Tuesday, September 30, 2014

This boy of mine.




I could look at his face all day.

***
Happy Tuesday. Again.

The music that defines the story of us becoming who we are.



Just keep your faith in me
don't act impatiently
you'll get where you need to be in due time

Even when things are slow
hold on and don't let go
I give you what I owe
in due time

~ Outkast


My friend Mary M. loves The Rolling Stones. She also has a deep adoration for Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and many other artists and musical genres. Music has always been a centerpiece in her home just like it is for many of us. One of her daughters plays the mandolin and her eldest grandson (who is only five, by the way) knows the Stones well enough to blow the dust off of an album and drop a nickel on top of it. Okay. Maybe that's an exaggeration, but the kid does have a true appreciation for sixties rock and roll.

Yup.



I love the way music evokes such powerful memories. For Mary's grandson, Owen, the cry of Keith Richards' guitar or the throaty crooning of Mick Jagger will likely pull him into the warmest, safest time of his life. Each note will cause his heart to swell with the strongest of reflections of his grandmother sweeping the porch or his grandfather laughing in a nearby chair in his overalls. So that--the sound of The Rolling Stones--will be as intense as the smell of sage at Thanksgiving or the thick aroma of a Southern summer after a hard rain for him.

Always, alway, always.



But for his grandmother? Those Rolling Stones notes take her to different places. It likely brings her back to defining moments and coming of age experiences. Some good, some worth forgetting and others decidedly unforgettable. But the music does that. It punctuates these pivotal times--particularly when the artists' evolution happens in concert with our own.

Yes.



When I was seventeen years old, my father drove me from Los Angeles all the way to Alabama to start college at Tuskegee University. Within days, my favorite shoes were covered in red clay from walking through shortcuts to the cafeteria and my west coast "summer jackets" had been tossed into a heap for they would be of no use in the humidity of an Alabama August. In addition to that, I also remember the sounds that played in my dorm room off of Walmart special boom boxes. A quirky girl on my hall had two tapes that she played non-stop. One was Bob Marley and the Wailer's greatest hits and the other was Sting's Nothing Like the Sun. To this very day, those songs transport me back to Douglass Hall in 1988.



That said, there was some other music that was very, very unique to where I was. Southern hip hop music was in its infancy then. With its heavy bass undertones and catchy chants, it filled up our ears at every party. Additionally, half way through most parties, there would be a break out point with Chicago-style "house music"--something my California ears had never heard before. New friends taught me the dances and eventually I owned my own set of Miami bass and Chi-town house mix tapes. And all of that--whenever I hear it at any party--teleports me to crowded jam sessions with sweaty co-eds moving their bodies after a week of hard work.



So all of this--the music that defines different times in my life--has always been meaningful. Even when I don't hear the songs each day, when I do, it just does something to me. Puts me in a happy place. The words pop out of my lips like legs pedaling on a bike. The dances return to my limbs and I am there again. Whether it is Rapper's Delight with us pop locking and double dutching on the corner, Run DMC with us break dancing on cardboard boxes, Salt 'n' Pepa and us gyrating our narrow hips way too suggestively to be sophomores in high school, or LL Cool J signaling that the newest set of pledges from a fraternity or sorority at Tuskegee had just completed their much anticipated initiation--music is the universal tie that binds it all together.

Medical school, 1996


From Tuskegee, I went up to Nashville for medical school. Still in the southern United States and still in the environment of a historically black college. By this time, I'd embraced the "dirty South" as a part of who I was--the music, the slang, the all of it. That foreign humidity felt normal to me and words like "y'all" were now a regular part of my everyday vernacular. But the music? That, too became something I took ownership of as well.



Let me explain: In 1994, I was sitting in the living room of my friend Jada's apartment. Her boyfriend, Felix, was visiting from Arkansas where he'd just graduated from grad school and was playing this new tape he'd recently gotten. It was like nothing I'd ever heard. That said, there was a familiarity about it. The voices were unapologetically "down South" sounding. Not in that country and western way but more the urban tongues I often overheard from the Atlanta kids I'd come to know well in college. The two people rapping over this beat did what I'd heard only East Coast and West Coast emcees do -- but never anyone else from the less "on the map" places. These artists specifically called out places in Atlanta. Streets. The MARTA train. Bus routes. In the 'hood, no less. They shouted out all of those things that weren't really shiny or pretty but were still a part of them. And they talked about those things that, during that time for hip hop music, wasn't considered sexy at all.

Atlanta? As in Georgia? What?

Yep. Not even cryptic about it. They were like "This is who we are. Love it or leave it." And us? Then twenty somethings in the south? We LOVED it. Loved the uniqueness of it, the twang of it, the everything of it. And we played it and played it and played it until the strips almost rolled off of the reels.




The name of that group was so fitting, too. "Outkast." The real word is defined as one who has been rejected by society or a social group. And a lot of us kids embraced that because, at times, we felt like outcasts, too.



By 1996, they'd had another album drop which, by then, we referred to as a "CD." Ha. This one was even more "out there." It was aptly called "ATLiens" and chronicled the process of just trying to make it with very little. I knew all of the words to that CD, too. Somehow while studying to be somebody's doctor, I figured that part out at the same time. Ha.

And with this one? The Atlanta references were even stronger and in your face. Which everyone who was from anywhere felt proud about. Not just Atlanta. Any hood anywhere. It made the Houston rappers shout out Houston and even the Cleveland rappers talk about Cleveland.

Yes. Even Cleveland. 

Here's an excerpt from one of my favorite songs from back then:

"One for the money, yes suhh, two for the show
A couple of years ago on Headland and Delowe
Was the start of somethin' good
Where me and my -- rode the MARTA, through the hood
Just tryin' ta find that hookup
Now, everyday we look up at the ceilin'
Watchin' ceilin' fans go 'round tryin ta catch that feelin'
Off instrumental, had my pencil, and plus my paper
We caught the 86 Lithonia headed to Decatur . . . . "

And these--the words to a song called "Elevators"-- spoke to us all. At least the "all of us" who were with them during that time figuratively and, by our shared down South residence, literally. Because we were the ones who were shaking our hips and bopping our heads to it while trying to move on up in our own ways. . . . just like them.


1996

Up those Elevators to a deeee-luxe apartment in the sky. (Don't even get me started on television.)

To our parents and maybe even a lot of other people from other places it was just noise and nonsense. Maybe. But maybe not.

But to us? It was magical. 



This unusual duo--Outkast--went on to become very, very big Grammy-winning stars. They crossed over into other genres and gained tons of fans who weren't even born when we were "letting our tapes rock 'til our tapes popped" back in '94. Other albums became beloved by kids everywhere and of every hue. And still, we were all proud of them. Proud of all of it because their story was a part of ours. And we were right there with them as they came of age while we came of age, too.

What's also super cool is that a lot of those younger kids who became fans later have defining moments with this group as well. Just at different points with different meanings, you know?



Yep.

So after many, many years, Outkast went on a tour that both ended and culminated with a big three-day weekend in Atlanta--wittily referred to as #ATLast and destined to be epic. Partly because this group almost never tours. And second because it was ATLANTA. So originally, there was just one show slated for September 27, 2014. It was scheduled to be in the middle of Centennial Olympic Park in the literal heart of Atlanta. Of course, it sold out immediately.

They opened up two more shows for Friday and Sunday--those sold out in minutes, too. I was at work when they went on sale so admittedly wasn't in the number.



Nope.

But then as the date drew closer, I began to realize what part of my story their music told. I listened and could feel versions of what I feel when Nat King Cole sings "The Christmas Song" or The Temptations sing "Silent Night." I recognized that this would all be happening in Atlanta and reflected on all that happened in music out of Atlanta, Georgia after they emerged on the scene. I imagined me, coming of age, and even my young Grady patients who much more like Andre and Big Boi from Outkast than anyone I know.



I knew I had to figure out how to be there.

from the last rare chance I had to see them, Cleveland, OH during residency--got autographs to boot!


On a Hail Mary throw, I put it out there on Facebook (yes, I've broken down and entered Facebook--another post for another time.) And through the magic of social media, what started as me pouting about wishing I had committed to getting tickets, ended in two tickets in my hot little hand. Or rather on my hot little lap top.



JoLai was a part of that thread and she is a firm believer in the YOLO approach--that is, "you only live once." She knew what a fan I was and also understands exactly what I mean about the music that defines eras in our lives. She put straight into a comment: "If you can get the VIP ticket at that price, I will get for you. I want you to go that bad. #yolo!" 




How could I refuse that? Answer: I could not.

But what made it even better? The person who joined me was my friend Jada--the same one whose couch I sat criss cross applesauce on when I first heard that first tape. And guess who dropped us off at the concert? Her now husband of nearly 20 years, Felix. And guess how we got home? You guessed it. The MARTA.



Yep.

It was Jada's birthday the day we went to the concert. And we walked lockstep just like it was the old days at Meharry Medical College when we were first year students partnering on a cadaver in the gross anatomy lab. And that music? All of it? It was perfect. Nostalgic and the soundtrack to a rich story that is still being told.



We stood outdoors under the Atlanta skyline and amongst the energy of many, many ATLiens young and old on the final day of what will likely be their final tour. It felt epic because . . . well. . .it was. But mostly, because I let myself feel it. Feel the music, feel the time and place, feel the meaning of that friendship of twenty-plus years and remember what it felt like to sit with that same girl watching ceiling fans go 'round and trying to catch that feeling. . . .



Yeah, man.

I don't know what will be Mary's grandson Owen's Outkast. I can't begin to even guess what will be Isaiah and Zachary's Rolling Stones or Bob Dylan either. But what I do know is that there will be one. Or two. Or better yet, many more just like we have. And that music will play in the backgrounds on their mental iPods. . . .building a foundation of memories for them to safety retreat to through the magic of headphones and standing room only concerts in the park.


Yeah.


"Peace up"

"A-town down"

Thanks for an EPIC adventure, Jada. Then and now.

***
Happy Tuesday. You can find me in the A!


Now playing on my mental iPod. . . .one of my favorites featuring Outkast's homeboy (prominently featured all over that '94 debut) an unknown highschooler named Cee-Lo Green. Talent is everywhere. . .so many diamonds gleaming all around us, right? Don't sleep on ANYONE from ANYWHERE.



What is some of the music that defines the story of who you are? Which artists take you to sacred places?





Sunday, September 28, 2014

The extroverted introvert.



I joined my colleagues last week for a gathering of medical school advisors. The session, led by one of our fellow society advisor faculty, centered around the whole idea of introverts versus extroverts and how we could work to bring out the best in each one.

Well. To be honest, we focused primarily on the introverted side of things. The discussion worked from the premise of the world being an extrovert's world. Those who "go hard or go home" or go, as one of my patients said recently, "balls to the wall" are the ones that get rewarded. Noticed. Promoted. A lively discussion ensued. We explored the book "Quiet" by Susan Cain, which talks all about these concepts and helps devise a diabolical plot for the introverts to take over this world full of blabbermouths.

Okay, maybe that oversimplifies things a bit but my point is that our meeting and that book aimed at highlighting the positives of being more on the introvert side of things than the extrovert end.

Yeah.

I heard some really good points. One was that we should be careful about who we label as an "introvert" and who we label as an "extrovert." Before we dove into all of that, we defined what we even meant by those terms--which was, perhaps, the part I found most intriguing of all.

Okay, so check it. Introverts mostly draw energy from inside, from small and intimate settings, and are often invigorated by solitude. Extroverts are the opposite. Groups of people give them a rush and and they get their jolt from the confluent souls of other human beings. Too much "alone time" stresses them out just as the introvert reaches a point where they must, must, must retreat to hide off in little space of their own.

So that evolved to lots of points being made about how this relates to our students and what we do each day in the hospital. The whole speaking in front of a group on rounds, interacting with patients and the team, and collaborating pieces that serve as these outward measures of "exceptional" versus "just aiight." Hands went up and faculty gave testimonies of how their more introverted advisees overcame those "shortcomings" to push through and succeed. And pretty much, that was the gist of it.

Then one of the senior faculty members said something else that grabbed me. He returned to the original way we defined "introvert" and "extrovert" and then added another point for us to consider:

"Let's not confuse having effective communication skills with being extroverted. Or being shy or in need for better communication skills with being an introvert." 

And that isn't an exact quote, but it is somewhat similar to what he said from my recollection.

Now. Let me just put a kickstand on that for a minute. And admittedly, I'm just sort of thinking about all of this this morning and feeling rambly so just bear with me, okay?

Let's not confuse communication skills with being extroverted. . ."

Yes. This right here? All day long, man. That hit home for me, for real. Let me explain why:

I have said it a million times before and any who read this blog by now might gather that I just love people. I do. I love their stories, their journeys, their laughter, their lessons and so much more. And Grady Hospital is so filled to the brim with so many interesting and intriguing human beings that each day that I go to see patients some part of me feels excited. Even on the days that I don't feel like working.



Yep.

But Grady Hospital is a familiar territory to me. It feels like home when I am there and because of that I am relaxed. And, yes, in environments that aren't virtual unknowns, I think I tend to let down guards and open myself up. No part of me recoils like a rose in darkness but instead bursts toward their light. And, I guess, for any who are with me or around me at Grady, that would deem me an "extrovert." I can see that.

But.

Where do I get my energy? My real true charge? Almost always that comes from after the encounters. My time alone, reflecting on all that I live and see, is what gives me my greatest uploads and reboots. I almost never get enough sleep because, quite honestly, I am up thinking and hungering to write about what is in my head. It's not enough just to chat with Harry over pillow talk about my day or recent events. I need my time alone in my head for an exegesis of what it means and what lessons are nestled inside of it. Sometimes I wait and wait for my house to go to sleep so that I can do this. And I don't feel right until I do.




Here's the other thing that is interesting. I love intimacy. And while I love the BHE, I'm not referring to that "eros" type of intimacy. I'm talking about what happens when two girlfriends chat about life over a full bodied red wine with bare feet folded under their bottoms on couches. I'm speaking of the days that I stop by the offices of my Grady (and also real world) BFFs Stacy H. or Lesley M. just to laugh and listen and share. Boring afternoons with my wing woman Lisa D. or  text exchanges with the Profesora in Pittsburgh or hanging out in the living room just talking to Harry. This? This is when I feel the most happy.

That is, in addition to when I'm thinking and writing all alone.

Conversely, any of my close friends would tell you that I don't do so well with too many unfamiliar variables or people thrust at me at once. This is probably the most "non-extroverty" thing about me. It's funny because they all sort of know that I am less comfortable with the dinner for two morphing into "I invited two of my other girlfriends" or even something as simple as a weekend girls' trip that includes some people who (though I'm sure are wonderful women) I don't know.



Crowds I can manage only when a few things are in place. It is my preference to enter them with a few people that I know very well (which makes it feel intimate in the end) or it has to be a crowd that is mostly familiar like Tuskegee University's homecoming for example. Beyond that? I feel quite anxious, actually. And if a very, very social friend wants just to two of us to go to a very, very crowded place--one where I am likely to be left to my own devices with a bunch of quasi-strangers? Any chance of that makes it a no for me. At least, unless I can't help it. But it's crazy because I really do enjoy the energy of a big crowd when I have someone right beside me that I know very, very well or have a history with.

Crazy, I know.

So I thought a lot about all of this and wondered what it meant. I reflected on this idea of communication skills being confused for extroversion or shyness being a placeholder for introversion. I downloaded "Quiet" and learned that I am, at best, an "ambivert." I read it with great interest and, in true Kimberly Manning form, got about 75% through it. I think I got the main points though.

Ha.  

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that there is also this notion about how different versions of who we are come out depending upon whether we are stressed or not. So I guess this ambivert is more of an extrovert in relaxed and predictable situations and more of an introvert in opposite environments. Or maybe that's not true at all, right? Like maybe if I get most of my energy from me and my own crazy thoughts and mental iPod that isn't true at all.

Hmmm. I don't know.

Okay, so after all of that discussion with my colleagues (and with myself) I ended up drawing this conclusion about how it relates to my advisees and learners:

It doesn't matter what box you fit in according to some expert. I guess I will just pay attention to you and try to respond in a sensitive way. And try to push you without torturing you. For some folks that requires defining who you are. But for me? Not so much.

I just need some time alone to think about it, that's all.



***
Happy Sunday.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Haiku on a Thursday morning while missing my sister.



Autumn reminds me
The chill like a clanging gong
This really happened




***
Happy Thursday. Fall is beginning to fall here.  So bittersweet, you know? How is it there? How are you today?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

So happy together.



Me and you and you and me
No matter how they toss the dice, it has to be
The only one for me is you, and you for me
So happy together

from The Turtles "Happy Together"


The other day I knelt before my patient like a royal subject. She wasn't there to see me, actually. Instead she'd already received care by another provider and had asked a nurse if I was around. I found her there in the center of the hallway, sitting in her motorized wheelchair.

I touched her shoulder first and didn't say a word. She is hard of hearing so I knew that getting her attention this way would be her preference. Her head gently turned to the side and when we locked eyes, she erupted into a smile. I took her hand from over her shoulder, walked around and then bent at the knees right in front of her.

"Hello Pretty Lady," I said like always. My mouth and pronunciation were very deliberate and distinct because I knew she'd be reading my lips. "You Were Looking For Me?"

She always spoke back regular since she knew I could hear her fine. "Remember what I told you about? That day I saw you in the cafeteria? I worked it out."

I paused for a moment. I wasn't sure what she was talking about. She could tell so spoke again. "Remember? My body. What I said I want to do."That's when she reached into her pocket book and handed me a piece of paper.

"Donation of Body to Science and Education."

"Wow," I said. "You Did It."

"I sure did. And now it is almost final." Then she pointed at one area on the sheet. "But I need you to be a witness. I want it to be you as my witness."

"Me?" I pronounced the word and pointed to my chest. She nodded hard. My face exploded into a huge grin. I loved that she'd hunted me down for this. "I Would Be Honored."

I pushed my hands on my knees and carefully rose to a stand. Taking the paper from her hand, I scanned it carefully and then found the line for my signature. After my John Hancock was prominently displayed on that sheet, I came down to my knees again. "Here You Go, My Dear." She read my lips and smiled.

"Thank you, love."

"I'm Glad I Saw You To-day." Again, I made sure she could see my mouth moving.

"Me, too," she replied. Then her face grew serious. "I am nearing the end of my days in this life. No, I'm not sick but I am older. I like knowing that my body can help somebody learn how to take care of somebody one day. That makes me happy inside."

And me, I just squeezed both of her hands with mine and just looked into her eyes when she said that. Then my face felt a little hot and my eyes a bit prickly from emotion because this? This is Grady. And being at Grady makes me feel happy inside, too.

Yeah.

***
Happy Wednesday Morning, y'all.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . . . so happy together.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Let there be light.



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.

~ from The Wiz


My colleague reached out to me and said, "I am putting someone on your team. This person has great potential. Great, great, great potential."

Rut roh.

"But?" I said.

"But," my colleague repeated with a gentle chuckle.

"I'm ready for it. Hit me."

"Well. It's not so much of a bombshell to drop on you. I mean, not really. I think. . .I guess . . .I don't know. This person has just been. . .I think. . .misunderstood, maybe? I don't know. I think, yeah. I think that's it."

"Misunderstood like how?"  I wanted to know.

"Some not so great evaluations. Non-stellar. But it's totally in them to do well. Which is kind of frustrating, you know?"

"Okay. So what is it then?"

"It's hard to say."

"Is this person lazy?"

"Lazy? Absolutely the opposite of lazy. Definitely not that."

"Okay. What about. . . entitled or unprofessional?"

"Super earnest. And neither of those things."

"Not a nice person?"

"Super, duper, duper nice."

I squinted. "Well, I don't get it then. The person is smart, non-lazy, hard-working and a nice person but has mediocre evaluations? What's the disconnect?"

"This is what I'm hoping you can help with. But I just think. . .I don't know. . . that's it's just a matter of being misunderstood, that's all."

And so. I thought on what my colleague said for a few minutes and then spoke back. "If you have faith in this person, then I am very excited to work with them. And I assure you that if this person is competent, hardworking, kind and eager to do well, then they will. In fact, they will do more than well. This person will do great. Let's just claim it." And since both of us have worked at or around Grady for some time, we both knew what "claiming it" meant.

And my colleague just looked at me and smiled from ear to ear and I did the same. Because we both knew that together we were claiming a victory in advance and that meant that it was going to be good.

Yup.

A few weeks later, I joined the team and met this person. One of the first things I did was tell this person, along with the other junior learners on the team, what (in my opinion) were the features of an exceptional intern or medical student. I was very detailed and said, "I don't want it to be a mystery." And this person carefully took notes and, I could tell, began taking that advice to heart immediately. 

Yep.

I observed carefully for a couple of days and could tell right away that everything my colleague told me was true. Super earnest. Super kind. Super eager. And mostly just super enthusiastic about taking excellent care of our patients.

Yup.

I watched for those 48 hours and can't say I unlocked every mystery, but I did make a few observations. The biggest one was simple: This person was just a little bit. . . well. . .  socially awkward. A little nervous sometimes, too. Just enough to make well-intentioned things veer a little too far off to the left. The kind of turns that garner snickers under breath and jokes that you aren't in on. Which just makes awkwardness more awkward and nervousness more nervous. So that was mostly it. Nothing else I observed at all was noteworthy or even remotely bad in any way.

Nope.

I sat down with this person and chatted with them. I decided to be honest. And yes, it felt super weird to tell a person that they're "a bit awkward" and that we'd need to find some ways to work around that. Or better yet with it. But this person was super open and appreciative of my candor. Together we strategized ways to tackle what had become a bit of an interpersonal speed breaker.

Here was one of our conversations:

"If I trip and fall in front of everyone, it's not as much fun to make fun of me if I laugh first. Kind of like when my husband and kids catch me dancing like Beyonce in the bathroom mirror."

"Wow. Beyonce? How ridiculous is it, Dr. M?" this person asked.

"Oh man. Super ridiculous. And ultra-awkward. But I know it already and I don't really care. And after a while, it's no fun to make fun of me."

"Hmmm."

"You know what else? I counter a lot of my awkward things by working hard at the high stakes things, you know? Like hugging my kids and reading them books, and making my husband a hot turkey sandwich on the stove instead of a cold one from the fridge."

"Wait. Huh?"

"I guess I'm saying that when you nail the basics--like really nail them--people won't make as big a deal about the bumpy parts."

We both sat in silence and this person let that resonate. I could tell that it was, too. But what would that mean professionally? What would "nailing the basics" even look like? We explored that together. We did.

So the two of us decided that, in medicine, that meant things like advocating for patients and presenting them on rounds to other providers in clear, concise and fluid language. It meant having a management plan that was evidence-based and that you could defend without batting a lash. That would require preparation, yes, and some practice, too. It would mean getting every detail of the history and physical down pat. And knowing as much as you can about the medical problems affecting your patients. We agreed that if these things were spotless, the other little quirks would suddenly become more endearing than, well, awkward.

Yeah. So here's the other main thing that happened during our time together: I looked at that person like they were a superstar. Like they could and would do great work and like they were number one in their class of learners. I treated them "like a winner and not a chicken dinner" as the kids around the way used to say in my neighborhood. And let me just tell you something--it made a HUGE difference.

HUGE.

At the end of our time together, it was easy to write that evaluation. No, not just "good." No, not just "ai-ight." Excellent. Stellar, even. Exceptional in every way.

Yup.

And so today I guess I am just reflecting on all of that. I thought about this colleague of mine who saw the diamond gleaming in this learner and who thought enough to fight to help this person to have an optimal learning environment. I wondered what could or would have happened had this colleague poisoned me with the opposite of what I was told? That this person was a "problem child" and that's it? What if this colleague didn't feed forward some hopeful charge like the one I received? How would I have dealt with this person? Would they done as well?

My guess is no.

Here is the other thing I'm thinking about:

It is in our power be a mirror to those around us. It is. We can, through our reflection of what we see in them, feed them this idea of who they are--good, bad, or indifferent. Our listening ears can say, "Your voice is worth hearing," and "Your ideas are worth sharing." Which is huge when you are doing this kind of work. Huge, man.

Toni Morrison asked it so beautifully:

"Does your face light up when they enter the room?"

She was speaking of how a parent sees their children. But her message was really about humankind and validation. How profound is it that not only children--but adults, too--can rise up mightily just by having someone simply look at them with dancing eyes and belief? Wow.

I've had those words on a post it note in my heart for some time. I usually reserve that mantra for my children and husband but this time I remembered that good word from Ms. Toni Morrison when I started with that team. I decided that I would see if that might help things with this situation, too. I made it a point to let my face light up around not only this learner but all of them. And the thing is, I can say that I've done this before, but mostly not intentionally.  But what I recognized that month that even though my face lights up. . .  it has different wattage for different learners.

Whoa.

I don't want to be too hard on myself. I mean, that's just normal, I guess, to be more drawn towards some than others. But in this work and even with our children, is that really okay? I mean, is it? I'm not so sure. With that in mind, I intentionally fought to turn up the brightness with all of them. I did.

And you know what? It made a difference. Damn, it did.

At the end of that time together, I received a note that included these words:

I will always be grateful for what you have taught me, and how much effort you put in to get to know me. I knew there were aspects about my personality that others might have not understood, but you explained them in a way that I can use it as a strength and not feel judged or embarrassed.

And that? That broke me all the way down and made me cry the ugly cry. It made me want to go harder, be more intentional, listen more carefully and just . . .I don't know. . .try, man. Just try. Our patients got better care because of it. I became a better teacher and attending physician that month. And best of all someone felt understood and empowered.

Yeah.

I wonder about the ones that have gotten away, you know? The ones who got my dim wattage or even some barely there candlelight flickers . . .or worse. . . just darkness. Nothing at all. A face filled with criticism, annoyance, and disapproval. We know what that looks like when it happens to children. But what about the people we work with and interact with every day? What about the bus driver or the lady who helps at after school care or the security dude that stands next to the ATM at your bank? Could your face lighting up make them better? I mean, could it?

Lofty, I know.

Here is my charge--to me and to anyone who is regularly coming in contact with people who want to rise to their full potential. . . .make sure you answer is "yes." Yes when you ask yourself, "Does my face light up when I see you?" And if you can't make it a yes, at least start exploring why you can't. Because giving up on humankind is also giving up on yourself. At least that's what I think.

Oh, and I wish I could talk some more about how that same light needs to be reserved for yourself when you look at your OWN self in the mirror. I mean, I wish I had time to talk to y'all about all that but see, this has already gotten long and that's just whole different blog post of its own, isn't it? Hmmm. On second thought, it really is.

Ha.

So as for faces lighting up? No. It's isn't always easy to do. Sometimes we just don't feel like it, man. But if we try hard even on those days? The pay off is just so huge, man. So, so huge.

Now. Let me just say this:

This learner wasn't one of the lazy or not-so-earnest ones. And fortunately, those kind are rare for the most part. That means there are probably far more "exceptionals" hidden inside of the "so so" and "very good" ones than we realize. The challenge is just helping to bring them out. And I think it starts with our faces lighting up. I really do.

Oh, and the one other thing I've learned? Once the exceptional is out, there's no turning back. This I know for sure.

Yeah.

***
Happy Monday. And let there be light, man.

           

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . . .although I shouldn't listen to it because it makes me cry.




Sunday, September 21, 2014

Good morning.











I've been quiet here for a few days, but not because anything is wrong. Things have been a little busy . . .but in the very best way.

Lots on my mind, though. Stay tuned. . . . .

***
Happy Sunday.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Top Ten: Alright with me


I got a little pot in my belly
So now a days my figure ain't so fly
My dress ain't cost nothin' but seven dollars 
But I made it fly
And I'll tell ya why

But I'm clever when I bust a rhyme
I'm cleva. . . always on ya' mind
She's cleva and I really wanna grow
But why come I'm the last to know?

Alright, alright, alright
Alright, alright, alright
Alright, alright, alright
Alright, alright, alright yeah

Alright with me

~ Erykah Badu


In general, I try to focus on the positive aspects of my life. Kind of like that bible verse says--whatever things are of good report, you know? To think on those things. Or something like that. So, yeah. That's essentially what I spend the majority of my time doing and hence, that is what gets the most airplay when I write.

But.

Everyone who is alive and not delusional knows even when we put most of our energy and sharing into the thumbs-up-worthy things, we are mere humans. We are full of shortcomings and screw-ups that don't always make it to the status updates on social media. And honestly? I don't really have a major issue with that. I guess because I recognize that humans are many layered and that, of course, there's some sticky parts that may not be on display. That said, every now and then those warm fuzzies can stack up so much that you start to wonder: Damn. Am I the only one who is screwed up around here?

And to that I say, "No! You are not!"

Matter of fact, I even wrote a little top ten about it. Today I bring you:

THE TOP TEN THINGS THAT I CONSTANTLY VOW TO WORK ON OR THAT I LOOK IN THE MIRROR, POINT AT MYSELF AND SAY, "CHILE, YOU GOTS TO DO BETTER" ABOUT ON A NEAR DAILY BASIS. (NOTE: THIS LIST IS MUCH LONGER THAN TEN ITEMS--CONSIDER THIS THE "HIGHLIGHT" VERSION.)

Like to hear it? Here it go!

#10   I rush my children.

Before I even hear the wrath of the zen, know that I have read the articles, heard the experts, and highlighted the books telling me not to do this. But. I have some serious dawdlers in my house. And the later I am, the more they stop for Lego pitstops. I wish I could say that it's just a simple, "Come on, bud" and that's it. Nope. Sure, it starts there. But then it escalates. Especially now that they are older. It sounds more like:

"Dude. Legos? Now? Really? Get moving! Let's go!"

and then:

"Seriously? If you miss this bus, it's not going to be a pretty sight."

No. I never express what that non pretty sight is exactly. But it gets referred to often.

I know it's not so good to rush my children. And Monday thru Friday, I know that I do. Wait. Sunday, too, because that's when we go to church. Oh well. I got to do better on that one.

#9  I am a laundry misfit.

I do not like laundry. As a matter of fact, if I win the lottery, I will first get a personal driver (I reaaaaaally don't like driving, either) and then a personal laundry person.

Ugggh.

Sure. I DO laundry. But I procrastinate on folding things up. And then I drag my feet on putting things up. And yeah, yeah, yadda, yadda everyone in my house should be doing it and they sort of kind of do. But mostly, I'm the laundry maven. Except I'm not a maven at all when it comes to that.

Oh yeah. Did I mention? At least once per month, I forget to move something from the washer to the dryer. I come down and the soggy load has been there for over 24 hours. At which point I have to rewash the load. Which is really not even environmentally good. I know. So, yeah. I'm trying to do better on that one, too.


#8   I don't get enough sleep. Like, ever.

I had a t-shirt in medical school that read: "Sleep is for wimps."  I have no idea where it is now, but it was a foreshadowing of my future. Somehow I'm wired to do just fine on limited sleep. I know that it isn't good for my health and that I need to try to do better. For some people, exercise is their nemesis. Like they try and try to make it a habit but they just can't. That's how it is for me but instead of exercise, it's sleep.

Here's the problem. I have more than 18 hours worth of stuff I want to do each day. And so. I end up averaging about 6 hours. It's so habitual now that even when I turn in early, I still pop up six hours later. I know it's not the best thing for my health. I have to do better with that.


#7  I over schedule myself. 

Like, constantly. And yes, I am smart enough to know that there are apps and people and ways to make a schedule less prone to this. But this list isn't about things that I find mysterious. It's quite the contrary. This is yet another thing that I know a few solutions to fixing but just have never quite managed to make happen.

Wait. Where am I supposed to be right now?

#6  I love a good phone conversation. But a lot of times I don't. Like at all.

It means that sometimes my phone goes to voicemail. Have I ever told you about how I'm the world's most extroverted introvert? I haven't? Well. That's a future blog post for sure. It's super weird. Like, I love a good face-to-face conversation. And when I'm in the mood for it, nothing beats a really, really good phone conversation. But a lot of times if I'd rather hold out for the face to face time. Or--dare I admit it--have a text exchange. Yes. A text exchange.

I'm good for a textapalooza sometimes. I can't explain it. It's just another one of those ways that I'm sort of jacked up.

#5   I'm a hit or miss recycler.

It's true. When I'm good I'm very, very good. But when I'm bad? Man. I'm horrid.

#4  I snap my gum.

Badly. In fact, unless I'm alone, I almost always have to just force myself to spit it out unless I'm willing to carefully remind myself over and over and over again from the moment I put the stick in my mouth NOT TO SNAP IT. Secretly, it sort of soothes me. Except it annoys and grosses out every other person within a few feet radius. Kind of like smoking cigarettes except not so hazardous.

Unless you count the person who wants to kick your ass for snapping it near them.



#3  My kids play video games too much.

Okay. Let me first just say that I think it's pretty awesome of me that I don't allow them to touch the television or video games during the school week. We call it "media fasting" and it's just sort of the lay of the land in our home on school days. I'm also proud of the fact that my kids don't get to touch my cell phone or their dad's for games or whatever. Which makes our lives much easier.

But. And there is a but. . . .come Friday? Those kids go hog wild. It's iPad's and Nintendo and Wii games--oh my! Sure, I'll walk in every few hours and yell out, "DEAR TIME!!!" Which means DROP EVERYTHING AND READ. And, okay, they do. That said, when it comes to the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendations on television and media rationing in our kids? Chile please.

Oh, and when they were toddlers I can't even lie--they had more than 30 minutes per day. Yup.

#2  I have more junk drawers than should be allowable by law. 

I also have a small junk cabinet that found a Candyland game in last week. Which should tell you how often I empty that thing out.

#1  I have a Target addiction. 

Well. Technically, I'm in recovery for that one. Last year I gave up Target for Lent which helped a lot. But seriously? Some folks have a bad day and go order a pizza. Or bust open a bottle of red and drink it in its entirety. Me? I go to Target. Yes I do.

There is something just so soothing about it to me. First, it's just so familiar. The bright lights and red accents lull me. The kids' section, the active wear, the all of it. I literally feel better when I leave.

Yup.

As a part of my recovery, I now go there with a list and clear intentions. This is a far cry from my previous TTRs (therapeutic Target runs) where I'd just show up and wander about aimlessly trying lipsticks on my wrist and smelling bath gels. I'm just saying--you, too, can overcome your Target addiction by just taking it one day at a time.


See? I'm all messed up really. Ha. But hey. . .aren't we all? And since misery loves company, why not share one of your jacked up things with me so that I'll feel better! Yes!

Or you could just laugh at me and not comment at all. I mean, either way, it's cool.

Here's the thing: We are all broken in one way or another. The real keys are self awareness and being alright with who you are. And me? I'm alright with me. And yes, I will keep on working toward more sleep, less junk drawers, strategic Target shopping and answering my phone. But until then, I will focus on being happy and not taking myself too seriously.

Oh yeah--the other thing is this: never miss the chance to inventory your good things, too. It's so easy to pick yourself apart, but why not make mental note of your strengths and unique gifts? Then think on those things, man. Whatever is true and of good report, man. You know?

That said, I can't resist sharing just one more. . . . .

Bonus one:

I often don't finish books. If it isn't a page turner, I often will stop after 75-100 pages. Slow starters? I never get over the hump of the slow start. And if it's a self help-ish kind of book? I just read it until I sort of get the gist of it then I stop. Terrible, right?

Now. If a book is AMAZING? I finish it. But if it's just aiight? No ma'am and no sir. I'm the chick at the book club meeting who keeps talking about the first 4 chapters but who can't comment on anything else.

Ha.

What y'all got?

****
Happy Sunday.

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, 
whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, 
whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; 
if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

~ Philippians 4:8 KJV


Now playing on my mental iPod. . . . Oh, how I LOVE the message of this song. It is so how I feel on most days.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The shoulders of giants.



"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." 

~ Sir Isaac Newton


On Thursday, I had the opportunity to witness something truly inspiring. I was among the people bearing witness as a woman by the name of Valerie Montgomery-Rice, MD raised her right hand and was sworn in as the first female president of a free-standing medical school. It was amazing.




Dr. Montgomery-Rice was born and raised in Macon, Georgia. The product of public schools, a single mother, and not many resources. But she prevailed--she did. That woman went on to graduate from Georgia Tech and from there went to Harvard Medical School. Next, her path led her to Grady Hospital, where she trained as an Ob/Gyn resident with Emory. Many accomplishments followed, including a Dean position at my alma mater, Meharry, and then the Dean at Morehouse School of Medicine. I should also point out that being a female DEAN at any medical school is also a huge deal.

Let alone an underrepresented minority female. Hello?



And so. Along with the Governor and many other dignitaries, we stood to our feet and applauded her. We listened to the words of the highly accomplished people who made sure that they, too, were there for this momentous occasion. Even the President--and a past President--of our illustrious sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, were among those in attendance. Because clearly this woman is a Delta.

Obvi.

Ha ha. Anyways. It was an amazing morning that I am so, so happy I cleared my clinic schedule to attend. My good friend, med school classmate and fellow Grady doctor Yolanda W. was a key planner in all of the events. I was proud of her, too. Everything turned out perfect. And can I just say that I truly believe that  in the future I will be attending a similar event for Yolanda? I am 100% serious and you heard it here first.




Yep.

How cool was it that this took place in the Martin Luther King Chapel on the campus of Morehouse College? A historic moment in a historic place named for one of history's greats. I could feel him watching over this day. I really could.



One of my favorite moments was when the clergy encircled her in a prayer. This was definitely a unique aspect of the ceremony that I think was culturally fitting. I love that she wasn't too important to do that part. It brought tears to my eyes--truly it did.



The other special moment was when everyone stood and sang "Lift Every Voice and Sing." Those voices rang out over that building so proudly and so full! My chest swelled with every note and every word. I remembered my Zachary learning those words and couldn't wait to tell him about this moment.



I was so happy to see many of my fellow Grady doctors there. Sheryl H., Deb H., Nicole F., and Leon H. were all in the building. Sure, we all represent Emory, but I think that made it all the better. We stood in solidarity for Dr. Montgomery-Rice and gave life to her charge for our institutions to stay connected.



I was also happy to see one of my other favorite Grady doctors, Frank J. He's a Morehouse College and Morehouse School of Medicine alum--and is now on the faculty at Morehouse School of Medicine. His lovely wife is the section chief of my division at Grady and is also one of the best people I know. Oh, and did I mention? His wife, Jada J., is a Delta, too.

Obvi.

Ha ha ha.


To the students, residents, colleagues and everyone else reading this. . . . know that our accomplishments are never, ever just about us. We stand upon the shoulders of giants and, over time, we become the giants for someone else.





Congratulations, Sister President. You make us very, very proud.


"I am proud to stand beneath the shade of a tree that I did not plant." 

~ Dr. Valerie Montgomery-Rice, President, Morehouse School of Medicine

***
Happy Saturday.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . Thought I'd share this for everyone once more. :)

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

Oh, okay. And this, too. I mean, how can I not?

Isaiah as MLK Jr from Kimberly Manning on Vimeo.