Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

I'm pretty proud of my grandma Loretta a.k.a Rett for this one. There's Uncle Tom, Aunt Sheeran, Dad, and Uncle Chuck. Aunt Peggy must not have been born yet. Pretty amazing Christmas card, don't you think?

Mom, Dad, and brother Mike recently collaborated to get thousands of pictures and documents scanned onto a disc. Some of the letters from my Dad to his family when he was away at Boy Scout camp got me all teary.

Christmas brunch casserole in fridge. Kids almost asleep. Time to wait for Santa. Jack asked me to wear a necklace he made for me out of magnetic buckeyballs (sp?) and wait on the couch for Santa Claus to come down the chimney. I asked him why, and he said, "So Santa Claus will want to marry you. You look so pretty." Ha! Can you imagine scoring Santa for a stepdad? Keep dreaming, Jack.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Eve Eve

I just finished wrapping all my adult gifts - insert gift card into sack, fluff tissue paper - and am waiting for my night owl Cecelia to fall asleep. She is singing her favorite doll Pippi to sleep, and I hope she finishes soon so the "elves" can start wrapping kid gifts. I've got a huge buzz off of one glass of Cabernet - it's been a while so I'd better slow down if I'm going to outlast the nocturnal one.

Got my Christmas cards in the mail yesterday and addressed for 2 1/2 hours last night - oops! I only got 100 this year and for the first time in about five years I ran out. Oh well. Here are some pics that made the cut. Cecelia dubbed Jack the candy cane alien in the last one.

Despite a busy work week, and rolling into a big week of call starting Monday night, it's been a great holiday so far. One of the keys to surviving a week without kids over the holidays (next week for me), I think, is a batch of books from B&N, half of which I've already read. I plan to post a list with one word book reviews when I'm done, hopefully by next weekend. And lots of exercise, to balance out the already plentiful over indulgences (red velvet brownies with homemade cream cheese icing, gingerbread cookies, annual giant sack of homemade treats from the billing office, boxes of chocolates from friends, Dad's homemade toffee, peppermint bark, etc. etc.).

I had a blast today gifting my partners with soap. It's not just any soap, it looks like bacteria growing on a petri dish. My brother and his wife Effie sent some to me for my birthday, and if it wasn't for those two dishes of bacteria soap I would not have been very clean for the first week or so after my move in September - it took me about a week to locate the master bathroom box. I attached a typed greeting assuring my partners that if they received Klebsiella pneumonia, it meant that I thought they drank too much at the Christmas party last Friday (Klebsiella is the bug that alcoholics tend to get when they aspirate). Dr. Woods got E.Coli (or was it Salmonella?) with a special treatment - after all, I am the Director of the Micro lab so I have special micro treatment powers. He won't be needing his rocket blaster enema for a while (hee hee). My partner Michelle was ecstatic to receive Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which carries its real life characteristic "grape-like" smell. "I was hoping to get Pseudomonas, and I was so happy when I did!" God, we are such nerds. The transcriptionists were not nearly as excited about the soap as we all were ("Um, so what?). Here is an example - the E. Coli smells like honey - one of my favorites! You can find it on Etsy - just google cleaner science. They even have glow in the dark bacterial soap. No, I was not paid for this, I just think they are really cool. They are so life-like - as one partner pointed out, there are even divots in the agar simulating inoculation by the loop (he would use golf terminology).

Those that I worried would not appreciate the petri dish soap got food - sesame almond and rosemary snack mixes. I made sure to stick around until flow cytometry opened theirs so I could have a big handful. The buzz I got off running around gifting today topped the one I am currently experiencing from my glass of Cabernet. I love Christmas!

Hope you are having a fabulous holiday.

Friday, December 17, 2010

New Office

About a year and a half ago, I was told that I needed to move out of my office. The hospital is doing a staged, multi-gazillion dollar Emergency Department remodel - and my tiny corner office is slated to become a small portion of the new lab storage closet. The ED has been slowly taking over the pathology lab for the past couple of years - toxicology has moved away, the lab break room is shrinking. I've seen the pictures - the new ED is going to be incredible. A sharp contrast to our 1950's hospital lab decor, but after all, the ED is the gateway to the public, so that is where we as a hospital need to shine. The lab is never seen, so updating our environment is not a priority. Last December, I was visited by various men in suits and construction outfits, informing me in serious tones that the move was imminent.

Back in September, nine months after this hushed meeting, the men returned.

"A major contract decision was finally reached. You will probably move sometime this month. Things are going to start moving quickly now."

Luckily, they planned to build me an office before kicking me out of mine. I had several meetings with a bigwig hospital architect - picking colors of walls, floors, and desktop formica. We decided how we were going to reconvene my current desk furniture into a new longer but narrower space. They were taking up a portion of the lab test draw waiting area, an area that currently becomes fast-track ED waiting in the late afternoon/early evening. I hoped that the walls would be thick enough to block out sound. It gets kind of loud and crazy in there.

As construction began about six weeks ago, my new office became the buzz of our small pathology world. Asbestos removal necessitated an outer wall to be built around the construction, and eventually the next door office, housing part-time pathologists like jazz pianist extraordinaire Rex Bell, was evacuated. Then the procedure room, where we perform all of our fine needle aspiration biopsies (FNAs). Procedures were turfed to the fast-track ED, which is not too far away. The pathologist performing the procedures, and cytotechs assisting, were not too miffed - after all the new rooms were much more modern clinical spaces and God forbid someone actually having a medical emergency while we were sticking a 25 gauge needle into their lump or bump - well, we would have back-up help. Not that any patient has ever done anything beyond fainting, but still. As one of my senior partners says, the last doctor you want to run into if you have an actual bona fide medical emergency is a pathologist. Shortness of breath? Get a thoracic surgeon to do a VATS and we'll take a gander at the lung wedge under our scope. GI bleed? Grab the gastroenterologist and well look at whatever he finds in his endoscope. But after a few years of living inside our microscopes we are helpless at clinical-decision making beyond common sense.

About a week and a half ago, construction abruptly halted. I was summoned one morning by one of the lab administrators. Apparently, word came down from high that my new office plan was unacceptable, for reasons which I can only guess at. It was aesthetically awkward, but that doesn't seem to stop hospital construction historically. I think maybe they needed that space for ED waiting - that cutting the waiting area even 1/3 was not ideal, since the new ED might not be ready for a couple of years. My half constructed office is now planned to be torn down, the waiting area will be remodeled, and I will move to the procedure room - since we have been doing our FNA's fine for a few weeks in the ED, we will permanently shift there.

I hope they plan to remodel the procedure room, but I'll likely not hear until at least after the holidays. It is a very small space lined on one wall by ancient metal drawers and cabinets with glass doors. The walls are cinder blocks painted aged ivory. There is an old leather clinical chair bolted into the floor in the middle of the room - reminiscent of a piece in a torture or death chamber. It can be manipulated electronically but only the most seasoned cytotechs understand the cryptic levers and buttons involved in making the patient "more comfortable." I'm always afraid if I touch them I'll send the patient through the apparently asbestos-laden panels in the ceiling.

That was the hot topic of conversation at our lab Christmas party tonight - with the Rex Bell Jazz trio playing in the background and the beautiful cardiologist nurse crooning in the marble foyer of my beautiful Hispanic partner - part-tiger, part-ballerina's home. I planned to wait until my new office was completed until I blogged about it but hell, its already been over a year and who knows when it will be done. I told someone tonight that in January, they could probably open the old procedure room door and find me sitting in the torture chair with my scope on my lap, signing out cases.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Walking in Place

Big little brother Matt is back in town, and this is good because:

1) I finally have a date. Hung out with him and six of his friends tonight -- a night filled with spirits and merriment.

2) I get to indulge in my jam band side. He sent me a video he was addicted to during his law school finals last week.

The holidays have officially started. They'll hit their full groove when culinary brother Mike arrives this weekend with his fabulous sensory scientist wife Effie. I'm almost done with my Christmas shopping, and my toes are a beautiful gunmetal silver with sparkles. All set for three Christmas parties this weekend. Life doesn't get much better than this.

I hope you still smile when you're singing.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Monday, December 6, 2010

Employee Phone Call - Don't Mess With This Guy's Dog

As heard by me, while I was looking at a prostate around 11:00 a.m.

"I can't really talk about this right now, I'm at work. I don't want to start yelling." This was the only normal, somewhat discreet statement in the entire hallway phone conversation.

"Don't you dare go mess with my dog, woman! You have no business going over to my house, and you cannot mess with my dog. That's my dog!"

"He has bad hair, that's all. He's got food and water, he's fine. Don't you go near him."

"What? You'd better not! Like hell! I'll call the FBI - you just think you have methamphetamine problems now, you wait, you, I'll call the law on you!"

"Don't. Mess! With! My! Dog!"

"You will not. I'll take care of your son, if you mess with my dog. That 35 year old lazy good for nothing - I'll take care of him, you wait and see. I'll take care of him for good, if you mess with my dog."

His voice faded as he exited the building. I was glad I didn't recognize it.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Meeting Baby Beckett

It has been a long time since I've been around a baby.

My best friend from medical school, Lys, delivered her second child, a son, 2 1/2 weeks ago. Her daughter Ainsley is 3 1/2 years old. I was ecstatic to plan a trip to Jonesboro this past weekend to meet him. Since I didn't have the kids, I was able to focus on her family, which was a luxury.

I spent the week picking out gifts for them all - a soft camel jacket with satin lining and a reindeer hood for Beckett, a stuffed Santa with a rainbow cap and candy glitter buttons for Ainsley, a long hammered gold necklace with variably sized chained hoops for Lys, and barley wine for Chris. I didn't even know it was called barley wine, but spent some time researching to try to find a good one - I remembered that he was well stocked. He gave me a lesson in hops on Saturday night - most of which went right over my head, but as I tasted some of his favorites, I began to glean a small understanding.

Lys looked amazing for having just delivered two weeks ago - her pre-baby jeans were hanging off of her. I laughed and warned her how skinny I got while nursing Jack. She smiled and said, "I couldn't have picked a better time to be nursing and on maternity leave - I am really going to enjoy the holidays this year." It made me remember the massive quantities I could eat while nursing - so many more calories being burned while the body is producing milk. Her husband took charge of the kids for a couple of hours Saturday night so we could enjoy Indian dinner solo, then drinks and dessert at a local restaurant/bar. I laughed watching her pack back enormous amounts of chicken vindaloo and enough naan to feed an army. Today after breakfast we ate lunch at a buffet and she had two giant plates of food - broiled shrimp, deviled eggs, veggies, fried chicken, then a large three egg omelet filled with tomatoes, mushrooms and cheese. Her hunger was rivaled only by her thirst - reminding me of sitting on the couch nursing my own kids and having that constant "I need water NOW!" feeling as if I was in the middle of the Sahara desert.

The kids were adorable. The spring in Ainsley's golden curls competed with her gymnastic legs - she is growing out of her toddler clumsiness and tumbled deftly around the house all weekend. And oh, that baby smell that Beckett exuded filled the house, but was best savored as he snuggled on my shoulder, his head resting right where I could breathe it in like a drug. I read an article in the NYTimes recently about combating bully behavior in early elementary school by having a mother and new baby visit weekly throughout the year so the children could witness and participate in the miracle of the first year of development. There is something about being around babies that brings out the good in all of us, no matter what our age. Chemicals, hormones, emotions, whatever you want to call it - it works.

While Lys and I were at dinner we discussed professional challenges. I had one of the worst days at work on Thursday that I have had in my career, so my planned trip out of town was not only a fun visit, but a much needed refuge. Working in medicine carries enormous weight and responsibility - and although we constantly thrive to do our best, mistakes happen. Even when the mistakes bear no harm to our patients we bang our heads and wonder, in our 20/20 hindsight, how in the hell they could have happened. It shakes your confidence and wrenches your guts and keeps you awake at night when it happens to you. I look around at how different people cope with 15, 20 years of experience - see all the emotional quirks that develop- and wonder how much longer I can keep all of this up and still be sane. Lys is an ophthalmologist, not a pathologist, but she could certainly empathize. When there is a complication surrounding something bearing your name and responsibility, whether or not it was your fault, your head spins into such an amazingly awful place that it threatens your sense of self. Even when you can count hundreds, even thousands of successes, it is the near misses that stand out in your head like a giant flare. I guess, in a way, it is what keeps us all in check, and makes us better at what we do.

As I drove the 2 hour drive home today, anxiously anticipating seeing my own kids and tucking them safely into bed, I listened to some new country and blues that Chris burned for me last night. I felt amazingly refreshed after the weekend in their new baby home. Looked forward to knocking out another couple of hours of SAMs, which I have done, before the new work week starts. There is very little in life that can compete with being nurtured by close friends. I am so lucky.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

MOC, SAMs, and CME, Oh My!

Read it, if you want, over at MiM.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Big River - The Secret Sisters

I can't stop listening to this song, this month.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Breakfast In Bed (But Better)

This morning, the kids woke me up at a blissfully late 7:40 a.m. After rolling around in my bed and snuggling for about 20 minutes, Sicily announced, "Mom, you can't get up. Don't come in the kitchen. Stay in bed, I'm doing breakfast today.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, you can't come in."

"So I can stay in bed for a while?"

"Don't get up until I tell you to."

Hard to argue with that. Jack and I played on the computer for about 15 minutes, but she was still busy in the kitchen.

I yelled from the bedroom, "Can I send Jack in to watch TV? Do I have time to take a shower?"

She called back, "Yes, I think I need Jack's help. You have plenty of time to take a shower."

I wondered what was taking so long - I bought a rare treat, honey buns, for the holiday, and she popped her head in earlier to ask for the 10 second microwave instructions. But I really wanted a shower, so I didn't ask.

I yelled, "You know I don't want a honey bun, right?" Too sweet for me.

"Don't worry, mom, I already knew that."

As I was washing I tortured myself with my thoughts. I texted my babysitter the night before to ask her to come help out with one of the kids for a few hours so I could run errands with the other. I didn't really need help but felt guilty for the lack of work I had provided over the last couple of weeks - she normally picks up my kids from school and takes them to activities or gets them home but I and their father had been able to cover it ourselves. I made up my mind to call and cancel and then told myself I would look stupid for being wishy washy. I was also concerned that both kids would want to go with me and that would be another battle. Oh well, I decided, I would split the time evenly between them. As I climbed out of the shower I called, "Don't turn on the stove unless I am in the kitchen."

Sicily wandered in, "Too late, mom, we've already cooked your eggs. Jack helped me, but now he is mad that I am doing everything and he won't help me cook your cheese toast. How do I work the toaster oven? Which dial do I use? Do I switch the setting from pizza to toast? I am worried that your eggs are getting cold!"

I silently laughed that my seven year old was depending on my five year old to learn how to work the various kitchen appliances. Is this girl vs. guy or personality? He watches everything I do, always wanting to help - he can even run the coffeepot. She could care less if I am making her breakfast or it is materializing out of thin air. Until today. My heart went out to her.

"Don't worry, C - you can always heat up the eggs in the microwave." I explained to her how to work the toaster oven and assured her I would be out as soon as I got dressed. A few minutes later I called, "Can I come out now?"

"Yes, please! The breakfast is ready."

When I walked out the card table we have been using since we moved was decorated with leftover Christmas trinkets we used for making her school Christmas goodie bags the day before. Tiny snowmen, snowflake, and candy cane erasers were adorning the plates. She poured our favorite juices/water into glass cups and each had a candy cane twirly straw in it. My egg and cheese toast were on my plate and she and Jack had warm honey buns on theirs. Baby candy canes were artfully arranged as a centerpiece. She even had their vitamins out. I sat down and gushed over every detail. When I reached for my absent honey she jumped up to get it from the cupboard - telling me not to get up. This was a far cry different from most school mornings when she is lying on the couch moaning over my requests to help put out napkins and forks while I rush to get the cooking done. I was overwhelmed.

I put my fork into my breakfast and noticed the smoked cheese was hiding it's paper separator, which she had accidentally cooked. I said, "Oh! Is this a little present?" She looked down shyly and apologized. I told her it wasn't something I hadn't done myself, and was easily fixed by scraping the cheese off onto the top of the eggs. It didn't change the taste, I added, of the best egg and cheese toast I'd ever had. I asked her what the hardest part of cooking breakfast was, since she made it all look so easy.

"Well, keeping everyone's meal warm enough in the microwave - it was hard to get it all ready and get people to the table on time." I certainly did not have this level of awareness about meal preparation at her age.

Later in the day, after we ran errands - my babysitter had arranged a play date with my son and his old best friend from last year that he hadn't seen in months - she is in nursing school with the mom - so he was over the moon and my anxiously anticipated battle was a non-issue - Sicily and I were making Christmas presents for her dog and her dad. She looked up at me and asked, "What about you, Mom? What do you want for Christmas?"

I smiled at her. "You already got me a Christmas present. One that I'll remember forever."

She looked puzzled. "What are you talking about?"


She smiled, clearly pleased with herself. "So now what?"

"How about another round of Old Maid?"

She happily picked up the cards, and we played.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Homecoming Queen

Read it, if you want, over at MiM.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Old New Music

Introducing the kids to Van Lear Rose this week. I hadn't listened to it much since 2006. Sicily's favorite song is the album title.

She loves the part where Loretta Lynn says, "You're dreamin' boy, she'll never look your way."

Jack's fave is Portland, Oregon. He calls it the Fizzy song.

I like that he loves it, but worried a little in carpool when he climbed out singing, "And a pitcher to go!!"

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Perpetual Motion

Having a five year old son is a unique experience. His teachers tell me that while capable of great focus and amazingly sweet, my son moves around more than any other five year old they ever knew. Even while sitting at his desk doing work, he will have legs and arms in constant silent movement. At home he is always climbing the kitchen counter tops to help me cook and shimmying up the dangerous outside part of the wrought iron stairwell to the second floor when my back is turned for a second. He is fearless.

On Saturday morning we followed Sicily's requests of making bug cages and hunting for bugs with magnifying glasses. We are reading The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden and she is a little bug crazy - wants her own cricket prodigal musician. I have to hide the chapter books I read her at night now so she won't finish them after I've left - I provide her with popular series tailored toward her age group that she loves but I don't really want to read myself. I followed Jack's fancy for the next half of the day. We recently had an electrician visit our home - I have been out of a bedroom closet light ever since I moved in over a month ago and there were a couple of other light problems. He is the husband of a friend and moonlights at night - so he was around taking apart a light fixture in the kitchen one evening last week while I was preparing dinner and Jack was fascinated. He wanted to learn and experiment about electricity.

We found a highly recommended and awarded electricity kit at a local store, and set to learning about loops and circuits. The kids were both enthralled with creating light and whirring motors with a C battery, rubber bands, alligator clips, and the provided simple motors and bulbs. We even set up a switch with a paper clip and some brads. I tried to extrapolate what we were doing with their life experiences - the train around grandpa and bapcia's Christmas tree, the lights in their rooms, etc. I was pleasantly surprised that the activity held the interest of both my five and seven year old for quite some time, and I think they learned something from it.

Today was a special day I had planned a few weeks ago. Here is a hint:

I know - 40,000 people in my state have seen this over the last two weeks, but I was really excited to take the kids. And pleasantly surprised that they handled the three hour performance rather well. Jack was in his usual state of perpetual motion, which was somewhat challenging, but I was shocked to find my best control tactic over him kicking the seat in front of him over and over or flying his stuffed flying monkey in front of his sister's face was the threat of leaving. He was loving it, even though I was a little challenged trying to keep him focused. As I sat in the balcony, I thought back to my first viewing of this musical in the Orpheum in San Francisco last fall. I was in a front row seat, no squirmy kids or whispered questions about the plot. All in all, I enjoyed this second performance much better.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Another Blond Moment

I had 45 minutes to kill today before a 4:00 section meeting, and was looking for an excuse to have an "outside classroom" in the beautiful 74 degree November weather. As the head of the microbiology department, I have to sign off on 15-20 procedure manuals every year before December 31st. Last year I waited until December 20th to begin my review, and I decided to get a little head start this year so I wouldn't be so rushed. I wandered back to micro, and found the lab supervisor.

"Nothing to big or heavy. Just a couple of small ones that I can start to go through in a half hour or so."

She said, "Bioterrorism isn't too big. Here, take it, and this one too."

She handed me two identical small black three ring binders, which I assumed were both bioterrorism. Many manuals contain so much material that they have a part one and a part two.

I donned my sunglasses, grabbed a bottled water from my fridge, and headed out to a park bench in front of the hospital. After checking my e-mail and my google reader, I opened a notebook. At the top of the page in giant block letters I read:


Oh my, I thought with alarm. Bioterrorism has changed a lot in the past year. What in the world could this be about? Where was Anthrax, smallpox, and Yersinia Pestis? I had no idea that Chlamydia and Gonorrhea were agents of bioterrorism. How could they be? It was kind of gross to think about. Then I thought to check the spine of the notebook. RAPID TESTING. Bioterrorism was the other folder. Duh.

Maybe I Need to Clarify

Read it, if you want, over at MiM.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Boob Job

I was in the office trying to tackle a breast case that had been interrupted over the hour with a CT needle, a visit from dad, and a call from my best friend ophthalmologist in Jonesboro. I should have known it was futile to continue. Dr. Woods, the one I walked down the partner isle with recently, came to the door.

"How's your day?"

"Great for a Monday. Kind of slow. I'm getting a lot done, and I'll probably have time to catch up on some journal reading this afternoon. I have a really cool case I've never seen - a pregnancy leuteoma. It's out for consult, but I'm pretty sure that's what it is. How is yours?"

"Ugh. Four medical livers. Nasty outflow obstruction. But other than that, fine. So do you have a hot date for the weekend?"

I laughed. He's been asking me that every week for the past month. I think he wants to live vicariously, but he's barking up the wrong tree right now. "Nope, no hot dates lined up. Laurie and I saw Hamlet this weekend, and it was wonderful."

"Is that a new shirt?"

"Yes! I got it this weekend." I was shopping at Kohl's for the kids, and I saw some beautiful long john shirts on sale for eight bucks. I bought a dark coral, an ivory, and a cornflower blue. They all have subtle but wonderful bohemian patterns - perfect for fall transition with scrubs. I debated over the medium and large, and decided to go with the large.

"It's kind of big. It drowns you. I think you need tighter shirts. And a boob job. Then the guys would be falling all over you."

I might have been offended if this was coming from anyone other than Dr. Woods, but I just laughed. "So you think I need a boob job? I know people that are happy with them, but I've also heard a lot of horror stories. Cockeyed nipples (I demonstrated with my fingers shaped like errant arrows in front of my chest and now it was his turn to double over). Open ports. Silicone busting. Nope, I think I'll stick with what I've got."

I've had the experience of bigger boobs. Double DD's, when I was nursing. And I can understand why women pay for them. They hypnotize men. I've witnessed it. I remember certain male attendings (I could have guessed which ones before I was nursing) never met me in the eye for months while I was nursing - they just stared at my boobs during every conversation. I felt like I could have asked them to buy me a car instead of when are we going to meet to discuss this autopsy and they would have just smiled and nodded. It was comical. I certainly don't judge anyone who wants one, but it is not for me. I know too many people that regret it, and friends that are naturally endowed are frustrated by the unwanted attention.

There is also a downside. They hurt! Maybe not so much when they aren't swollen with milk, but it is harder to exercise. And they cause lower back pain. To someone who isn't used to having them, they are cumbersome and unwieldy. Plus, and I've never investigated this from a medical standpoint, so I could be way off base, but I worry about nerve damage, during surgery. How that might affect things.

Dr. Woods said, "I've been trying to get my wife to get them, but no dice." I think he was joking, but I replied, "Good for her." She is about the same size as me, and we underdogs have to root for each other.

I put down my glass slide. "C'mon, I hear there are good cookies from that Ed's Bakery in Conway in the break room. Let's go get one."

"Maybe you'll find some guys around the cookies, and you can get a hot date."

I can count on one hand the number of guys I have dated, and still have leftover fingers. I've always attracted a certain overly aggressive type that plows me down with attention, and in retrospect, that's pretty telling considering how the relationships turned out. Nope, I'm not eager to go there again anytime soon.

"You'll be the first to know, I promise."

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Madness, Murder, Suicide, Incest, and Ghosts

I was looking forward to this past weekend for a very long time.

My house is somewhat settled on the ground floor, I didn't have a conference to attend, I wasn't on call (well, I was supposed to be, but I fixed that - remember? I'm a partner now. I can sacrifice a little money for happiness, if someone is willing to take on the work), I didn't have a weekend full of activities for the kids, I wasn't moving. The kids were headed to Fayetteville Friday night with their dad, and I had the weekend to myself.

After a moderately busy week I was looking forward to an evening alone Friday night - take out gyros (yum!), massive project of moving the one hundred addresses I correspond with Christmas cards yearly from paper to laptop, addressing moving announcements, and watching three movies. Yes, I did all of that on Friday night. I stayed up rather late - one thing nice about these weekends alone is reverting back to my high school/college clock - I never started papers or test studying until at least midnight.

The only movie I would recommend, very highly, is Winter's Bone. Just watch it, if you haven't already. I haven't fallen so in love with a heroine since I read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series for book club. I would have rented The Girl Who Played With Fire, but subtitles and laptop projects don't go well together, so I decided to save that for later. Luckily the other two movies were mediocre at best, so I got my project done. If they were as good as Winter's Bone, I would have been toast.

Saturday was sinful - laying in bed until almost ten reading/sleeping! I know this may bore people that don't have kids, but believe me, when you are a mom - this just doesn't happen. Unless you get a divorce. Not that I'm an advocate. I was somewhat productive the rest of the day with exercising and running errands and cleaning out/organizing Sicily's closet, not to mention buying frozen mice for poor Spotty who was a few days overdue on his feeding. I was buying time, looking forward to my evening out with my friend Laurie. Who made me a kick-ass CD I haven't quite gotten through yet.

Have you not already guessed what we did based on the title of this blog? Shame on you! Our plans were down to Hamlet vs. 127 Hours. Hamlet won. She saw the Broadway version with Jude Law a couple of years ago, and had read a review where a Wall Street Journalist claimed that this Hamlet, Avery Clark, was better than Jude Law's version. I had seen a picture on Arkansas Blog, and he was pretty hot, maybe even more so than James Franco, so Hamlet won. We had fourth row seats in the center aisle of the Rep. I remember struggling through Hamlet in high school, so I was a bit skeptical, but the three hour show went by in a flash, it was so incredible. I voiced my amazement to Laurie during the intermission - "Wow, I can understand Shakespeare - it is so much better acted well than studied!" She replied, "Yes, this guy makes Shakespeare seem conversational, and funny. Better than Jude Law, I agree."

In a planning phone conversation earlier in the day, Laurie mentioned how much she loved British humor. I said, "Boy, do I have the book for you. Soul Music, by Terri Pratchett." I gave it to her, with the embarrassing admission that I struggled with the humor. I wanted to love it, based on the person who recommended it, but I felt embarrassed and stupid that I plodded through it. I think it is just a British humor thing - you find it funny, or you don't. Monty Python, The Princess Bride - I just don't get the humor. I did laugh a little in places, especially when DEATH gave his drunken speech in the pub and passed out, but overall it sailed right over my head, and jumped around so much I was reeling. I can't wait to get her take on it - I may appreciate it more in retrospect. Having said all that - the first song on Laurie's CD, which I played over and over in the car today, is freaking hilarious. And I think he is British. So please don't give up on me, you know who you are.

After Hamlet Laurie and I had a midnight dinner at Ferneau - fried calamari, ahi tuna nachos, wine, fruit and cheese. It was decadent, and there is no better place to people watch while discussing Hamlet on a late night out. We agreed that Ophelia was a little stale - I remarked that she seemed the same sane as she was mad. Laurie said, "Yeah, she just looked a little more disheveled." Polonius was incredible. Claudius, who doubled as King Hamlet's ghost was good, but his occasionally muted voice made me lose a little of the text. Hamlet was a pleasure to watch - both visually and with his interpretation. Laurie told me, "Yes, he was hot, but gay don't you think?" I was shocked. "What, do you really think he is gay? Surely not." I remembered back to the spring where I went to a concert and thought a bevy of guys talking to my friend and I were gay, and I was dead wrong. I thought I was good at that sort of thing, but maybe I'm not. Marriage and the passage of time has ruined my radar. "You might be right," she conceded, but she left me questioning my judgement.

This morning was another lazy one - in bed late late late especially when you consider the whole fall back thing. Took my mother-in-law to a long overdue brunch (can I still call her this? What do I call her now? The semantics of family after divorce are really strange), grocery shopped, and finished the last of the book I was reading this week - "The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell" by John Crawford - in the gorgeous 68 degree weather down by the river. There's another weekend recommendation for you - a very readable and fascinating account of a soldier in the Iraqi War. I hate war stories in general, but each chapter told an isolated story of his year long stint. The dream vs. reality of his return home was heart-wrenching. He is no longer affiliated with the U.S. government.

I was so happy to see my kids at 5:00! Cooked Italian and then we vegged out on the couch with YouTube. They took turns suggesting searches. "The scariest thing in the world! The biggest snake on the planet!" and I happily obliged. When Jack got to a certain search, I almost fell over laughing at the result. He wanted "The scariest surprised fattest thing in the world." I told him that was a pretty detailed but general search and we might not get anything. Here's what came up.

I have to agree with YouTube on that one. The kids were cracking up at the video - we could only tolerate the first minute.

Hope everyone reading had a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Questioning Eyebrows

I love this cover of The Magnetic Fields song. But where oh where are the Pine Valley Cosmonauts? Definitely better, in my opinion, than Andy Hopkins.

I got a big laugh the other morning when I interrupted Sicily's sing-along and asked her to show me what she thought "questioning eyebrows" look like. We've been experimenting showing emotions through eyebrows all week long during our short morning carpool. I love Jack's "surprised eyebrows."

My favorite line in the song is, "I see that kiss me pucker forming, but maybe you should plug it with a beer."

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Monday, November 1, 2010

My Special Friend

A few weeks back, at dinner with the kids, Sicily was being especially intolerable. She was mad about something, and nothing I could say or do would make it right. Despite my efforts, she was determined to get a rise out of me.

"Mom, that thing on your chin. What is it called? It's so BIG."

"It's called a mole, Sicily."

She looked at me with a wicked gleam in her eye.

"Is it your special friend?"

I was a bit taken aback, but decided not to let it show.

"As a matter of fact it is." I began to stroke it lovingly. "At night after you and Jack go to sleep, I talk to it about my day and my problems. It is my most special friend."

The look of barely veiled horror and surprise on her face was priceless. "Aw, come on Mom, you're kidding, right?" I loved that she had to ask.

"Of course I'm not kidding. You just hurt it's feelings. I'm going to have to spend some extra time with it tonight."

"You don't really talk to that thing, do you?"

The next morning in the carpool line, she was sulking over being reprimanded for goading her brother. I tried to think of a way to cheer her up before she left the car for her school day. I caught her eye in the rear view mirror and started rubbing my mole. She broke into a fit of giggles.

"You know, Sicily, some people call these things beauty marks. All of the famous models have them. That's what I was telling my special friend last night to console it."

"Mom! You are crazy. You are teasing me again. A what? A beauty mark? You cannot be serious."

"Shush, Sicily! Don't hurt it's feelings again." I stroked it with exaggerated motions, trying once again to elicit a spontaneous, wonderful smile. Ha. It worked. Still does, if I use it sparingly.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Friday, October 29, 2010

Annual Visit to the Crime Lab

I won't apologize for my dearth of posts lately, but let's just say that the events of last month have completely undermined my immune system and I'm still fighting off two weeks of sinus/URI crud that the kids are bringing home. I paint a pretty picture, but life is not easy right now. But the not fun stuff isn't fun to dwell on.

I was off this past week and despite lofty goals to organize all the boxes and mess upstairs, there are still lots of boxes and a big mess upstairs (but our living area downstairs looks fabulous!). Soccer games, Halloween parades, Halloween parties at school, and helping Sicily with presentations for Nature Week, coupled with our snake Spotty Dangerous AKA Cosmic Creepers week long visit/tour at the kid's school kept me busy. Not to mention meetings with accountants and financial advisers. I did manage to squeeze in a little fun - I revisited my old (well at least for a month) residency stomping grounds - the State Crime Lab.

I spent April of 2006 at the Crime Lab - becoming acquainted with the blowflies surrounding the bodies that met their ends by nefarious means. There was a rash of crime that month - it was covered all over the evening news - so I had copious learning opportunities. Unfortunately, I was trying to cram in studying for my combined AP/CP boards in June, so I largely neglected everything but the bare essentials of performing the autopsies in the morning so I could sprawl out on the warm Spring lawn and study all afternoon. The building and grounds are beautiful, and while I would have rather been immersing myself in the fascinating study of Forensic pathology than Blood Bank and Chemistry, the proportion of Forensics on the general boards is so slight that it would not have been prudent at the time. I stopped nursing my son in early February of that year, and his demands at night coupled with daily residency demands made studying absolutely impossible, so I had a lot of catching up to do.

But it's never too late to pursue sideline passions, so I like to check in with those guys yearly. I was especially excited to go this year because one of my fellow trainees, he was a year behind me, finished his Forensic Fellowship in Alabama in June and joined the staff at our State Crime Lab this past July. I feel like I have an inside connection now. This guy isn't just one of my former attendings - he's someone I sat alongside in excruciating morning conferences being pimped, and he had a propensity for party throwing so I've spent time sharing crawfish and beer with him at his abode. When he greeted me at the locked entrance after I signed in and got a visitor's badge, I felt like I was really in.

We spent a half hour or so catching up on personal life - kids, residency, his wife who is also a doctor, and life after residency. What it was like on the government vs. private side. He just got a new scope (exactly like the one I've got - he even got the free rocket blaster!). I couldn't help admiring his spacious office with the wall of windows - it was much better than my closet in the lab basement. I finally steered the subject into my intended direction - books.

After I had exhausted his library we wandered next door to another pathologist's office and I hungrily scanned the titles while he graciously grabbed post-it's and jotted down titles and authors. Then he said, "So, do you want to see a cool case?" This is the pinnacle of pathology science nerdiness - our sharing cool cases. I grinned, "Yes! Is it the Case of the Week? The COW?" He looked at my friend from residency knowingly. "No, more like Case of the Month. Or maybe the year." I sat down at the scope, briefly encumbered by the stage clips, and apologized as I pushed back his training wheels. A lot of the best pathologists I know use the stage clips religiously, but it's too cumbersome for me - I'd rather fly by my fingers. Mechanical stage lovers argue that we miss stuff in our haste. It's an internal one-upmanship. As I threw the slide on the stage, I balked. It was the heart. I never look at the heart. But the heart isn't really tough to look at - usually you are just looking for the boxcar nuclei of hypertrophy in autopsy or rejection in surgical specimens. None of which would constitute the case of the year.

"I need a hint."

"Focus on the vessels."


I'm not sure what is really kosher to reveal, especially in an ongoing Forensics case, so I'll stop there - it's pretty obscure science nerd stuff anyway, but I enjoyed reading an accompanying article in the Journal of Forensic Pathology that illuminated the rare disorder that caused this man's demise - something that I had never heard of in all of my training. My friend, the younger pathologist, expressed his awe. "I'm not sure I would have caught that." It was an amazing find.

I left with hearty handshakes and they promised to think of me when they went to their next Forensics meeting - get me lots of free stuff to read. I can't wait to dip into my CME fund and order some new books. Maybe next time I visit I'll ask to join in on Monday Morning Rounds (they don't work over the weekend - so Monday mornings are pretty exciting). For old time's sake.

Monday, October 18, 2010

There's No Going Back

I guess this means that at 7, Sicily is officially over princesses. Wait, that happened at age 5.

While I wholeheartedly approve of her costume choice, I can't take any credit. I took her and Jack to the Halloween Express, and after a quick survey of the dizzying array of choices, I offered my guidance. Sicily looked up at me. "Mom, who are the workers? The ones in the orange shirts?"

"Yes, Sicily."

She cornered a perky college-aged orange shirt clad attendant, and proceeded to monopolize her time for thirty minutes while Jack and I looked over his choices. When she was done, I asked her if she wanted to try it on in the dressing room. "No, I'm sure I will look great."

And she does. I love the dainty foot sticking out at the bottom. She hated it - thought it ruined her image, and made me take another picture so it didn't show.

Jack and I had his costume narrowed down to a zombie and a pirate. Sicily said, "No, Jack, you want to be a ninja. See the cool weapons you can get? All the daggers and mom, what do you call those things?"

"Nunchucks, I think."

So Jack chose the ninja.

I have officially lost any semblance of control. It feels great.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day in the Life of a Single Mother Pathologist On Call

5:10 a.m. Alarm goes off. Hit snooze.

5:20 a.m. Alarm goes off again. Get up and run.

6:45 a.m. Dressed and ready to wake kids.

7:00 a.m. Prepare breakfast - eggs, cheese toast, waffles - while kids get dressed.

7:30 a.m. Drop kids off at school and head to main hospital.

8:00 a.m. Sip morning coffee and pay bills.

8:45 a.m. Triage first few cases. I should have known it was going to be a day in the trenches when my first three cases were "scrotal mass," "hemorrhoid donut," and "sacral and ischial pressure ulcer." Hemorrhoid donut? I've heard of colon donuts - they are the margins created by the auto anastamosis thingy during surgery - but hemorrhoid donut? Not something I really want to contemplate over my morning coffee.

9:15 a.m. Get text from histo tech at GI site - "I'll have slides ready at 10:00." All 90 blocks. Big day.

9:45 a.m. Head over to GI clinic to sign out cases. Frustratedly troubleshoot computer issues I've been having all week with our drop down diagnosis, web-based sign out which is normally a dream - saves having to dictate - but is causing problems currently. Try not to take out frustrations on the extremely nice and eager new histo tech that I already love. Resolve to surrender to computer and wait until my partner comes back on Monday to help me on the relatively few problem cases.

12:00 p.m. Hit a lull in cases and decide to run to Sears to tackle the tire pressure issue that elicited a warning light I had to look up in my car manual before I walked into work - it's been on all week and I had no idea what it meant.

12:20 p.m. Deliver divorce decree to financial adviser who is splitting my residency retirement $$.

12:45 p.m. Head back to GI clinic and wolf down frozen burger with corn nuts, Planter's chipotle cashews (Yum! Their skinless olive oil and sea salt almonds are also amazing!), and a Coke Zero.

1:00 p.m. Continue GI cases.

3:00 p.m. Run to Barnes & Noble to get a few books in a series Sicily has been begging for.

3:20 p.m. Head back to main hospital to tackle rest of cases there. Learn from partner that he successfully deflected a possible apheresis procedure. I joke with him later in the evening that he jinxed me.

5:00 p.m. Finish cases and start to leave hospital. As I am walking out the door, receive a phone call from a frantic oncologist who warns me of a critically ill transfer that will probably need apheresis. Call hematology and tell them to page me when they get blood work so I can review peripheral smear. Luckily there is a Quinton in place so I don't have to call radiology.

5:15 p.m. Run to house, get Jack's prescription bottle, and call in asthma meds. Rush to pharmacy to pick up asthma meds.

6:00 p.m. Empty dishwasher. Stuff down dinner - microwave nachos with beans and Rotel. Pager goes off halfway through eating.

6:15 p.m. Head back to hospital. Call mom to see if she can meet my kids when their dad drops them off at 7:30 and get them to bed.

6:45 p.m. Shake my head in disbelief as I look at smear. Definitely a procedure tonight. Go to ICU to meet with oncologist, see patient, then back to office to perform calculations necessary for plasma exchange. Call blood bank and dialysis nurse on call. Go back to ICU to complete consult in chart and write orders.

7:45 p.m. Lull. Waiting for blood bank to thaw necessary products for procedure. What to do? Catch up on journals? Nah. Read news. No. Head back to Barnes & Noble to buy mom gift for helping out tonight, knowing I won't be home until late. I really need to buy stock. It's my fourth trip to book stores this week - other two were Wordsworth.

8:30 p.m. Back in blood bank with techs watching dejectedly as some of the FFP busts after thaw (this is common). Jokingly blame tech I have known for many years. Go over to histology to chat with night crew. Call apheresis nurse to ensure that she has completed her dialysis procedure and is getting the apheresis machine ready. Take a picture of blood bank Halloween decorations.

9:30 p.m. Walk first bag of plasma over to the ICU so the procedure can start. She greets me with a wide grin. "Now that's what I call service!"

10:00 p.m. Head home to relieve mom. Check on kids, who are thankfully sleeping, and give kisses. Thank mom for going over spelling bee words with Sicily. Quickly memorize the four words out of dozens she fumbled so we can go over them on the way to school in the morning. "Stopped." "Barefoot." "Steep." "Without."

10:15 p.m. Troubleshoot start-up procedure problems with apheresis nurse.

10:45 p.m Check back in with apheresis nurse to make sure everything is going OK.

10:50 p.m. Settle in to blog/read and stay awake until procedure is over (in a couple of hours).

TGI almost F. Except it's a call weekend. Ugghh.

Yes, it's fun to complain. But I really love my job. Nights like this are pretty exciting, considering they don't happen all that often in the pathology world. We get emergency apheresis procedures maybe every other call. Once I was unlucky enough to have three in one week - but that was pretty strange. We pathologists like our predominantly solitary microscope lives, laced with rare moments of excitement.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Colorful Cupcakes

Check it out, if you want, over at MiM.

Friday, October 8, 2010


I've never been a big fan of Nine Inch Nails.

But my amazingly musical friend, the one who makes incredible mixes - Laurie, is.

So she peppers my mixes with their songs, most of which I skip.

She went to see them in Dallas a couple of years ago, and was delighted to see Trent Reznor in her hotel corridor. I'm not sure I would even recognize him, if I saw him.

A few months ago, I was listening to one of her mixes, and I happened across a song. I forgot to skip. I listened to the words, and found myself empathizing.

I've been playing it a lot lately - in my car on the way to Conway, and on the way to the main hospital after I drop my kids off. Because there is nothing like music that can drive a wedge into a feeling that you wonder if you ever really had in the first place. After a certain period of time, it starts working.

Then there's Fiona. Sweet, savvy, smart, and scathing. Her words place a sharp boundary between the past and the present.

Not many have said it better.

Now I find myself exactly where I should be, albeit somewhere I never would have dreamed. A single mother, primary custodian for two beautiful children. Slowly coming to realize that this place, although not easy, is the perfect place for me.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mommy Magic

I was settling Jack down for bedtime tonight, and he was distraught. Both kids got into my memorabilia boxes in the move. I gifted Sicily some old high school jewelry, and Jack got a bear claw ring that he has become attached to.

"I can't find the ring, mom. I had it last night, and I looked all over for it this morning, but it's lost."

He wandered over to his desk to sip on a glass of ice water, and I searched under the bed. Bingo. It was by the post.

"Come here, Jack. I have a surprise for you."


"Close your eyes and hold out your hand."

He obliged, and I slipped the turquoise bear claw ring on his finger.

When he opened his eyes, he smiled so wide I thought his face would crack wide open.

"How did you find it?"

"Mommy magic."

"Really, you are really magical?"

"Yes, Jack."

"Can you make me fly?"

I cringed internally. "Well, mommy magic only works once a day."

He looked at me seriously, his smile fading to curiosity.

"You have to charge it? Overnight?"

I couldn't help laughing. "Yes. Mommy magic needs to be charged. I'll try to make you fly tomorrow."

I hope I can find the right adaptor.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


We're bloggin' about blogging this week, over at MiM. I am learning people do it for all sorts of reasons, and am surprised how many doctor/mom's keep it anon from friends, family, and co-workers (some blog statements contributed to a job loss!). You can check out my post here, if you want.

I love that some of the mom's collected blogs and made a book out of them for their kids, to give to them later on. I would love to do that with stories about Jack and Sicily.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Fashion Show

A couple of weeks ago, my friend texted me. “Want to go to the Harvest fashion show with me?” Her babysitter was highlighting her designs at the fashion show and all of the models would be preparing at her house. Sounded like a blast. I texted yes.

So after my 3:30 massage on Saturday, I headed to her home. There were 12 girls getting make-up and hair done with music pumping in the background. Two of them were veteran models, one had booked covers, and the others were friends of the designer from church and college. They were all twenty-something – tall, slender, and beautiful. The clothes were hand-made vintage designs that took my breath away.

Most of the girls were students, and were enthralled by the house. “I work at I-hop.” “Really? I work at Friday’s.” Listening to them made me happy I was at least 17 years their senior and beyond working three jobs to supplement my lack of college income. In between gossiping and drinking a pale ale (they were drinking Franzia white zin – eww!) My friend and I took pictures and complimented them.

Make-up, pizza boxes, a fruit tray, and hair products littered the dining room table as the girls rotated from one station to another – make-up first, then hair, then to the makeshift dressing room in the sunroom. Each came out shining in outfits and ten-inch heels. I was impressed with their ability to walk steadily in them.

One girl, she had a blond pageboy and was impossibly thin, came out of the changing room with a white satin backless shirt laced with gold chains. “Can you see my pasties?”

In observation, one breast had one and the other did not. The pastie looked like a flower. It was kind of weird. Luckily, the other girls spoke up so I didn’t have to.

“It might be better if you didn’t wear them.”

“But it’s supposed to get cold tonight! I don’t want everyone to see my nipples.”

“Nipples are better than flower-shaped pasties.”

The hair stylist said, “I have some band-aids in my car. They are waterproof.”

Another model said, “I have some silicone pasties in my bag. They will look better. I’ll go get them.” They were by far the best choice for the intended concealment.

While the earlier rotators were waiting they practiced their poses they were asked to make behind the white entrance sheet draped before the runway entrance. My favorite was the Charlie’s Angel.

The twelve girls posed for our camera and we drove them down to the restaurant adjacent to the runway, buoying them with compliments as they piled out of the car. I told my friend I could seat four and was shocked when more piled into my car. I guess I had underestimated because they were unnaturally thin.

The show started 45 minutes late – plenty of time for us to wander down to the street to talk and socialize with friends we bumped into. The first strong autumn wind of the year arrived and we started shivering and used our sunglasses for eye protection from dirt and debris. All the girls looked amazing on the runway. The designer, obviously anxious during the preparation back at the house, looked calm and beautiful on the stage.

Later on my friend and I decided to skip the post-show take down at her house and headed to an Italian restaurant for wine and cannelloni. She ignored the phone calls with the area code from the college town most of the girls were residing in. “They can figure it out.” We talked about life and kids until almost midnight. I was grateful for the experience – it was unparalleled - if a little like observing aliens on a foreign planet.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Marital Bliss!

I know what you are thinking. I just got divorced last Tuesday after a 13 year marriage! What the hell am I doing? But I'm headed down the aisle again. The big day is Friday. I am so excited - I think I might change out of my scrubs and wear something nice. Maybe a skirt.

It's me and Dr. Woods - we've known each other since med school, been partners in crime for 13 years.

What? No! I am not marrying Dr. Woods. That is preposterous. He is happily married to a gorgeous girl, her dad's a mayor and she's a lawyer/SAHM of three beautiful kids. Mrs. Woods is tall and slender with large brown doe eyes and silky dark straight hair. Here is my favorite story about her, one that Dr. Woods told me in residency.

"One day Josie decided on a whim to go to one of those talent searches - what's the name of that modeling company? Ford?"

"Yeah, I think that's a pretty big one."

"Yes, well it was in one of those buildings downtown - it was a week long search and Josie kept making the cut. Finally when they got to the end, she was told she was the top finalist. She was real excited, until she found out what it meant."

"What did it mean?"

"They were going to fly her to Paris and start photo shoots. She said, 'Oh no! I can't go to Europe! I just got married and he's a doctor and I'm going to have babies and all - Paris might ruin all that. I didn't realize what all this meant. I just wanted to see how far I could get. Sorry to have wasted your time.'"

I laughed. I could just hear her sweet Southern drawl and see her turn around on an opportunity like that. I love Josie stories.

But Dr. Woods and I are getting married - to the group! I'm officially a partner (pod-nuh) this Friday. I'm planning to take mom and dad to a fancy dinner - maybe Ashley's - and cooking up a blow out with as many friends as I can muster afterwards.

Three more days! I finally get my carrot. We'll be marrying 11 people - people that we have gotten to know rather well over the last three years and three months, and I guess they kind of like us. It's never too late to become a polygamist - probably useful in business transactions.

Going to the chapel and I'm / Gonna get married . . .

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Running in the Attic

I’ve had some pretty big changes in the last week.

I’m divorced. Scandalous, I know. Something that has been in the works for ages finally materialized downtown in the courthouse on Tuesday morning. One minute I was answering inanely simple questions in front of a judge and the next I was waiting for my lawyer to file the paperwork as I was chatting with my friend/witness in front of a bust of Casimir Pulaski.

“Here you go. Here’s your copy. You are divorced.”

I went home to wait for the gas guy, the one who was supposed to come the night before between 8:00 and midnight. He never showed, but I got so worked up on the treadmill at 10:00 p.m. thinking about the prospect of a strange man coming to my house at night I had my mom and dad on stand by to come over after I received his 30 minute heads-up call. I never got it.

Yes, I was on the treadmill at 10:00 p.m. And again last night. I want to say this is healthy adapting, but I have in mind the story I know of a woman who ran on the treadmill in the attic after her husband and kids were in bed. She also jumped rope. She ended up in the hospital for severe anorexia.

Well, I am a far cry from severe anorexia. And my spot upstairs with a view of the trees is a much better than the former in a concrete basement with brick pillars and an empty wooden tool rack. Every time I looked at the tool rack, while I was running, there was a blurry spot. I imagined that it was an apparition, but it never progressed from the foot radius fuzz into something more spectacular. I wondered if I needed to have my eyes checked – it lasted for years. But there is no parallel experience here in my new place on the second floor, so I guess it will remain a mystery.

Experiencing a move and divorce, all in one week, was not planned. That’s a lot of stress. But the kids and I weathered last weekend well, even had fun despite the fact that the movers were around until almost midnight and the house was swarming with moths and mosquitoes. Both kids were up half the night itching, but it was worth it watching Jack dance around the moving truck and help carry stuff in. The movers were so kind – even let him help put his bunk beds together. I tipped them heavily.

It’s my first weekend in my new house alone. I had a fabulous dinner last night with my friend/hair stylist and her 10 year old son Felex. Gifted him a book I just finished – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Gave her some brain candy from a couple of weeks ago – the autobiography of Jenna Jameson - How to Make Love Like a Porn Star. I needed some brain candy (boy was it!) after Michael Chabon’s Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Klay and Marcel Theroux’s Far North. Both great reads.

In the divorce decree I decided to take my last name back. It’s a pretty unique and awkward one, one that I spent the first half of my life longing to get rid of, but it is strange how I feel drawn back to it desperately like an old familiar coat. I know it’s going to take months, even years maybe, to fully convert based on conversations with friends - and there are all these legal issues with cases - but I enjoyed trying it out on the dictation machine and love seeing it on the vacation and call schedule. I reveled in explaining the pronunciation to lab and office staff all week long. “On the last part – just remember I’m rude.” One of the transcriptionists laughed. “You aren’t rude. You cannot be rude.” I said, “Well, there’s always time to change, right?” She said, "I think I'll just call you Dr. Gizabeth."

New house, new name, new me. I think I need to spend the rest of the weekend alone washing my brain out and cutting off all my old associations and addictions. I need a nice strong disinfectant – preferably one with alcohol. Wine should do nicely. A cab would be perfect.

Breast conference at the University today. It was wonderful seeing old attendings and getting up to snuff on the latest developments in the breast. Papillary lesions. Columnar cell hyperplasia with atypia is now lumped in with flat epithelial atypia and columnar cell hyperplasia without atypia is no longer an entity. Things change so fast. I gained new insight into borderline cases. Nothing I had yesterday was borderline – it was all in-your-face cancer. Clear diagnosis makes a quick, easy day. I am grateful I don’t have to meet the patients.

I’m really excited about starting over. I have felt so much stronger since the separation in February, but I know I've still got a long way to go before I feel normal again. The kids and I are great, but busy. Yes, I’m still happy, Ramona!

Adios from the crazy divorced doctor mom running in the attic.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Happy Girl

I am a homeowner! I won oops own my very own winning home.

Last night I attended my groups yearly stockholder's meeting. I love the stockholder's meeting - we meet at a country club and have a wonderful (ownderful) meal. I had shrimp skewers with an amazing spicy as hell sauce and caramel bread pudding. And I got to taste my partner's paradise pie. We talk a little business, but the evening is liberally doused with fun.

The business manager usually fills the beginning of the notebook with cartoons. This year, there was an additional page with medical chart mishaps. Michelle and I laughed out loud at number three.

"Exam of the genitalia reveals that he is circus sized."

One of my other female partners pointed out that circus sized can span both ends of the extreme, small and large.

Here are some of the other entertaining ones:

"She stated that she had been constipated for most of her life until 1989 when she got a divorce."

"Rectal exam revealed a normal size thyroid."

"Both breasts are equal and reactive to light and accommodation."

"She can't get pregnant with her husband, so I will work her up."

"The patient has no past history of suicides."

"The patient refused an autopsy."

"Between you and me, we ought to be able to get this lady pregnant."

The above was listed under a page called Advanced Training for the Future Physician. I truly love my group. Darn it, I can't figure out why the entire cartoon doesn't show well in my post - it looks just fine in preview. You can google it if you want to see the rest - you really aren't missing too much.

Tonight after I closed on my house I went to my parents to pick up my kids. Sicily was swimming with my dad and Jack was playing my parent's now month-long obsession - some iphone zombie game - with my mom on the couch. After I cooked a grilled cheese, I drove home with the kids - sunroof down (although Jack was constantly cautioning us about witches and zombies). When we pulled into the garage, Sicily asked if we could just listen to music and sing for a while. So we did.

Last night in this house. Kids are so excited to spend the moving day with their summer babysitter Caitlin, and judging from the number of texts I received from Cait today - she is pumped as well. Jack and I lounged on Sicily's bed while she acted/read her latest chapter in her new book - she is on a writing obsession since she completed her twelve week reading goal in three weeks and can do whatever she wants during accelerated reading class (yes, I'm bragging about my daughter. She's pretty awesome).

I love her grasp of language. Chapter 2: New Edvenchures. Now that is exactly how that word should be spelled. Go C. "Lily and her unicorn met Princess Ariel, and she sent them on a quest. To find the lost crown. Ariel said that it was lost."

Sicily said after she read it, "Oops, that doesn't sound right. I repeated myself."

I cracked up. "No, I love it! Make it comedy. Go figure. The lost crown is lost. Who would have guessed that?"

So we did. Acted it out over and over in fits of giggles. Jack joined in, even though he didn't really get it.

Happy kids. Happy moving day. Happy me. Happy girl.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Internet Gods Have Spoken

They gave me wireless on my home laptop for a few months, inexplicably, after I bird dogged the problem for months to no avail. Monday night they decided that I have no business having a night time Internet social life because I need to be packing. Since I move in a week (yikes!) it makes no sense to try to troubleshoot again. I wasted enough time in the spring trying to control the uncontrollable.

The call gods, while not benevolent, weren't brutal either. I was bestowed: 4 bone marrows, 5 lymph nodes, 1 spleen, 1 apheresis, a smattering of assorted body fluids, and a peripheral blood smear. I'm about to get out of here for more fun packing. I'll need to come in tomorrow for another apheresis procedure and to look at some immunos, but it certainly won't be another 8 hour day.

Highlights of call Sat.:

I hadn't had a case of lymphogranuloma venereum in a while, so I google imaged it. I was looking for histology, not gross pics. Ewww.

Discussing with the L&D nurse whether or not we could get viable cytogenetics from a 2 week IUFD.

Showering the apheresis nurses with chocolate (my two faves who went to Afterthought with me in the spring were working today).

Getting this valuable piece of information on a bone marrow requisition form: Previous bone marrow biopsies. Note to clinician from small town where I have absolutely no access to previous path or clinic/hospital records - this is not very helpful. Especially when I see normal marrow elements. Are you looking for minimal residual lymphoma? A low grade MDS? These cells will be dead on Monday when I can call and get clinical - so I am forced to initiate flow and molecular work-up (that I can cancel or remove charges on if necessary) because I have no idea where to go. And if the patient has had previous bone marrow biopsies, that implies a history of an abnormal process in the marrow. You've got to give me a little more to go on. Even cryptic abbreviations would be preferable to previous bone marrow biopsies. Uh oh. I've been reading too much Dr. Grumpy.

On to the moving gods. Weather looks good for next Sat. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

We won't talk about the divorce gods. Ten more days, I guess. Strange to start negotiations two weeks out, when we started this whole process six months ago. Everyone tells me how fast mine is going. Goes to show you everything is relative.

Friday, September 3, 2010


More than a ripple. He made a big damn splash. Thinking of you, cousin Tommy. Can't wait to see you again someday, in the afterlife.

Irrational Fear and Blond Moments

This month is shaping up to send my global stress level through the roof. I'm packing to move in two weeks and my divorce trial is in 2.5 weeks. I've got a lot on my plate.

I have watched a couple of close friends go through divorce so I should have been more prepared for the irrational fear that develops soon after a split. One friend was terrified of the Avian Flu - remember the bird one that came before the Swine Flu? It wasn't even local, but she was voicing her fears constantly - stockpiling and planning for the apocalypse. When I brought it up to her soon after my split (she has been divorced a few years now), she was like, "Yeah, that was really weird, but I was going through a divorce. That really messes with your head." Another friend seemed overly clingy and depressed, but she has her head back on her shoulders in a new marriage in another state (not that a marriage will straighten you out from divorce - but she's a lot happier). Back then she was following my book advice like gospel, now I am depending on her e-mails and care packages for each new novel - she has fabulous taste.

Most of my irrational fear was poured, to some extent it still is - into my financial situation. After depending on my ex to collect and dole out our salaries for years, I realized that I had become - granted I was busy with residency, pregnancy, and nursing babies - completely ignorant of finances. It got to such a ridiculous point that I was infantilized (spell check says that's not a word, but I'm making it one), to a large degree. I look back at how little I knew back in March and how much I have learned - within a couple of short months I became the primary accountant in our split because I was better at it and more organized. I keep track of the bills and make sure that we are both contributing equally not only to this house, but to his new place and all of the accompanying utilities. Lately, with my offer on a new house, I have been depending on advice from my accountant, my realtor, my mortgage guy. I've been shopping for house and car insurance. I no longer check on an hourly basis, because I am gaining a good sense of income vs. expenditures. Last night, the mortgage guy and I were texting at 10:00 p.m. about a situation with the house. This morning, I was on the phone with my accountant for 30 minutes troubleshooting taxes, the IRS, and deductions (three separate issues). The other day, my lawyer proudly noted from my bank statements that the only large sums of money that were taken from my account since February when I opened it were my car payments. No trips to Vegas. I am being responsible. I have not built up any significant new credit, nor had to borrow from dad. Yeah, I know, I'm 37 years old. Most people get here a lot sooner. But I'm kind of proud of myself.

So I'm blond. And I have the capability to perform in a way that justifies all the jokes - always have - I guess it's part of my naive personality. I've got a great excuse with all the stress this month, but it has gotten a little ridiculous in the past couple of days. For instance - we had a little buyer appraisal square footage issue earlier this week - they were all in a tizzy and wanted to come over to measure while I was home yesterday packing. I noticed the yard developed some yellow patches over the last few days and decided it had some dreaded fungus that would cause the buyers to back out the door. I called the lawn care company and left a frantic message on their answering machine detailing my worries. On the way home from work Wednesday, I looked at all the other yards. They all have yellow spots. The season is changing.

Yesterday, I left my packing for an hour or so to pick up boxes at the liquor store, get gas, and run into work to finish up a cling on breast case. At the gas station, I noticed a sign that said if I enter my local grocery store ID I could get a discount. I tried to enter it four or five times and it didn't work. It was pouring rain and I finally got fed up and decided screw the discount I'm going to just put in my debit card so I can get out of here. Apparently my repeated insults to the digital display had rendered me an idiot incapable of any further transactions outside, so I had to go inside and get help from the clerk.

He was a thin, middle-aged man with a black shirt, single gold chain necklace, pockmarked skin (from acne or burn scars - anyone's guess), and a mask of indifference. He had a thick, Middle Eastern accent when he told me, "Just get the gas and come back in and pay."

About three hours later, when I was on my way to pick up my kids, I realized horrifically that I never went in to pay. I was mortified - I had never done anything like that before - except the time I was 10 and I broke a Cinderella in the Disney World gift shop and put it in my pocket because I was afraid I was going to get in trouble. Later I sobbed to my dad in the hotel room that I had stolen a Cinderella, and he took me downstairs to straighten it out with the nice, slightly amused gift shop worker to whom I confessed tearfully. But the gas wasn't even intentional - I just forgot.

I explained to the kids what happened and why we had to stop by the gas station before Jack's soccer practice. They worried about me getting in trouble with the police, and I too wondered if they had cameras and would I be getting a phone call that evening. Unfortunately, it was a different worker, but when I explained what I had done he found the charge in the computer after I gave him a time window. "Was it $46.90? At about 12:30 p.m.?" I said, a little breathlessly, "Yes, that sounds about right. I filled the tank. It was almost empty."

"It says here it was a cash charge. Do you have cash? You have to pay in cash."

I was a little stymied. "Are you sure you can't take my debit card? I don't carry cash."

"Sorry, you have to pay in cash."

"Well, I only have $20. And I have to take my kid to soccer practice. I can run through the money machine after I drop them off for school in the morning and give you the rest. $26.90."

He looked at me suspiciously. "Are you sure you will come back?"

I looked back without speaking. My eyes said, "I'm here, aren't I?"

He laughed. "You are a good girl. You will be back."

This morning after I dropped the kids off at school, I did just as I promised. The original guy was working, and looked surprised when I walked in. I marched to the counter, muttered apologies, and looked him in the eye.

"I believe I owe you $26.90."

His mask of indifference had strangely melted into incredulity and glee. "You know, when you drove off yesterday, I thought to myself, - I will never see her again. She probably thought she payed with the card."

"No, you made it clear that I needed to come back, and I just forgot. I feel really bad about it."

He smiled at me and said, "You know, this is the first time this has happened in, I don't know, 5 or 6 years. You are the first to come back."

Now it was my turn to be surprised. "Really? Well good for me, I guess!" I walked out feeling happy that he wasn't angry with me.

Man. It is only September 3rd. This is going to be one long month. But I've got another full day alone packing and then pool and lake plans with the kids Sunday and Monday. A nice three days to - not check (I can't promise this), not worry about work, and not stress about my next two weeks. Well, I can't promise that either. But I'm relaxing tonight after a great dinner at Acadia with my friend Laurie - cumin-encrusted tuna (rare of course) with rancho risotto, sauteed vegetables, and amazing red velvet bread pudding. It's finally deck weather, and the deck was full of people dining and enjoying a long-awaited fall. Now it's time to thaw the mouse and feed Spotty.