Friday, February 27, 2009

do it again.

The halls of Unit 4 reverberate with Mr. Huldorn’s deep tenor voice. Because it is 6pm…and each night at 6pm just like clockwork, he walks up & down the corridor of Unit 4. Hollering. He yells about his wet pants & his recent trip to the bathroom. Mr. Huldorn is fixated on his bowel movements—the very thought of defecation invokes fear & anxiety in him every single day.

Mrs. Smith sits by her 6th floor window each day. Waiting. She is watching for the police to come rescue her—the police who never come. Mrs. Smith has been at the psychiatric hospital for six years…and each day she has sat in her wheelchair fixated on the hospital entrance.

And old Mr. Tracy loves his Johnny Cash. He dances for hours each day in his room to the same Johnny Cash CD. Listening…until the nurses shut his radio off at 10pm each night. Inevitably he throws a fit, begins to cry, and finally lulls himself to sleep by repeating the song lyrics to his gracious roommate.

I see Mr. Huldorn each day on rounds. And I get frustrated with him. My own feeble mind doesn’t understand his fixation…his fears…or his outbursts. My own "refined" mind doesn’t understand why he doesn’t just POOP for gosh sakes and why he wets himself each time he tries to urinate.

I see Mrs. Smith at her window when I walk by her seemingly empty room. Her bags are always packed in anticipation…because for her today…TODAY is the day they will come. Yesterday was the day too…& tomorrow will be also.

And my frustration level skyrockets when Mr. Tracy wanders the hall hollering his favorite lyrics for everyone to hear. My intolerance reached it’s peak when he noticed “West Virginia” on my white coat & moved his saliva-spewing mouth inches from mine and said to me with eyes wide, “Johnny Cash…Johnny Cash…West Virginia...West Virginia…he is from there…he is from there…Johnny Cash…West Virginia…”. Over and over and over again until I had to step back & wipe his saliva off my face.

My compassion is lacking.

Perhaps because society tells me that I’m “better” than they are. Perhaps because my busy schedule dictates that I don’t have time to appease Mr. Tracy’s obsessions or listen to Mr. Huldorn’s hollers about his wet pants. I want them to learn—in fact, my calloused mind insists on it—but I seldom take the time to assess whether or not they are teachable. The monotony, the mind-numbing repetition that fills their days wears me down.

And then I remember that the sun rose this morning. Just like it did yesterday. Just like it will, predictably, tomorrow. The Earth, in the same place around the sun as it was last year—except behind it lies a billion circular journeys & in front of it the same. My heart beating—ONE purpose over and over and over again. My lungs breathing, exchanging carbon dioxide for oxygen—over and over and over again.

I would think my heart might grow weary from beating so hard, so fast, for so long; but God inserted extra parts in my heart muscle so it doesn’t tire or grow weary. And I would think that the Earth would want to take a new journey just a bit different than the last or that God would tire of whispering “let there be Light” to the sun each morning; but the Earth stays its course & God never tires.

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; 'for we have sinned and grown old, and our father is younger than we.’” –G.K. Chesterton

Perhaps it is possible that God whispers each morning to the Sun, “Do it again, rise…Let there be Light for my children to enjoy”.

Perhaps it is possible that God whispers to Mr. Huldorn, “Do it again, holler…let your neediness grow the character of compassion in your doctors & nurses.”

Perhaps it is possible that God whispers to Mrs. Smith, “Do it again, wait…someday I will come rescue you.”

And perhaps it is possible that God whispers to Mr. Tracy, “Do it again, LISTEN…my voice can be heard in all the Earth’s sounds.”

And perhaps it is possible that God whispers to my heart, “Do it again, CARE…I’m growing your character with abounding GRACE.”

Thursday, February 26, 2009

10 great things about the psych floor

10) chart-induced hyponosis (where your eyes cross & your brains scramble after reading for too long) isn't an anomaly here...due to the fact that most patients have at least two volumes (some up to 5 or 6!) of bursting-at-the-seams charts from their numerous admissions here.

9) your patient's don't notice your post-lunch tunafish breath...they haven't brushed their teeth in days.

8) any accusations of sexual temptations, stealing orange juice, or rats in the patient's rooms are generally dismissed...they are commonplace around here with the delusional patients.

7) for most of the patient's, civilized adult conversations are not if the 5-year-old-in-you accidentally slips out, they usually don't know the difference.

6) you can always tempt the patients to comply with physician or nurse requests by offering a bag of potato chips.

5) your tendency toward VERY regularly repetitive hand-washing is validated by each patient...especially when they wipe their drool, itch their crotch, then reach out to shake your hand as an 'official closure' to the conversation.

4) if you accidentally stain your pants with the oatmeal you had for breakfast, your patient's won't care.

3) if you fart in the hallway no one will know you were the culprit--it is smelly anyway.

2) your own feelings of inadequacy, odd habitual patterns, & slightly neurotic obsessions suddenly seem surprisingly managable give the mood & personality traits of your patient's on the floor.

1) Your appreciation for life's simple pleasures skyrockets: a good night's rest, the freedom to have a cup of hot chocolate as you please, the gift of fresh air when you freely step outside, quality relationships...a spouse that stands behind your career choices--all of these are foreign to many of that patients here everyday...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

a West Virginian joke...the answer

Why don't you want to work for CSI in West Virginia?
Because there are no dental records...
& everyone has the same DNA!!!
(a nurse here at the hospital tricked me with this joke & i couldn't help but chuckle--
because Lord knows that in some parts of the state, it is totally true).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

a West Virginian joke...

Why don't you want to work for CSI in West Virginia?
(take your guess in the comments section....answer coming tomorrow!!)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

recipe:: Creamy Tomato Soup

this is by far the BEST homemade creamy tomato soup i've ever had. it is our favorite--& we eat a lot of soup :) good enough to serve when guests come over even...& quite perfect for a rainy afternoon with grilled cheese sandwiches...

Creamy Tomato Soup

1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
6 oz. cream cheese, soft
21 1/2 oz. cream of tomato soup (note: i often substitute 1 can tomato sauce + 1 can Progresso Hearty Tomato Soup {way better than Campbell's})
1 1/4 cup milk
32 oz. stewed tomatoes

It's important to follow the order of these ingredients...if you don't, the soup won't be as smooth!

1. Cook onion in butter until very soft & transparent (in other words, carmelize the onion)
2. Add basil, paprika, garlic powder, & cream cheese.
3. Heat on low until cream...don't let the cream cheese burn!!
4. Add remaining ingredients, stir vigorously...& continuously!!!
5. Heat to desired temperature...usually about 10 minutes on medium heat.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Mr. Thompson: Part V

Mr. Thompson, what kind of allergies do you have?

Friday, February 20, 2009

when it all comes together: my (insane) system

our *little* collection of albums is growing :) a local craft superstore was having a 50%-off sale on all their albums (a rarity, obviously) last weekend. so, on jon's birthday, i made him buy me scrapbook albums...because duh, when are you going to find them this cheap again? we just called it my valentine's day present...because he won't be here for our valentine's day. i'm kicking myself for not buying more....but i had to say "no" at some point, right?!!?

i'm sure most of you don't really care about my scrapbooks...or my hobby...or how i organize my photos...but for the one of you who does care (mom, are you reading??!), i figured i'd share :)

the following method ONLY applies to my already-printed photos (i.e., ones from my elementary & high school days...with a few collage photos thrown in the mix). i have an entirely different way of organizing my unprinted (digital) photos...which, if you are interested, i'll share later :)

the MOST important part of this already-printed-photo system is a "storage binder"--either a 3-ring binded 4x6 photo album or what i use: a large, super cheap 12x12 3-ring binder. my mom (hi mom!) found these binders for $3 (thereabouts). they aren't very attractive (at all) & i'd never display them in my living i turned them into storage binders. inside each binder is a "phase" of my life: one binder is full of photos from elementary & middle school, another from high school, & the 3rd one is full of photos & memorbilia from college.

i don't hesitate to pack these binders full...nor do i care if they drop, fall apart, or burst open...the pages aren't in any particular order & are easily storable.

each binder is divided by "tabs" (i.e., old pieces of paper stapled to ugly cardstock). for ALL my albums, i divide the albums into WHO (people we care about), WHAT (things we do, events, celebrations, holidays), WHERE (places we go) & ALL ABOUT US (jon & i). the albums from my past (college & earlier) will only be divided into WHO & WHAT--the "where" is fairly obvious.

inside each binder are clear page protectors (they came with the cheap-o albums). i have them sorted into relevant subjects. inside the WHO binder are page protectors with groupings of photos based on person.

below is my brother: i gathered ALL the photos i had of him from my giant, messy tupperware container of photos/memorbilia/random pieces of paper & (1) put them inside the page protectors then (2) took an inventory & realized i need more photos; i wrote myself a note on the notecard and on the spreadsheet (see below)...

Here is another example. This goes in the "WHAT" album from my GU years. Same process as above except i had all the pieces to this one so a quick sketch went on my notecard...

A closer look a the sketch--i told you it was quick!

And this is where it gets a little extreme...since i'm not home all the time AND i tend to be a forgetful person (who wouldn't with all the photos we take these days?!). i keep a spreadsheet of the pages that need to be done + what aspects are missing/in progress. the awesome-ness of this 'system' is that i get A LOT of pages done each time i have a few hours to scrapbook. see all those gray lines? ALL of those were finished today :) just a few hours!! i did the journaling on my computer during the past couple of weeks on weeknights during my psych rotation...& since the photos were already organized with rough sketches in the page protectors...VIOLA!!!

...pages like this one, below. you can see the computer journaling...{this is from my 18th birthday/high school graduation day}

...and a few more pages like these...

now...i know this all sounds a little, okay a lot extreme. and it seems expensive (which, according to husbands it may very well be). but there are ways to get around the crazy cost of all these cutesy supplies (like buying albums @ 50% off). and there are ways to keep this managable.
while i was working on this today i was thinking to myself how totally awesome it would be to know what was going on in our parents' lives at this point in their homes, marriages, & career's. my only hope through all this therapeutic creativity (it really is therapy to me after the crazy weeks i have on rotations!...keeps me grounded & reminds me what is really important) is that our own family will enjoy flipping through these books someday. and that they might walk away with a better idea of what our lives were like...
More Resources:
Sketches: monthly here, awesome book here
Albums similar to the ones we buy here
Cheap-o places to shop: Hobby Lobby, Tuesday Morning, Big Lots, JoAnn's (with their monthly 40% off coupon) {i don't go anywhere else!}

Mr. Thompson: Part IV

Do you believe in God, Mr. Thompson?
Yes. Yes, I do.
Do you believe you ARE God, Mr. Thompson?
Hahahaha...oh NO!!!!...
...but He does send messages through me...
How do you get the messages from God?
I lay in my parking lot. NAKED.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mr. Thompson: Part III

During a routine physical exam of our beloved Mr. Thompson, the resident I'm working under was feeling for radial pulses (the ones on his wrists) when, much to her surprise he grabbed her arms & pulled her closer to him...

I think I love you...
You do, huh?
She nicely replied.
And he almost jumped off the chair when he noticed her unoccupied left ring finger...
And you're not married!!! You're not married!!!
Yeah, but you are!!!
Oh, but that doesn't matter...I'm on my third one anyway.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mr. Thompson: Part II

Hi Mr. Thompson, how are you doing today? ...You think you can take your sweater off for me so I can get your blood pressure??

My SWEATER?????!!!!???? I'll take ALL my clothes off for you!!!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

recipe:: Foccacia Bread

one day this summer, the bread-making-fairy visited our house--at which time fate threw this bread recipe in my lap via our lives have never been the same...

this Foccacia bread can be made well, as Foccacia bread...or pizza crust :) which is what we opt to use it for 9 times out of 10. there is minimal kneading & Dr. Seuss's clean-up crew doesn't have to follow us in the kitchen...

Michael's Foccacia Bread

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Ready: 1 hour 10 minutes

1 tablespoon honey
2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion (you can add more if you wish)
5 cups all purpose flour, or as needed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary (option: leave this out on pizza crust)
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon kosher salt (we use sea salt)

1. Dissolve honey in warm water in a large bowl (don't make the water too warm--it'll kill the yeast), then sprinkle yeast over the top. Let stand for 5 minutes until yeast softens & begins to foam (i'm just going to be honest here...the bread-making fairy didn't leave me good luck with yeast...mine barely foams--i still just wait 2 minutes). Stir in 1 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon olive oil, onions, & 5 cups flour until the dough comes together. Knead on a well floured surface until smooth & elastic, about 5 minutes (or use your KitchenAid mixer & let the dough hook knead the bread for you about 3 minutes). Lightly oil large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, turn to coat with oil. Cover with damp cloth (i also cover with plastic wrap) & let rise in a warm place until doubles in volume, about 20 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 415 degrees.

3. Place dough onto oiled baking sheet & flatten to cover the whole sheet evenly. (note: when making pizza dough, i plop the dough onto the middle of the flour-covered pizza baking sheet/stone & roll out the dough directly on the sheet/stone...this saves me a counter covered in flour to clean-up). Next part can be skipped on pizza: Use the tips of your fingers to make indentations all over the dough spaced about 1 inch apart. Drizzle the foccacia with 3 tablespoons olive oil, then sprinkle with rosemary, cheese, & remaining salt. Let rise 10 minutes.

4. Bake in oven ~20 minutes or until golden brown.

Mr. Thompson: Part I

I'm pleased to introduce you to my newest patient, a 60-something year old man that was recently admitted to the psychiatric hospital i'm currently rotating at. over the next few days, we'll explore bits & pieces of our conversations....are you ready for this???!

Mr. Thompson, how is your mood tonight?

What's the word? ELATED!! I am ELATED!!!

Why are you elated tonight?

Things--everything--has been going my way!

Like what?

Because God in all his power & omnipotence & all that stuff knew before the world was the world that he would eat the apple...& God knew that in 2009 it would be this *&$%!#? *%@#!*% eat-your-son-&-daughter stuff with money.....

....and so Omaha Mutual contacted me in a letter and told me to walk into this Convention Center where all the important people are. And since I'm not an important person, I am going to convince them that I am important...

...and they are going to give me a PORCHE.

You? Why are they going to give you a Porche & not someone else?

[hestitating...thinking a bit...]

Because I have special powers.

Monday, February 16, 2009


i wake up each morning at 6am. and despite my isolation, the quiet environment here gives me time to think.

deer graze in the early morning grass, covered with drops of dew. birds chirp happily from their breakfast of worms & bugs. and a general peace is evident outside here.

i'm really enjoying the mornings. the grounds are well-kept. and if they had little cabins for rent, i might actually consider returning with jon for a get-away one weekend.

...more on my reflections later...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

quarter century.

we had a birthday--an important one--'round these parts yesterday. :) i was ambitious & made these cupcakes (which turned out fantastic if i do say so myself!!...i did substitue hot chocolate for cocoa powder & they were still very yummy! never going back to boxed cakes after how easy these were!).
we've decided to celebrate jon's birthday on the actual day, moving our valentine's day to august 20 (chinese valentine's day).
he gets a real birthday....we both get a real day of LOVE!
and speaking of LOVE, my how i have fallen in love with this man...all over again. we had so much fun together this weekend :) makes me even more excited for our future... his day started off with a typical breakfast--ketchup heart & preparation compliment of me (Gay, i did add a heart to his day....just not on the cupcakes). we had a few errands to run, so our late morning to afternoon hours were spent running from place-to-place just getting things done. Rusty & Gay (jon's parents) planned a scavenger hunt to lead him to his birthday present (which had been stashed in my closet all week, unbeknowst to him). i non-chalantly handed him the envelope as we were pulling out of the pharmacy parking lot...
our first stop was Starbucks where we learned some very random facts about Fayetteville & found a new place to visit on a free weekend!
we were sent to our "Hometown Eiffel Tower" that sits oddly in the parking lot of a run-down grocery store...we stayed in the car since it was rainy :)

we drove to our first apartment here in NC (no interesting pictures there).

then headed back on post to visit "Iron Man"...
...& took a picture (well, more like 15 pictures--i had a double chin in all the others)...

our last stop was supposed to be a swingset but since the school playground didn't have one, we opted for the Zebra.

i made jon find his gift in the house...which was strategically placed in my closet (there'd be no reason for him to go looking in there...or would there??!!)

& thanks to his parents, he now has a guitar to take on deployment...which can be scratched & dinged & filled with sand, without guilt :)
we had a humble little birthday party--just the two of us. and my lack-of-planning ahead left us without birthday candles to blow out. at least the cupcakes were cute, yes?
the night was topped off with yummy pizza from one of our favorite local restaurants...having a birthday on valentine's day certainly doesn't bode well for a quiet evening out. our movie plans were botched due to a night of completely sold-out showtimes...but we did catch a few snuggles on the couch :)
it is hard to believe that jon has been part of this Earthly world for a quarter century...almost three years of which he's been part of my life.
i like to think it's the best part.
Happy Birthday, Handsome ;)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

{LOVE day}

Friday, February 13, 2009


at the end of the day, when i'd like to get back to my apartment & sit on my rock-of-a-bed, i have to get out my keys. because oh my heavens there are a LOT of doors i have to open...

first, the door from the computer lab to the hallway--which i did not take a picture of. it is bright yellow--the color of big bird, in case you were wondering.

second--this pretty blue door connecting the hallway to the floor entry.
third--this door connecting the floor entry to the stairwell.

fourth--the door connecting the stairwell to the first floor entry.
fifth--the door connecting the first floor hallway to the side stairwell.

sixth--the door connecting the side stairwell to the outside.

seventh--the door to my apartment building.

eighth--the door to my apartment.
by this time, my hand is very tired. as is my bicep muscle from pulling the SOLID METAL DOORS open.
good thing i consider that my workout...i can't imagine what would happen should i actaully exercise!! i might get stuck outside from muscle fatigue....

Thursday, February 12, 2009


there are exactly seven locked doors between my apartment & the computer lab, the only place other than the starbucks 20 miles away that i have access to the internet. and except for the stone-age-speed of the internet in the computer lab, i'm just grateful to feel "connected" to the world.

in fact, locked doors are EVERYWHERE on the campus of the psychiatric hospital i'm working at. patients have a tendency to try to escape, or "elope" as they call it. just the other day walking through the halls, a "Code 1" was called over the loud speaker--which meant that every available nursing personnel & security came running because one of the female patients was trying to escape & run down the stairwell.

she didn't get too far.

i got my own set of keys when i arrived here. and aside from the fact that they make me feel very special & important...they also allow me to use the bathroom and you know, get in the building. i soon discovered they were more of a necessity than a glamorous wristlet i got to carry around all day.
and see that whistle? that shiny whistle?
that, my friends, is my only way of calling for help, should one of the felons they are holding on a self-proclaimed "insanity" plea decide to take me down. with no phone & brick walls connected by locked doors...i'll be left blowing that whistle.
and given my impaired sense of direction, it will also come in handy when i get which case i'll be blowing that whistle & hugging a tree. just like Barney taught me....

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


i complained before about west virginia. and how there was nothing there--and really, my complaints were totally ligit. and now, ironically, i'm only 20-or-so-miles from a large city and feel more isolated than i ever have in WV.

i'm currently sitting in a starbucks, paying $3/hour to use their WiFi--since the place I'm not staying has no wifi, no cell phone reception, no land line, no kitchen, & lots of deer.

so please forgive me if i don't email you or update my facebook status or post on my blog regularly...these days, i'm just trying to remember to bury the toilet paper after i pee in the hole i dug behind the pine tree on the side of my apartment building.


In the very early Spring of 2005, I attended a retreat at Gonzaga. Tucked away in a little town in Idaho, I learned that I'd been searching for someONE for far too long. And that was the weekend I realized that I would continue to seek my entire life in empty pursuits if I didn't put God first...if I didn't love myself for all He had made me. So I made a commitment to myself that from then on I would only seek ONE LOVE: God's. At the closure of the retreat, we had a few moments to pen a letter to ourselves--a letter that we would receive a few weeks later in the mail. I wrote. I licked the envelope. And I moved on with my life, with my tests, with my friendhsips.

A fury of photo organization & nearly four years later, I found that hand penned letter in a container of miscellaneous papers & photos. This is what it said:

April 10, 2005


Well, it’s been a couple weeks now. Finals are most definitely rolling around—life is probably crazy. But if you remember only one thing, remember this: GOD’S LOVE IS SUFFICIENT.

Sufficient enough that you don’t have to worry too much. Sufficient enough that you shouldn’t be concerned about your future, the content of your character, your beauty, your heart, or even the faith that seems to be so highly acclaimed. What I am so excited about as I am writing this is the idea that YOU, Ms. Goody-too-shoes makes mistakes. But the best part is that GOD deals with them.

He knows already how your chemistry class will turn out, if you’ll get into med school, if you’re supposed to get into med school, WHO is out there for you…& what He created you for. You should be proud of your work ethic & grateful for the amazing amazing amazing community of people, believers, & brothers & sisters in Christ you have at Gonzaga. Carpe diem…because guess what??! There aren’t too many left in Spokane. Be able to look back with no regrets. And don’t waste your tiring neurons on empty thoughts or meaningless questions. Just trust…and know that GOD’S LOVE IS SUFFICIENT.

Keep LOVING, ~jlyn

"God's Love is Sufficient" became a mantra I repeated each day, each hour maybe. I had to realize that God’s, & ONLY God’s love is sufficient before He would let me grasp hold of the fact that someone else might love me too. I had to be content with MYSELF, with MY LIFE, with MY ABILITIES before He would let someone else discover them.

And He did let someone else discover them. Jon literally walked into my life almost 6 months to the day I wrote this letter. After literally months of prayer to grow more comfortable in my own skin, God ever-so-slowly let someone else see me as who I really was.

Oddly enough, the night of our first kiss, Jon told me to "Carpe diem" as well--a statement which has become a running joke in our household. Turns out, he wasn't too far off.

And that, my friends, is the AWESOME power of God's provision.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

daily {pixels}

i'm LOVING this family photo shoot.


Monday, February 09, 2009


i'm done with OB/GYN. done with boobs, babies, & crotches. done. done. done.

i liked it.

but not that much.

and it is probably a good thing that i'm done. because the last few times i've driven by this mountain during my 240 miles between my two homes, i've realized something...
it looks like a nipple.
a real, live nipple.

so from now on, in remembrance of this rotation, i hereby dub this Nipple Mountain.

Friday, February 06, 2009


this is what you get when you combine one very bored medical student with a phone capable of taking photos:

this is what you get when you combine one very bored medical student, a phone capable of taking photos, & a few minutes to spare in the bathroom:

this is what you get when you combine one very bored medical student, a phone capable of taking photos, a few minutes to spare in the bathroom, & the realization that someone is coming through the door just as the camera shutter closes:

pretty, huh?

Thursday, February 05, 2009


I vividly remember the end of the movie—and the tears that streamed from the corners of my eyes. After the credit’s were rolling, I drug myself out to my grandma’s dining room where my parents were talking in a fit of emotion & vowed that I would never again watch “All Dogs Go to Heaven”.

It was right after my beloved PeeWee died.

And I’ve kept that promise. Though, oddly enough, the kidlike hope found in that movie moved me in such a way at my ripe young age that the memory has never left me. From early on, I knew death was a serious matter.

My grandparents, friends, & other family members have sporadically traded their Earthly bodies for one more permanent. The years of my teenagehood weren’t without funerals, memorial services, & surprising news of unexpected deaths—whether friends, family, or someone who knew someone I knew.

Like most people, the grip of death didn’t take hold until later. Months, usually. When I realized that Grandpa wasn’t going to send me Twix anymore. Or that sailing trips were a thing of the past. Or that there wouldn’t be anymore splashing in Maui waves with one hilarious red-swimsuit clad man.

It took awhile for the gravity of the situation to sink in. And to be honest, I’m not sure if I ever let it sink in completely.

I came to understand that death was something that happened. WE ALL DIE at some point. In fact, we were born to die—life on this Earth is not permanent (thank God!). I certainly didn’t fear death—it was something that happened…to someone else. But the magnitude, the reality, the process of dying—of my own death—was something that up until this year I didn’t let myself ponder.

And since my experiences in the halls of the hospital with terminal pneumonia patients, sepsis, men & women on ventilators, codes, a mother’s worst nightmare, and innocence lost, death has knocked on my door more than once. There have been more nights than I can count where I lay awake at night, unable to sleep, unable to understand it all.

Not that I expect to have all the answers—or even look for them. But some of my patient’s deaths seem so…unjustified, unfair, unexpected.

And the truth is that I am terrified. Of my own death. Alone. Of my husband’s death, leaving me alone. Of the death of my parents, my siblings, my friends. When all whom I love have gone before me, it seems there should be little joy left to be found. Which is why I don’t understand why, in medicine, we visit the elderly in nursing homes to fill them full of happy tablets after the death of everyone closest to them leaves them depressed...why, in medicine, we expect the grieving widow to find solace in a blue pill with each meal when her partner & best friend has left her house quiet & her bed empty…why, in medicine, we stand over the chair of an expectant husband whose wife was just brought in by ambulance & leave him in his own silent grief when we tell him the woman he married is naked, blue, & lifeless in the room next door.

Happy tablets don’t bring them back.
Pills don’t take away the pain.
Silence doesn’t make the dead breathe again.

In my opinion, the culture of our no-I-can’t-wait country has lead to the desire for an “instant fix”. But I can’t help but put myself in that widow’s shoes…in her bed…in her house. And if Jon marches off to war & doesn’t return, I want to grieve. I need to grieve. I don’t want blue pills with my meals—in fact, chances are good I won’t want meals at all. I don’t want silence or solitary embraces with empty remarks of sorrow—I want real, live moans because the love of my life is no longer in my life.

There are no instant fixes. And there is no easy way to approach the subject. Death is real…and, at some point, will hit all of us with full-no-looking-back fury.

I’m still emotional about my patients--& even more emotional about my husband marching off to war. Often times, I have to excuse myself from the room so my tears aren’t evident—for most, there isn’t much worse than a crying doctor.

But I can’t lose that reality, those raw fits of emotion. I can’t be too quick to wipe away those tears that stream from the corners of my eyes. Because for me, there is nothing that can contain the unbridled torment of reality…the reality that tomorrow may not come for all of us…the reality that life is fleeting…the reality that, at the end of the day, we’ve wasted the past 24 hours in selfish pursuits.

“Death is not the greatest loss in life.
The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.”
–Norman Cousins

Recommended reading: Fear of Dying, Healed Release, Live Ready, Make Pearls

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

i should have known better.

last week, my preceptor & myself were scheduled for three surgeries.

now, for any established physician who works reguarly in the O.R., three scheduled surgeries shouldn't be a big deal. and in fact, it isn't. things should go smoothly. which, in fact, they did.

the problem, however, arose when the clock struck 8:30am & i walked out of the women's locker room in the surgery suite in a rush because my preceptor told me to arrive on the Labor & Delivery floor at 8:30am & i wasn't there yet.

and so i rushed out of the surgery suite, down the hall, around the corner, through the security doors, down the hall, around the corner, and came to a screeching halt at the nurses station in the L&D ward.

which is when i caught my breath, made sure i remembered to put my pants on, and looked around...

no preceptor.

and so i waited.

and waited.

and waited.

and waited.

until finally the clockface said 9:45 & i made someone call his office--whom, by the way, hadn't heard from him.

and so i waited.

and waited.

and waited.

and waited.

and then i had to pee.

so in an effort to get the most privacy, i went back around the corner, down the hall, through the security doors, around the corner, down the hall, & back into the surgery suite locker room.

which is where i urinated.

and then took this photo:

subsequently realizing that no self-righteous person would take such a photo, proclaiming to the world that i look (& feel) like i work in a cafeteria.

good thing i'm not self-righteous, huh?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

another one...

i can't help but add another goal to my list for 2009. but before i make the big reveal, i must explain that i find more enjoyment than i probably should by looking at food. not eating it, not smelling it, not cooking it...just looking at it.

so it shouldn't come as any surprise that i've found the following blogs to be rather therapeutic. have a bad day? look at food. feel bad about gaining 10 pounds? look at food. want to make the world a better place? look at food. wishing for world peace? look at food.

see? its the solution to most of life's problems (just remember i didn't say eat the food).

and i'm just going to go ahead & put it out there that i'm only trying to make the world a better place--world peace, remember?

my goal? to make cupcakes. lots of yummy cupcakes.

like these. and these.

Monday, February 02, 2009


My feet were tingling. I’d been standing for at least 45 minutes. In one spot. Frozen, if you will. Restricted in front by the physician & the patient (not to mention the sterile field), on the left by the anesthesia curtain, & on the right by the sterile trays of instruments…I’d been standing on a one-foot-square stool for far too long--& I was getting quite bored.

The scrub nurse in front of me (she is in charge of handling all the requested instruments) was getting clausterphobic & boldly announced that I’d better move quickly or else (they are kind of in charge in the O.R., aside from the physician). She “shooed” me away with her gloved hand & I bolted from my restricted position & glued myself against the cupboard behind me to get out of her way before a shiny instrument was thrown as reinforcement.

Which is when the anesthesiologist (they are always so nice) felt sorry for me & invited me into her space at the head of the patient.

Low-and-behold!! The view was SO MUCH BETTER from up there! I could see everything! And the best part was that my feet could move!! What an amazing feeling it was!

I was admiring my newly discovered surroundings when I glanced down & noticed that the patient’s face, normally entirely hidden from my view by the anesthesiologist curtain, was covered in a plastic sheet. Occassionally the sheet would be lifted so the patient’s skin could breathe (machine’s were breathing for the patient).

She was a pretty lady. Highlited hair. Manicured fingernails. I even noticed eyeliner & mascara under the tape they’d put over her eyelids to keep them shut during general anesthesia.

Which is when I noticed them.

And I swear to you, it took all the inner strength I could muster to resist the temptation to reach into the sterile field, grab a hemostat, & pluck those eyebrows so-help-me-God.

Who said surgery was about the patient, anyways?

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