Friday, November 30, 2007

View from the Top

This view of ocean and rugged coast is taken from Colorado Point looking east. When I think of Aruba, this is an image etched into my soul. Years ago there was an old abandoned concrete structure on the east side of Colorado Point that was partially broken down such that the slab and the back wall were all that remained. Surrounded by cactus and "seven day itch" plants, hiking out to this point through the scrub, dodging inhospitable vegetation and negotiating the uneven terrain was a challenge. But my friend Roberta and I fearlessly made this journey many times, occasionally in flip flops (dumb). We would take drawing pads and a box of pastels, the goal being to capture this magnificent view on paper. I still have some of these attempts at "art". I remember being fascinated by the way the waves crashed against the rock ledge, lifting salt spray and foam high into the air, only to be sucked back into the ocean again and again. Although I could never successfully capture what I was seeing, the time spent was peaceful and absorbing as I created my visual interpretation of the energy and beauty of what we witnessed. Partially shaded by the upright portion of this mostly open air structure, we would sit for hours, chatting, listening to the lizards scurry through the underbrush, feeling the gusts of warm breeze, watching the waves pound the coastline, and sketching.

I remember feeling unencumbered and free. As a young teenager, I knew little else. Sitting with a friend on Colorado Point, at the top of my world; what else to feel but joy and ease? My world was right. Even then I appreciated the chance to sit in the midst of nature and to share with someone else the awe of just being "out there".

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Turning Resistance into Acceptance


There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado. Dam a
stream and it will create a new
channel. Resist, and the tide
will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry
you to higher ground. The only
safety lies in letting it all in –
the wild and the weak; fear,
fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of
the heart, or sadness veils your
vision with despair, practice
becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new eyes.

by Danna Faulds from collection of poetry

Poems from the Heart of Yoga

This poem speaks deeply to me. My recent state of mind is fraught with struggle against what simply is, striving to make what is into something that it can never be, and expending valuable energy fighting against the disconnect between what I want to be my reality and what is my reality. Asking that acceptance wash over me to melt away the pain that comes "when loss rips off the doors of the heart, or sadness veils your vision with despair", I strive for peace within my heart so that I may share with those dearest to me, the calm, patience, and love that is most needed in this moment. Now.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


When I look at these images, I see the same gorgeous branching from a common source; the angiogram of the kidney on the left and the barren tree on the right. It is another example of finding the art in the science. I still haven't queried my pathology colleagues about whether they feel the beauty in the microscopic images they see everyday (see post on The Art in the Science). I will also need to ask my radiology colleagues if they find the detailed vasculature of internal organs in the silhouetted ghost of trees in winter.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Spinning Lady

Are you right brain or left brain driven? Are you a combination? Who knows what all this means anyway. Whatever the debate may be, I do know that many of us were mesmerized this holiday weekend by the "spinning lady" image. Whether we saw her spin clockwise, counterclockwise or switching between the two, the concept had us in awe of the fact that what we see is our own perception and may or may not be what someone else experiences at the very same moment. I found the descriptions of right and left brained people interesting but most of us find we are some sort of blend; that we can see the image spin both ways although often one is predominant. Fun stuff.

And now, Thanksgiving holiday weekend is winding to a close. November is almost over. The days have been clear, crisp, and sunny although definitely short. Darkness descends by 4:30 PM give or take. Tonight both kids are out the door, work starts again tomorrow and I just zapped a plate of leftover turkey, sweet potato and squash in the microwave. Delicious. I plan to resist the next phase of holiday decorating for as long as possible. The tree, the lights, the Christmas nick-nacks; it will just have to wait. I really want to enjoy a bit more of autumn before plunging into the holiday looming ahead.

Getting back to the spinning lady again; I see her rotating clockwise 90% of the time and only every now and then do I find her dancing to the right. What do you all see?

Friday, November 23, 2007


If some of life's moments pass by me as ordinary, almost forgettable, others stand out, made special because of tradition or their own uniqueness. These moments are often infused with a healthy dose of bittersweet. The metaphor "bittersweet" speaks profoundly to me, especially on days when joy, magic, and connection attach tenaciously to an underbelly of loss, vulnerability, and sadness. This was Thanksgiving Day for me this year. From the post on the Wednesday before with its upbeat mood of anticipation comes the more tempered reality of my life. It's not that bittersweet is not good; it may be life's greatest gift to see the pain in the pleasure or better yet, the pleasure in the pain. It's a reality that is sometimes tough to walk because the balance between the bitter and the sweet is always one of perception and experienced uniquely.

Thanksgiving was warm and delicious. I was surrounded by people that I love and who love me back. Memories of past Thanksgivings brought laughs and a sense that as life marches on, this particular day stands out. Stringing all these (Thanksgiving) days together in my mind forms one long train of cars, exploding with abundance, connection, and gratitude.

Thanksgiving also stirs up memories and thoughts that whisper loudly to me that every breath changes us and moves us farther along into an unknown place, one that we never control. For someone resistant to most change, struggling to maintain and balance the present now for the long haul, I realize that this is not the nature of living. All this verbiage is my way of alluding to the specific pain in my heart, the bitter of the season: when we gather again for the next Thanksgiving who will I be and who will be with me? Said another way: what will be for those two loved ones who raised me and whose life this past 18 months has been fraught with great challenge and loss, whose connection to me is infinite yet finite, who I see slipping away from me, who are either on my heart or hands, and whose vulnerability and need for protection is sometimes all that is left? This is the bitter in my sweet.

** The botanical print is the bittersweet plant; at once lovely, utilitarian and poisonous (berries and leaves).

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


The Wednesday before Thanksgiving has always been my favorite day of the year. Anticipation of the next-day family gathering with the plates piled high with terrific food in the soft, fading light of a late fall day is an obvious reason. But there is more. If I'm at work on that day, the mood shifts to a more pleasant, upbeat level and there is unusual camaraderie and sharing of Thanksgiving traditions. Then there is the knowledge, if I am lucky enough to not be on call, that a 4 day holiday weekend is about to begin; blessed time to think about and do things out of the routine. Preparation of some of the much loved side dishes, like the squash and sweet potatoes and even the pies (when I was making them from scratch) is a much loved Wednesday before task. And the evening tradition of eating pizza with the kids and watching Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving video is magic.

Years ago, in high school and college, Thanksgiving was a time to travel to be with family or friends. Houston, Cincinnati, New York City, Watertown were some of my destinations since Aruba was too far for such a short trip. As a young adult in Houston, we usually gathered at MM's house and in later years since moving to Seattle, our meals have always been at our home. The cast and the location may change, but the feelings are much the same each year; grateful for all the blessings and the chance to pause and consider all the bounty that is. And, although in recent years there seems to be more media hype about Thanksgiving, in general the focus is ahead to Christmas, leaving Thanksgiving refreshingly free from the pressures of gift giving, greeting cards and decorations.

But the Wednesday before; ahhhhh, these moments contain the magic for me. Today is that day and as I write this post from my bed, the sky is turning bright. We will likely have some sun today in the midst of barren trees, fallen leaves, and chill. Laura is home. Chris will be coming home later in the day and we will be blessed with another chance to sit together, tease and laugh, eat, and experience the wonder of our opportunities. Thanksgiving to me is about pausing to honor blessings in our lives: family, friends, bounty, good food shared, reflection, connection and joy.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Art in the Science

The Glomerulus: Filter of Life

Thirty years ago, sitting in a lecture hall at UT Medical School at Houston (can it be that long ago?) I remember being mesmerized by histology slides projected up on the screen during basic science lectures. Histology is the study of tissues sectioned thinly; a glimpse at the micro-anatomy of our bodies. We laboriously worked our way through all the organ systems of the body in this way; first the normal histology and then the abnormal (histopathology). Although I never remember mentioning this to anyone else, I thought (and still do) that so many of these projections are gorgeous pieces of art. The various staining techniques that offset the microanatomy, the juxtaposition of different cell types, the uniqueness of each image; all strike me as the beauty within.

I remember thinking that if only I could get my hands on some of these slides, I'd have them blown up poster size, framed, and displayed in my home or office. But, in those days the slides were the property of the professor and I let the idea go concluding that I must be the only one seeing the art in the science. I never recall a professor mention (much less discuss) the beauty of the colors, the design, or the mystery. It was only the facts; the micro-anatomy, the pathology, and the practical relevance. So, as a young student, I kept my mouth shut, quietly enjoying the show while taking notes on the scientific significance of the images projected on the screen.

Nowadays, these histology "slides" are available all over the Internet. Not only can one enlarge images, frame, and enjoy them as pieces of art, they also insert easily into documents and morph into screensavers and wallpaper for the computer. Amazing.

I never tire of these images and not surprisingly, my true love is renal histology because it is closest to my heart. Here science blends with art most completely; the grand mystery of the glomerulus, the tubules, the interstitium. This enticing microanatomy has been the backbone of my professional life for several decades and offers up a wealth of imagery, forever inviting me back to a place where awe and wonder exist.

The Renal Tubules: Master Chemists

The Renal Interstitium: Mysterious Glue

Friday, November 16, 2007

Next Phase

I'm feeling a bit like a parent who just left my child with a babysitter; glad to be in a different world for awhile but also fighting back the little itch that wonders if everything is "ok" back at home. Resisting the temptation to call and check, trusting that no news is likely good news, I haven't done much with my free time. My energy is low and although I'd like (theoretically) to be out exercising, shopping, cleaning, raking leaves or doing something active with my time, I've contented myself with the newspaper, the store ads, a shower and this blog post. All I really want to do is sleep (but that won't happen for me in mid-day; I'm not a napper) and eat (definitely something I can accomplish).

Mom was discharged from the hospital back to Merrill Gardens yesterday, almost a month after her hip fracture. She was glad to come home but I can detect some tentativeness, anxiety about the next phase of her recovery, and a definite concern about falling again. She's been outfitted with a walker, wheelchair and other equipment to ease the transition. Home physical and occupational therapists and round the clock attendants have all been arranged. I know Mom isn't too excited about all this; she never likes strangers in her home and won't relax into her own routine, worrying about what caregivers are thinking, doing, eating, sitting on and a host of other issues. I have to let that go and hope for the best. After spending last night with Mom and assessing the level of hands-on care that will be required, I know that we will need all the help we can get over the next few weeks. She is still a heavy weight to support moving from seated to upright posture using the walker. I had to invent a way to stabilize the walker with my left foot while reaching under her left arm with my right arm to literally pull her upright from the chair. I'm sure that there is an easier way but it was the best I could do under the circumstances. Once she's up and moving, things are slow but at least headed forward. The reverse, going from standing to seated is just about as challenging although gravity is on our side. I may be a doctor but this has nothing to do with my specialty. If I ever learned how to safely maneuver a strength impaired adult with a recent hip fracture from a seated to upright posture, the information has long evaporated from my brain.

I'm tired. But, the sun is shining and I'm determined to energize myself with a walk into the village for an Americano. I have eaten far too many Hershey's miniatures, Trader Joe's snap-pea crisps, and frosted mini-wheats. We call this carbo loading on a cold and breezy fall day. Comfort food.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Even 6 months ago, if I could look ahead and see that I'd be keeping up regular blog posts my response would have been, "No way." I never thought blogging had a role in my life, never thought I could keep up the enthusiasm, and never thought anyone would care. What I've learned is that blogging has become something unexpected in my life, at once a type of therapy and a creative outlet; my form of art.

I've learned that the short, concise post is my forte.

I've learned that it's fun to find the daily topic in the mixed up soup of my brain.

I've learned that some posts flow out of me easily and some require several hours of editing and re-work.

I've learned that it's easier than I thought to write respectfully and (hopefully) avoid anyone getting annoyed, angered, or enraged over my words. The key for me is to write largely about my feelings and temper the depth and intensity where appropriate.

I've learned that getting the words on "cyber-paper" (I do print out all my posts and put them in a binder....not sure why, it's the old fashioned in me) is clarifying and cleansing for me. Basically, to organize jumbled thoughts into crisp language that conveys my feelings is therapy.

I've learned that I am an artist. I don't paint, draw, design, or create with my hands (typing excluded) but what I write and re-write for this blog is my creative expression. It comes as close to rendering me as the person I am as any other motif.

I've learned that I am OK showing the quirky, vulnerable, self-absorbed, and neurotic sides of who I am.

I've learned, not so curiously, that the reason Denny does not read my blog is that he knows all this stuff already. Although it strikes me as weird, I accept it.

MM and I have shared our thoughts about blogging, about who is reading our posts, and how some are put off by the format or seemingly disinterested in using the blog to keep up with what's going on in our lives. Blog reading is certainly not for everyone; I get that. For some the traditional letter, phone call, or in-person catch-up is preferred. I would respond by saying that these more conventional means of communication, although one-on-one and therefore potentially very personal, are but one dimension of who we are and what we have to give. This is especially true for me. I could never begin to share the depth or intensity of feeling to so many in a hurried telephone conversation or the all too inhibited social gathering. To those who can accomplish this in these venues, I applaud you. My social phobias run deep and I simply can't get there with the authenticity that I find in blogging.

I've had one friend say that in all the years of knowing each other, she learned more about me by reading my blog than she ever did "in person". And that, dear reader, is my point.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Checking In

It's mid-morning. I have been up since around 7:30, had 2 cups of coffee and half an Imitrex. And, I've "checked in" with my children and my parents; four phone calls as they are all in different places. This is on the early side for a full check-in but it started with Chris's call here at 7:45. He's not feeling too well; sore throat and the like. Then, I called Mom at the rehab unit to see how her night went; "terrible" apparently. Dreams as real as life, confusion and anxiety are ongoing. Then, in the middle of that conversation, my cell phone rings and it is Laura checking in on her way to "Econ class". She is well, the most stable and upbeat of the group at the moment. It's an easier week for her and she is looking forward to coming home for Thanksgiving. After I talked with Laura, I called Dad who must have been right by the phone because he picked up after two rings. He sounded good overall; had been down to breakfast with his buddies and had fielded a call from the company that will drop by a wheelchair, walker, and bedside commode today in anticipation of Mom's return tomorrow. Dad said there was "extra bacon" all around at breakfast today. I asked if he wanted to go visit Mom today and he paused, "Not if it's an extra trip for you." I told him it would be and he declined. I think he sees how tough it is on me to get him up to the hospital and if Mom is coming home tomorrow, well.....maybe there's no urgency. Clearly he is lonely but maybe he can hold out another day.

I feel restless. It's not that I don't want to "check in". It's that I feel a lump in my throat whenever the phone rings or whenever I find a "missed call" on my cell. I just never know what information is going to come at me and what I will need to do (aside from listen) with the information. Feelings that I should be eternally connected to that telephone just in case fuel the edginess and sense of never being free of the need to be in touch. It's my own internal wiring at work.

I'd go to yoga class today but this tendinitis in my knee is fierce. Where's the aspirin and the ace wrap?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Labyrinth

For at least the last five years I've had an interest in labyrinths. There was a time when one might say I had a mini obsession with the concept of the labyrinth; reading books, researching this ancient archetype, walking the labyrinth at SFB Church on a frequent basis, drawing miniature labyrinths on paper, and even exploring what it might take to build one in my back yard. The passion gradually fizzled out but the general interest never faded away. I keep my eyes and ears open for outdoor labyrinths which are my favorites. I stumbled upon a new labyrinth over the weekend; it's been in existence for several years but was new to me.
Located at St. Paul's Episcopal Church on lower Queen Anne, this outdoor labyrinth is part of their Centennial Garden. I walked the labyrinth in the chill fall air accompanied by crimson and sunset colored leaves swirling at my feet. I plan to return. After all it is literally steps away from the 24 hour Bartell Drugs and Metropolitan Market which I frequent several times a week.

Every time I walk a labyrinth the experience is different. Sometimes it just feels like walking, turning corners, and making a loop to the center and back out again. Other times the journey is more mindful and I have thoughts that are meaningful or insightful. Whatever the experience, the labyrinth is a powerful symbol for me, a vehicle for turning my gaze inward if only for a brief time.

The beauty of the labyrinth is what it is not. It is not a maze or a puzzle. Instead, there is a single path to the center and then the steps are re-traced. There are no dead ends. It is said that the path can be perceived as a mirror for where we are in our lives. We are asked to walk it with an open heart and mind. According to the labyrinth lore, there are three stages of the walk:

Releasing: shedding distractions and quieting the mind, the path to the center
Receiving: illumination, meditation and prayer at the center
Returning: joining with healing powers, empowering the soul, and reentry into the world

One of my favorite labyrinths is on Whidbey Island; a lavender labyrinth complete with buzzing bees in summertime. The view of Puget Sound, the aroma of lavender everywhere, and the soft grass beneath my feet offered a unique experience for the labyrinth lover in me.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Saturday and Sunday

Saturday and Sunday; a weekend off call where I'm trying to balance my own needs for quiet, connection with Denny, and my duties to parents. I've managed all three so far and we are only into early Sunday morning right now. What this day will bring isn't entirely clear; it is unstructured and ambiguous.

Saturday morning I couldn't sleep; wide awake at 6 AM, fueled by coffee and an energy that was mostly restless, I went to a yoga class. The instructor was new to me and he put our Level I/II class through some new moves. I'm sore today but glad to have participated; there is always something to be learned in yoga. Shoulders, "heart center", and upper arms are talking to me today, a reminder of all those stretches and extensions.

Then, I was off with Denny on a series of errands and outings that had me watching the clock, still restless and in dread of the afternoon's plans. I shouldn't have felt that way but I did. Dad had asked me to accompany him to the reception for his friends Nancy and Frank, a couple who met at Merrill Gardens, courted, fell in love, and were married several days ago. Both in their 80's they looked fabulous and the reception was impressive. Everyone, save me and two men sporting jeans, were dressed "to the nines". Dad had a glass of wine at the event and seemed to enjoy the fanfare. He particularly like the "Eat, Drink and Re-Marry" banner posted behind Barbara who was serving drinks. Dad's balance was quite unsteady after the wine and it was a challenge to get him safely into my car for our short ride up to the hospital to visit Mom. We didn't stay long but both were glad to see each other. MM is right; neither Mom nor Dad say much but it's touching to see them side by side; yesterday she was in bed and I pulled his wheelchair up close so they could hold hands. Dad was ready to get back home after 30 minutes, tuckered out by the reception and the outing to visit Mom. I left him resting in the recliner at Merrill Gardens with an Ensure chocolate shake, the TV remote and a reminder to tune into Lawrence Welk at 6PM on PBS. By the time I made it home, I too was ready for a glass (actually 2) of wine with Denny. With all good intentions to read afterwards, I zapped out around 8 PM dead to the world. I even missed out on Mom's phone call to me on my cell timing in at 9:30 PM even though the phone was by my bedside. The wine, perhaps?

And today as I write this, I am at the hospital visiting Mom. She is busy with physical therapy right now, walking the halls and bearing weight on the leg that exactly three weeks ago was fractured after a fall in her apartment. Even at age 90 progress can be made if there is attention to detail and perseverance (hers and theirs). The rehab unit is amazing. I learned today that the unit recently won an award for being in the top 5% of rehab units nationwide. "Only the very best" as we say. We are hoping Mom will return to Merrill Gardens later this week, with 24/7 care at least for awhile. She has a lot of work ahead but she's benefited from an excellent jump start.

And the rest of today? Still unstructured. I'm hoping to get back to that book of mine, Love in the Time of Cholera by Marquez. That and more thinking about how to structure my professional life in 2008.

Friday, November 9, 2007


Dreams are so weird. I know that we all dream all the time but it has been a long time since I've awoken to a dream in progress. Today I slept in and the buzz on my cell phone signaling an incoming text message yanked me from the dream into the real world. It was just after 9 AM (shocking). It wasn't until I was all the way downstairs, pouring milk into my morning coffee a few minutes later that I realized I had been dreaming when the real world intervened. Sorry that I couldn't go back to this illusive world just to see what would happen led me to (QUICK) get the computer on so I could write down what I remembered. The threads of dreams fade quickly as if they are wisps of chemicals in the brain that morning circulation quickly dissipates. I rarely remember details of dreams an hour later if I don't write them down.

Unlike Mom, my dreams are rarely scary but just very weird. I find myself in places I've never been and in settings that are new. Despite the tension, I want to be where I am because I usually have a goal and want to see how things play out. But, I never seem to get there; lots of build-up with convoluted twists and seemingly insensible turns as the story progresses but I'm always awakened before the dream is over. Perhaps those dreams that are over we don't remember and it is only those that are interrupted that we retain. (?)

This dream, without going into details, carries the common theme of wishing, wanting, and desiring coupled with tentativeness, awkwardness, and caution such that whatever the goal may be, I just never get there. That's why I always yearn to go back into the dream when I awaken just to see if perhaps, I'll get there.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Efferdent, Wedding Cards, and Beer

Last night at Covenant Group meeting my cell phone, buried in the pocket of my jeans, buzzed. We keep our phones off or at least on silent during our gathering so as not to be distracted but when the caller ID indicated the apartment at Merrill Gardens, I felt compelled to answer. I got up, walked into Eileen's bathroom and found Dad at the other end of the line sounding quite upbeat, almost chipper. Earlier in the day I had written my cell phone number in large font on a piece of paper he keeps by the telephone.

"Hi there, Kitty Kat, it's your Dad here".

"Oh, Hi Dad, what's up? Are you OK?"

"Yep.......I need Efferdent. (pause). And, I talked to Mary Margaret today and I'd like to get a card for the wedding".

I knew what wedding he was talking about; a man and woman, both in their 80's and residents at Merill Gardens met there and fell in love. They're getting married soon and a reception is planned for this weekend. Dad is quite fond of them both and received an invitation to the reception to be held at Merrill Gardens. Dad was quite touched to be included. He eats breakfast with these two most mornings.

"Sure, Dad. I'll get you a card, and the Efferdent tomorrow. Do you need anything else?"

I always want to make my trips to the store as efficient as possible but that's a tall task these days. I live at Bartells and Albertsons.

"Yep......pick me up a six pack of beer, OK?"

"Absolutely. Talk to you later, Dad. Goodnight."

Dad's always a man of few words on the phone. Just the facts and essentials are good enough for him.

And then, I went back to my group.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Tonight is Covenant Group meeting at Eileen's apartment. Nine of us meet twice a month to discuss a topic of interest pre-selected by "covenant central". Our facilitator sends out an email ahead with the topic for the evening including some inspirational quotes and thought provoking questions to get the creative juices flowing. These covenant groups are part of Seattle's University Unitarian Church but interestingly, you don't have to be a member of the church to participate. I've been attending off and on for the past year with intermittent reluctance (see post from 10/17/07, ....One Wild and Precious Life), mostly because I'm always quieter than I'd like. I clam up in this group and can't yet enjoy a sense of ease. It's my inner shyness and social phobia at work but I'm trying. Old habits die hard and may never completely die in this case.

That's one reason why blogging has become such a release for me; I can get it all out there (or at least a substantial portion). Certainly a fair amount of respectful selection is part of blogging. But, playing with the words, editing and revising the posts, and journeying with my thoughts turns the posts into my own version of art. I kid you not; this is not overly dramatic. I really feel this to be my truth. But, I digress away from the topic of ANGER.

The opening words for tonight's topic read: "Anger is a signal, and one worth listening to. Our anger may be a message that we are being hurt, that our rights are being violated, that our needs and wants are not being adequately met, that we are not addressing an important issue in our lives. (from Harriet Lerner in The Dance of Anger). This is followed by questions for discussion such as (1) When is anger inappropriate?, (2) How has anger served or not served you?, and (3) How have you expressed anger in a skillful way?

I've experienced my share of anger lately. Yet it's an anger that boils up and then dissipates because it comes from a place of sadness, loss and the knowledge that these troubled days are self limited. Talking about it helps and I'm comforted by believing that it is not what we think to ourselves or how we complain to each other, it is what we say and do on the front line that counts.

However, sometimes we snap. It's mighty unusual for me to express anger directly and aggressively (especially to strangers) so when I do, it may be worthy of note (a post, a confessional, whatever.....). Saturday as I drove home from work on my way to Arapahoe for a family lunch prepared by MM I slowed slightly because a vehicle parked at the curb 50 yards ahead was full of people exiting their car, doors open. But even though I slowed, the man standing at the front of his vehicle mouthed the words "SLOW DOWN" and sported a face of disgust. Before I knew what was happening, my response flew out of me, unedited, raw, and nasty. I flipped him the bird and drove on by. I would say the intensity of this "bird flip" would have to be at least an 8 out of 10; very aggressive and very angry.

I don't feel good about this but I know from where it comes. I wonder if I can possibly share this as we discuss the subject of anger at tonight's meeting. We shall see.

Monday, November 5, 2007


Mom has been plagued by what she calls "wild dreams" all of her life. When she's under stress they get worse. These last two weeks in the hospital have been rough on her; strenuous days of physical therapy followed by restless nights with interrupted sleep and disturbing dreams. Yesterday when Dad, MM and I visited with her she described nightmares so terrifyingly real that she was still shaken by the experience well into the daylight hours. When I suggested a dreamcatcher, she knew exactly what I was talking about because a very tiny dreamcatcher arrived in the mail at her apartment several months ago (some sort of small promotional gift with a request for a donation) We read about the powers of the dreamcatcher and I encouraged her to hang it above her bed. Interestingly, her sleep these last months has been better. Coincidence? Mom thought having a dreamcatcher above her hospital bed sounded like a good idea. "After all", she mused, "dreams are all in your head and if I just believe in the dreamcatcher, it will probably work for me here too". How true, I thought.

And so....late last night, near the end of my on call duties, I was summoned into the hospital to admit a patient from the Emergency Room. Before leaving home I found Chris's dreamcatcher, a larger and more colorful model than the one Mom received in the mail. This one with the blue feathers was purchased on our travels to Montana many years ago. Chris was intrigued by the Native American story of the dreamcatcher, a web like adornment with beads and feathers that allows only good dreams to pass through while catching the bad dreams in the web where they can do no harm to the ones who sleep underneath its gentle sway. I remember he begged us to buy him one and I'm glad that we did.

I kept the dreamcatcher in my coat pocket while in the Emergency Room examining, counseling, and writing orders on behalf of my patient who was being prepared for a complex surgical procedure. The blue feathers remained concealed as we talked about expectations for the hospital stay, outcomes and the tender balance between risks and benefits. The juxtaposition between mind:body medicine and conventional Western medicine felt a bit eerie.

And then, around midnight when I had finished my work in the Emergency Room, I walked upstairs to the rehab unit and into Mom's room. Both she and her roommate were fast asleep in their dark room. Working quietly and quickly, I secured the dreamcatcher to the metal bar above Mom's hospital bed with a piece of tape and fluffed the blue feathers lightly, hoping to activate the magic. If anyone saw me, my presence was never acknowledged.

This morning I asked Mom about her night. "Much better", she said. "I slept much better". Ahhhhhhhh. Sweet dreams.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Miracle of Imitrex

Migraine headaches have been a part of my life since I was a teenager. The only time I was free of the recurrent, pulsing pain was during pregnancy and then I was plagued by other woes. In midlife, my once or twice a month migraine headache escalated into a three times or more a week event. Aspirin, tylenol, ibuprofen, even stronger pain meds never touched the pain; caffeine would occasionally be the cure but basically it was "tough it out" for the requisite 10-12 hours and then as the pain dissipated naturally try to enjoy the natural high that comes when you quit banging your head against the wall.

Then came imitrex which is truly the bomb for migraine pain. It took a lot for me to try the medication; wary of side effects and concerned about "shorting out" my brain held me back but now, it is a staple in the drug armamentarium. Usually within an hour of taking imitrex the pain is gone and I still get that little high of being pain-free; must be those endorphins running around my brain.

Dark chocolate, alcohol, lack of sleep, too much or too little caffeine, stress and other thing bring on the migraines. There is only so much I can do about these triggers. I'm hoping that eventually my migraines will burn out; much like Mom's have over time. This strange internal wiring that increases proclivity to migraine is strongly genetic. There are so many in this family that suffer with them. I guess it could be worse. At least we have silver bullets to treat the pain.

Migraine begone! I just took my imitrex and am waiting patiently.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


I knew it would happen eventually; how could it not? With my parents in and out of the same hospital where I practice, there would come a day when one of them would share a semi-private room with one of my patients. Juxtaposition. How strange to have my parent in one bed and my patient in the other, the interactions so different; one personal, the other professional. And how odd for each of them to acknowledge the contrasting relationship they share with me, one as daughter, the other doctor.

Today, when Mom's roommate of the last three days was discharged, the vacated bed was quickly cleaned, made up with fresh sheets and wheeled down the hall to accept the next patient into the rehab unit. Lately I've had strange inklings, feelings that are more than just passing thoughts because many of them come to pass; it's like having a bit of a view into the future. To say that I "just knew" that the new roommate would be one of my patients is about the best way to describe the feeling. It wasn't long before she arrived in the room but not before I said my quick goodbyes to Mom and ducked out. So, as it stands, neither my patient nor Mom know of the shared connection with me and perhaps we can keep it that way for now.

A common theme in my life of late is the collision (perhaps too strong a word; perhaps juxtaposition is really better) between contrasting roles in my life. Mother/Daughter and Doctor/Daughter are two examples. All of us wear many hats; lately I am putting on two at once and not only does it look weird but it feels weird too.

Graveyard Mystery

Taken 10/30/07

When this blog first started, I knew that a post about the mystery of the Halloween graveyard was a given. I've wanted to write about this annual event for years but never had the forum (blogging is great for this kind of thing) and never had the photographs to prove my point, or to at least illustrate my fantasy.

We've lived seventeen Halloweens in Seattle (OMG) and experienced our little ones in costume, going door to door. We watched them grow into pre-teens in costume and then into big kids too old to be "trick or treating" but going out nonetheless. And now, they are both out of the house and Denny and I find ourselves leaving our stash of candy on our doorstep with a sign saying "Help Yourself" and heading out to take in the night that is Halloween, especially the graveyard several blocks from our house.

Every year the lovely expanse of lawn belonging to a corner house on a well traveled street in our neighborhood is transformed into a ghoulish graveyard by dusk on Halloween, just in time for large and small "trick-or-treaters" to enjoy. This house is very traditional, quite formal in its symmetry and grandness. There are always a few pumpkins on the front porch and in recent years, large pumpkin shaped lights adorn the two pillars near the sidewalk starting in mid October. This is nothing out of the ordinary for a town that goes all out for Halloween. But, until late afternoon on October 31st the well manicured lawn is clipped, free of fallen leaves, orderly and tame. Then something magical happens. Sometimes I witness the transformation, many times I pass by too late and simply find that the graveyard is "up". Gravestones and cobwebs, the occasional skeletal hand draped over the grave marker, piles of dead leaves, ghostly shapes and one year a convertible car driven up onto the lawn with skeletons sporting wigs seated inside. Surrounding the entire scene is a low metal fence, draped with webbing and signs warning "Keep out" or "Enter at your own Risk". Usually the visual scene is complimented by ominous organ music coming from inside the house. The neighborhood has come to expect this recurring scene once a year on Halloween. I don't recall a year that we haven't witnessed this event.

The fascination I have with all of this is that it is over so quickly; the scene appears and then it is gone. I pass this house on my way to work and every November 1st the lawn is back as it was, peaceful and orderly as if nothing ever happened. The mystery and magic won't reoccur for another year. It is over. And, in my mind, I have to ask: did it ever really happen or was it all imagined? One has to wonder because this brief sliver of time, the fleeting moments, and the eeriness of the scene forces us to live now, see now, hear now, and be now because tomorrow it is gone.

Happy November 1st.
Even the pumpkins are gone today. We will need to wait another year for the show.