Friday, June 24, 2016

Goals 2016: Education

Goals 2016: education photo PicTapGo-Image_zpsq1s6mygn.jpg

In tenth grade, a new girl showed up. Growing up in a smaller community, to see a new person either meant they had just moved to town or they were one of those people.

Turns out, she was one of them.

She’d spent the first 16 years of her life learning at home. Her skin glowed. She conversed easily. She was beautiful. And she was in AP Geometry & AP Biology & probably AP Teenagehood. She was homeschooled.

We only had one class together. And I’m sorry to admit that I didn’t get to know her. She was the first normal homeschooled peer that I’d met. She didn’t have frizzy or permed hair. She wasn’t socially awkward. She didn’t wear clothes from 1993 or long skirts. She was, well…normal.

Our kids aren’t grade school aged yet. I’m holding my breath for two more years. From what I’ve heard, school systems & their own red tape have changed a bit from the days of Fourth Grade Knighting Ceremonies & recess time that lasted almost two hours. I’m not sure if kids still knit at recess (oh…you didn’t do that?). Or play with POGS. Or exchange trading cards. I’m not sure if they learn about volcanoes & watch Gilligan’s Island during the Earth unit & build dioramas of volcanic islands & explode soda bottles with Alka-Seltzer and Mountain Dew.

I want my kids to be able to do those things. I want them to be able to be kids.

Someone much more motherly, much wiser, with so many more kids than me told me once that homeschooling is a calling. I’ve never EVER considered it my calling. But now, at the crux of preschool enrollment, at the bend of what seems to be the road to childhood, we need to make a choice for our family.

The reality is that we have time. Thankfully, we have time. The decision for enrollment is a solid year away. We still have a full year of preschool left, for heaven’s sake.

At this time, I’m both fearful and hopeful of what that year might hold.

Right now, we are the people who just moved to town. We now just need to decide if we want to belong to the other group, too.

·      Be prayerful about what lessons we teach our children.
·      Consider the harder road—the one that will yield the most & the best & the most culturally aware children who love the Lord.  Realize that the harder road looks different for everyone.
·      Make learning a priority, but commit to following their curiosity. Use goals as a suggestion instead of a structure.
·      Be structured. Be spontaneous.

Goals 2016: Education

Goals 2016: education photo PicTapGo-Image_zpsq1s6mygn.jpg

In tenth grade, a new girl showed up. Growing up in a smaller community, to see a new person either meant they had just moved to town or they were one of those people.

Turns out, she was one of them.

She’d spent the first 16 years of her life learning at home. Her skin glowed. She conversed easily. She was beautiful. And she was in AP Geometry & AP Biology & probably AP Teenagehood. She was homeschooled.

We only had one class together. And I’m sorry to admit that I didn’t get to know her. She was the first normal homeschooled peer that I’d met. She didn’t have frizzy or permed hair. She wasn’t socially awkward. She didn’t wear clothes from 1993 or long skirts. She was, well…normal.

Our kids aren’t grade school aged yet. I’m holding my breath for two more years. From what I’ve heard, school systems & their own red tape have changed a bit from the days of Fourth Grade Knighting Ceremonies & recess time that lasted almost two hours. I’m not sure if kids still knit at recess (oh…you didn’t do that?). Or play with POGS. Or exchange trading cards. I’m not sure if they learn about volcanoes & watch Gilligan’s Island during the Earth unit & build dioramas of volcanic islands & explode soda bottles with Alka-Seltzer and Mountain Dew.

I want my kids to be able to do those things. I want them to be able to be kids.

Someone much more motherly, much wiser, with so many more kids than me told me once that homeschooling is a calling. I’ve never EVER considered it my calling. But now, at the crux of preschool enrollment, at the bend of what seems to be the road to childhood, we need to make a choice for our family.

The reality is that we have time. Thankfully, we have time. The decision for enrollment is a solid year away. We still have a full year of preschool left, for heaven’s sake.

At this time, I’m both fearful and hopeful of what that year might hold.

Right now, we are the people who just moved to town. We now just need to decide if we want to belong to the other group, too.

·      Be prayerful about what lessons we teach our children.
·      Consider the harder road—the one that will yield the most & the best & the most culturally aware children who love the Lord.  Realize that the harder road looks different for everyone.
·      Make learning a priority, but commit to following their curiosity. Use goals as a suggestion instead of a structure.
·      Be structured.
Be spontaneous.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Goals 2016: Work


I’m lucky enough to love my job. Sure, there are politics—red tape, entitlement, insurance muck to slosh through. But most days, I leave the office genuinely thankful that I’m able to do this.

I have big dreams for my patients. B.I.G. (hopefully ending better than the one & only Notorious). But I also have a family that I adore. The truth is that the smiles may come from my patients, but the substance comes from my family.

My age is a touchy subject in my line of work. I feel it my responsibility to seem mature, knowledgeable. But then again, certifications, letters-after-my-name, & ALL THE SCHOOL LOANS kind of prove those things. I get asked a lot. Apparently some think that I graduated from high school at age 11.

When the question is asked, though, I reassure them that I am old enough to have completed my training. The truth is that I want to throw my hands up & prompt a pop quiz about the first line antibiotic for pneumonia or the molecular pathology of diabetes. I am more comfortable there, in the land of blissful academia. I am more comfortable where someone asks the question and, if I did the work, I know the answer. I’ll write you an essay, draw you a picture, or make you the best goddamned color-coded notecard you’ve ever seen. I’ll even use sparkly gel pens if you ask.

But ask me to hold your hand & sit in awkward silence because you just found out your marriage is broken or your father has cancer or your grandmother is suffering? That is the hard part for me.

I realized, not too long after starting work in the “real world”, the post-residency world where neurosurgeon’s call you by your first name & medical students cower in fear of your evaluation, that I was bad at the in-between. I love this job because I get to solve problems; I struggle when I have to sit through them with you.

The hard truth for me is that both aspects are part of my job—the solving & the sitting. The former is the science. The latter is the art.

I’m slowly learning the brush strokes, the color-mixing, the medium to work on. I’m slowly learning the hand-hold to console, to lean into the emotion instead of pushing it away.

And perhaps the most important part of what I am learning is to leave work at work. To close the office door & shut the laptop to just be done. The science is easy to leave, the sentiment drags behind like muddied footprints on a clean floor.

They say our visual memory is like a rolodex of cards—ready to be accessed, spun, at any time. Every so-often a smell, a look, a sense will trigger a memory of a patient or experience. Most are pleasant & evoke feelings of bravery & peace. Some are not, though; some are bitter & course, grating away at the joy that hangs just overhead.

We’ve discovered the difficulty in the constant grating recently. My husband switched jobs, which is what prompted our move. New field, new perspective, new hope.

We are taught that our jobs matter almost as much as our lives in this country. And as an unfortunate consequence, the lowly janitor (who is really not so lowly at all) feels like his life is worth nothing because of his title.

In Mrs. Hays fourth grade class, as part of our Medieval Social Studies unit, we held a royal knighting ceremony. Our parents made food & set out crockpots & snack trays on top of the paper tablecloths we handcrafted. We made a crown, a scepter, & a long purple cape. And, when the time came, the knight of our school walked in, ready to be given what was royally due. Our Janitor got royal treatment that day. He already knew each of us by name--& from thenceforth we got to call him “Sir”. He was a knight in shining (paper) armor, after all.

The symbolism was lost on me in fourth grade. It now brings me to tears.

So the last will be first, and the first will be last. (Matthew 20:16)

The irony does not escape me that my mind is most comfortable in the pretentious world of academia & my heart is brought to tears at the very thought of it.

As much as hand-holding & sitting through it is part of my job, as much as the diagnostics & the competency is part of my job, learning who I am holds an equal place of priority. Who I am to my patients. Who I am for the unacknowledged important. Who I am with my family.

Sparkly gel pens, pharmacology, & ambitious dreams aside, work for me needs to be something in which I can recognize the value of people & help make them better. It is also a tool with which I can teach my kids about the world. So that they can make it better, too.
  •  Work for the JOY learning brings & the people it touches.
  • Be present at work. Be present at home.
  • Dream, plan, create—but savor these years of youth & the beauty of your children at this age.
  • Stop working—in every sense of the word—when it is time. Stop working to seek approval. Stop working toward worldly updates on Facebook or the Nightly News. Stop looking for eye-candy; stop searching the outside world for self-worth.  
  • Work because I can and because I love it, but remember why God gave me that work to begin with. Don’t let the red tape become the Red Sea, partible only by miraculous intervention.
(See parts ONE, TWO, & THREE)

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Goals 2016: FOOD


I’ve been pro-Real Food for a few years now. Not strict. Not biblical about it. I still eat grain. I still engage in the occasional pop tart. But our eating habits have changed drastically since 2011—when I was overly pregnant and reading the book, Real Food.

In her book, Nina Planck beautifully outlines a life that is full of foods sourced locally, prepared lovingly, and eaten slowly. It’s a non-extremist perspective of the art of slow food.

Dr. Alessio Fassano has done ground-breaking research in the world of celiac disease and made monumental discoveries about things like gap cell junctions, IGF-1, and gut microbiota. Without too many boring (but beautiful) scientific details, his discoveries point to the fact that maybe the amount of gluten we are eating isn’t good for us. And maybe our food has a direct bearing on our disease.

Our Small Group before we moved was lovely. We called it a Small Group. But really, it was a large group of dynamic people who were, in all senses, our tribe; spunky, life-filled people who loved the Lord and loved us well. And thankfully, it was also full of people who cared about their health. Best not bring oatmeal cookies to group because they would go untouched. A bowl of kale chips, though? ALL OVER IT.

My CME in December of last year pointed to the fact that for a real perspective on food, we need to look at the Metabolic Disease-free history of our world. The Blue Zone Project followed the eating habits of the places on Earth with the highest concentration of centenarians. Combine their findings with the hearty work of Dr. Ornish and Dr. Hazen, and we are left with a startlingly-clear but gosh dangit hard picture of what we should be eating.

First, our relationship with food needs to be one that looks at food as a positive experience—one of nourishment and sustenance. Aside from true eating disorders, most of us (myself included some of the time) probably have disordered eating. We grab the chocolate instead of the carrots, the French fries instead of the fritter itself. Our coffee is drowning in syrups and whip and although our hips may not feel the difference, our hearts know it. Our genes are smarter than we are & they sense the changes, the unhealthy habits, the molecular balance before we’ve even swallowed.

Second, we need to choose vegetables over every. other. (Gosh dangit.) food that exists. Over meat. Over grain. Over bread. Over fruit. Every Blue Zone had a diet that consisted of at least 60% vegetables.

And third, we need to limit meat. Our ancestors ate it a few times per month—usually in the form of fish. They did not have Type II Diabetes. They rarely died of acquired heart disease. They did not have triple bypasses or suffer lifestyle-induced high blood pressure (on the regular, exceptions are always a guarantee). Obesity was almost non-existent. There were genetic cases of these diseases, no doubt, but genetics instead of nutrition played a much stronger hand in their development. Instead, they chose beans. EVERY DAY THEY CHOSE BEANS.

Gosh dangit. Again. And again. And again.

We have a quarter cow in our freezer as I’m typing this. And to be honest, I was really looking forward to a hamburger.

But as I’ve been reminded time and again by the research, food has incredible power. It is the most powerful medicine or the slowest form of poison. Making good choices for my family means choosing foods that are not as awesome to eat as a Wendy’s frosty with French fries.

“The only way to keep your health is 
to eat what you don’t want, 
drink what you don’t like, 
and do what you’d rather not.” 
(Mark Twain)

But this year, I’m counting on it being different. I’m counting on food being part of our lives—in a positive and rewarding way. Thankfully, the changes we’ve made mean we don’t have far to go. The evidence is irrefutable. But like all things in life, I’m committing to taking baby steps. Lots of them. I’ll probably walk backwards half the time. But I’ve got my eye on a goal now.

·      Eat 80% plants on 8 out of 10 days.
·      Eat more beans, less meat.
·      Eat slowly, intentionally.
·      Linger at the table longer.
·      Make better, more consistent food choices.
·      Serve better foods and teach our children to find more balance.
·      Source foods locally when possible, organically when not.
·      Be more intentional about planning regular, simple meals.
·      And be more purposeful in trying new ones a few times per month. 

Rid the expectation that meals need to be complex, complicated, perfect. I don’t expect the perfect soufflĂ© or stock. We’ll have a lot of fails. I’ll end up giving my kids rice and apples for dinner. But in the midst of all those could have been better’s, I’m hoping for a few home runs. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

List.

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I’m not going to lie that I stole this list from Tsh Oxenrider. I started her book on my trip, mostly because I’d downloaded it months ago and had already spent my $10 per month Kindle budget. It was just sitting on my iPad, calling my name.

She’s a smart lady, that Tsh.  A culturally aware, spiritually rooted, local-food loving mama in Central Oregon. I think we’d get along swimmingly.

It never ceases to amaze me that in my quest toward the movement for slowness, I keep finding more things to add to my list to be a simpler person living a slower life. The irony is not lost on me, folks.

Adopt a cleaning routine.
Have a weekly meeting for budget review and scheduling.
Work out three times per week, walk or get outside the other days.
Make craft activities for the kids.
Look into sign language or Spanish classes for the kids .
Keep the house clean.
Keep the car clean.
Keep your heart clean.

It seems that, in my quest to be better, I automatically equate it with the need to do more. Logic tells me that it is precisely the opposite. The journey in-between, however, is where I struggle.

She wrote this list on page 22 of her book. I wanted to mark it with a flashing beacon and paint it on my pillow. Maybe osmosis will make things happen if I’m not disciplined enough to do it on my own.

One thing was apparent: going with the flow and living like everyone else does not automatically guarentte a slower life. My nudge from God was true; living slower requires living with intention. And to live with intention means to make little daily choices that resonate deeply in our souls—that make sense deep in our being and ring true…

These five slices represented the major categories of our family’s daily decisions:
·      Food
·      Work
·      Education
·      Travel
·      Entertainment

I’ve adapted it for our own family. Knowing myself, I’ll probably forget I wrote it in May and rediscover it again in November, only to attempt reimplementation in 2017 (by the way, how the heck did it get to be 2016, yesterday it was 1993). But nonetheless, I’m really going to try this time. I’m feeling all sorts of giddy at the power of togetherness we will be forced to have in this new environment. The possibilities are endless and all I want this time around is limits. Intentional choices. Mindful eating. Purposeful spending. Quality time. Margin.

I know we don’t need to move to Costa Rica for that.

(First FOOD, coming soon)



Sunday, January 10, 2016

Flying toward 2016.

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I’d guess we are about 30,000 feet above the ground now. I’m here, in my pleather seat, plucking away on the laptop keys—just as I would be sitting at my dining room table at home. The fact that I was catapulted into the sky, enclosed in a metal object with wings is totally lost on me.

I’m not sure why I’m writing, actually. It used to be cathartic for me—a release of sorts. I used to find solace in the words, the familiar pecks of the keyboard, the glow of the computer screen after the house was quiet.

It has become something else though: foreign.

As much as I hate to admit it, I just don’t have the drive to write anymore. Which is honestly odd because I have sentences & paragraphs, stories to be told swirling in my head all day. But at the end of the day, when the children are nestled & the floors are wiped (or not, lets be honest) & the dinner is fixed & the lunches are packed, most of the time I feel like I don’t have much more to give—to God, to my husband, to my home, to myself.

It’s what this is, you know—the giving of myself. But it is also for myself—something I oft forget in the bustle of the day. Encapsulated in the drive to get things done is also a desperate echo to slow down. And, as I’ve keenly noticed after packing up our millions of belongings into two mobile storage containers, the drive to have more on a daily basis (I look at Pinterest too, you guys), oddly results in the desire to own less.

This crux—the junction in the road where either something has to change or something else will give—its where I’m at.

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I just finished a medical conference in Las Vegas. My brain is exploding with information. I’m still processing, still computing—still figuring out what it means for our lives. We mostly talked about nutrition—which is exactly what I was hoping it would be & nothing I was hoping they would say. Knowledge is power, so they tell us. But now because I know, I have to decide if we are going to make a change (a big change). The truth is that something has to change or something else will give. Maybe not now. Probably not tomorrow. But in 30 or 50 years, we’ll know whether or not the choice was the right one.

We moved—did you know that? We packed up our stuff & drove 130 miles south to Wine Country (in the desert). We are not completely settled (those two mobile storage containers still hold 95% of our belongings), but we are working on it. Housing is more expensive, preschools are more expensive. They say the school districts are better. My pessimism tells me that better schools doesn’t mean the kids are better or brighter or more Spiritually successful. That’s home-grown, I think. And plus, the sunsets are prettier here.

Honestly, I was a bit embarrassed about how much stuff we discovered we had when we moved. Old houses are awesome, except when the full unfinished basement acts as a storage-dumping ground. I could pretend we were put-together upstairs; but it always felt like an episode of Hoarders was fixin’ to be filmed in our basement. Somehow, the pleasure in buying kept overriding the logic that we have enough—in our home, in each other, in our faith. Funny how that happens. Its like Black Friday every day at the Dollar Tree or Target or Goodwill—wanting more & buying more & getting the deals & saving money (but not really because you are still buying)—shortly after expressing sentimental thanks for what you already have. I’m guilty, too.

I noticed an odd pattern, actually; probably akin to dropping spinning plates. Or maybe better: If you give a mouse a cookie. I would let dust bunnies accumulate & intentionally ignore the toys on the floor. It birthed a disappointment with our space, so I would feel the need to leave the house. Leaving the house took me to the coffee shop (I had coffee at home), the grocery store (we had a full fridge), a thrift store (what could I possibly need?), or the Dollar Spot (it’s only a dollar! Right!? …right?!!!????). Then, by some stupid miracle or severe lack of willpower, I would come home with another bag of stuff—snacks or pastries or stacking bins for which I had no purpose. …and having snacks around meant that I would eat them. Following, I would feel bad about eating them, then lazy…& I would let the dust bunnies accumulate & intentionally ignore the toys on the floor.

…Something has to change or something else will give.

And all this rambling finally gets me to January 1. I’ve never been one for “New Years Resolutions”. I think they are corny, actually. I mean, really, every day is a new day. But this year, with all the changes in our lives, I’m feeling a bit sentimental about 2016. It just dawned on me that had we continued our pattern of babies, I would be bursting with pregnancy right now. And for as much as I’m loving having my body back from growing & feeding those babes, I’m a little torn about what is next for us. This move was a big decision. And for the first time in years, there are no major life changes planned. Medical education is over (except for yearly CME, but that’s a treat).  Jon is done with higher education. New jobs are settling. No new family members on the immediate horizon.

Maybe this time, “just hanging in the balance”, is purposefully placed right here. Right about the time that something has to change or something else will give we are handed the golden opportunity to make that change. To re-evaulate, re-locate, re-think decisions for our family & our daily lives. And maybe most of all, in a way, to re-define ourselves. Not to abandon who we were before (in lots of ways I liked that version of us), but to recalculate the trajectory we are on, check our proverbial parachutes, & take the faith-based jump into the unknown & the uncomfortable free fall that awaits.

Actually, come to think of it, parachutes & free-falling probably aren’t the best analogies to use when I’m stuck inside a metal tube flying at 30,000 feet.

New Year, here we come.

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