Saturday, May 31, 2014


I'm taking a little break to play and play with family.

I'm also going to read and listen to lots of new music.

I've teamed up with some stellar music producers right here in Arkansas who are discovering talent that is reaching national recognition. They have agreed to let me review some of their latest greatest finds. I'm planning one a month this summer.

More of that and new spins on all you've seen and more stuff hatching by the second.

Stay tuned.

Friday, May 30, 2014

How to Piss Off a Pathologist

My phone rings.

"Dr. Clingy is on line 2." Ugh. Sigh.

"Yes? How can I help you?"

"I'm going out of town tomorrow for the week and have scheduled a patient at one, even though she just had her biopsy today. Her history is (wrong history)."

I jot down notes and a name.

"Could you please call me with the results?"

1:20 p.m. the next day: "Dr. Clingy is on line 2." Ugh. Sigh.

"Do have the results? The patient is in my office."

"I've run across no one today that fits that history."

"I'll tell her I'll call her with the results later this afternoon. Call me when you get them."

I frantically search through stacks and trays and piles of cases triaged and yet to be evaluated. I find the name. I looked at it first thing this morning, and ordered a battery of stains. Ugh. Sigh. I call a transcriptionist.

"Can you get Dr. Clingy on the phone for me?"

"Dr. Clingy is on line 2."

"I found your patient, but I didn't recognize her because it was a different history. It's malignant. The stains will be out later."

"Oh thank you no worries it was a miscommunication. That's enough for now. I'll tell her and we can get things started."

"I'll just release the report when I'm done with it. If you have any questions you can call me."

Double Trouble

I've got two going out today!

Check this out on MiM:

Safety Goggles

And this one on Fizzy's Blog Cartoon Guide to Becoming a Doctor:

Miss Perky Butt

I feel like a virus, ha ha.

Happy Friday.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ten Minute Lunch Break

It was really five counting the interruptions from secretaries, radiology to do needles, and clinicians calling for results.

I had a record number of cases today. Over 70. I was home before seven, but it took heroic effort to get there.

I also had a record number of clinicians calling about one of my cases.

Pulmonologist at 8 a.m. yesterday: "The mass looked unbelievable. Fish-flesh color. Crawling around in branches of the bronchial tree like I've never seen before. Can you call me as soon as you get the results?"

Oncologist at 10 a.m. yesterday: "I need to start treatment right away. Can you call me as soon as you get the results?"

Me to Pulmonologist: "I'm just out of a board meeting. It's almost six and the stains aren't out yet. Sometimes that happens when there is a heavy caseload - the machines get overloaded. I've got to go get my kids. I'll call you first thing in the morning. Please tell oncologist."

Me to Pulmonologist at 7:30 a.m. after I screened on a different scope cause my microscope crapped out on me. Took two hours to problem solve and fix.: "I've got stain results I think it's neuroendocrine. I've got it out for consult to a partner it's a tough case. Hopefully that's enough for you to treat."

Oncologist to me at 8:30: "When will you have a definite answer?"

Me to consult partner at 8:35: "He needs a definite answer to treat. No pressure, but pressure."

Partner at 10:00 a.m.: "I agree with you on the diagnosis."

Me to oncologist at 10:05: "Here's your answer. I'll have the report out by noon if you need it for insurance purposes for ordering treatment. There are variables. Secretaries are short staffed. It takes a bit to transcribe. I've got to check the billing to make sure it is kosher. I'll release it ASAP."

Me at 1:20 p.m.: Release case to the ether. Bump into pulmonologist in Dr. lounge as I'm getting afternoon tea. See that she is struggling with EMR, call to her three times before she hears me. She smiles in recognition and listens to my resolution.

Pulmonologist: "I'll call oncologist so you don't have to."

Me: "Don't worry I've already talked to him. Have a great day."

One of 70 cases. They aren't all that tough, but still.

Here's what I watched at lunch:  Hippopodius hippopus. What a fantastic name for a magical sea creature.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Attic Junk

The Haunted Doll's House

This is my favorite Laurie Lipton. In her book she says, "If a drawing is a short story, then this is my novel. Forgive me if I don't take you into each image and every room and tell you the 'meaning.' This is an attempt to explore deep undercurrents by using metaphor and simile, a technique used by writers. Images can uncover hidden depths and reveal multi-dimensional levels of interpretation. By sticking explanations on to this piece, I feel as if I'd be confining and diminishing it. There is plenty of 'meaning' in The Haunted Doll's House, but it is seeped into the floorboards and hiding behind the curtains. It is for the viewer to ferret it out." Thanks, Laurie. It was this wall -sized piece that drew me in and got me lost and prompted me to buy her book in the 21c gift shop. I am still discovering hidden metaphors in each room. I get to make it my novel - a gift from her.

I've listened to this song ten times tonight. At least. I love hearing a new (to me) song and learning the words.

Jack accidentally texted a reverse smiley face this week(: Genius, right? I think I'll adopt it and call it the retro mirror smile emoticon.

You know what's so cool about Chicago now compared to four years ago? Hardly any cigarette smoke. In the heart of downtown. Day and night. Say what you want about the e-cig, but all the cool people are smoking them up there and the city is much improved because of it. It's got my vote.

Work has been brutal but good this week. I'd kill for a slow day to catch up, but the caseload keeps me flying and the day goes by.

I owe an e-mail to a friend. Happy Wednesday.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Bow In Respect to a True Veteran

Mid-morning I received a call from my transcriptionist.

"A nurse on 4B has a question about spinal fluid."

Fair enough, I'm covering cytology. I picked up the phone.

"Dr. Shyder."

"I was wondering if you have a Lithium Test for spinal fluid."

"I've honestly never heard of that."

"Oh, Ok." She hung up the phone.

I breathed deeply. This was unresolved. I called the operator to get the nurse.

"What exactly is a Lithium Test for spinal fluid? Are you trying to assess for toxic levels of that drug?"

"No, I'm looking for the pH."

"Oh, you mean a Litmus test? Is there a doctor asking for that? Have them call me and I'll chat with them about it."

"No, this is Nurse's Judgment. I've been working here over 40 years. My patient just had surgery on her head and she is leaking fluid from her neck. I am worried it might be spinal fluid."

"Well, we have a chemistry test for spinal fluid, but I don't think we have a Litmus test. I've never heard of that being done. But I'm only 40. I've been working here for seven years. I do know that sometimes we use that chemistry test in patients with unexplained constant clear liquid rhinorrhea. It helps to determine if it is spinal fluid or not."

"I remember them doing something like that Litmus test back in the 70's. I was just trying to help the patient. Tell you what, I'll call the doctor and tell him what I think the patient needs, he can order the test."

"That sounds like a good plan. Just because I haven't heard of that doesn't mean it wasn't done. Thank you so much for thinking outside of the box for the patient. We will do whatever we can to help."

Monday, May 26, 2014

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)

Caption: Two Sisters

I went to The Art Institute of Chicago this weekend. It's fun going to an art museum with someone who knows a lot about art and can weed out the stuff you already saw too much of at Crystal Bridges last year. Someone who can point you in the right direction. We didn't have time to see all that we wanted too, but we saw a lot in the four hours we were there, including meeting an old path friend from residency and her boyfriend for lunch.

There is nothing like seeing art in person, no matter how much of it you have read about and looked at in books and on the internet. When I was a junior in high school we had an assignment to do a report on an Impressionist painter. I was a little bummed that the tortured souls I wanted to research and write about, Van Gogh and Munch, were already taken. I chose Renoir.

"His name is Pierre-Auguste and I was born in the month of August, so at least we have that in common," I remember thinking. So I delved in. But nothing could have prepared me for the chills I got, the tears that welled up, the flooding of high school memories that came to me when I saw this, one of my favorites, in person.

Renoir was a tortured soul too. He was crippled in life by chronic respiratory and subsequently autoimmune illness. I think back to the treatment back then, Climate, and wonder at how far we've come in providing these patients with a better lifestyle; means to live with happiness and longevity.

"Two Sisters" was one of my favorite paintings. When I showed it to my son tonight at pizza dinner, he said "That looks like you Mom. And that looks like you as a little girl." He was missing me for the last four days and leaning against me and telling me stories and seeing me everywhere, ha ha. When I see this painting I think of myself and my own sister. Sometimes I see her as the adult and me as the child. Sometimes it's vice versa. We've both needed each other throughout life and we try like hell, despite life's obstacles, to be there for each other. She's one in a million.

That's the eternal value of art, not that I need to beat a dead horse. We all see it from our own unique experience. That's what makes it live forever. 

Atherosclerosis with Gangrenous Necrosis

This is the typical sign out for a toe or leg that is removed. There are many different medical etiologies for BKA's (below the knee amputation) but the end stage is usually severe nerve or vascular damage that leads to ulceration, osteomyelitis, and eventual necessity for removal.

Doesn't that sign out roll off of your tongue in the coolest way? It's like a chant or song in your head.

Once I was looking at a BKA. Checking the surgical margins to make sure they were clear of inflammation. Looking at the vessels to assess for degree of atherosclerosis. Viewing the skin ulceration and the sea of pus - so much prettier under the scope than in real life. I bumped into a skin lesion and was confused. Read the gross description - the PA saw a brown lesion on the skin that was thick and warty and submitted it for analysis. The scope revealed that it was a common brown skin lesion that occurs in older adults.

So my sign out was: (Drum Roll)

Left leg, below the knee amputation: Atherosclerosis with Gangrenous Necrosis and Seborrheic Keratosis.


Sunday, May 25, 2014


Congratulations to my good friend on his union. His wife is stunning and intelligent and their baby is gorgeous. Party in chi town!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Blown Away

My daughter brings popular music to my attention. I kind of like this one. Oklahoma, Arkansas - we all have tornados.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


I was triaging cases the other day and I came across this:

"Hip mass with bony mets, lesion right femur seen on CT, abdominal/pelvic swelling mass/lump."

It was a hypocellular bone core - not much going on, but I went ahead and ordered some stains to rule out occult metastatic cancer and unusual bugs. The results were what I expected: Negative.

When a clinician is looking for something, expecting a positive result, and I don't see anything I usually bounce it off of one of my partners.

"Check out the history. Wouldn't that suck? Abdominal/pelvic swelling mass/lump? That's a bizarre trio of symptoms."

"Sounds like she swallowed a watermelon/cantaloupe/honeydew melon."

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Dumb Ways to Die

I cannot believe this has been out for a year and got 80 million views before I saw it. The kids and I are addicted this week - Jack cannot wait to show me the game he has been playing on his app. The YouTube version is way better than the Spotify version - you cannot understand the words there it must be a different singer. I've almost got the words down pat.

The song reminds me of my first autopsy. A young man (they are getting younger and younger now that I'm 40) was trying to pirate cable from the house next door. He was up on his roof and got an electrical jolt that traveled from his left hand through his heart, delivering a final blow. The hand wound was not that impressive - just looked like a bad blistered sunburn, but the blowout on the exit wound located on his inner thigh was epic. It looked like someone had placed a tiny subcutaneous bomb. Boom. Skin and fascia and muscle fragments flew. We charted the evidence before we took a peek inside.

I studied the tattoos on his skin. I basked in the attention from my first chairman - there was a transition in the middle of my residency - who could wax eloquent about everything from the Ming dynasty to chainsaws. He claimed he attended the first autopsies of all residents, but I felt unique in the moment.

That's all we really want isn't it? All of us. To feel unique. And to not die dumb.

Brain Candy Redux

I did it again. More Fizz, less Giz. She's pretty amazing!

Check it out on MiM.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

In Your Room

I don't know what everyone else was listening to in high school, but I was listening to this.

Chain Letters

Caption: My favorite bracelet right now. Wearing it like a talisman. In addition to the thick masculine silver ring stepmom Rachel got me for Mother's Day with my kid's names stamped in cool retro type.

My daughter group texts on her ipad with a small circle of friends in her class. After I unlinked it from my phone, I and she felt more privacy. Recently she accidentally sent me a chain letter. She was trying to send it to a friend from school and clicked on Mom instead.

I told my boyfriend, "Ugh. I guess I need to talk to her about chain letters. Can you believe they still exist?"

We had the chat and Cecelia was simultaneously illuminated and mortified that this happened to me by snail mail in junior high.

I was tickled pink to learn that she and one of her friends made up their own versions of chain letters - spinning the old boring dry letters in a new way.

Cecelia's version:

You're supposed to pass this on to 5 people who are smart, happy, beautiful girls (I am replacing the emojis I do not understand with commas) who's last name start with an S, a W, and a G. If you fail to complete this task in 30 minutes you will have bad luck on the next ten birthdays you have. You will also become a cat lady and never marry! If you break this chain you will face the shame.

Cecelia in collaboration with a close friend's (amazing, smart intelligent as hell girl whose Dad I see and visit with in the Dr. lounge daily. They are from another country and it makes me so happy that my daughter gets this at her predominantly "Southern sameness" private school.) version:

Hello you're a person wassup pass this on to 5 people who you admire. If you don't do this by tonight you will have bad breath for a whole year and constipation. If you send this to more than 5 people you will have the best year of your life and if you do this to more than TEN PEOPLE you will die alone. Good luck time starts now eat your pie or DIE.

Eleven year olds are the craziest funniest people on the planet.

*This was posted with my daughter's permission.

Monday, May 19, 2014

BC Powder

I was looking up history on a BAL (bronchoalveolar lavage).

36 y/o male S/P "accidental" inhalation of BC powder.

So they were looking for aspiration pneumonia. And maybe some other surprises. They pre-ordered a fungal stain.

The cytotech screened this case as negative for fungus. I agreed, but I saw something funny that almost looked like a hyphae. There were some markings suggestive of septa. I was in 90% agreement with the tech, but decided I'd better show my partner since I'd thought about it.

"So how do you 'accidentally' inhale BC powder? Did you run out of cocaine and think it might make a nice substitute? Were you taking meds for a hangover and confuse it with your cocaine? Have you ever heard of taking BC powder?"

"No Giz, that's weird. But I hear kids are doing crazy things with Benadryl these days. You never know."

"Really? Benadryl? I remember taking half of one during fellowship to knock myself out a time or two. And it stressed the hell out of me that I would be too snowed if one of the kids woke up in the middle of the night needing me. How the hell can you abuse Benadryl?"

He agreed with me negative on the fungus. "Did you polarize it?"

I was so focused on is this or is this not a possible septate hyphae on the GMS that I hadn't done that yet.

We polarize and analyze slides for foreign material. It's so pretty - looks like stars in the sky. Sure enough, this guy's BAL looked like a planetarium. When I was describing it to my boyfriend he commented, "Sounds like whatever he does on a regular basis was cut with broken glass." It could have been. The stars are not regular, they are heterogeneous. Like tiny bits of broken glass in your lungs. I think I might have a good angle to discourage drugs when my kids hit middle school.

Sunday, May 18, 2014


ARRGGHH. There are a few bad seeds like in all professions, but overall we doctors are a good lot.

Read this:  Great Article.

Friday, May 16, 2014


Ever since I got my hair done today (Thanks Deeds) I've been addicted to Nine Inch Nails Remixes (and Thanks again!). I love this song - the angry version has gotten me through some tough times. I didn't know there were so many other versions - Thrust, Arousal, Psycho. I think this Unrecalled version is my favorite.

Anger works for you when it is not so intense that it consumes you. Slow burn. Like a fantastic Salsa Verde - mixing the heat with the sweet (cucumbers, avocado) does wonders for the soul.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


I was off today, and it was blissful despite having to go into work for a bit after I dropped C off to school. I wandered around Hillcrest - my old stomping ground. It's been awhile. Spring was in bloom and the colors were striking. I bumped into some friends at Mylo Coffee (highly recommend! Fantastic Americano!).

I had lunch plans with an old friend and her 9 year old son - he was out of school for an ortho appointment. While my friend went to the bathroom we talked books.

"What are you reading right now?"

His face lit up. "It's a murder mystery. The main character just got locked away because he was crazy. He is in an insane asylum. All he can say is Purple Wave over and over."

Later in the lunch conversation after we talked work and school and miscellany the conversation came back around. I threw his words back in his face in a good way. "Purple Wave Purple Wave Purple Wave." He smiled and loved it.

I was planning yoga tonight but decided to meet my daughter for dinner instead with her stepmom, Aunt and Uncle, and baby sis. It is so blissful to hold a baby. She smelled so sweet. She played a grabbing game with some lip balm in my purse. Her curiosity fascinated me. She is my ex's kid, so I like to think she is my stepdaughter. I hope I can support her throughout life.

When I came home I was literally exhausted, having been up since 4 a.m. I lit a fire - it's middle of May and the weather should be stifling but it's chilly here. I hear it's snowing in Colorado. I hope it warms up when we go there for summer vacation in a couple of weeks.

After falling asleep by the fire, I woke up confused. C was checking in with me.

"Um, why is it still dark at 9:00?"

"Mom, what do you mean? You are scaring me."

"Isn't it time for school?" I was brewing coffee. "Why is is dark at 9:00 a.m.?" I was so rattled.

I rattled C. "Mom, I haven't been to bed yet. I was watching TV on my ipad. You fell asleep by the fire for an hour or so."

I had an epiphany. "Oh, that makes more sense! It's still today, not tomorrow. That's why it's dark. I'm so sorry I scared you."

We laughed about my confusion like banshees. We played music and danced. I settled her into bed - she has a sleepover tomorrow night that I am going to help with so she needs her rest. She fell asleep quickly.

There is a fine line between normalcy and insanity. I think kids get this better than adults.

Purple Wave. Purple Wave. Purple Wave.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Brain Candy

If you've been reading my blog for some time, you might remember when I posted one of Fizzy's first cartoons, on her blog The Cartoon Guide to Becoming a Doctor.

I was amazed by that cartoon. It spoke to me about my experience as a resident/mom in such a good way. She made light of the angst and agony that I had recently been through, and made me laugh about it. I was already hooked to her writing on MiM, but that cartoon drew me in as an avid follower to this day.

She's funny. She's droll. But most of all, she's unrelenting. I have periods in my blogging where I lag and shut down. She never stops. She's like the Energizer bunny of blogging, and her constant wit and presence amaze me. Not just me - she has built up an enormous following of readers that also recognize her talent. I like to secretly pat myself on the back that I was one of her first readers. It doesn't surprise me in the least that she has come this far.

I bought her first book - A Cartoon Guide to Becoming a Doctor. And I had the privilege to beta read her first novel - The Devil Wears Scrubs. Do you read brain candy? I do. I don't watch brain candy on TV, but I read it religiously during stressful times in my life. Chic lit. It takes the edge off my job and my stresses and my life. The Devil Wears Scrubs is the best kind of chic lit. It draws you back into that horribly abusive space in time of training when you have no control and you are at the mercy of warped personalities. It allows you as a reader, like the viewer of her cartoons, to make lemonade out of lemons. Her razor sharp wit and her sarcasm brings a new element to the genre. She's a pioneer.

I've been ramping up lately on the blogging. I've been e-mailing Fizzy for support and she offered to let me guest post on her blog. Check it out: Man vs. Cow.

I enjoyed trying to sum up an experience in a few (for me - I'm like a leaky faucet - no, a gushing fire hydrant) words. I think I might try more of it here. Stay tuned. While you're waiting, check out Fizzy. Back read. It's totally worth it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Monday, May 12, 2014

Smoke and Cloves

I got into bed sometime past midnight last night. I decided to let my new candle burn overnight - I have been doing that some in the last month because I enjoy the scent and oils enveloping my sleep. Candles are the perfect nightlight. I bought a candle at a bookstore in the Heights on Friday - it smells like cloves. I've never had a clove candle. It reminds me of my nights off at Camp Aldersgate when I volunteered there during the summer after my Senior year of high school when I was 16.

My friend Kallie and I would take off together and head up the road to Alley Oops. She knew the owner and he would let us in underage - somehow she always managed to slip me a beer or two. After she loosened up she would jump onstage with whatever performer was playing that night - Steve Christie and Tim Sullivan I remember were the most frequent at the time. Her voice was incredible coming out of her heart-shaped face framed with golden blond hair - I used to listen and wonder at how brave she was to get up there. They mostly sang covers - Van Morrison and old country ballads. Crowd pleasers like the Eagles. B.B. King. Eric Clapton. I enjoyed sitting in a back corner table by myself getting lost in the music and atmosphere. We would always end the night with a clove cigarette before we headed back to camp to crawl in bed for early morning wake up.

Cloves cigarettes are a mixture of tobacco and cloves. The cloves have a natural analgesic numbing effect that makes your lips and mouth tingle. The taste on your lips is sweet and spicy and intoxicating. One was just perfect - more than one would have been too much. Sometimes it was so much I couldn't finish it.

I was remembering those nights as I fell asleep last night. At 3 a.m. my body and mind were jarred from sleep by my smoke alarm. My smoke alarm has only gone off twice before in this house over the last three years - both while I was cooking bacon in the morning and forgot to turn the vent on. So waking up to one was a new experience. Jack ran into my room as I was looking around confused and yelled "Smoke! Fire! It's the candle Mom!" Thank goodness I had a navigator in the situation to locate the source quickly. I looked over at the candle - the flame was high I imagined due to an overly large needing to be trimmed wick from which smoke was pouring out. "You are right, Jack - thank you. Let's go find Cecelia."

She was wandering around the front room in a daze. I quickly told her, "We are safe. It's just the smoke from a candle in my bedroom. No danger. I'll stop this infernal noise (I was yelling at her over shrieks I decided must be waking the dead and summoning alien forms in other solar systems) but first I have to pee really bad. Y'all wait here together."

I grabbed a step stool from Jack's room, located the smoke alarm in my bedroom, and pushed a button. Sweet auditory relief. We all hugged and headed to bed. We were all dragging today. As Jack described the candle at dinner tonight I was laughing in my head. "The flames were shooting to the ceiling! The black smoke was snaking over to the alarm!" It wasn't that bad, but that was his reality. And I loved hearing his poetic description of our night time adventure.

I think I'm going to blow out the candle before I go to bed for a bit.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Half the Sky

This year, I've been reading a lot of nonfiction. My favorite was Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristoff and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn. I have been reading Kristoff in the NYTimes for years and enjoying his articles, so it was nice to see he and his wife turn a lifetime of experience and exposure about worldwide abuse into an ironically uplifting book despite the depressing topic. They follow individual stories of child prostitutes who are abducted and drugged and become addicted to being used and abused. Also women who are jailed for wanting an education or not wanting to follow the paths their parents try to lead them in life. I have read about women who are gang raped and set themselves on fire for absolution from their shame and misery.

I remember when I was working at an inpatient psychiatric unit before I went to medical school I met young girls - not much older than my daughter - who were pregnant and proud of it because it occurred during an initiation ritual into a gang (remember the HBO special Bangin' in Little Rock? That was during my time as a psychiatric counselor) where you were "Sexed In" - gang raped. If I remember correctly you had a choice between being "Sexed In" and "Beaten In" to a gang. If you became pregnant during the sex ritual you were elevated as a "Queen of the Gang." I guess that makes the child a Prince or Princess of the gang. My head spun at night from the insanity of it all. That's partly why I went into something besides psychiatry.

I've been following the story of the girls who were abducted from school by a militant group in Nigeria a few weeks ago. I'm glad Obama finally responded somewhat, and the lack of attention from the government is now on a national level, but how many more times is this happening every day, around the world, in so many different ways? Even once is too much. But I'm afraid the widespread abuse is so commonplace and ubiquitous that we don't even react to it. Or notice it. It makes me want to scream.

I can't fix it. But I can do one little thing on Mother's Day to help. So I just spent less than one minute donating money on to secure an education for one girl. It doesn't feel like nearly enough, but at least it's something. So while I was in my kitchen tonight, educated and happy with my kids decorating a cake for me, knowing that my ex and I are securing a wonderful education for my kids, I allowed myself to feel pride. And hunger for what more I need to do in this life.

Caption: Rainbow Butterfly on Strawberry Cake

Caption: Rushing River with Rainbow Foam and Rainbow Trout Leaping

The Last Day of Our Acquaintance

I was at a public lecture on Friday night with my friend Padma (that means Lotus, she told me) after a wonderful dinner. We met some of my most nurturing single mom friends. Padma is so good to my children - they love her and ask about her often when we don't get together on a regular basis. Padma is a histotech in the lab - one of the kindest hardest workers I know on the planet. I hope I pour as much of myself into my work as she does. She is a great example.

After the lecture I bumped into an ex-wife of one of my cousins' family members. I had to remind her of who I was - we hadn't seen each other in a couple of years. As her face dawned in recognition she opened up, and I decided I needed to tell her something.

"Remember a couple of years ago at the fourth of July dinner? I was going through my divorce and I was steeped in anger through experience of my life in colored vision. You told me how you and your ex (who was sitting next to her at the lecture) were friends and got along for the children and it was so good for them. I decided that no matter what was going on in my life right now that I wanted that. What you had. And I'm here now. My ex has an amazing wife and a wonderful new baby daughter who shocks me in her physical resemblance to my children. We are able to communicate for the kids and for our present without holding on to past experience. I listened to you back then and I decided to get what you had no matter how hard it seemed at the time. Thank you for your words. They were so powerful and when I see you they remind me of the seed that you planted and what you helped me to create."

She smiled radiantly. I introduced her to my friend Padma. We moved on to other people we knew in the room.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


Sugarcubes. Life's Too Good. This was one of my favorite albums in high school. Motorcrash. Deus. Birthday.

Whose birthday is it this month? Mellificent and Trishie. Happy Birthday Girlz.

Love, Lizzie

Thursday, May 8, 2014


This week I got covered to go to a parenting class at my kid's school. They started it a few months ago but I had only been to the first one; call and Conway hospital took me out of the game for the next few. It blew me away - this social worker trained in urban Atlanta and works with Centers for Youth and Families in Little Rock. Her words were so powerful they could be taken into many different contexts even though she was problem solving specifically with individual moms.

I got covered for radiology needles and raced to meet the 9:30 appointment in the school library. I noticed the crowd had pared down my more than half - but still only moms. I took a chair right next to the social worker - first removing my tea bag from the Earl Gray hot tea I had pre-prepared in the doctor's lounge to steep during my drive. My boyfriend taught me that steeping the tea too long makes it bitter. No wonder I was having trouble shifting from coffee to tea in late mornings and afternoons, even though I love the mellower buzz it brings to my caseload.

The group meeting - last of this school year - was as wonderful as I anticipated. I gained lots of pearls to bring into my own house. But I got confused during the middle - she was staring at parents and alluding to funerals and every other mom in the room seemed to know what was happening except for me. After the meeting was over, I turned to the mom sitting next to me and introduced myself.

"What was she talking about, funerals?"

Apparently there have been two suicides in the last month. One a teenager - another a college student. Neither currently attend my kid's school, but they are intimately associated in social circles. I listened with calm, but grew alarmed as the day wore on.

I picked up my kids after I finished a heavy caseload - around five thirty or so. Traffic was bad - I wondered if it had something to do with Obama touring the tornado site or it was just construction traffic. My kids were full of their day and spilling it out of their mouths and I was lapping it up despite the road frustrations. After we got to the house Jack retreated to his room to ipad games - he's addicted to Clash of the Clans (I probably got that wrong) - while I prepared dinner. Cecelia stayed with me - she was wanting to use my itunes password to buy an album and was buttering me up for it. I took the opportunity to probe.

"Have you heard about anything negative going on at your school?"

"No mom."

"Anything sad I mean, with kids?"

"Oh yeah, there were two suicides."

My heart dropped in my chest. I remember learning in college about a guy who attended our high school senior year that had killed himself with the carbon monoxide in the garage method. I've seen those bodies in the crime lab the skin is beautifully cherry red despite the devastating circumstances. I understand the chemistry behind it but the artistic effect is brutal. The bright color lies in stark contrast to the dire situation. Irony. I was devastated by the death - I didn't know him well but had hung out with him on occasion with my high school boyfriend and he was sweet and funny and easy to look at in an Owen Wilson way. He played mellow guitar. He told corny jokes. He was gone.

I asked Cecelia - "How did you know about it?"

One was her classmate's cousin and the other was an ex-boyfriend of one of her best friend's older sister. "They don't know why the cousin did it, but the college guy did it because he didn't get into a class."

Rescue time. Thank God I attended that parenting class and learned about this emotional firebomb in my child's world. We talked about triggers and how just like sometimes adults bring more sad and mad into a situation with kids that sometimes kids get overwhelmed with life and pressure and boyfriend/girlfriend situations and alcohol and drugs and they don't see a way out. And no matter what happens in your life, no matter how bad it seems, there are adults in your life that have seen it and been there and they can help you deal with it. Your family and community pick you up, during hard times.

"Remember how much you wanted to get into that community theater program at the Rep this year? And how great your audition went and you got wait listed? And you learned that the out of and in state girl competition is much heavier than the boys? And your teacher told you that the best actress at Episcopal right now never made it into that program? And how talking to your friends lifted you up? The adults in your life are always there to make things better."

She listened. She bought the album and retreated to her room. I cooked.

I called dad and stepmom last night to brief them - they've got a long weekend together at the lake and I want them to be ready if something comes up. Stepmom divulged that she told Cecelia something helpful that I didn't touch on when she didn't get into that summer program. "We learn much more from our failures in life than our successes."

I cannot believe at eleven my daughter is already grappling with concepts I wasn't introduced to until high school. But I'm glad to be connected enough - it's tough in my position but I try like hell to interject as best as I possibly can. Life sucks. Kids learn that pretty early. If they can't talk about it, we all lose out.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


As Mother's Day approaches, I think of my kids. On a Tuesday night when I usually do yoga - which I forgave for a molecular work dinner with breast surgeons and oncologists at Brave New (wonderful dinner), they are always on my mind.

Jack has been wanting to make Monkey Bread. So we did. According to the instructions we followed on a Paula Deen's kids cookbook he checked out from the school library. "Mom, it wasn't like I remembered. It was too sweet." "Jack, I didn't ever make Monkey bread. I made banana bread. Cecelia had a doll called Monkey baby. Maybe you are confusing the two." "Mom, let's make banana bread next time."

Cake truffles from "The Girl Who Ate Everything" blog. Jack and I are addicted. They are like crack. Cecelia is not as impressed. "Mom, let's just pop some popcorn and give me Twizzler's in my lunch tomorrow instead."

"I want my hair to curl just like Mrs. Rachel (stepmom) does it."

"I love how it turned out!  I can do it by myself!"

Fancy nail design.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Your House

I got chills today, when I heard this one. I forgot about the hidden song on the album. Needless to say, this album was my teenage anthem. On Spotify they bury this song behind some remix of You Oughta Know that I never really listen too - I was busy with kid school stories and errands and I heard a snippet in the background. Goose bumps.

I have some really exciting news! Kevin M.D. picked up one of my MiM blogs I wrote in the past month. He renamed it: here is the link - The Promise and Peril of OpenNotes. The content is identical. I just found out today it was picked up and replied to all the wonderfully controversial comments (I'm stirring the pot!) in a long comment that is awaiting moderation. I told a couple of partners about it. Rex asked if being picked up by Kevin M.D. is like winning a Grammy in the blog world, or an Oscar. "Do you have a Kevvy? Or a Kev-ar?" Ha ha. Not quite, but it is validating.

Winding down today and catching up from last weeks storm was so nice. I even spent 45 minutes out front on a park bench in the sun reading blogs. It's been awhile since I had time to do that.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Tornadoes and Toad Suck Daze

It is the one week anniversary of a large tornado that ravaged our state. Last week at this time my boyfriend and I were just turning the news off. Our family was safe, we were safe, but we knew that a section of the state was ravaged and that we would make the national news the next day.

3,000 homes in Mayflower and Vilonia were deemed uninhabitable by the middle of the week. I texted my partner who drives to Conway to work regularly at that hospital and he told me about the horrible traffic and texted me pictures of the flattened buildings in the business district of Mayflower that is visible from I-40 during the commute. Another partner who was flying in from Virginia got stuck overnight in Atlanta because of the weather and she shared a plane in on Monday with syndicated news reporters from all over the country. I called my financial advisor on Tuesday to discuss college savings plans and he could not meet because of a family emergency. 15 people died during the storm. Two of them were his wife's cousins' sons - a couple who lost their home and their boys in one instant.

At my urging, he sent me a link to a website where they were collecting donations. My inbox was flooded all week with requests for supplies for relief and I was guilty for being too busy with work and kids to make it to the store, so I poured my grief into a donation for that couple. I sent my financial advisor, also a friend, an e-mail. "I cannot imagine your family's devastation." I thought of losing my own children and had to block the thought to protect myself.

On Saturday my boyfriend and I took my kids and two of their friends to Toad Suck Daze - an annual event in Conway, my old Hendrix College town. It started as a small town square festival back in my day and has turned into a mini state fair with rides and food and booths and games. But it's better than the state fair - there are buildings and trees for shade from the sun. And despite the crowds, the small town makes it feel safer. From the web site you can learn the origin of the festival name. "Long ago, steamboats traveled the Arkansas River when the water was at the right depth. When it wasn't, the captains and their crew tied up to wait where the Toad Suck Lock and Dam now spans the river. While they waited, they refreshed themselves at the local tavern there, to the dismay of the folks living nearby, who said: 'They suck on the bottle 'til they swell up like toads.' Hence the name Toad Suck. The tavern is long gone, but the legend and fun live on at Toad Suck Daze."

There was still traffic - the drive should have taken 25 minutes but rubberneckers slowed it down to over an hour. As we reached the outskirts of Mayflower we started to see signs of the aftermath. Broken tree limbs. Scattered debris - building ducts. Clothes and other personal items hanging from tree limbs. Ravaged billboards. But nothing, no amount of pictures of overturned tractor trailers or flattened buildings could have prepared me for what we witnessed. Skeletons of buildings with twisted metal frames. They looked like they had exploded but there was no fire, no burning, no evidence of a bomb. It was just nature having it's way. Scattered clean up crews clustered like ants. I took as much as I could in visually in the five minutes we passed through the town, and then it was over. For me anyway.

Toad Suck Daze was a whirlwind and a blast. I pointed out old landmarks and we ate way too much sugar - Cotton Candy and Root Beer Floats and Sno Cones. Turkey Legs and Corn Dogs. We got air brush tattoos and bought bows with quivers and arrows. We've had fun today setting up stuffed animal targets in the house and practicing our aim with the safe foam tipped weapons.

I get daily e-mails about the progress of the fund raising effort for the family to whom I made my donation - I don't know their names but I can see the picture of the couple and their sons that they posted there. $27,000 by Tuesday. $55,000 by Thursday. Yesterday on the way back from Conway they reached their goal of $100,000 and closed the site. Time to rest, grieve, and rebuild. I hope they find a reason to hope again during their lifetime. I don't think I could.

In the midst of our desolation may we all find deliverance.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Death and the Maiden

I am soaking up Lipton this week, reading her book and interpreting her amazingly obsessive and expressive art into my own context. I do this when I discover something or someone I love. I get manic. It's in my genes and bones. I don't think I'm unique in this, but it's nice to recognize and have a bit of control.

I'm so happy it's Friday night. It's been one of those weeks where I can't even open NYtimes and there are 187 blogs backed up in my reader (I won't mark all as read, I will catch up this weekend - it's just what I do). Work has consumed me, but work is a comfort zone that takes me out of my head so that is a good thing. And my partners and co-workers are like a family - wholly supportive and nurturing. Entertaining and witty. 

The specialty of pathology attracts passive personalities - not the rule, but the norm. We tend to shy away from patient interaction. We enjoy visual patterns and hunts for solutions to dilemmas in the quiet of our offices - there are lab distractions and cases that need consultations but overall we get to indulge our natural proclivity for solitude. 

So I surprised myself this week - in the midst of work storm I really enjoyed reaching out to partners and techs for a break from the silence. We all do this, but I had a period of time last fall where I just shut down and did anything and everything I could to get through the day and get home to my kids. This week was different. Problem solving lab issues energized me. Being assertive in certain business situations changed courses and old habits for the better. Jumping into financial melee was empowering. As far as ups and downs go in life, I am definitely on an upswing.

I had an old friend over after dinner for milkshakes with kids. It had been a while. She is amazing and beautiful and a perfect example of turning life struggles into lessons. I loved catching up on the past with new tools to bring to the table. I loved drawing out her daughter into conversation and watching the kids play together. Children bring magic and honesty and innocence to life through ordinary interaction. That is one of my favorite things about being a mother - to watch and learn from them.

While in the darkest embrace of our worst fears, we all find resolution. I tip my hat to death, and embrace the maiden.