Showing posts with label KC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label KC. Show all posts

Monday, November 5, 2018

Signs (H/t to Ace of Base)

I believe in signs.

Driving home from getting the kids flu shots, we heard the song "The Sign" by Ace of Base on the radio. Whenever I hear this song, it brings me back to college Spring Break in Cancun. My 13yo knows it well from the movie Pitch Perfect (she is a big fan) so it was a fun song to have on for us. After the song was over, I changed stations only to hear "The Sign" again! Granted, in the DC area, we have a strange preponderance of "old people stations" per my children, but still! What are the chances?

I immediately thought of our priest's winding homily last weekend where he wore a blindfold and held a football (long story) and talked about blindspots and listening for signs.

Okay, this was a sign of some sort that was actually labeled "The Sign." What was I supposed to do?

I decided that it was time to finally extricate myself from one of my extra volunteer commitments that I was not able to fulfill well since it was low on my priority list and that I carried guilt about. It no longer brought me joy. So, later that week, I stepped down from my role. And...deep exhale. It's done! I do feel a tiny bit lighter. I know that I need to pare down my commitments some more, but this was a good start.

Which brings to me to a story of another sign.

So, my daughter's school soccer team is in the playoffs. I was deeply conflicted since their first playoff game was scheduled for the night that I needed to leave for a conference in TX. Couldn't get a later flight than 7:30pm. I had to be in for an important Friday morning meeting. I was so bummed I'd miss her play, and then if they won, I'd then miss their semifinal game on Saturday as well.

When I arrived at the airport garage on Thursday, I joined a huge mass of people waiting for the shuttle to the terminal (apparently they had been there for awhile without service) and checked my phone. My flight was delayed by 2 hours. I looked at the time. 40 minutes until the playoff game started. Really? Could I make it? I did some rapid calculations and decided that I could make the majority of the game. Maybe I could even check-in my luggage now so I can just cruise in later with my TSA precheck!

Hustled back to car. Drove to Hourly Garage. Found a spot. Booked it into terminal. Self-checked bag (thanks Southwest), asked attendant the likelihood that my delayed flight would actually board earlier (answer: very unlikely), booked it back to car, drove the 35 minutes to the high school and got there 6 min into game. There was a big crowd of support for our team there. Many of the girls on the team had painted their faces - such spirit! My daughter was looking great in the goal. She made an amazing save, tipping a ball that was certainly headed in, out of bounds. It was thrilling to watch them play and awesome to be there! (And slightly weird knowing my bags were checked in at the airport and I really needed to catch my flight.) The team was up by 4 goals, it was well into 2nd half, and it was time for me to get back to catch my plane. I jogged out of there, got into my car, and my husband texted me: [daughter] is out. To much accolade. Coach had put in the 2nd goalkeeper with 10 min to go. By the time I got to the airport, I had confirmation that they won!

I sailed to the shuttle, through security, grabbed dinner to go, and got to gate as they were lining up to board. It was intense, slightly crazy, and totally worth it. What's more, the semifinal game on Saturday was canceled due to rain so I missed nothing.

It did all work out. And it did feel entirely meant to be.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Recovery

After recovering from the the good kind of pain at the end of November last year, I developed the plain-old kind of pain that is in no way good: an intense, searing pain of a likely cervical radiculopathy that prompted me to go to the ER one fine December Saturday after leading a children's Nativity re-enactment rehearsal. My neurological symptoms were getting increasingly worse, as was the pain, despite stopping running completely for weeks, sparing my right side from any kind of lifting or serious use, taking around-the-clock high dose NSAIDs, and even wearing a lovely soft cervical collar for a week (fantastic way to garner sympathy and/or jokes from colleagues).

The ER physician assigned to me was an older man who showed absolutely zero empathy, compassion, or patience. You know when you can feel someone's impatience with your history-sharing, who just wants you to get to it? I told him I was a physician - not sure whether his bedside manner was because of that fact or in spite of it. I had plain films done showing cervical degenerative changes (I had never felt quite so old) and his plan for me was a) switch to naproxen from ibuprofen; b) reassurance that it would get better (delivered by someone without a compassionate approach, this felt tin-hollow); c) follow-up with PCP the next week. This felt like a wholly inadequate plan to me. I suggested a medrol dose pack which he agreed to.

The medrol dose pack was a temporary godsend. It worked within a day to drastically improve my pain. It was amazing! I felt almost normal again. Once the pack was done, though, the pain returned, in some ways worsened. Dealing with this pain - chronic, unclear end date - was humbling and deeply frustrating.

I have always thought of myself as a physically strong person. This has been part of my self-identity. On the playground, I used to win arm wrestling matches against boys. In high school, I was a cheerleader "base" and held girls' feet on my shoulders and bench-pressed them until my arms were extended. (If I did that now, I'm sure multiple discs would herniate simultaneously. Actually, maybe that's why my neck imaging looks the way it does.) This injury, occurring after no single traumatic moment upended that self-image. For awhile, during the worst of it, I cringed as my seven year old came in for a hug from my right side.

After a lot of physical therapy and time (probably most important), the pain lost its hard edge and now has settled to a stiffness and soreness that I don't always notice. A couple of months ago, I started running gingerly again, and a couple of weekends ago, I ran my first race in almost a year. It felt like it usually feels constitutionally-speaking: horrible during, fantastic afterwards, and I'm ready for the next one.

I'm grateful to be mostly recovered. I have new appreciation for those with chronic pain. And most importantly, I'm running again and feeling like myself.



Sunday, February 11, 2018

My almost-teen

“I saw J do the reading the other day at church, and at first, I thought it was you. She is becoming a young lady,” Maureen said to me on the sidelines of a soccer game.

My daughter is 12, soon to be 13, but has recently passed me in height. She is never far from a book – goes through them like that – and can’t help but blurt out her responses and reactions to the plot twists in real time to anyone around. “Anna betrayed her!” “I can’t believe he did that! They have the twins!”

She confides in me still, and each time we are there with the door closed to her room, and I am consulted in critical matters of friendship or fashion decisions, I try to proceed gently as if I’ve been let in to a secret society and don’t want to blow my cover. She recently cried into my arms over a friendship disappointment. I felt the same mixture of calm, responsibility, and honor I feel to be let into that moment as I do when a medical student starts crying in my office in my role as a student affairs dean. Or when a patient breaks down in front of me under the weight of a diagnosis.

She started taking martial arts recently since she wanted to learn self-defense. We found a low-key place that offers all types of classes for kids and adults. She does the kids Muay Thai and immediately following is the self-defense class for ages 13 and up; they allowed her to trial it to see how she would do. She texted me before the self-defense class and wrote “I don’t think I’ll do it,” and inserted a chicken emoji. I called her immediately. There were adults and older teenagers taking the class and she felt very intimidated.

“You should do it,” I said.
“But I’m scared.”
“Just try it! I can’t pick you up until after the class anyway.”
“Okay…” she said reluctantly.

I came to pick her up ten minutes before the end of the class and sat down on the viewing benches in the waiting room. There she was, practicing with her partner, a woman in her 30s in a pink hoodie. She was there among older teens and men and women—she seemed so grown up! She was clearly comfortable, holding her own, and loving it. The group huddled in closure and then started clapping and looking at J. She practically skipped out to me at the end of the class, face aglow.

“I want to come twice a week to this from now on. I’m thinking it might be hard in the fall with my two soccer teams, but I want to figure a way to do it!” She was breathless with excitement. “Can we get the gear? I’ll need the punching gloves and shin guards.”

My almost-teen is growing up. I love that she allows me to be there for her. Mothering now is more coaching, guiding, discussing. It’s confiding and listening. It seems like just yesterday she was an exuberant 3-year old who loved Dora the Explorer and would grab my keys, throw them under the couch and say, “Swiper, no swiping!”

I’m amazed by the person – the woman- she’s becoming. She is still that exuberant child, but now with a playful sarcasm, insight, a deepened faith, and strong sense of morality. I’m navigating my new role: sensing, adjusting, responding, and still gently pushing her to keep growing.

We’re both growing, and I wonder how long I'll be a secret society member. Is it life long? Since that seems pretty amazing.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The good kind of pain

I seem to always forget exactly how much pain I'm in over Thanksgiving weekend, after running a 10K on Thanksgiving Day. I'll think of Thanksgiving in my mind with warmness: family, food, friends (and sometimes work) but not the stifled screams of anguish that my leg muscles dare me to emit when I get out of bed on Friday morning. Repeat that with any movement all day Friday > Saturday > Sunday.

I remember one year, I was on the consult service the week of Thanksgiving and while I had Thanksgiving Day off, I had to come in on the Friday. A nurse asked me while I was making my way down the hospital hall whether I was okay. I didn't realize exactly how debilitated I appeared. Just walking a bit slow today *shuffle, shuffle, shuffle*!

This year, it has been no different. I should be more prepared after the same sequence of events every year for the past 4 years but, no, I stepped out of bed on Friday morning and was like - WHOA: IS THIS RHABDO? HOLY CRAP IT HURTS. If I wondered whether I pushed it hard or not, there was my answer. Yet, something about the pain with every step (all day and all night) is nice in a weird way. It's proof that I did something hard.

Thursday was my fifth race this year. I've realized that training for a race keeps me motivated in a way that plain old hopes and goals don't. With my work schedule and everything going on, it used to be so easy to make excuses why I couldn't run:

  • It's too late
  • It's too early
  • I don't want to do my hair again
  • Everyone else is hungry
  • I'm hungry
  • I have low energy (related to the above or separate)
  • or almost anything else
Also, my time on last year's Turkey Chase 10K was almost the same as the prior year.  That was kind of anticlimactic. So I asked my husband to help me work on speed over the last year. He's always designed workouts for his own bad Ironman self, so let's just say I was a little scared of what he might design for me in terms of training. Keeping in mind that he went to a military service academy and I went to a college where you could design your own major.

Turns out, I love me a training schedule! I run 4 times a week and have easy and hard runs each week to complete. (I particularly enjoy the easy runs.)  I train for the next race and have had PRs each time.  I really love that in my 40's, I can get better and better at something physical. (It's not all downhill!) Granted, I started from a very low bar of speed. But, it has channeled my previously hibernating competitive streak into something productive.

During the Turkey Chase this year, I tried to use my Fitbit Blaze to track my pace. At the starting line, as I was trying to start the app, it kept saying "Check Fitbit App." Awesome.  Last race, the display was showing me "Calories Burned" instead of my pace which was the last thing I want to know while running a race. So I felt that my contemporaneous race tracking was doomed which turned to be true as my watch kept giving me wrong distance tracking and pace estimates that were way slow. By just the time, it seemed as I was running fast, but I wasn't sure with all of the inaccurate data floating around on my display and my math skills have deteriorated a long way since college calculus.

The race results posted yesterday, and I was thrilled to see that I beat last year's time by almost 6 minutes! That felt great. Mentally, not physically, since physically I'm still decrepit. But, it's a good pain, the kind that comes from trying hard and accomplishing something. I may even miss it when it's gone.

Not pictured: heavy labored wheezing/breathing

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Celebrating with Gizabeth

Of course I had to attend Gizabeth's wedding party. I mean, the proposal was on this blog! Sure, I had only met her one time before in person, but through the blog and our communications, it's like we have been long friends. So, my husband and I took a quick trip to Little Rock to help her celebrate. We wouldn't know a soul besides her and her husband-to-be, and perhaps that just contributed to the adventurousness of it all. Plus, it would be just us, no kids -- bonus.

We went straight from the airport to lunch with her and her daughter. (This makes out of town guests feel very special!) She was glowing with joy; her daughter was smart and gorgeous. After lunch, we had the luxury of many hours before the big party, luxury to be work-less and child-less.  This included: a run, walking through downtown Little Rock, a pedicure (+trashy magazines +wine) and enjoying the southern sunshine.



Gizabeth and her husband were married quietly and privately at their house and then threw this massive party to celebrate at the Clinton Library.  My husband and I decided that weddings for more established adults are done right: it was so beautifully done from the white tufted banquette seating, to the flowers, to the great music.




In fact, the DJ was so good that after years of being dance-floor inhibited, I could not resist getting out there and dancing! I totally reconnected with my prior dance-loving self on that dance floor. Husband and I had a major blast. It may have helped that we didn't know anyone and thus had zero self-consciousness. (And I have a photo that is witness to this that perhaps should not be shared publicly.)

Gizabeth was stunning. And everyone was so, so happy.



For the send-off, guests were given sparklers and lined the exit. NB: Do NOT put out sparkler by stepping on it since you will burn a hole in your shoe. Note to self: buy husband new shoes.



All in all, I had such a wonderful time celebrating with a MiM sister. Congratulations, Giz! May your joy and love cup overflow.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Versions Revisited

I retired my personal blog a couple of years ago, but at one point, it was a very big part of my life. The importance of capturing the details of my life - with all of their humor, fake drama, and sometimes real drama - loomed large in my priorities. And capturing the details of my children and how they were growing was part of that.

I started a regular series on my blog that took the form of Version Updates. Like software updates, with the latest advancements and continued operating failures. It started with Version 14.0, when my daughter was 14 months old. This, of course, led to some nice creative outlets and photoshop skill development. I eventually felt like my children had "graduated" from having such scrutiny and carried it through until each was around 3 1/2 years old (that's Version 42.0 for anyone counting). I hoped that one day, they would be thankful that I catalogued their journey through the early years of life and didn't think I had exploited them for entertainment and cheap laughs.

I published a book of my daughter's Versions posts to give to her, complete with a dedication in the front. I included that I hoped she knew that I wrote it all down in love and that I was laughing with her, not at her.

Well she's now 11. Almost as tall as me. Her feet are bigger than mine and she borrows my clothes. She's seen the Versions book of her and knows where we keep it in the bookcase downstairs in the playroom. The other day at dinner, she was mentioning the autobiography her class has been tasked to write as an assignment. My husband and I were playfully retelling some of her funnier moments at the table when she leapt up and ran downstairs. She came back with the Versions book and started reading at the table. Every so often, she would read a passage out loud, and we would all laugh. She flipped the pages and soaked up the words. Those words, my words, echoed all around us, delivered with her voice. It all came back - oh yes - you used to say that! The memories tumbled by, and I loved, loved that she was relishing in it.

After dinner as we were cleaning up, and she and I were alone for a moment, she said, "Thank you for writing this. It is very special." After a pause, she added, "Can I do this for my children too?"

My heart leapt. "Of course you can. I'm so glad you like it."

She carried the book off to her room, to later continue thumbing through it while lying on her bed. I'm not sure what I liked more about this: that she'll know herself and how she grew, or that she'll know the eyes her mama saw her with and the humor that narrated her story from the beginning.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Family bedtime

Every night before bed, our family of five gathers in our middle child's bedroom. It's dark except for the hallway light that shines in from the open doorway. We pile in somewhere in the darkened room. Maybe on our youngest's mattress that lies on the floor (and will continue to live there until our 4 year old decides his own bedroom is not haunted by The Arm). Maybe on our other son's bed. Maybe sitting on the desk chair. We settle in and start our bedtime ritual.

It's our family bedtime prayer. We start by each saying what we are thankful for that day. I'm often struck by what my children are thankful for: having a house, food, their school, our family, mom and dad. Our daughter, the oldest at 10, sets the example for her two younger brothers by being reflective and thoughtful. (That girl's natural gratitude for everything in her life is a point of immense joy for me and that perhaps somehow, during our many missteps parenting, we did something right.) I enjoy hearing what my husband is thankful for - another window into his day. And I find it therapeutic to think slowly through my day and select what stood out for me. I find that I am thankful for many things and that this reinforces my generally positive outlook on life.

Next, we each say something we are sorry for, or want to do better with next time. We emphasize that there is always something we can do better. The children's responses often involve times that day when they were annoyed or angry with the other. Never any judgment, just sharing.

Then we share one thing we are proud of doing that day. Maybe it's doing their best on a test. Or being a good friend. A piece of art. Another great insight into my husband's day for post-kids' bedtime follow-up. I love hearing what everyone is proud of.

Finally, we name who we each want to pray for. For a long time, our 4 year-old said "Santa Claus" every night and now that has seasonally transitioned to The Pope (formerly pronounced "The Hope") and Wilson, our deceased cat.  Our middle child, 7, tends to pray for large swaths of people - the homeless, people with cancer.  We finish with a prayer that we say together.

I don't know how long this family ritual will hold together. For now it works for us all. I didn't grow up saying prayers or consciously thinking about what I am thankful for. I hope supporting this daily habit gives them as much meaning as it has given us.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Meta story

I have always been a big fan of stories. I love listening to NPR's StoryCorps although I do take issue with those segments playing during my morning work commute since they inevitably make me cry. Heck, this whole blog is built around sharing our stories: finding community and support through our stories. So when the opportunity came up last spring to participate in a live storytelling event, there was no way I was saying no. 

The publisher Springer launched a program to "empower authors and humanize research" called Springer Storytellers. They hold live events where authors tell their personal stories about science and research. This past April, one of these events was tied to one of the big medical meetings I usually attend: Society of General Internal Medicine. I was one of five physician researcher authors who took the stage.

It was difficult for me to decide what story I wanted to tell. It had to be a story related to my work, but a lot of latitude was given about exactly what. I love telling funny stories, and I originally thought I might tell a story about pumping madness while attending a medical conference. In the end, I decided to tell a very different story that I had never told before. The story of how my husband's deployment helped me understand my patients better, and how I became attuned to the stories we can't always, but need to, tell. How it led to a curricular intervention centered on witnessing patient stories. A story about stories.

The setting was breathtaking that evening in Toronto. 


Design Exchange, Toronto




I was fourth out of five in the line-up. Each story I heard that night was unique but equally powerful. I fell a little bit in love with each of my co-storytellers. Something about sharing things so deeply personal and meaningful on stage, owning our vulnerability before a live audience, bound us.

One behind the scenes moment took place as I was walking up the four stairs to the stage. As I took the final step onto the platform with my right foot, my left python-print pump remained on the last step. As in, I walked right out of my shoe. Hello, audience. I had to backtrack and try to replace my shoe as gracefully as possible. The emcee came over to give me an arm to assist. This was not quite Jennifer Lawrence's stair fall, Oscars 2013, but not exactly the entrance I imagined.



With both shoes on

The podcast of my storytelling was recently released.  I couldn't wait for my husband, in particular, to hear it for the first time. I tried to listen to it myself, but between hearing my own voice (don't particularly enjoy) and reliving those emotions, I couldn't quite do it. Maybe with some more time and space. (And now, my first words will make a little more sense knowing my shoe incident.)

To stories that need to be told, and to those who choose to listen.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Boss lady

I have a confession. When I was initially asked whether I wanted to take over my division as chief, I wasn't 100% enthused. It's not how I envisioned my future.  Medical education is my passion. I hoped for a future career in education administration (more on that to come), not clinical administration. But, I was able to be convinced that this could be an okay move for me temporarily. I would still be able to do everything I enjoyed (research, teaching, patient care) and still in the running for any higher level education positions that might come up.

It has turned out to be a great move for me from a professional development standpoint. It has helped develop me as a leader. I didn't anticipate the amount of reward I would receive from leading a group of physicians, mentoring them, and supporting them in their career pursuits. I love getting to set the tone for the group and to encourage a working environment of support and, yes, balance.  I'm proud to have created the environment I would have wanted.

Eleven years ago, I sat in my then-chief of medicine's office along with my then-boss (both men) and told them I was pregnant. I only had been working there for a year. I knew I needed to let them know to plan for the next academic year's schedule. Their faces dropped. There was absolutely zero joy. I could almost hear their mental calculations of how they would account for the weeks of my absence in that awkward silence. The first words spoken were, "How long is that these days, 6 weeks?" My heart dropped. "Actually, I would like to take 12 weeks."  Please know that I like and respect both of these men and still do, but their reactions left me feeling like a burden.

I remember telling some acquaintances about what happened and how sad I felt afterwards. One woman who directed a nonprofit said, "Oh honey, if I was your boss and you told me that news, I would have hugged you and asked how I could help." That struck me. Because, that reaction would have been so wonderful. Could it have actually been like that? I've kept what she said close to me all of these years and have tried to channel that sentiment when I've been the boss hearing that same news.

Last week, I met with one of my junior faculty who just returned from her maternity leave. We talked about her transition back to work, their childcare arrangements, and where she stood in terms of identifying academic areas of interest. At the end, she told me that she felt entirely supported throughout her entire pregnancy and maternity leave and that she wanted to thank me for that.

There are plenty of headaches associated with my job, but they seem so insignificant compared to the parts that are so good - the opportunity to make things better for the women (and men) who follow me.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The hug that keeps going

Growing up, in my dreams of my future family, I always had two children. Two seemed like the perfect number. We had two in my family, my brother and me. There was that nice 1:1 ratio of parent to child. I also grew up hearing stories from my mother of growing up with 3 siblings - and her feeling squeezed out sometimes as a child who was not the eldest, not the youngest, and not the lone son.

I keep that in mind as I raise our three children (10, 7, 4), always conscious of fairly doling out my attention and time. Whenever I am on-service (which means leaving earlier and getting home later each day), I sometimes notice an increase in "needy" behaviors especially in the younger two. There's more clinging, whining, and other attention-seeking antics. I am also particularly sensitive to the contentment of our middle child who is most prone to feeling left out. He occasionally gets into these funks where he is down on some quality he has - such as that he's the only child in our family with glasses, making him feel different and more unlovable, I guess. (Mind you, he is adorable with those glasses!)

Unfortunately, coincident with being on-service is feeling more worn out at the end of the day. The kids' bedtime becomes one last hurdle before glorious rest. That means no long books. No delay tactic tolerance.

One day, when I was feeling a QT deficit with our middle child, I decided to give him his good night hug and not be the first one to let go. Just to see.  I just hugged him and kept hanging on. After awhile, I felt his little arms loosen and relax, enjoying the moment so, but still hugging. The hug went on and on. I did not let go. Finally, I felt him let go first. His arms fell to his sides. He had a huge grin on his face, sated and sweet.

I've generalized the hug that keeps going to the other two children, just to be sure they are all getting enough hugs from mama. It's not every bedtime but sprinkled in there for good measure. Often it ends in a spurt of giggles (especially if accompanied by a neck nuzzle), but always I feel glad to have hugged so slow.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Do-it-Again Equation

Cutter’s excellent post and the comments to follow really got me thinking. What factors go into our thoughts about whether we would do it again (become a doctor)? Can this change?

This is just my way of thinking about the question (one way of potentially many), but I think the simplified, general equation may look like this:

Outcome - Sacrifice    =    DiA
                    time

If DiA = positive, you would do it again. If negative, you would not.

And where Sacrifice = time, money, family relationships, moves, etc , thus far

Outcome = present level of satisfaction with career, may include work-life balance (or work*life product), income, career-related meaning, work-related aggravation

And time, because I do think time is a factor because time attenuates sacrifice/hardship. For instance, if you asked me whether I wanted to have another child while I was sleep-deprived and breastfeeding my newborn Q2 hours during those awesome early weeks of being a new mother, occasionally crying in the shower if I was fortunate to have a shower, my answer may not have been a resounding Absolutely! Not that I didn’t think my child was a magical gift, but wow. My pregnancy/labor/post-partum period were not easy. Fast forward a couple of years and that hardship didn’t seem quite as insurmountable relative to the outcome.  That was kind of a terrible analogy (along with math, not my forte), but I think in general, distance makes the heart grow fonder and the memories fuzzier.  Alternatively, maybe the Sacrifice was way too much and no time in the world would make that value small enough.

For me, my Sacrifice to become a doctor was relatively small and feels smaller with time. I met my husband during medical school. I was really fortunate to finish training with minimal debt, and besides being very tired and on-call during multiple holidays (Thanksgiving dinner with my co-residents in the physicians’ dining room; watching fireworks on July 4 through the 8th floor hospital windows), it wasn’t so bad. My Outcome, on the other hand, has increased over time. I now have more control over my schedule (compared to being junior staff right out of residency), higher income, more clinical knowledge, have engaged in new areas that keep me excited (teaching, research, mentorship, leadership) and after working with all different members of the healthcare team, value the role of physician as leader more than ever. Don't get me wrong- there are parts of my job that are the mental equivalents of how I imagine a root-canal would feel, but on the whole, my career is rewarding beyond what I could have imagined right after my pre-duty hours residency. My DiA started out positive from the start and only has grown more positive with time.

It goes without saying that this equation and its variables are individual, and there could be a fatal flaw that I have not considered in forming this equation. But, it’s not an easy path to take, no matter how you compute it.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Honoring the Pi

It's the ultimate geeky pseudo-holiday: Pi Day. A once in a century Pi Day, apparently.  When I came back home this morning after taking the boys to Tae Kwon Do, my daughter and my husband were at the computer doing some Pi education. "It's Pi Day," she notified me, "3.14.15."

It just so happened that I had been planning a huge pie bake day today--completely unaware of how fitting that was at the time.  Prior to Thanksgiving 2014, I had made only one pie in my life, maybe 10 years ago. It had turned out so poorly and so un-pie-like (mainly the crust; the crust was a disaster, harkening my former disgraceful days in organic chemistry lab) that I proceeded to avoid making pies at all costs.

Fast forward to today, I have made at least 10 pies since Thanksgiving. I am hooked. My brother and sister-in-law even gave me a pie recipe book (it rocks) for Christmas, and I'm making my way through the recipes. I even enjoy making the crust.

All butter crust- no turning back

Today, we are headed to friends' house for dinner, and I made my first banana cream pie.

Making pastry cream is no joke labor/time-wise though

Coconut cream is up next. And can't wait for fresh berries in the summer, apples in the fall.

As we get older, it sometimes feels like we did all the learning and mastery when we were younger. Residency and intense training are long over for me.  So, it feels good to master something new. Empowerment.

Plus, there's something so satisfying about making food for those I love.  But pie. That's even a little sweeter.

Happy Pi Day! May your day be filled with pie. Or math. Or just love.



Thursday, November 6, 2014

The New Four Fs

Last year, I spent a couple of months doubled over with post-prandial pain after dinner. We’re talking pain that would sometimes incapacitate me, having to lie down while my husband tended to the kids and got them ready for bed. I’ve been lucky to be generally healthy so this was a fairly disturbing turn of events—was I now starting to fall apart physically as I neared 40?

It turned out to be a gallstone. A single but determined gallstone: too large to pass, too much of a drama queen to peacefully co-exist in my right upper quadrant. Of course, I remembered that mnemonic from medical school about the Four Fs of risk factors for cholesterol gallstones: Fat, Female, Fertile, Forty. This did not improve my “downhill” meme. As a 23-year old medical student, hearing that mnemonic involving 40 was downright depressing. That was my future: declining bone mass, fertility, metabolism and physical health. Awesome!

Back to those fun months of pain, I was given a referral to see a surgeon. I made a joke about the Four Fs and my meeting multiple risk factors. He shot me down, “Those are not true.” Hmmm. Apparently I never got the updated gallstone mnemonic memo.

Having recently crashed the “now 40” party, I have decided that I will ascribe to a new 4 Fs system going forward:

Fit, Fearless, Fabulous, Forty.

Fit. I am fitter than I have been in years. Sure, I don’t have the time or will to work out daily like in college and medical school (and probably that was a little pathologic anyway), but I have been consistently exercising about three times a week. I rarely have enough time (or will – time is not the only barrier) to do more than 30 minutes at a time, but I’m really proud of sticking to a routine even if I am traveling. My body is not built for running long or hard but it can do 2-3 miles if gently prodded without disintegrating into a rubble of bone fragments. As a family, we’ve taken to going to the nearby high school track on the weekend so the kids can ride bikes, run, or play while I do my laps. I have no lofty aspirations of marathons or anything of that high-achieving jazz but to stay committed to regular exercise for stress relief, brain preservation, and of course all of the physical benefits.

Fearless. I have had plenty of fear and anxiety in my life. Do they like me? What if I say the wrong thing? Who is that man on the bike path? What if I get pregnant? What if I don’t get pregnant? Why didn’t my husband call me at the agreed-upon time during his deployment? Etc etc. My goal now is to be more mentally strong. Easier said than done, but I think understanding myself better, having more internal security in who I am is the key – and that’s happening as I get older. I’m not trying to morph into a daredevil risk-taker (although, I did recently swing on a rope, suspended in the air by a cable, into a large aerial web of rope and climbed spider-style onto the adjoining tree platform – THAT was fun), but to doubt myself less, believe more. That brings me to the next F.

Fabulous. Fabulous is not just how you look but also a state of mind. It’s feeling amazing and worth it. I have outfits that make me feel fabulous. I have work that I engage in (particularly involving education, research and leadership) that I know I have talents for and thus makes me feel fabulous. Being able to make my family (children and husband included) individually and collectively feel loved and important = more fabulousness. No one can feel fabulous all the time, but doing things that make me feel this way as much as possible is my goal.

Forty. Forty is nowhere near downhill. I feel like I am at my height as a mother, as a contributing member of society, as a partner, as a physician, as a human. I would not want to trade places with my 20-year old or 30-year old selves, even if she did have higher bone mass, faster metabolism and better skin. I have come so far! (Products also help, skin-wise.)

So those are my new Four Fs. What would be yours?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Flowers for KC

Our fearless leader KC organized a meet up - first IRL (in real life) for MiM's in DC this past weekend. I can't remember the birth date of the blog because I wasn't here but I've been around for a few years.

It was small - we are a busy group so many couldn't make it but I got to meet T, Mommabee, Juliaink, m, and KC.

KC sandwiched us between two conferences - one in New Hampshire on education and another in Chicago on blogging. She coached soccer Saturday morning for her son then met us at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. It's her I want to write about here.

Although I hadn't yet met KC in person, she is an incredibly supportive ringleader for our unruly bunch. If I e-mail her a question at midnight I have an answer waiting on my phone at 6 am. She has guided me in the perils of people trying to pull you in to advertising a seemingly worthy cause just to promote a marketable item. She has listened to e-mail rants I would like to make online about working situations or frustrations, knowing that it would be inappropriate because they were too fresh in my head. It's better to turn that anger into thoughtful pieces once the mood has passed. And she probably does that and more for all the other MiM's here - that's a big responsibility.  She protects us like a guardian angel - she saw too many negative comments a few years back and made the commenting process less anonymous, not only for the writers and guest posters but to keep the community supportive and the commenters accountable.  When I write on MiM I'm writing to an audience, but I also feel like I am writing to KC since she invited me here in the first place.

Mentors are people that you encounter in your life that create a space for you to grow and flourish and learn. I've been lucky to have many, and I definitely count KC as one of them. I had seen her picture in our Big Tent discussion group, but I wasn't prepared for her huge presence. I say huge, but she is a petite beautiful woman whose Chinese roots are evident in her features; dark hair, tea-colored skin. She has a bright smile that made me feel instantly welcome in DC, a city I was becoming acquainted with for the first time. Her fashion sense is impeccable. I learned she grew up in a New Jersey town not far from where my boyfriend, who accompanied me on the trip, attended high school.

My emotions surrounding the weekend were enormous - I imagined breaking down upon meeting her but it was just like meeting the popular girl in high school you were so intimidated by but she turned out to be a really cool person. Her accolades, at a year younger than myself, are astounding. Woman Physician of the Year for creating this space. Three amazing children - I delighted in conversing with her older son about animals and following her daughter through a museum crawl space that took us to a display about common insects we reside with in our homes. Mommabee instantly charmed the youngest boy; if she was here in Arkansas I'd recommend her as a pediatrician in a heartbeat. KC's supportive husband whom she met in medical school was entirely focused on the children and not at all interested in being the center of attention at our meet up at the museum.

Dinner with KC and m Saturday night was incredible - we chatted about posts and long time followers whose comments we loved and future directions and personal goals. KC seemed to take the back stage - she did all weekend - I convinced myself it was by design to let us shine. When drawn out in conversation her words were sparse but invaluable. More substance than fluff. M asked her, "What is your favorite outcome of starting the blog?" Her answer was immediate. "The readers. Whether encountering them face to face, or through e-mail. When they tell me how much it means to them to have found it. How it helped them." It was almost 11 pm when I met my boyfriend at the Metro to head back to our hotel.

I reflected on some of KC's words at dinner on the Metro. "I am invested in creating a space for our contributors and guest posters to write about what they want, when they want to say it. I don't want to control the content, I want to support creativity. A space for people to just be themselves." I must admit, I've been angry at KC. Misplaced anger, derived from guilt over not writing for months when I have had trouble writing. Anger that she didn't hold me to my pledge to post once a month. Then intense gratitude when she welcomed me back into the fold when I was ready to write again.

After some fun spa time on Sunday morning I learned a little more about KC. She has blogged in the past about her husband's year long deployment to Afghanistan when her youngest was two weeks old and her older two were toddlers, but I learned more about the challenges and fears surrounding that time. Another mentor-worthy feat - the insurmountable becomes existence and manageable day to day. Because if you look at it from a distance, how could you handle it? I asked her, "So is it done? Is he home for good?" She replied, "No, he could be called out any time."

When T showed up for brunch Sunday morning with us, she was full of regret. "I wanted to stop by a florist. But it was closed. I wanted to bring you flowers in appreciation for all you've done for us." T lives close to KC - they have published many articles about social media and medicine together since they have met. Juliaink was a pleasure to meet - I got to tell her in person how much I loved a poem she wrote years ago. I couldn't help thinking during the brunch, what a perfect idea for a gift for KC. A flower. A mirror image of her - something that packs a powerful punch with its image and color and strength, all the time belying a fragility that lies within it - within us all.

She is more than a flower, though - she is the gardener here. She planted the seeds. She waters us and helps us grow and find our own voices and learn from all the amazing voices in this community. I have had many mentors in my life, fabulous in their different ways, but none shares the quiet but unyielding support of KC. Now that I've met her maybe I can get her off of this pedestal and be her friend.

Happy birthday KC. You deserve much appreciation. My emotion didn't come out in waterworks this weekend, but hopefully it can be conveyed in this post. You are an inspiration.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A bursting moment

We signed up the whole family to run our school's annual 2K/5K Family run this past weekend. Last year was our first year running it together; despite my protests at the time (I might die, go into rhabdomyolysis, etc etc given my baseline inert state since having kids), I ended up having a really fun time. It even got me into running regularly for the past year. Granted, I've been running short distances, around 2-3 miles at a slow pace, but I'm doing it 2-3 times a week without fail and have come to enjoy it. (Added bonus is watching TV shows while on the gym treadmill which I would never otherwise be exposed to, including Long Island Medium and Hoarders: Buried Alive. Fascinating.)

Being in better shape and actually used to running made me much more excited to run the 2K this time around. Also running it would be Jolie (9), JL (6), our au pair M, and my mother-in-law. I convinced my husband, an Ironman-distance triathlete, to do the 5K instead of running with us since he'd lap us anyway by the end. Our 3-year old would wait on the sideline with my parents.

Now, last year, JL ran with me while holding my hand the whole time. Yes, this was sweet, but making it physically more difficult to run. Believe me, I did not need any added difficulty. He told others after the race that maybe he could have won if he didn't have to run with (running-challenged) Mommy. Gee, thanks, kid.

At the start, everyone took off way too fast. I tried to keep up with Jolie and JL and keep them in my sights. JL, in particular, zoomed off- could not believe how fast he was going. I had to go much faster than my usual pace to catch up and run with him. We were flying and passing people. Probably about 3/4 of the way done, JL started to feel it.

"I need to walk!" he said. "My legs hurt!" "I'm tired!"

I switched to rally mode. "C'mon, JL! We're almost there! You can do it!"

He really wanted to walk. I told him he could walk, but that I would keep going and he could catch up to me later. This got him to push it out more. He didn't want to walk alone.

We kept running. He grabbed my hand. We ran for awhile like that. I kept cheering him on - Let's go, JL! Let's finish it! I know he was struggling. But, I also knew we were almost there.  Just a couple of more blocks and then we'd turn and see the finish line.

He was a trooper. He kept pushing it. We held hands. When we turned the corner and saw the end with the banners and the crowds, we dropped hands and he spurted ahead to finish.

We crossed the finish line within a couple of paces of each other - triumphant but totally spent.

We watched as others came through - a couple of his friends from Kindergarten and their parents. We saw Nana come in, we saw my husband come in for the 5K, then M and Jolie.

When the awards were announced, we heard JL's name announced for first place finisher of the 2K for his age group (6 and under)! He ran to the podium to receive his medal, and I could see his heart bursting with happiness. BURSTING.

This is a boy - the middle child- who is often in the shadow of his big sister and more-needy baby brother. He needed this moment.

As I watched him glow, showing his medal to everyone afterward, seeing that smile on his face, I was filled with a special kind of mothering joy. If I wasn't there alongside him, he would have likely given up, started walking, falling behind. And isn't this an amazing part of what we can do as parents? Being there, cheering them on, helping them do what they think they can not. Helping to make the moments that are filled with confidence-growing, heart-fluttering, self-celebrating pride.

For me, helping JL win that medal was the best Mother's Day present I could ask for. I am so glad I was there, helping him have a bursting moment.



Thursday, April 24, 2014

Guests of the month

My husband and I made one New Year's Resolution for 2014 together: to have friends over for dinner more regularly. Whenever we do, we love it, and the kids have a blast. However, it has always seemed like a lot of effort to coordinate, to clean ("clean" underestimates the amount of prep our house needs to be able to be opened to the public), and it's just so much easier not to do it. Plus, we're introverts. Now, it's not like we are hermits or anything (although I don't really know what a normal social life with a family is), but we both agreed that having people over more would be good for our whole family. I'd estimate that last year we probably had people maybe 4 or 5 times, but we are aiming to host dinner once a month.

As of April, we've had four families over - including neighbors, good friends we don't get to see enough of, friends we haven't seen since grad school, and new friends from church. We are loving it. We've relaxed some of that need-to-have-a-perfect-house compulsion when entertaining - and no one has run out screaming yet. (Still have some degree of compulsion, I won't lie, but it's definitely less severe that it was. Think: overall order with occasional pockets of entropy. We have a butcher cart in the kitchen that is so hopelessly disordered from top to bottom, we joke about pushing that whole thing out the front door one day in joyful riddance, imagining it dropping off the porch stairs and going straight into the garbage truck. Well, half-joke. At least I'm only half-joking. We also still have zebra streamers up from a wild-animal-themed birthday party many moons ago that will stay up until they degrade on their own. I personally enjoy the added festivity, and will enjoy it until I can't stand it anymore.)

And the kids. They run around screaming like lunatics, chasing each other in pure joy, even with children they are meeting for the first time. (Don't you miss that?)

It has been surprisingly effortless to invite people, and we're always talking about who we're going to have over next.  So far so good. Reward to effort ratio remains favorable, and no sight of inertia setting in...yet. Having the house look presentable for longer than the 1 hour after it is cleaned every two weeks (sometimes the house destabilizes in 20 minutes thanks to 3 very talented children) has the added benefit of keeping me in a better mood. And, if we skip a month or two or three...no pressure. We'll take it as long as the motivation lasts.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

On having an au pair

After doing daycare/preschool exclusively for a time (when we only had my daughter), a live-out nanny, and a live-in nanny at various times, we went the au pair route 1 1/2 years ago and couldn't be happier. It's just what our family needs right now. I wish I had known more about it earlier on, since it may have made life easier and richer back then. People may have had different experiences, but here's ours.

We've had two au pairs so far, and both turned out to be great matches for our family. The matching process reminds me a little of residency matching, but without the rank list. You search through au pair profiles, filtering by what's important to your particular family (maybe a strong driver or experience with taking care of multiple children or a particular religion), can read a "personal statement," watch a video they made to tell you more about themselves, scan their letters of recommendation, and their childcare experience. You can select  au pairs to interview (via Skype generally) and have a certain amount of time to render a decision whether you want to match with the au pair. The au pair must accept the match as well, and you agree on an arrival date.  It was a bit unnerving to select our au pairs, not knowing exactly how it would turn out in the end - would she like living with us? Would we like living with her? How would she be with the kids? Like residency matching, you go a lot by feel of a program and projected fit.

What we didn't anticipate was how much our au pairs would be like family to us. They have launched out on their own, excited to see the US - everything is new. You are their host mom and dad, and it does feel a little like that - parental and guiding, showing them the ropes and helping them have a good experience in a new country. Our au pairs have been from Mexico and Brazil; we've learned about their countries. Last year, I made a Mexican Christmas dinner with our au pair at the time N; this year Brazilian.

N was with us for only 6 months. This is not typical. The contract is for a year. However, N's family needed her back home; a family member was ill so she had to break her end of the contract and our au pair company arranged for us to match with someone new. M, from Brazil, has been with us for almost a year. We love her. The kids love her. She loves being here. She's extended her contract for an additional year (the maximum possible) which is great news. There's a ramp up period of about a month when they first arrive for driving lessons, figuring out routines, roles, etc, so having her want to stay longer is a huge plus. Meanwhile, we keep in touch with N who writes me occasionally and updates me on her career and relationships. She's getting married next year and has invited our family to Mexico for it. It's kind of like a mentor/mentee relationship.

In November, M's mom and her mom's friend came to visit, stay with us and travel. They were here for an entire month. This included a trip for the "Brazilians" as my husband and I nicknamed the trio, to Europe for 9 days and a weekend trip to NYC, but otherwise our house was full of warmth and Portuguese  for the remainder. It seems kind of crazy that we had all of these people in our house, but to tell you the truth, it was really nice to have them here. They are such sweet, wonderful people who were the perfect house guests. They made dinner for us all a few nights. We miss them.

An au pair's hours have certain restrictions; they can provide a maximum of 45 hours per week. With our youngest in half-day preschool, this gives us a chance to have a date night each week or coverage on the occasional weekend day I have to work. She picks up the kids from school, drives them to their swim lessons, gets them bathed. We juggle the days and hours when there is an unexpected snow day or sick day. That flexibility has been key. You have to have space for an au pair to have his/her own room and be okay with someone living with you.

I remember one day, during M's first months, she was Skyping with her family in our living room. Her family - her mom, dad, brother, and brother's girlfriend were all there on the screen saying hi to our kids. I looked over at the screen to find all of her family members on the computer screen with their two hands forming the shape of a heart on their chests, and my children mirroring them on our side. I thought:  this is such a good thing.

I drove M's mom and her mom's friend to the airport when they left; I hadn't realized the impression we left on them. They vowed that they would start some traditions back home since they enjoyed them so much while they were here: having wine with dinner each night and listening to classical music. And even though they said their thanks solely in Portuguese, I saw in their eyes what they meant.

We started a tradition last year of including N in our Christmas card photo with the family. This year's card has us all sitting on our local high school bleachers, each of the three kids on our laps - me, my husband and M. This will help us remember the years when our family was a little bit bigger. M cried when she saw the card for the first time, to be included. We couldn't imagine it differently.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The ways we grow

A patient recently eyed me right before a bedside procedure (I was supervising my residents) and asked with one eyebrow raised, “How long have you been a doctor?”

I thought about it for a couple of seconds, doing the math. “13 years.”

His face registered a small shock. Then, he relaxed a little. “Do you have children?”

“I have three.” His eyes widened, and he smiled.

Thirteen years is a long time; many things have happened to me that undoubtedly have shaped who I’ve become since I graduated medical school. I’ve certainly changed in many ways. Which ways were due to medicine and which were due to plain old maturation? My marriage? Having children? Other life experiences?

Upon reflection, I think medicine is responsible for this: more compassion.

There is a belief that medical training may result in the opposite. That because we see so much death and suffering, we have to harden a little to get through it all and come out emotionally unscathed. I certainly don’t think that’s universal and likely some of those observations arise from the development of burnout, the dampening of resilience.

As a hospitalist, I witness suffering from illness regularly. I am, not too rarely, the bearer of bad news – the cancer we found, the poor prognosis, the decline in function that is unlikely to be gained. I see people at angry, vulnerable, hurting points in their lives.  I’ve seen illness stem from poor choices. But just as often, I’ve seen illness strike with absolutely no provocation, turning someone’s life into a nightmare overnight.

Being a doctor has not made me numb to the suffering of others, despite sometimes feeling surrounded by it. On the contrary, it has made me more acutely away of what makes us human and connected. I think this has altered my approach to the universe. Probably, choosing to work in the veterans health system has something to do with that. I’m driven more by service now than when I was younger. I did community service in college mainly so it would look good on my medical school applications. I do it now because I want to. It helps sustain me.

The man who cleans my office is my favorite person at work. He is a wonderful soul, kind, generous and thoughtful. One day, after reading a column I wrote about emergency research done without consent, he said to me, “KC, I have observed that you have a deep, abiding compassion for those without a voice.”

I didn't know what to say.

Is that me? That wasn’t me before medical school, but if it is me now then I am grateful that becoming a doctor has made me so.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Pump hero

I needed to meet with a team to grade their students and had set up a time to meet them in their team room. This is one of the best team rooms we have in the hospital. It's spacious, with a wall of computer stations on either side, and windows lining the opposite wall from the door, filling the room with natural light. When I'm bringing the third-year students around to their team rooms after orientation, I always deliver this team's students last since it's kind of like closing the curtain between first class and coach.

I walked into the room and saw a medicine intern with her back to me, working at her computer. At the other wall, the senior resident was reading some papers before him. They greeted me as I sat down with my folders and took out my forms for grading.

"I hope you don't mind, but I'll be pumping while we do this." In the sudden quiet, I heard the telltale rhythmic sounds that I knew so well. She was pumping. Right there. In the team room. I didn't notice earlier, but she apparently had a hands-free set-up going, and was typing away, doing her notes. I glanced back at the senior resident, nonplussed. This was routine business.

I was filled with...joy. Admiration. So impressed.

"I think it is so awesome that you pump in the team room!" (Could I have?)

"I've lost all modesty after 9 months," she said with a smile.

We graded. She finished pumping, cleaned up, stored the milk, and I could not stop smiling.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Mother's Day, MiM-style

Mother's Day this year was my favorite one to date. It involved working for 7 hours at the hospital, so maybe my expectations were low that it would be one for the record books. (I had traded teams with another attending in order to get the weekend before - daughter's first communion - off, but that meant being on for Mother's Day.) Instead, I was pleasantly surprised.

8:00 am. Enter post-call team's room  - an all-woman team with resident, 2 interns, and 1 third year medical student - bringing breakfast (nothing worse than being post-call, hungry, and not having food) - and I'm met with a chorus of "Happy Mother's Day!" None had families of their own yet, but they knew about mine. Before we launched into patient presentations, they wanted to know about how my family fun 2 K run went the day before since I had warned them that if I didn't show up that Sunday, it would be because I had died from attempting to run that thing (Not a runner. Usually break things when attempting to run.) We round, take care of our patients. I write my admission notes and head home.

4:00 pm. At home, Girl (8) and Boy (5) have prepared a Mother's Day show. Boy2 (2) is an unpredictable assistant. There is a ticket booth with tickets and an information sheet informing us that we should expect to arrive between 4:00-4:15pm and the last time to get there is 4:15pm.


We all go upstairs into Girl's room and me, husband, and our awesome au pair M are seated in a row of office and desk chairs facing Girl's bed. She reads from a script.

"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, before we start the 3 songs, I would like to talk to you. Over there near the bounce area, you can get raffle tickets. There are only 27 raffle tickets. You just ask for a number of tickets, I hand them to you, you sign your name, and hand them back. Then at the end of the show, I will pick the winner, give them artwork and they will keep it. I also have artwork for KC because it is Mother's Day. Now, if you are wondering where the bounce area is, it is there. (points to corner with many random pillows and blankets). You cannot get all the tickets. The most you can get is 6 raffle tickets. Boy, '1' please."

Boy runs to the CD player and starts the first song of the Holiest Kid CD Known To Man, a CD given to Girl by her first grade teacher at the end of last year - very holy bible songs in surprisingly catchy tunes - this CD deserves a post in itself. Girl, Boy, and Boy 2 stand on the bed and sing and perform. It is achingly cute. (and holy).

"Thank you, thank you. (bow)" repeat x 2 other very holy songs.



At the end, I won the raffle AND got special Mother's Day artwork. Score!

"The show is over. You can play on the bounce area or leave. Thank you for coming. You can also take one of the dolls on the floor, but not Rebecca or Baby Boy, they are my favorite. Thank you!"

7:30pm.  I am walking into Verizon Center arena with Girl for her very first concert. Taylor Swift. This is a birthday present for her, but I am secretly very psyched. It's been ages since I've been to a concert. Girl is a Daddy's girl through and through. I'm usually assisting our boys (very much Mama's boys) and the husband, her. This time with her feels very special. She is BEYOND EXCITED. Half walking-half running ahead to find our seats She screams and sings along to the songs. Watching her experience the concert fills me with joy.

Taylor Swift is fantastic. Such a great, entertaining show. The best concert I've ever been to by far. (OK, maybe not saying much given my track history - not telling - but let's just say the concert that's a distant second was Madonna's Blond Ambition tour, complete with her torpedo bra outfits. Much less family-friendly.)

11:00pm. We finally get home after the drive in from the city (and leaving before the encore - tomorrow is a school day) and get her quickly ready for bed. It's going to be a rough morning.

It was a full day, a  day of work-life on steroids. And completely awesome.