Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Instead of Ranting and Raving.....

I suppose this is progress.

Instead of getting really, really mad, I chose to educate rather than denigrate with my commentary.

"To wit"...... (as my mentor always said)

1. I explained to her that when making guacamole, any leftovers are bound to be eaten up by the dreaded creeping brown-ness making for an unappetizing mess unless the pit of the avocado is left in the midst of the prepared dip. Doing so, for whatever reason, extends the half life of this dip considerably. She didn't know that and was impressed and interested.

The dip in question was made last night and was in no shape to be enjoyed today. The brown mess went down the disposal but the lesson about the avocado pit was well received.

2. I also explained that bathing suits thrown down the laundry chute (4 to be exact) when they are wet spread their wetness to all the dry-er items in the chute and after several days make for a smelly mess. Plus, bathing suits (especially teeny tiny bikinis) are tender beings and need to be rinsed out under cool water, gently squeezed as dry as possible and left to drip in the shower until completely dry and ready for another round. They don't do well in the washing machine.

Both lessons were shared in the spirit of imparting knowledge instead of judgment, the latter of which I am eternally accused.

I'm trying very, very hard to do better. This morning I found two examples of success.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Of my Mentor and MJ

Sunday morning and I'm feeling alive with a jolt from 2 cups of coffee (and no headache!), wondering how to pull this blog post together. How do I write about my love for the man, my mentor, who passed away unexpectedly in April 2009 and whose grand slam blow-out celebrate-the-man party was held last night in Little Rock and acknowledge the recent death of Michael Jackson in a single post? I've thought a lot about these two men in the last 24 hours; TEA (my mentor) and MJ because the two collided in my life at the same time, the early 1980's, although obviously in very different ways.

The man, my mentor shaped my young professional life, stood as a role model, taught me how to approach tough medical problems, kicked butt, and demanded the best from everyone. Often eccentric and overbearing at times, he could see to the core of an issue with brilliant precision, cull out the distractions, and focus on the important facts, all without forgetting that the patient was at the heart of the matter. From him I learned how to teach others what I knew, skills still part of who I am into the present day. In medicine, we teach. We teach patients and we teach our collegues. We also teach "the young", the newly graduated interns and residents who have more to learn by living medicine than they ever did in the lecture hall. There are amazing teachers and not-so-amazing teachers in our field; I know that I am one of the amazing (self congratulatory, yes) because of TEA, my mentor who by his unique style and personality, taught me how to teach. As I often say, "There are very few things of which I am certain in life but...." (and then I will add of what it is I am certain), of my first class ability to teach, I am certain. Thank you TEA.

And MJ? He was the man that rocked my free time, my down time from the insane hours, the demanding schedule of being a young trainee in Medicine. In 1982 when Thriller was released I was in the midst of my "Chief Residency", an optional but revered fourth year in Internal Medicine working alongside three other very fine colleagues chosen by TEA to help run the training program, teach and supervise "the younger" generation of interns, residents and medical students. A chief residency position was considered a great honor, a chance to work 1:1 with the Chairman of Internal Medicine (TEA), and to learn, learn, learn. I often think about my three co-chiefs, three guys (I think I was the first woman chief resident but certainly not the last) selected by TEA to serve in this position. Those three co-chiefs of mine are all amazing doctors, 2 in private practice and one in academic medicine at Penn State. I know that the four of us were influenced profoundly by our association with TEA.

Wow, here I am starting out the paragraph above with MJ and quickly digressing into talk about my mentor again. That's because this was TEA's weekend to be remembered by all those students, interns, residents, chief residents, and Nephrology fellows as well as peers that he touched with his indelible, irrefutable influence. I wish I could have been there to celebrate but if not there in person, I was there in spirit with my thoughts.

As for MJ, his music was the backdrop to my life in those intense, ball busting, incredible days of the early 1980's and for that, I'm also very grateful. Those were days when I felt alive with the promise of life, something I'm working very hard to find again. If I listen to MJ's music, the creative forces start to flow and I'm grateful for the jump start. Thank you MJ.

RIP to both.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Migraines and the Boogie

I am so weary of MIGRAINE HEADACHES!

This has got to stop or at least get better. Four or more a week is just "not fittin" for (wo)man, nor beast. I've learned to tolerate the pain because I know how to get rid of it within a few hours with the bomb called imitrex, but....there's got to be a point where trying to prevent them in the first place takes precedence over rooting them out when the exploding skull is upon me.

I hate this.

I'm constantly looking for patterns...what caused this one, why now, what was different about the last 8-12 hours that might have provoked it.

This one I can probably blame on the lovely mango mojito I enjoyed with my 21 year old daughter on our Friday evening outing downtown for dinner and a movie. Sigh.

But sometimes it has nothing to do with alcohol. These "head bangers" might be brought on by crying (yep), skipping meals, too much head-rush sugar (chocolate, cookies), not enough water, lack of sleep and on and on. I suppose I should really clean up my act for a period of time and just see if doing so reduces the frequency of these explosions in my brain. Old habits (mine are so ingrained, these bad ones) die hard. I think the only solution is a retreat where there is no opportunity to de-rail a plan for healthier living.

But, this morning, like many others, I down that first cup of coffee wondering if and hoping that IT might do the job. But then, when the explosion just keeps escalating, I know that the only antidote is to reach for the Imitrex. What must that potent cerebral vasoconstrictor be doing to all those tiny blood vessels in my brain?

Shorting it out, slowly....I muse. No wonder I can't remember phone numbers, names, and a re-set password on my computer 10 seconds after re-setting it. Blame it on the start of Alzheimer's Disease? Blame it on the Imitrex?

None of these......in my Michael J. reverie, I think I'll remember his words........

"Don't blame it on the sunshine, don't blame it on the moonlight, don't blame it on the good times, blame it on the Boogie."


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sad Day

The icon of Pop Music died today. His person, although steeped in controversy and physical and emotional turmoils, had amazing talent. He will never be forgotten. Much as I love Thriller, my post from last May about listening to Blame it on the Boogie while swimming at the pool gives me a bittersweet feeling as I watch the video all over again.

Rest in Peace Michael.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Permanence amidst Impermanence

This is "it". This is my most favorite place on the planet. This is where I want my ashes dispersed when I leave this earth.

This is a "natural bridge" on the ocean side of Colorado Point, Aruba. I grew up hiking Colorado Point, sitting on a lava boulder looking out to the sea and down at the crashing waves around this rock formation we called the Natural Bridge. I don't think the structure has changed much in the 54 years of my life; if so the changes are subtle as the pounding waves and salt spray slowly erode the landscape.

There are countless photographs of this scene in my collection, taken through the years; even some very old black and white photographs (which are gorgeous in another way). If I sit very still and look at this photograph I start to hear (and feel) the wind and then I hear the waves. I can see moving water which is turquoise, the blue of ocean infused with turbulent movement bringing foam in the form of waves, waves that never cease. Right now as I sit in my unmade bed in Seattle, half a world away, this is the scene right now, rocks standing proud, greeting each wave with quiet surrender.

Sometimes this feels like the only permanence in life, this image, this glorious image. And yet, it too is changing. My eyes just can't see the changes and that's all for the best right now.

***photograph taken by Steve Fremgen and emailed to me today. He, like me, grew up in Aruba and is currently visiting the island. He knows, as I do, that this sacred place is a heaven on earth.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Open Mouth, Insert Sock

"Keep your mouth shut....."; I remind myself over and over again. Unsolicited advice is just that, unsolicited. Put a sock in it, Kate.

Pity that when advice is requested it seems to be about trivial issues that matter not in the long run, silly stuff that shouldn't occupy the mind at all. The big stuff is less often, or virtually never, the topic open for advice or input.

How many times have I been reminded in the last few weeks that my advice was not requested and is not appreciated?


All you parents out there with young ones; it will happen to you too. Eventually.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Splash of Red

This tree and its two sisters fascinate me. I look at this group of three through winter, spring, summer and fall, mesmerized by the cycle of bare, new green, progressive shades of red, and bare over and over and over again. Today (yes today, June 16), there are a few red leaves amidst the sea of green. Always looking forward to autumn these trees, playing with the next phase, dabbling in the experience.

Monday, June 15, 2009

June Merriment

Life is sweet when it's about celebrating milestones with family and friends. This weekend was about all of those things; the graduation of our daughter-in-law to be from SPU and honoring Heather and Chris's engagement as the two families joined together to enjoy happy moments, friends, good food, drink, and glorious weather.

From the preparation of homemade banana pudding on Friday evening to the next day massive meat fest BBQ (thanks Denny) with family and friends, to the graduation at Safeco Field on Sunday and the wonderful dinner shared by eight at the Space Needle restaurant, the weekend was memorable. Treasured moments, these.

Getting the party started...

Texas smoked brisket

Chowing down

The 2009 SPU Grads at Safeco

The Marks Family
Congrats Heather!

Space Needle Dinner

Saturday, June 13, 2009

In Dreams....

My alarm was set for 6:00 AM. Grim. But, I had promised to give Laura a lift to her job this morning as opening barista at Tully's Coffee downtown.

My eye popped open one minute before the alarm was to go off; isn't it funny how an internal clock can be so precise? I was awake (briefly) at 4 AM and realized that twelve hours from that point I'd be in the midst of the gynormous (love that word) meat fest BBQ we are hosting today. That's a different story however; post and pictures to come.

Sometime between the 4 AM thought about the BBQ and the eye-popping-open moment a minute shy of 6 AM, I had a dream; a weird dream. Aren't they all? What are these dreams anyway; these shadowy journeys into the interstices of our consciousness? Although we are supposedly dreaming nightly, I personally recall dreams only rarely. They are almost always focused on bizarre meetings of random people in my life.

I dreamed of a house by the sea, apparently owned by the person who has been a thorn in my side and who I've written about in a tangential way on several blog posts over the last few months. She was a complex but emotionally neutral figure in the dream. She had lived in this house by the sea for decades and (somehow....isn't that always the word we use?) I found myself there with other people that I didn't know and for an unclear purpose. There were old photo albums, books and memorabilia of her days gone by on the shelves of a home library complete with comfortable overstuffed but weathered chairs, draped with crocheted wraps which were very inviting. I found an album, pulled it from the shelf and paged through the pictures only to spot a photograph of my sister, her then toddler daughter in tow, posing with this woman in that very house by the sea. My sister had been in the house by the sea for an event. How odd, I thought. How did my sister know this woman so long ago?

I learned, in the dream, that my sister was attending a reception in this house by the sea to raise awareness of the benefits of home birth (go figure). The event was attended by midwives and spokespersons for the cause. Everyone looked so happy in the photograph. I wondered how this woman could have been in my sister's life decades before she re-appeared in the lives of our collective family and how she could have become such a thorn in the present day. The festivity of the photograph and the serenity of my presence in the moment inside that house by the sea made no sense to me.

Ahhhhh, the nature of dreams. Wispy and wonderful, a chance to linger in the midst of the unknown, dreams are forgotten quickly if not spoken or written down. Already, an hour later, details are fading into the creases of my mind.

Perhaps in our dreams we try to heal wounds. Or perhaps in dreams we pull in people from our lives present and past and toss them into bizarre settings because whether we acknowledge so or not, we still have things to learn from them, work to be done on the deepest level. We're striving to make sense of the unexplained as we sleep.

These musings take me away on a morning when the house is quiet, before the meat fest whirlwind begins, as I sit with my coffee just thinking about things......

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Yesterday was a busy day at work; lots of people in clinic and all of them challenging in one way or another. As the day wound to a close, I found myself in the cafeteria getting a much needed cup of coffee and ran into a colleague, a cardiologist. We chatted briefly, catching up on work, just the everyday chit chat that goes on in a thirty second window of time on the run.

A man walked up to us carrying his tray with plates and utensils; obviously he'd finished his meal and was looking for a place to put the used items. People wearing white coats usually know where to go and we're all used to people asking us for directions.

"Excuse me, where do I put this tray?", he asked us.

"You're almost there.", I told him. "Right around the corner to your right".

And then, as he walked off in the direction of the cafeteria's moving conveyor belt, I remarked to my colleague, "That's the first question all day that I've had a decent answer for....." He laughed (knowingly) as we walked off in different directions, on our separate ways. He "got it".

Some days are like that; question after question after question and I feel like I'm making up the answers as I go along, trying to predict a future that's murky or to offer explanations for the unknown. I could just say, "I don't know" a million times over but that's a bit tiresome too.

Thankfully I answered one question with some accuracy yesterday. That will have to do. Let's hope today is better.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sentimental Dress

I'm cleaning out my closets, sorting and giving tons of clothing away to the "truck" that comes around our neighborhood every month or so to pick up donations. We almost always have at least one bag of items to give away. Recycling.

I come across this dress in my closet every time I make one of these "give away" sweeps. This one has been put in and taken out of the "to donate" bag dozens of times over the last 20 years. I can never bear to part with this dress even though it hasn't been worn once since we moved to Seattle in 1991! What's going on here?

For one thing, this is a red dress (a print but still, it's red).

More importantly, this is a dress I purchased back in 1985 when I was pregnant for Chris. I went all out on maternity clothes for some reason; spent way too much money and bought from higher end stores like "A Pea in the Pod". I had all sorts of classy looking maternity suits and dresses that I wore to work. I remember Denny remarking that I never bought such nice looking clothing as when I was pregnant. After Laura was born and we'd decided that two children would the family make, I donated all my maternity wear, except for this one dress.

The claim to fame of this frock is that it's "sneaky" maternity wear. Designed to be worn as a non-maternity dress with a cinch-in belt at the waist, it balloons into a roomy, comfortable dress sans the belt as the pregnancy progresses. I wore it many times in December 1985, 7 months pregnant with Chris, and felt festive and seasonal. I wore it again two years later when pregnant with Laura. Just to get my money's worth (this one was really pricey), I wore it several times (with the belt) over the next few years, always around the Christmas holidays.

I read once that if you can't bear to part with sentimental things, one way to ease the endless struggle is to take a picture of whatever it happens to be and keep the photograph as the visual reminder of the item in question. I'm going to give this a try because this dress has to go. Bye Bye.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Personal Thought for the Day # 21

"If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right. "

This statement was made by Henry Ford. I want to believe it is true. I wish it hadn't been spoken by Henry Ford however. I have great ambivalence about this man even though many of his one liner quotes are terrific.

Monday, June 8, 2009

"Don't Take Away Your Tomorrow"

Today began much like any other day when I visit my 92 year old parents. When I arrived it was 11:30 AM and Dad and Mom were sitting out in front of the house enjoying the beautiful weather. They were in a shady spot with a view of the street. Mom was watching crows swoop about and seemed to be enjoying being outside, as was Dad.

In the flap attached to Dad's walker was the Sunday NY Times.

He said, "Here's the Sunday paper I saved for you. But, let me see that one section (the Op/Ed). I want to read you something."

There was a short piece entitled "Intolerable Rise in Soldier Suicides" and Dad brought it to my attention, focusing on a quote made by a general at Fort Campbell, Kentucky as he addressed the military corps in residence, about the crisis of soldiers committing suicide. The general pleaded with his audience, "Don't take away your tomorrow."

This quote really caught Dad's attention, spoke to him in some way. He mentioned those five words again several minutes later. I wondered why he was so taken by this article as he rarely, these days, finds something in the newspaper worthy of mentioning to me or anyone else.

I wasn't there long; lunch was ready and I headed home. But, I was struck by how "on the ball" my Dad was today. Impressed. That's the word I'd use to describe how I felt about our conversation(s) today. Amidst the requests for more chocolate (Hershey's miniatures), our discussion of his shifting taste in beer (from Heineken to oh, something like Budweiser), and his comment about my white teeth (thanks Dad!), his interest in this Op/Ed piece and the quote in particular made my day.
"Don't take away your tomorrow". I'll remember that, Dad. Thank you.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Personal Thought for the Day #20

Waffles with maple syrup washed down with 2 cups of coffee at breakfast followed by a lunch consisting of steak fries, catsup and sugar free Sierra Mist soda is probably not the diet designed to encourage max "brain power" on the job today.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Instant Communication

Ten years ago I had an old fashioned cell phone; a "flip phone" that I kept in a leather case on OFF mode in my purse. I would turn it ON only if I had to make a phone call. No one ever called me on the phone because it was always OFF. I'd never heard of a text message and email was something you read once a day, if that.

We received our cell phone bill yesterday. One of us, who will remain nameless, logged in 2700 minutes of talk time (that's 40 hours!!!!) and 6500 text messages (of course in-coming texts count as text messages, you understand). How does anyone think when there are an average of 200+ messages sent/received every day of the month? If you're awake for say 18 hours, that's 10 an hour, an average of one every 6 minutes. And on it goes with the calculations that boggle my mind.

There's something not quite fittin' about this.

All Four Under One Roof

We're coming up on a week of living like the "old days", all 4 of us under one roof. Precious is the one word that comes to mind. I wouldn't trade this experience for anything.

I've learned that the "mother ear", that finely honed receiver that hears every sound in the house, remains intact. Either that or else I've grown more deaf in conjunction with my children becoming louder. Last night as I struggled to get to sleep, nursing a headache with a dose of imitrex, I heard the sweet sound of combined son/daughter laughter drifting from the basement all the way up two flights of stairs. What were they doing? Watching Conan O'Brien as the new host the Tonight Show. Obviously it was a good show. Then, at 12:30 (A.M.), still tossing about in bed, I heard Laura plead with Chris to remove some sort of six or eight legged creature from her room. He did and she thanked him.

When all was quiet, I finally drifted off only to be pulled from that sweet reverie at 6:30 A.M. by the sound of the front door slamming so loud it would wake the dead. Huh? It was Laura, after less than 6 hours of sleep, dragging her weary bones to the gym (God bless you, dear). I called it a night (my less than 6 hours too) at that point, got my coffee and retreated to bed to think; a default position early in the morning when I don't have to go to work. At 7:00 A.M. I heard my son bolt up the basement stairs, grab a quick cup of coffee and head out the front door with considerably more respect for the decibel level of said door, clicking rather than slamming shut. Heard nevertheless.

Want to know what else is intact after all these years? My husband's ability to sleep through all of this. Some things never change. Sigh.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Personal Thought for the Day # 19

It is gratifying to notice that the split second reaction of my brain to a totally unexpected, random face to face (boom!) encounter with someone who has been a huge thorn in my side and the focus of much angst over the last 6 months was pleasant and accepting. Nature or nurture or neither?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Full House

We're a "full house" now; all 4 of us in this family home of ours, at least for the next few months. Chris moved out of his rental this past weekend and Laura has been home for the past weeks after sojourns in Europe for eight months. We haven't been under the same roof together in about 18 months we figure; one or more of us (not D and me; we are the constants) has been elsewhere. So far so good.

Chris decided to "take over the basement"; it's a large space that includes a bedroom, bathroom and a living area, perfect for his television and high tech equipment of which I know little. His (former) bedroom will become our guestroom although right now there are bold statements of masculinity on all the walls and in the closets. We'll need to work on that. He's planning to live at home, save on rent money, and start looking for an apartment for he and Heather later this summer. He'll move out whenever the "the right" place appears and this will be home for them after they are married in November.

Laura has her old room back, bursting at the seams with clothing for all seasons, shoes, and other accessories. There is so much stuff that the hall closet is full of her coats and dresses in addition to the two closets in her room. The empty dresser in Chris's old room will likely be taken over next as there is no space for a single extra storage bin in her closets or under the bed, even though we boosted the bed up on 6 inch risers for that very purpose. Bless her heart, she has sorted through much of her stuff and the donation truck comes by to pick up all of the "give-aways" tomorrow. But, much stuff remains and between me and this blog, remains a force to be reckoned with.

It feels wonderful and at the same time a bit unsettling to have all of us together again. We know this is the last time the nuclear family will be under one roof. In a year Laura will be a college graduate and in five months, Chris and Heather will be married! Where did the time go? I could wax poetic about how those years passed by so quickly (but I won't). I'm just glad to know that we have this opportunity to enjoy meals, movies, talk, and the treasure of just being a room away for the next few months. Sweet indeed.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Your Children are not your children....

I love this poem about our children by Khalil Gibran (The Prophet, 1923). Every so often I pull it out and read it slowly, allowing the words to settle down between the cells of my consciousness. I learn more acceptance each time I breathe in the lines.

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, "Speak to us of Children."

And he said:

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;

For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.