Monday, July 25, 2016


I met her this morning. She is incredibly beautiful. In profile her face boasts eyes that crinkle in smile and recognition. I can tell when she is happy, she swishes away with a mermaid/dolphin tail and splashes me with water. Her fierceness is alarming; it looks like a phantom orange/red profile of an angry ghost trailing fire and smoke. Showing strength, her torso rises from the ocean, arms stretched to the heavens. Feeling maternal, she rises on angel's wings and invites me to emerge from the ocean and dance with her in the clouds, carrying me on her back. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Gordian Knot

On the last leg my summer vacation trip I was re-reading an old fave - Dress You Up in Corduroy and Denim, by David Sedaris (finally a perfect fit!). I'm a big fan, even though I still at 42 years old have to look up the spelling of Corduroy - twice argh. I saw him both times when he came to Little Rock to read some of his essays. Wasn't quite brave enough to stand in the autograph line, but I imagined what I would tell him if I was and it sounded really stupid. To me anyway.

So was that his first book? I can't remember I read them so quickly. I think it was definitely short-listed for some big award. And it was really good - read in the hotel bathroom so I wouldn't disturb anyone until the wee hours of the morning addictive, leaving myself only a couple of hours of sleep before I had to catch a plane. When I finished it on the plane today I got to a part that reminded me of others, and was a little frustrated.

See, I remember one thing about my past. I had a plan. Two plans. And they were MY plans. But somehow somebody else got to enjoy those plans (I guess? Is this really happening? What really happened?), but not me. That's not fair. Am I MPD? Am I so well versed in self-loathing that this was yet another protection mechanism to propel me to this day with my sanity intact? Or is this just those darned Gods again? (having completed a cycle of traditional Freudian psychoanalysis, he has moved on to shamanic journey work and studying the cycles of the moon. Whatever is happening to him, it feels like a Gordian Knot. I guess he's got to channel Alexander the Great. He's going to untie this damn thing, or slice through it with a sword. The latter might be more satisfying).

But I diverge. I'm taking a break now from DS to read a book I've been wanting to read, edited by an Arkansas author, Erin Wood: Scars / An Anthology. It brought tears to my eyes three times in the first 40 pages, and I've already hatched a plan to e-mail her and introduce myself. Anyone who can bring this amount of intelligence and emotion into paper form is someone I want to meet. And I've got lots left to read. That makes me happy.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Products of Conception

There is just so much to absorb when you are in a new country. All I can do is try to photograph to be able to process it slowly over time. I feel like every time I turn around I keep getting hit over the head with a new thing. "There can't be anything better or new" my mind screams, but I am proven wrong every time.

I'm reading this book (Part III) In Other Rooms/Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin. A National Book Award Finalist. Same thing. Hit over the head every time I turn a page. It's a trip.

I was in my very favorite Facebook group today, PMG pathology, and someone posted something that reminded me of the book. Products of conception (POC's) are a junk routine surgical. Usually they consist of only decidualized tissue and placental villi. Sometimes you have to put the whole bloody mess in to find the placental villi. It's important to document the truth: that it was a pregnancy, that someone was there even though it never came to fruition.  Rarely you see fetal parts under the scope. Sometimes immature brains, sometimes immature guts. Never limbs. At least I'd never seen it until today.

Yes, that's a human hand. A very small human, one that didn't quite make it.  It can make you sad, or it can make you wonder. It makes me wonder, and it reminds me a lot of the book I am reading right now. That's part of our job in pathology. To document things that no one else will ever see. Honoring the invisible.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Brazilian Wandering Spiders

Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

Me: What is that? Pointing to his necklace

Tour Guide (aka Johann, aka Joe Patience, aka Fang): A scorpion in amber. I love scorpions.

Me: I used to see those a lot when I was a kid. At sleepovers. In basements and garages. I never see them anymore in Arkansas. Also wolf spiders. I saw them a lot. Not anymore.

Fang: We have one species of wolf spider in Costa Rica. The Brazilian Wolf Spider. Phoneutria. You won't see them during the day, but if you do a night tour, you might. They have the most painful bite in the world. I've never experienced it, but I hear it opens up the pain pathways to your brain and makes it seem even more painful than it really is. Something called capsaicin.

Me: Oh! My brother has studied that. He's a food scientist. He's written an article on it. That's the ingredient in spicy chili peppers. It's supposed to be really good for you. It's in animals too?

I read online that it was discovered in tarantula venom in 2006. Causing maximum pain to bite victims. Animals can defend themselves by activating the sensory nerves of their enemies, just like certain plants do. And they are doing research with capsaicin and cancer cells as we speak, using it to kill the neoplastic cells and their progeny. Wow.

Pain and pleasure exist as a continuum, in the brain. The amygdala is a big source of neurons that are the epicenter. When I was a teenager I was fascinated with the amygdala. I started my own comic book with that title. Drew a few comics. Imagined it as the name of a band. That never really went anywhere.

I think (this is just me here, not research or the internet) that experiencing both pain and pleasure is good for us. Opens up neural networks, allowing us to think bigger and wider. Sparks creativity, to help find solution. Reduces conformity.

So maybe when I do the night tour of the park this Thursday I need to try to get bitten by a Brazilian Wolf Spider?

I'm not that crazy.

Me to young bartender poolside last night: Martini. Straight up. I like vodka. Grey Goose. Oh, and I like it just a little bit dirty.

I held my fingers up, thumb and index, to show him how much.

Bartender: I've heard that about you.

I honestly think this is such a small, quiet resort that they talk about us and our preferences and he was communicating that, but I couldn't stop laughing.

Sunday, July 17, 2016


I See You
My horizon
The eye of my hurricane
The vortex of my tornado
The rolling wave against my undertow
A siren from the deep.

This is me walking back into the ocean after a large wave caught me unaware and knocked me over, tossing salt water up my sinuses and throwing my body against pebbles and stones.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Scorpio Moon

I'm glad it's almost over. I'm ready for Sagittarius.

Some days you get your hands dirty. It's thrilling when it's not 24/7.

Heart. Papillary muscles, left ventricle. That's a pretty thick outer muscular layer. It's been working hard for a long time. The papillary (tree) muscles look a little attenuated. But still trying to grow, like a cactus in a desert. 

This is me. Circa 2001/2002 I'm not certain. VA morgue. Brain cutting conference - no, those aren't cookies; I'm searching for the amygdala. Thanks Dr. G for giving me this print. Hangs on a bulletin board in my office, with many other things I love.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Pagers and Placentas

I've been trying to find a good place to put my pager. It's an awkward dated device, one that the liquor store guy laughed at recently. "I didn't know those still existed!" When I wear it on my skirt band, especially if I am wearing a high waist skirt, it can ruin the outfit - a long top has to hike up, making me feel lopsided. I don't need anything extra to make me feel lopsided.

 I tried to put it on my shirt, tucking it around the fabric gracing my shoulder. This works well if you are not getting paged. When I got paged, my eardrum screamed in protest. After three times, that had to be stopped. Now I'm wearing it on my watch. I love this placement. My watch is on my left wrist, and the pager doubles as a lever for my arm while I am reading slides on the scope.

I read something yesterday afternoon in PMG pathology that cracked me up. One of the funniest questions I have ever read there, and it was one of my best friends from residency (Trishie! Hello!).

"What is your policy on giving back grossed-in placentas to the patient for ingestion? Our grossing station and tools are definitely not sterile and I really think we should have a policy prohibiting this."

Funny comments include:

"Yes to Texas law saying moms can have their placentas, but as others above have said, this is direct from Labor and Delivery. Once it hits the pathologist's hands it is ours."

"What? Ew. No."

"Placenta with chorio and funisitis? Very yummy."

"No. This is a big no."

"I don't think we have a specific policy for this, but the only thing we give back after grossing is a fetus for burial."

"Sooooooo gross. I have been grossing placentas for several years before I delivered and was COMPLETELY GROSSED OUT by my own placenta. Just ewwwwww."

"Oh my God. Yuck."

"What is this bizarre obsession with placentas? I read this funny Dave Barry commentary about childbirth recently. He said looking at placentas should be considered a form of punishment - for example, Judge to offender: I sentence you to look at 5 placentas. If you are truly evil you must also gross them."

My friend: "Ok, so if the patient wants to consume the placenta, OB gives it to her directly to bypass the lab. So helpful, I would love see a copy of the policy, thank you so much.

Gotta love female pathologists. And placentas.