he does, too. And he keeps letting the air out and then pumping it up a few more times just to make sure he's getting the right number.

"Still high?" I ask.

"Still high."

The doctor

It's kind of weird. The last few times that I've seen Ms. Parker, she's gained more weight and had worse control of her medical issues. I look at her and it seems like regardless of what I say, she doesn't seem to care. Here's why I think that: She always has this nondescript expression on her face. Kind of bored. Kind of blah. But not like someone with health problems so out of whack that her life might me abbreviated.

And that? That worries me. Because I like Ms. Parker. I do. And even though I'm feeling super frustrated with her not doing what I ask her to do,  I want her to be well. And thrive. I do. So you know what? I tell her. I decide to tell her just that.

Besides. I'm otherwise all out of suggestions.

The patient

It surprised me when my doctor said it. For once, he stopped typing and talking at me and just sat there looking at me. His chin was in his hand and his eyes were soft. Like he really wanted to know how I felt.

"Ms. Parker? What. . . what's going on with you? I just. . .I don't know. . .feel worried about you sometimes. And I care about you so I want to know what's going on?"

That's what he said. And even though I've been seeing this doctor for almost three years, he had never asked me this before.

Him or any other doctor for that matter.

The doctor

I couldn't believe my ears. Just one little question and this whole world of stress and hurt and pain was opened up to me. In all this time, I never knew all of that. I didn't. I am pretty sure I'd screened her for depression and anxiety but it never occurred to me to ask any details about more since she always looked so put together. Hair done up and nails with designs. I just took that all to mean she was fine.

But she wasn't.

How was I to know that she was caring for her mother with advancing Alzheimer's dementia? And where on my checklist is the part for "are you worried that your four year-old grandson might be on the spectrum of autism?" How could I have known any of that was happening in her life?

The same way I found out today. I asked.

The patient

I'm so glad he had some tissues. I could have gone through that whole box. Nobody ever seemed to ask how I felt about anything. So once I started telling my piece, those tears just started to flowing. I told him all about my mama and her far off mind. He asked me questions and I let him know how sad I felt when she didn't even hardly know me. And having your own mama not know who you are is something to cry about.

It is.

The doctor

She said all of this had been going on for quite a while. We talked and she even started crying. That part surprised me since she's usually so stoic about everything. And after she shared all of the things happening in her life with me something happened.

It did.

For the first time ever, we had a bidirectional conversation about her health. And her weight. And together, we came up with a plan.

The patient

This was the first time I left the doctor's office and didn't feel like a criminal. Matter of fact, I felt good. Like I wanted to make a few changes like limit my portion to the size of my palm. Or not drink sodas or juices. He even gave me this paper that I could take to the YMCA to help with a membership. They have a pool there, so I can even try the water aerobics he was telling me about.

Yep.

I didn't even know about all the stuff that social worker told me when she came in. Like stuff for my mama and even some people that can help with finding out more for my grandson. Something called "early intervention" for him. And these programs that are called "respite" for mama.

I also told him about me not being able to sleep. And he did something for that, too.

I saw the two nurses when I was walking out. "I did see Scandal," I told them. That nurse named Jackson widened her eyes and then covered her mouth. She pointed at the other nurse who checked me in, alerting me not to give away the details. I shook my head and laughed. "All I'll say is this--I think that Mellie is just evil!"

"Yeah, but if you've watched it all, Mellie's been through a lot," Nurse Jackson said. "And people do all sorts of crazy things when they're going through it."

Ain't that the truth.

The doctor

Nurse Jackson caught me in the hallway and asked how it went with Ms. Parker. She said she was asking because Ms. Parker looked lighter to her. Like some weight had been lifted off of her shoulders.

"Good," I told her. "It was really good."

"Good," she replied. I noticed then how wise her eyes are. "Good."

I walked away hearing her sage advice in my head. And vowing never to forget her words:

"Doctor? Just understand that being fat is about a whole lot more than food, okay? A whole lot more."

Yes. That.

***
Happy Friday. And happy belated huddle.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . .Listen.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Laughing cow.


On the way to school Friday:

Isaiah:  Hey Mom?

Me:  Yup.

Isaiah: Knock! Knock!

Me: Huh?

Isaiah: Mom!

Me: Oh! Yeah, okay. . .my bad.

Isaiah:  Okay Mom. You ready?

Me:  I am now. Let's do it.

Isaiah:  Okay Mom. Knock Knock!

Me: Uhhh, who's there?

Isaiah:  Interrupting cow.

Me:  Interrupting co---

Isaiah:  MOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

Me: *hysterical laughter*


I have no idea why but this seriously made me laugh out loud from Ponce de Leon Avenue all the way to the carpool lane last Friday. I guess because it so very captures the spirit of the interactions I have with my kids on the way to school or at the bus stop.

This morning I was just reflecting on that and what a blessing it is to have children that can engage you with nonsensical jokes, excessive chatter about Minecraft and Scribblenauts, and even whiny pleas about exactly who is responsible for what never made it into a backpack. It all seems mundane, but I know that these moments are all little miracles.

They are.

And this? This, my friends, is just a piece of my so-called life outside of Grady. The one filled with love, laughter, and mischief of one kind or another.

***
Happy Tuesday. And may you have the great fortune of being interrupted by very special cows all day long.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Team S.J.G.R. Post-Thursday Huddle: 3 Rapid-fire Randoms


What's up, Team? My mind is all over the place this week. That explains my belated huddle. And the fact that it's going to be a hodge podge of random things.

Like to hear them? Here they go!

"Skinny" Pop?

http://cdn2-b.examiner.com/sites/default/files/styles/image_content_width/hash/a8/a3/a8a33c11518a384b24e8c9321eba555c.jpg?itok=piEqwPHJ 

Watch out for some of these things that seem super "skinny." My best friend called me one day in snack nirvana singing the praises of this super skinny snack. 

Uhhh yeah.

So the package says "39 calories per cup." Which is good, right? But a serving is 4 cups. And the whole bag is a whole lot more than 4 cups. If you're like a lot of people, you start eating this and thinking that it's like SO delicious to be so low in calories. Which is true if you only eat one cup. Or four cups. But eat the whole bag and you're looking at more than 500 calories. 

And can I tell you something? It's really easy to eat the whole bag of this. Which ends up being not so skinny.


Podcast Exercise and Running

Do any of you listen to podcasts? You know. The things you can download from your favorite journals (if you're a medical nerd) or from lectures, sermons, or whatever? If you don't, I'd highly recommend looking into them.

So check it. There's this guy named Andy Stanley who pastors a fairly large church here. And by fairly large I mean really large. Well his church is in Alpharetta somewhere (which is far from where I live) and also I like my own church. In fact, I love my own church. But. Andy brings a good word, man. And he usually does it in a series of four or five thirty five minute sermons. So thanks to technology, I can still be a part of my church and never miss any of Andy's sermons.

Going on a long run? For me, this has made a world of difference. I stack up an entire series of Andy's podcasts and listen to the whole thing. Those ten miles fly by and I learn something. Or feel convicted. I also like listening to them on the treadmill or elliptical. Thirty five minutes is perfect. 

Not into religion? No worries. There are crap-tons of podcasts on all sorts of things. But if you get tired of listening to your music and want to shake things up to get your mind off of the exercise? Try podcasts.

Permissive Eating

The week of my last half marathon I gained about four pounds. And do you know why? Because I kept allowing myself to eat things that I knew I had no business eating. All in the name of carb-loading or just "girl, you can eat this!" And I stepped on the scale and had to tell myself:

Cut. It. Out.

Proof again that nobody can outrun a big ass if they don't put down the fork. Fortunately, I put the fork down already this week and have noticed that two of those pounds have left already. Maybe it was water weight, although I don't believe in that so much. 

My point? No regularly exercising person will be at their ideal weight if they keep letting themselves have everything they want to eat. There just has to be a "NO LIST." We've talked about this before. The list of "hell no, not worth its" that must, must, must be almost always adhered to. If not, you will do something like run 13.1 miles and then gain four pounds. Which is ridiculous, right? Who does that? Answer: A LOT OF PEOPLE. 

Put. Down. The. Damn. Fork.

It's the only way to unload the junk accumulating in your trunk. We exercise for heart health and yeah, a little bit of bonus comes from how our bodies look afterwards. But weight management is a dietary issue. Mostly, if you ask me. Are you exercising like crazy and still not losing weight? It means you're eating too much. Or the wrong things. Or drinking your calories. Or taking too many bites, licks and tastes. 

And trust me--I am stepping on my own toes, too. I am. So allow yourself some yummy pancakes after that big race, sure. But then? Put down the fork and get back on it. Because the shit always stays real and the reality is the reality. 

Oh, forgot the reality? Well let me refresh us.

Our hearts don't like it when our bodies and visceral organs are covered in fat. Our hearts need exercise--150 minutes per week or more--and it also wants us to work our asses off to get close to a decent BMI. If you are reading this, heart disease is the most likely thing to take your life or disable you. And no matter how much it offends someone to hear this reality, the truth is that it is up to each of us to do something about this if we want to fight back. 

Period. End of story.

So let's put up our dukes and fight. Let's step back out of la la land and get after it. Not just the exercise but the fork management. 

That's all I got. 

***
Happy Huddle.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

I just looked around and he's gone.

Martin Luther King, Jr. and James Weldon Johnson.

"How can you know where you're going 
when you don't know where you've been?"

This mama was very proud.

Warning: I'm in the mood to unpack some thoughts here. . . .

Okay. First, this. As promised, I've uploaded the clips of Zachary and Isaiah from their black history month presentations last week. This was a part of the "Living Black History Museum" that the kids participated in as a part of the Atlanta Chapter of Jack and Jill of America. It was seriously one of the coolest things ever, man.

Confession: This might have been one of the proudest days I've had in a very long time.  Therefore I should give the disclaimer that while it may not seem earth-shattering to you, the mama in me was over the moon.

Over. The. Moon.

Let me tell you why:

See. . . . it's really important to me that my children are comfortable in their skin. I want them to be accepting and welcoming to all people regardless of their ethnicity, orientation, or socioeconomic status. But I also want them to be equally as accepting of who THEY are. I think it's possible to create a space for everyone without divorcing yourself from who YOU are. Or at least where your people have been and what it took to get you where you are.

Jackie Robinson and W.E.B. Dubois

You know? Sometimes minority kids fight so hard to assimilate with the mainstream that they look exhausted. Like really, truly exhausted. Then there are some others that don't seem exhausted with assimilation at all. Starting from the earliest age they morph so beautifully into the majority that every trace of their cultural heritage becomes invisible. And then habitually ignoring who they are culturally to fit in becomes the default. 

Yep. 

This is common, too. And while it may not be really egregious and is more pervasive, it happens a lot. So if no one is reminding them about the "where they've beens" then it eventually disappears. Again, in subtle ways. Like drifting so far away that your eyes can't see someone like your mother or your grandmother as the beauty standard. Or reaching a point of feeling paradoxically uncomfortable in situations where you aren't the minority.

It doesn't have to be that way. It doesn't. But stand by idly and it will.
 
I feel so fortunate to have been exposed to things growing up that didn't put me in that camp. I know it makes me a better doctor at Grady and a kick ass liaison for those cultural nuances unique to the patients I care for with our residents and medical students. If I wasn't okay with the similarities I share with my patients, imagine the teachable moments I'd miss! The Grady elders and their Jim Crow struggles are my uncles and aunties. The woman talking on the phone in the hallway was one of the girls I double-dutched with until the street lights came on. And the music rattling the speakers of the hooptie driving by the front of the hospital? That was from the block on which I grew up. So no. None of that is foreign to me at all. And it sure as hell doesn't make me feel uncomfortable. I thank my parents for helping me with that. Helping me to be alright with me and the "where I'm from" as well as the "where we've been."

Look--I'm all ears when you start telling me your story, too. I want to know all about the state your parents came from in India. I am interested in the stories your grandmother told you of her time escaping persecution as a person of Jewish faith in Europe. Tell me all about your celebration that you'll be having at the end of Ramadan and describe what it means to eat halal meat. Oh, and please, my African sister--don't hesitate to explain the differences between what it means to be Igbo or Yoruba. Break it down for me how even though you are Nigerian, that those distinctions still matter to you because that better describes who you and your family are. And you know? Even if you think your background is more American vanilla than ethnic sprinkles and you can't think of any unique features culturally--know that I still want to hear about it. Talk all about the pies your mama made on the weekends or better yet, the TV dinners you had instead. Whatever it is, I want to know. Because all of us have culture and things that make us who we are. And all of us should be able to hold on to a piece of that without hiding it behind the shadows of what seems standard.

So share it and I will listen. I will.

Frederick Douglass

But please. Sit at the same rapt attention as I speak of my people in months beyond February. Welcome my children to embrace you and yours but offer them plenty of room to stand tall in their heritage, too. Their rich heritage. I never want them to shrink. Or know more about Miley Cyrus than they do about the Middle Passage. Or even worse, just become completely indifferent altogether to all things that aren't culturally nondescript.

Yeah.

Dominique Dawes, gymnast


I don't want that. I really, really don't. And no, this doesn't mean that I take issue with families filled with mixed heritages or that I'll shun a future girlfriend who doesn't look like me. Actually, quite the contrary. But that said. . . .I just don't want my boys to grow up counting their own people out. Looking through certain girls because that's not a part of their "beautiful" definition. And that happens--it does--so, so much with some of our beautiful brown boys. It's like. . .I don't know. . .they don't even see the girls that look like their sister as viable options. And I'm not making a sweeping statement about ALL brown boys in primarily majority settings, but I am saying that it's not too unusual for that to happen. I guess I just want my kids to grow up seeing everyone--and counting themselves in that number of who they see. I mean, why shouldn't someone like your own mother have a fighting chance at being seen as your ideal?

Sigh.

Anyways. I guess I just think the world is so much more interesting when people celebrate their differences instead of hiding them. Or worse--just ignoring them to the point that they have no idea how to even begin to celebrate them.

See? This is some complicated shit. And since we are all thinkers here, I think it's a good dialogue. It kind of brings me back to "The Nod." I guess I'm just hoping my boys grow up instinctively giving it.

Wow I'm rambling. And majorly unpacking.

Man. Sorry about that. But what better time than February, right?



Okay. Let me get off of that soapbox and onto my proud mama soapbox instead. I was so, so proud. My Isaiah can get nervous speaking in front of crowds. So for him to choose Martin Luther King, Jr. and then knowingly put himself in a position to have to talk to person after person like that was a huge deal.


And as for Zachary? He wanted to learn "Lift Every Voice and Sing" so that he could sing it to his class and during this presentation. That was his idea. And you know? It's one thing to sing it once for your first grade class--which still took a hell of a lot of courage--but it's an entirely different thing to stand next to a presentation board and sing it over and over again to all who came to visit your station. Not just adults either. Kids, too. And we all know how kids can be. He must have sung that song fifteen to twenty times. And each time, he sang it like he meant it, just like his Grandpa told him he should.

He messes up a few prepositions. But otherwise? It was perfect. A perfect way to honor the "where we've been." Isaiah stood right by encouraging him each time he had to sing. Giving him thumbs up and smiling. You can even catch it in the video if you pay attention. And Isaiah did that each time.  (Unless, of course, somebody was looking for their old friend Martin.)

Heh.

So here are the clips which I assure you are short. I'm glad I uploaded them because they will remind me of a promise I made to myself today. It's my goal to try to keep my sons so aware of the "where they've beens" that it never even occurs to them to ignore or forget it.

Or allow anyone else to make that part of them so invisible that they start believing that they should too.

Yeah.

***
Happy Monday-almost-Tuesday.

Zachary's Lift Every Voice and Sing from Kimberly Manning on Vimeo.

Isaiah as MLK Jr from Kimberly Manning on Vimeo.

And this, for those who are so young that they don't get the references to "my old friend Martin." Or to the reference in the title. This is my favorite version.



This version is for Sister Moon. It's my second favorite. 


BOB DYLAN - Abraham, Martin And  John (1980) by giemmevu

Monday, February 17, 2014

Some epic pieces of This American Life.


ep·ic (╦łepik/) : (adj) particularly impressive or remarkable.


Life has been busy. Life has been good. Here are some epic pieces of this little life of mine.


Isaiah was teaching Zachary how to effectively ride his dirt bike uphill. He coached him over and over and over again telling him, "Stand up! Right now! Right now! Pedal hard!"


Zachary kept on toppling over half way to the top of the driveway hill. But they stayed out there and kept at it until finally. . . .



He did it.

Sure, it was an everyday moment captured through the window. But still it was epic.

Can you believe that this photo was taken the very next day after the ones above?


We survived the second round of snowmageddon here in Atlanta. The ice part was terrifying. Especially for those of us who live in areas filled with trees. We had power the whole time, thank goodness. For our neighborhood filled with old homes, that's a miracle. Epic, even.

Hey. And this:


This was on "Go Red for Women" day. The American Heart Association asks the whole world to wear red in honor of women who have been affected by heart disease. I ran three miles that day since 3 was Deanna's favorite number. No music, no pomp, no circumstance. Just me running and thinking of my beautiful sister the whole time. Doing something kind for my heart and missing her terribly the entire time.

I also went red with my friend Frieda that evening. We had a lovely girlfriend dinner to which I wore my favorite red dress. We also drank some red wine which, since we are both medicine nerds, we agreed was appropriately heart-healthy.


Walking through the School of Medicine on Friday, I witnessed this:


This is Wen. She's one of my Small Group Delta advisees and Thursday was her birthday. We didn't have small group that morning, but I was there for a meeting and caught a glimpse of her classmates surprising her with balloons and cupcakes.
 

They all sang Happy Birthday to her and it rang throughout the entire lobby. It was really, really sweet. But she is, so it makes sense.

I'm glad I saw that moment. Because, to me, showing people you care and putting the attention into little details like minicupcakes with candles on top is epic. That is, particularly impressive and remarkable.

Yup.

Speaking of which.



My dear friend the Profesora in Pittsburgh was passing through town recently. We met up for invisible coffee and real conversation. Oh--invisible coffee is when you are sitting outside of Alon's Bakery in their chairs for their patrons but not really eating or drinking coffee. Just sitting and talking and hoping that for all of the times that you have actually had coffee or food there that they'd just cut you some slack. Which they did.

I miss her very much so any time I get to spend with her is epic.

Hmmm. What else?

Oh, yes. This.


Has anybody here seen my old friend Martin?


We initially started out with "Martin-in-the-preacher-robe" but my eight year old son decided that he "felt more comfortable" being "Martin-in-a-suit." 

Which was fine with me. 

Because you know that I'm the first to admit that when you look good (and how you want to look) you feel good. And in turn, you do good. Or rather, well. You get the picture.

And how dare I leave out Zachary as James Weldon Johnson--the man who wrote the epic (sorry to beat the word to death) song "Lift Every Voice and Sing?" Zack settled on a purple velvet bow tie for his presentation. He found a few pictures of James Weldon Johnson rocking bow ties and was sold once Harry pulled out this velvet number from his personal collection.


Oh yeah, baby. Kind of retro-chic, yes?


So what was all of this about? On Saturday, the boys participated in a "Living Black History Museum" for our Jack and Jill Chapter's Black History Celebration. It was kind of like a science fair but instead of telling about your science experiment, you told them all about your life as a famous African American. 

Yep.

This was a lot of work. But the very moment I witnessed them presenting to the first people to visit their project boards, I knew that it was worth every single second that we'd put into getting it together.




I can't say enough about those boys. They got it. They did. And they honored those American heroes and did their mama proud. 

Very, very proud.



It was epic.

Oh. And please tell me if it gets more epic than this:


So, check it.

I really wanted to run the Atlanta Publix Half Marathon in March. But I will be out of town that weekend so can't do it. Bummer, right? Well. I set my sights on another nearby half to keep myself training. (Which I've learned is very necessary for me.) My good friend and soror, Crystal H., suggested that I look into the Mercedes Benz Half Marathon in Birmingham, Alabama. She said it was a good race and thought I should check it out. And so I did. 

I saw that it was on February 16, 2014. Which is my mother's birthday. And since we generally gather in the evening for her birthday, I kicked the thought around a bit. But mostly didn't think I'd do it. There was the whole driving there and driving back in time for mom's dinner. It was all going to be too much. Right?

Well. Check out this hair-brained scheme:

Poopdeck (my dad) is from Birmingham, Alabama. Did I mention that my dad and JoLai were coming to town that weekend already for my mom's birthday? Okay, well they were. 

So a few weeks ago I'm talking to Poopdeck on the phone. I tell him about sort of wanting to run the race. Next he, okay we, come up with this crazy, epic plan to have him DRIVE me to Birmingham that morning, drop me off at the start line, visit with his brother during the race, and then pick me up from the finish and drive back to Atlanta. All in time for us to make Mom's birthday dinner. And if you knew my dad like I know my dad, you'd know that this crazy, epic plan isn't as far-fetched as it sounds. And so. He not only agreed to do it--he said he was excited about it, too.

Yes.

And, if you think this can't get better, it does. I asked my best friend to join me. My best friend who runs, yes, but who had never run a half marathon. We'd just run a 15K together at the end of January and I asked if she'd be willing to train for this and do it with me. 

She said yes. 


And if you still think it can't get even BETTER, then keep reading. 


Fold into that equation not just two sleepy runners being picked up by Poopdeck at 4:30 a.m. but some rambunctious little boys, too.


Oh. Did I mention that it wasn't just two of them? There were three of them. Yes. Poopdeck managed Isaiah, Zachary and my three year-old godson, Jackson, too. Packed them all right up with us and rolled us into his hometown. And he loved every second of it--as did they. Sort of like a mini version of Camp Papa.


Sure did.

Lisa and I had a blast. The weather yesterday was perfect and the energy in Birmingham was amazing. I kind of think we were in an awesome mood just being together and knowing our kids were in for some fun, too.




One of my favorite sorors, Tamika, was kind enough to pick up both of our race packets the day before at the expo in Birmingham. Without her, this plan would have been an epic fail. And what's sweeter is that she pledged at my chapter, Gamma Tau, which makes her even more special to me.

Yep. 



My legs felt good and my heart felt strong. I did my mile dedications like always and they really, really helped this time. I literally study the list before I start and then imagine each person running beside me or helping me for that whole mile. I'm not even kidding. So here's my list for this one:

  1. Me
  2. Harry
  3. Deanna
  4. Francoise and Juliette (Fran, my sister-in-law, Jules, her baby sister who is in heaven.)
  5. My Grady patients
  6. Will
  7. Zachary, age 7
  8. Isaiah, age 8
  9. Delta Sigma Theta and all of my sorors
  10. JoLai
  11. C.J.
  12. Mommy and Daddy (Happy birthday, Tounces!)
  13. Deanna!
The last 0.1 was for ME. I highly recommend the mile dedications. That makes every race feel more personal. But be warned--you may be subject to crying on certain miles.


Lisa and I separated around mile 4. But that was cool because we agreed that each of us would "run our own race." Man--for her first half? Wow, she did AWESOME. So, so very awesome. I was so proud of her.



The hardest miles for me were the Francoise and Juliette mile (4), the Isaiah mile (8) and the JoLai mile (10.) The CJ mile was tough, too, but he loaned me his angel wings, which helped me float for a bit. I think I chanted "come on, CJ" for the whole mile and before I knew it, it was over.

When I was on the JoLai mile (10), something awesome happened. My legs were screaming and I felt so tired. I kept picturing my sweet baby sister and then imagined me, her and Deanna together. It gave me a second wind for a few seconds but I still wanted to just stop and walk the rest of the way. Then-- I kid you not--blaring on a giant speaker system I heard some music. It was one of Deanna's absolute favorite songs of all time: Fighter by Christina Aguilera.


Makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
It makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter!
Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter!


And that? That did it. I sang and ran and ran and sang. And man! I felt like a fighter. I did.

I also really, really felt like I was with both of my original Ruths holding me on my right and left arms as I ran. Kind of like we were all running together to that song which, to me, felt kind of like a religious experience, man. Might sound corny, but it's true.

Yeah.



So anyways. On the way back, Poopdeck was driving and mostly everyone was asleep. And we were just talking and I told him that the reason I love these races is because they make me feel strong. Physically and emotionally. Kind of like I can do anything if I just work really hard in little increments and build myself up. And something about knowing that the only way to run a long distance is to strengthen your stamina until you can run a long distance makes me feel very proud. Especially since, by nature, I am a crammer and a procrastinator.

But. There is no cramming for a half marathon. Nope.

Which feels like such a solid metaphor for other things in life that require time over time and can't be crammed in. Like strengthening relationships with the people you love or having a parent that also feels like a friend. Or keeping a best friend for more than twenty years and still enjoying each other enough to act like you're still first year medical students no matter how much time passes. That happens with little increments being stacked over a lengthy period of time.



This race was a personal record for me. Or rather "PR" as the runny babbit people say. 2 hours and 23 minutes. Five minutes faster than my first half. (Pardon while I take a bow.) Yeah. So that made me feel kind of proud. You know? I'm mostly proud to just finish. That's the truth--but still. . . . the perpetual "gunner" medical student in me always wants to at least aim for a slightly better end result than the last time.


2:20 next time, maybe? Maybe so. Maybe no. We'll see.


Oh yeah. In B'ham my "big" cousin Shari Lynn met us near the finish line and took Lisa and me to breakfast. Hadn't seen her in over a year. And she's smart and awesome and funny and inspiring. So that part was really good.

Her dad is my Uncle Skeeter--whose God given name is Hiawatha. His God given name being Hiawatha has nothing to do with anything, but the fact that this is his real, true, on-his-birth-certificate name is kind of epic so I couldn't not say that.



Anyways. Dad and the kids visited with him while we ran and had breakfast. When it was time to leave, my uncle asked me to grab his mail for him. And I looked at him like he was going senile because it was a Sunday. "It's Sunday, Uncle Skeeter." And he said, "I haven't checked it in a few days. Go on out there and grab it, hear?"

And what are you supposed to say to that? To your seventy-seven year old uncle? So I go out to the mailbox on a Sunday and open it to grab his three-day-old mail. And here's what was in there:


Yaaaaaah!!! Of course I screamed when I saw it.


And this is Uncle Skeeter laughing at his witty little prank. Sigh. Did I mention that he's seventy- seven? I did, didn't I?

Uh, yeah.

Turns out that I made his week by startling when I opened that door, though. He'd just ordered Isaiah out to check the mailbox an hour earlier and what a disappointment Uncle Skeeter had when his great-nephew came strolling back in looking very confused. "There's no mail in there," Isaiah said with a shrug of his shoulders. "Just some rubber snake or something. But no mail."


Bwah ha ha.



After we'd returned to Atlanta and dad was preparing to go back to my mom's house, I thanked him for the twelve thousandth time. Then I told him how very, very, very fortunate and blessed I feel to have him not just as my father but as my children's grandfather. And then I just dropped my head and wept on his shoulder. And muffled into his neck I told him how much I deeply appreciate him--and I said that because it's just so true. Thinking about what he'd just done for me that day was something to cry about. But really? I was crying mostly because yesterday really wasn't any different than all of the other countless things he has done for me for over my entire lifetime. Things involving sacrifice and energy and. . . time over time.

I've said it before and I will say it again: This is not something to take lightly, having a father like the one I have. It isn't and I don't. And some days? Some days I just cannot get my mind wrapped around how much favor God had upon me when he entrusted me and my siblings to that man. And please know that this takes NOTHING from my amazing and matchless mother. I guess my point is that I think having a really great father is like. . . I don't know. . . like taking a hard ass test and getting chance to see the answer key in giant print beforehand. Sure. Without it, it's possible to pass and even do fairly well if you're lucky. But don't you think you'd have a hell of an easier way to go and a much greater chance of knocking it out of the park with that advantage? I certainly do.

So that man? My father? HE is epic. Particularly impressive and remarkable, he is.

Uggh. This is supposed to be a light post. My eyes are getting leaky.

*fans face and pats eyes*

Okay. Composure regained. Just in time to share some snaps from our family's favorite holiday--my mom's birthday! Loving Grandma Shugsie aka Tounces aka Mommy is the thing everyone can agree upon. So any gathering in her honor is always, always well attended. This year we were at Rivals on Five--the sports pub my brother owns.


Here's Shug with my nephew and her first grandchild, David. Officially a head taller than his grandmother. And below with all of the grandchildren plus one of the many Mom has adopted.


Of course no birthday is complete without being photobombed by a grandkid.  This one courtesy of Isaiah. Ha.



 JoLai and Daddy in from Los Angeles. Woo hoo!






So yeah. This year's birthday was totally awesome. Epic, even. But getting together for my mom's birthday is always epic since it reminds us of the one we had when she turned sixty five. That was the last one that included Deanna. But more than that, it was just a perfect celebration of family and love. And ever since, I think we all sort of see her birthday that way. Like this day that should always ground us and remind us that family is everything.

Here's the post from that day. Most of you have read it before, but for those who haven't or who want to revisit it, this is an opportunity. Those who remember that know how epic it was--and why Mom's birthday will always be a love day for us.

Always.

Lastly, I'll leave you with this:

Zachary also did a presentation to his class on James Weldon Johnson just the week before the snowmageddon. (Which is what inspired him choosing the same for the "Living Black History Museum.") And while he was preparing it, he decided that it would be better if he actually let the class hear the song since most first graders wouldn't know it.





That morphed into him deciding to learn and SING the first stanza of "Lift Every Voice and Sing." And when he sang it to his grandpa over Skype, my dad told him that the song was special and that in encouraged people during very tough times. And I talked to him about his grandpa growing up in Birmingham, Alabama in the fifties and how that was a part of the "dark past" that taught us so much faith, as the song says.

Yep.

So he decided to wear a tie and treat the whole thing with some amount of seriousness. He sure did. His "night before" dress rehearsal (in which he insisted that he wear a shirt and tie) will always be one of my favorite clips ever.

Uggh. For whatever reason, Blogger won't let me upload it. I'll get that up once I figure it out-- along with one of Isaiah as MLK.


That way you can answer "yes" the next time anyone asks you if you've seen their old friend Martin.

Heh.

That's all I got. Thanks for reading all that. Night night, y'all. Epic dreams.

***
 Happy Monday.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . . .

Miss Christina Aguilera singing "Fighter". So gonna add this to my run play list. Right up there with "Get up offa that thang." For reals.



And also THIS amazing sermon from Andy Stanley about "Time Over Time." I don't attend his church, but thanks to podcasts I never miss any of his messages. (Love technology for that!) Okay, so this? This is a good word no matter what you believe. Very applicable to any life of any person who is trying to make wise decisions with their time. Some things just can't be crammed in or squared up in a lump sum. Our job is to figure out which things must involve time over time to work. Check it out.