Antiquated

w8185f-1Today was a good day.  There were only a few things on the agenda that needed to get done.  The first was to get the car inspected, but unfortunately, my place was closed due to a funeral, such is the life in a small town.  Oh, there were other car inspection places that I could go, but this was the place I liked, they knew me, and I didn’t want to go anywhere else.  It’s OK, I can wait.  I’m not driving around illegally yet.  I’ve got until the end of the month.

The second thing on the list was to get groceries.  That required a trip to Publix, which really is a pleasure.  If you don’t have a Publix, well, I feel sorry for you.  It only took 14 years for me to get one here and I’m never going anywhere else ever again unless out of utter desperation.  Publix is the grocery store of my childhood.  They still give kids free cookies so I suspect my children will love them henceforth, too.

The Publix of my childhood had a really interesting feature which I never gave much thought to until now.  It had a giant antique scale when you first walked in the door.  It was really tall, at least to my child-sized self.  I had to bend my neck back as far as I could to read the numbers on the scale when I stood on it.  This scale was kind of a giant version of a vegetable scale in the produce department, with that bouncy arrow to show whether you should indulge in said cookie or not.

Every time my mother took me shopping, I had to get on that scale.  I wonder if it was an annoyance to her?  She probably just needed to grab a gallon of milk and get home to prepare dinner, but I was making it take twice as long.  At least, that’s what happens anytime I take my children anywhere.  My mother rarely showed any annoyance and I try to emulate that for my kids, even though inside I’m performing the emotional version of pulling my hair out.  I’d encourage my mom to get on the scale, too, and that’s when the annoyance would show.  She was not getting on.  No matter what.  Now let’s go.

I took for granted that the scale was a normal part of the grocery shopping experience because it isn’t.  I’ve never seen a scale in another grocery store ever before or since.  It was just at my Publix in my hometown.  I wonder who put it there?  Why?  Where did it come from?  The only other places that have a scale as part of the routine experience are gyms and doctor’s offices and people hate going to both places.  In some weird way, though it made sense.  Should you buy that half gallon of ice cream on sale this week?  Well, let me get on that scale and see.

And in other ways, it’s a terrible idea, especially for a grocery store who wants you to buy that ice cream on sale.  They don’t want you to think that you should not indulge because that might hurt their bottom line.  It seems that the bottom line is all that really matters anymore.

Maybe we need more scales in grocery stores, and pharmacies that can make you a milkshake, and healthcare that doesn’t bankrupt a family.  We need more businesses that close for a funeral even if it means I didn’t get my car inspected when I wanted to.  We need businesses that aren’t just in the business to make a buck, but to provide a service and an experience to the customer and to their employees.  We need businesses that put scales in the foyer even if it doesn’t make any sense, even if it costs them a sale on that ice cream on sale.

 

Posted in Healthcare Today, Medical Musings, My Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Home

IMG_0437As I stand in the place where the ocean and land meet, I have the overwhelming desire to go home.  Myrtle Beach is just not the same.  The sand isn’t right.  The color of the ocean is all wrong.  Where are the little birds that peck at the creatures hidden in the sand, the ones that run forward when the waves recede and back again when the waves roll in?  The ones that I used to chase at home?  Finding that sweet spot where their meals are most exposed between the waves, rejoicing with their high-pitched squawks.  Or maybe they were just mad at me for interfering.

It doesn’t escape me that the ocean is where I long to go to for escape.  The ocean is home, but not just any ocean will do, it seems, because I’m here, feet being soothed by the waves like warm blood flowing back into veins and arteries.  Heartbeat.  Lifeblood.  The ocean. Only I just want to go home and it’s not here.

It doesn’t escape me that I was here almost a year ago, standing the same way, in almost the exact same spot after my mother died.  Just weeks before, I tried to bring her back, but I couldn’t.  I tried desperately to breathe life into her, watching her blue eyes turn grey, like the ocean at sunset, becoming dimmer and unfocused, blurring the lines between life and death, day and night.

My ocean lies in a town sandwiched between the uber wealthy and the uber fabulous, Fort Lauderdale on one side and West Palm Beach on the other.  My hometown is like an awkward middle child, a little left out, a little forgotten, a little underestimated.

The sand here, where I am standing, is like fine powder, it sticks to everything, but the sand on my beach isn’t really sand at all.  If you look closely, it is a billion broken seashells, the edges rubbed smooth by the brutal forces of the sea.  The pieces of shells are bigger than sand, heartier, more substantial.  The ocean itself is bluer, warmer, and teeming with life.  That is my home.  It’s rhythmic waves my heartbeat, it’s salty sea my lifeblood.

Home is permanent sandal tan lines.  Sun-kissed blond highlights in wind-whipped hair. Bike rides to the beach with a mini pink boombox hanging from the handlebars playing Bon Jovi on the tape deck.  Buying cigarettes from the rusty vending machine with pull handles.  Watching the shirtless tanned boy with long hair playing football with his rowdy friends from afar, Faith looking at me and saying, “I want that one,” and me replying, “No, that one’s mine.”

And he was for a while, until he wasn’t anymore.

But that was a long time ago and I haven’t been home in ages.  No reason to go back now. There’s nothing there for me.

I left because of my work.  My residency took me to North Carolina.  I wanted to go.  I wanted to leave home.  And I did.  I left everyone and everything.  Even the tan boy with long hair.  Who was now a man, with a clean cut, and a job, who didn’t want to go along for the ride.

My work.  Oh how I struggle with my choices.  I stare at the ocean.  Please, God, give me the answers.  The ocean and God don’t seem to be listening to me, but I’ll wait.

The day that my mother died was my day off.  I didn’t spend it with her.  I spent it at the corporate hive finding out why they thought I wasn’t doing my charts right.  It took months to get an answer.  Back and forth.  Back and forth.  Cancelled meetings, rescheduled, my apologies, can’t make it this week, until finally, I said, “I’ll drive the 2 hours to you.”  I needed to face my accusers.  In the end, it was silly.  Pointless.  My “mistakes” meaningless to me or the patient, but cost the corporation, apparently.  I didn’t write enough.  I didn’t charge enough.  I needed to do more.  Because doing more gets them paid more.

That night my mother died.  And the corporation never sent me a card or an arrangement.

In the beginning, my motives were simple.  I wanted to help people.  Not just anyone, either, but people who really needed it.  The people that maybe weren’t the wealthy and fabulous, but somewhere sandwiched in between, forgotten.  I left the boy, the dog, the house, the family, the sea, and I went.  It was idyllic at first, but after a while, we got gobbled up, like the little sea creatures being plucked out from between the tides by those birds.  I guess I gave up chasing them away a long time ago.

Home.  The sea resides within me.  I take it wherever I go, it’s molecules intertwined in my DNA.  I never really left it and it never left me.  The broken sea shells tossed about and worn smooth, the deep blue hues, the life beneath the surface, the warmth of the sun on brown skin, this is my home, this is my heart, this is who I am, I haven’t been beaten.  The tide always rolls back again.

 

 

 

 

 

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Racism in America: Am I part of the problem? — THE SHINBONE STAR

I’m moonlighting over at the Shinbone Star today.  I talk about a test I took that measures implicit biases about race.  You can take the test, too.  If you are comfortable, let me know how you scored and what that score means to you.  The only way to overcome our unconscious biases is to communicate with each other, face our biases, and work to together to overcome them.

It is a universal truth that a racist is an ignorant sort, both vile and evil. To be racist is to be embroiled in an ancient conspiracy that the color of every human’s outer layer of skin denotes inherent qualities of good and evil. A racist perpetuates this conspiracy — always in his own favor. […]

via Racism in America: Am I part of the problem? — THE SHINBONE STAR

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The Road Not Taken

_DSC0085To say that I and the people around me have had the year from hell is an understatement.  I have been waging battles and battles have been waged against me.  I have sought the counsel of friends, coworkers, partners, therapists, mentors, and career counselors.  I have meditated, cried, prayed, run, screamed, and pounded my fists against tables.  I have spent time in introspection, outer-spection (this should be a word), and around the block and down the street-spection.  I have questioned God, the universe, my sanity, my purpose, and the laws of truth and fairness.  I have spent many nights ruminating, contemplating, annihilating, vacillating, and capitulating.

And finally, however brief and fleeting it may be, I have a sense of peace.  Whichever way this turns out, I feel a sense of calm.  I have felt this before over the past year, but inevitably someone, something would go and muck it up.  Whatever truce had been forged would be ruined by the distant gunfire of deceit.  Waging battle means you have something to lose.  Today, I don’t feel like I have anything to lose.  There is a freedom in that.  I have the sense that my toes are dangling on the edge of a cliff, the waters raging beneath, and I could swan dive into the depths of the ocean, perfectly, with the slightest ripple and splash as my feet enter the water like an Olympian.  I rise to the surface, my face breaking through the imperceptible line between water and air, gasping in the salty oxygen, victorious.

I’m diving in.  All in.  I’m about to find out what I’m worth.  Will I be bargain basement?  Target? Neiman Marcus? Will I be on clearance or discarded at the Goodwill?  Funny thing is, million dollar artwork has been found at the Goodwill.  One man’s trash….

I know what I’m worth, that’s where the battle began.  My worthiness (all of our worthiness) is not defined by dollar signs, but by integrity, work ethic, and the ability to give the absolute best without financial gain.  Getting the best out of me does not increase with the size of the check.  The best things from me happen when there is no money involved.  Like this blog.  Like teaching.  Like phone calls to my patients.  Like humor in the face of despair.  The best things in me come out when no one is looking, when no one is paying attention.

I am at a crossroads.  I have been here for longer than a year.  I have stood, pacing back and forth, sometimes putting one foot to the left and walking a bit, then backtracking and going right.  Sometimes going back up the main path, but never able to get back to the beginning for all the roadblocks in my way.  I’m not scared.  I have no fear.  I know my worth and it can not be measured and it can not be bought.

A poem hangs in my exam room, one of my favorites, The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost.  I thought I hung it there for my patients, but really I put it there for myself.  It’s a reminder to follow my path, however strange and unyielding it may be.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

 

Posted in Healthcare Today, My Stories, Poems | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 41 Comments

Pink Flamingoes

18491753_10212954057671337_7137225199933683469_oA funny thing happened when our family returned home from a week long trip to Disney World.

We spent the entire week living out of our RV in what I would consider the epitome of RV parks, Disney’s Fort Wilderness.  One week there will ruin you for any RV park anywhere.  RV parks aren’t exactly known for their plush surroundings.  In fact, prior to owning an RV, I pretty much thought RV parks were seriously tacky.  My opinion hasn’t changed much.  I have embraced the tacky.

Disney’s version of an RV park is clean, perfect WiFi, snack bars, restaurants, boat rides, golf cart rentals, a plethora of wild animals (deer, bunnies, squirrels, frogs, lizards, armadillos, and possums -were just a few that we saw), shopping, groceries, sing-a-longs, and outdoor movies and s’mores with Chip and Dale.  I think what I like most about Disney’s RV park is that no one actually lives there, they just visit and then move on.  Other RV parks get a little weird.  People live in mobile units that are meant for the open road, but they park them and put out pink flamingoes and garden gnomes.  They don’t leave.  They stay.  I find that weird.

I find it so weird, that I think I could do it, too.  My husband and I talk about it on occasion.  When the kids go to college, we could sell everything, downsize our current RV (it sleeps about 10, rather uncomfortably), and hit the road.  We could stay at campsites along the interstate or at the beach.  We could drive to California and ride up the west coast through Canada.  Anything is possible when you are driving your house down the interstate.  We could stay in the mountains during the summer and the beach during the winter.  We could stay put for a while and put out pink flamingoes, then pull them up, pack them under the coach and drive to the next destination.  Nomads.  Adventurers.  Road Warriors.  Imagine the possibilities!

We spent a week in pretty close quarters when we weren’t fighting the crowds at the parks.  Our hot water heater didn’t work and the kitchen sink sprung a leak, but the toilet worked magnificently!!  That wasn’t the case the last time we went to Disney.  We discovered on the first day that toilet paper got stuck somewhere in the pipes and backed everything up.  So the toilet paper had to be bagged and not flushed.  Ewwwwww.

RV life isn’t for the faint of heart.

Four people living in about 300 square feet of space for 7 days.  Without a kitchen sink or hot shower.  You get kind of used to it.  When we got home, we unpacked our clothes, food, and toiletries.  I took a hot shower.

Everyone was exhausted from the drive and the week of nonstop activity from sunup to sundown.  I found myself relaxing on the couch with a book, my husband had fallen asleep on the chaise part of the couch and both of my kids sat next to me playing on their iPads.

After 7 days in close quarters, a funny thing happened, we found ourselves not dispersed to our corners of the house, but sitting inches apart from one another on the couch.  I know it won’t always be like this, at some point my 8 and 6 year old will be 15 and 13.  They won’t want to be with mom and dad in an RV.  They won’t want to sit next to us on the couch.  They probably won’t want to go to Disney World anymore.  In that moment, alone in my realization, I breathed it in and held it in my chest for a moment.  Trying to make time stand still, putting a little pink flamingo of memory in the tacky RV park of my mind.

 

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the shiny penny syndrome

fullsizeoutput_207eKid’s collect a lot of junk.  Some of it is good junk like Lego’s and pretty dolls and some of it is utter rubbish.  Take for instance the penny.  I would walk by a penny without a second thought.  Not a kid.  Especially a little kid.  While walking in a busy parking lot, they will see the penny on the ground, stop mid stride with their mother barely keeping from tumbling head first over their little body, bend down and scoop that little treasure up.  They will turn it over in their hands, eyes wide and bright and say, “Look!  I found a penny!” as if it were the greatest treasure known to mankind.  Oh to be so easily pleased with one self!  To be so easily excited by the small gifts from the universe!

In a quest to remember those little moments, I keep a stash of the treasures that my children have discovered (I may be a bit of a junk hoarder myself).  Many of these things were discovered, marveled at, and then handed over to mom to “carry for me.”  Or maybe they were shoved into one of my pockets by little hands that were scurrying for even more treasure to hoard.  Of course, those treasures were soon forgotten until the end of the day when the clothes came off and the rocks and bits fell haphazardly to the floor.  Or they banged around in the dryer days later.  Then I remembered them, but the kids still forgot.  That’s the way it is with kids.  The greatest treasure one minute, forgotten the next.

I imagine even as adults we act like this.  The new car, the new job, the new relationship. All shiny little bits of treasure that were once so magical and desired, but once acquired quickly become old, devoid of luster, and forgotten.  If only we could maintain the feeling of finding a shiny penny.  Maybe it’s just me.  That thing I worked so hard for, dreamed about, spent my life acquiring, I’m there.  I made it.  I’m at the top of my game.  Now that I’m here, it’s not what I expected.  It lacks a certain luster.  It seems devoid of the magic.  It’s mundane and the true reason I did it -seems forgotten.  Why did I do all of this again?

I’m ready for a new adventure.  I’m ready for a new treasure.  I’m looking for a shiny penny that stops me in my tracks and makes me marvel at the strange gift from the universe.

Or I might just stick my hand in my pocket and discover that I already have that shiny penny.  I put it in my pocket a long time ago and forgot about it.  It’s been there the whole time just waiting to be rediscovered.

 

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In Montana an assault on a reporter and an assault on truth

The folks at The Shinbone Star don’t take too kindly to the rabble rousing in Montana this week.  To call it rabble rousing would be an understatement, it was down right assault when Greg Gianforte, at the time campaigning for a seat in the US House of Representatives, can be heard tussling with a reporter.  On tape, he is accused of body slamming the reporter and he offers no defense, no denials.  He later issues an apology.  There is no question that it happened.  The question is -do we tolerate such behavior?  It seems the answer is -yes, as he was easily elected to be a representative in Congress.

As you can imagine, a group of reporters and editors had a lot to say about the incident.  Listen in to their conversation….

 

In Montana on Thursday, Republican Greg Gianforte won election to the U.S. House of Representatives despite the fact that the day before, he body-slammed a reporter for asking a question. As outraged as we are here at The Shinbone Star, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that a significant number of Americans — both in […]

via In Montana, an assault on a reporter and an assault on truth — THE SHINBONE STAR

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