Tuesday, September 19, 2017

I am human.

I'm not being arrogant and I'm not trying say I'm unique here. I'm just listing facts.

I have a lot of skills.
I have a lot of energy.
I have even more ideas.
My thoughts are like an infinite movie reel.
I'm highly motivated.
I'm insanely passionate.
I have a really great attitude.
I will never be content.
I don't like to burden others when I am having a tough time, mad, anxious or stressed (except for those select few...you know who you are.)
But I do struggle at times.

I enjoy comedy.
I strive to be funny.
I am extremely cynical.
I could talk {write} all day.
I am an extrovert.
I am a people person, despite aforementioned cynicism.
I could watch people all day.
I can find a pattern in almost anything. (I am Sherlock.)
I am a problem solver.
Above all, I am run by logic over emotion. Anger being my biggest Achilles heel.
I am competitive.
I am fair.

I get angry at expectation, false assumptions and incorrect observations.
I appreciate idiosyncrasies.
I admire accountability.
I prefer flexibility.
I promote honesty over loyalty.
I like to present things as they truly are, albeit with a dramatic flare at times.
I cannot tell a lie.
I am confident.

My passion is to help others, both emotionally and physically.
I spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to obtain my education.
An education for which I took an oath to "do no harm".
All day I try to make decisions in the best interest of other people.
Only to be told my service wasn't worth paying for...
...to be berated.
I get misplaced anger all day long.
Yet, I smile.
I continue to help.
I hope to be compassionate.
I work REALLY hard to figure out a kind way to tell someone they are overweight. Their smoking is a problem. Their drinking is a problem. Their genetics is a problem. They have a virus. They have cancer. Their fatigue is actually depression. They need to talk to someone to manage their stress. Their pain is chronic. They need surgery. They need to go to the ER.
I am a doctor.

I don't see dollar signs.
I see people.
I wish everyone could enjoy life and all it has to offer.
I wish everyone could see their potential and reach for it.

As much as I wish I didn't, I care...
...I care too much.
About everything, all the time.
Until it's too much.

I adapt.
I am self-reliant. This is different than selfish.
I love. A lot. All the time. Intensely.
I am happy.

I am human.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Guerilla Gardener

There is a man who lives in the somewhat dilapidated apartments behind my office. These apartments are surrounded by a parking lot, another parking lot, and office buildings. There is quite a lack of green space. I would not ever describe this man as well-kempt. I'm not sure I would go to the extreme of calling him filthy, or even dirty, but I might guess that he's not purchased new clothing, any time real recent. He never appears drunken, or disheveled. In fact, he always seems completely lucid and content. I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say "happy" as he tends to have a more serious presence about him, but conversations with this man are very pleasant. If I had to guess, he might be a painter, or a "handy-man". Someone in these apartments is a "junk collector", for all I know, it's him. But there is one skill I'm 100% sure he possesses: gardening.

This man starts working on his garden in February. He loves on it, covers it with recyclables for freezing weather, waters it, preens it, weeds it. Every day. It flourishes. It is beautiful. It brightens my morning every time I park my car. At the same time, it also causes a sharp pang of guilt as my bumper covers, breaks or destroys some stems, nearly every morning. Because of this aforementioned complete lack of green space, this man is gardening on a 1.5 foot (at most) road verge. I have to pull up as close as possible, because this now beautiful and bustling garden separates our extremely cramped backside office parking from their apartment parking lot. This verge is so small, if it weren't now filled with flowers of all sorts, you might not even notice it.

I look at this man in awe. I silently thank him multiple times through the Spring and Summer, even Fall. He has brought wildlife to a PARKING LOT. This morning, there were Monarch butterflies. Through the Spring and Summer there are little Yellow Warblers (or Finches). And now the Hummingbirds are arriving to feast on the Morning Glories. There is a constant buzz from the bees, and many other small types of insect and butterflies. I once asked if he was hired to do this, and he just laughed at me. I felt it was a silly question as well. I would have been flabbergasted to hear that the owner of these seemingly forsaken apartments would hire someone to plant flowers, literally in the cracks of the parking lot.

I engaged him in conversation again, recently. I found out that he has affectionately and appropriately been named by his friends: "The Guerrilla Gardener". His unconventional tactics in gardening surprise me on a daily basis. We all reap the benefits of the beauty in our lot. I've seen some of the nurses and staff picking flowers, which the Guerrilla Gardener has always kindly suggested we do; "They're just going to wilt away eventually. There are plenty. You might as well take them home and enjoy them."

I think I love this garden a little bit more than I should because of this modest and humble man. I hope he knows how much we all admire his work. But I don't think he really cares if we do...


Tuesday, June 13, 2017


As a mother of 5, I think one of the most frequent comments I get from people with 3 or less kids is, "I could never do that."

Though, I think some of them mean, I could never do that and...

...still be sane.
...still keep my home in order.
...still get my kids everywhere on time.
...care about life.
Et cetera and so on...

Often, my response is, "you're right".

Ok. That's really just in my head. But before you think I am being arrogant, let me explain.

You could never do this. WITH your current expectations, that is.

You see, with every change in life comes adaptation. You can't always foresee what these changes will be or how they will change your life as you know it. You can't always plan for them. When looking from your current view, some changes appear to be negatives. A loss. But what we so often forget is that sometimes there are unforeseen positives that outweigh these "losses" so immensely, that you don't even notice they're gone.

Once upon a time, I loved to shop. I enjoyed walking up and down aisles, imagining how I might redecorate my home. How I might re-style my wardrobe. I created Pinterest boards. I loved Pinterest. At a certain point, I was determined to become Pinterest famous (if that's even a thing.) I would physically shop in stores until I found things that matched my visions, but before I fully realized it had happened, I phased into online shopping. I had lost the time to walk through the stores. This didn't happen immediately. I didn't have a kid, then stop. I didn't even have 2 kids and stop entirely. Nor 3. I don't think it was until somewhere in the 4 or 5 range that I simply stopped wandering the stores...but I don't notice it. I don't necessarily miss it. I think it has been replaced by sporting events with my kids. By lunches with my friends.

Even with 5 children, I still go to lunch with my friends. I even make it to happy hours or coffee or brunch or dinners. It might require more planning, but I still get to do it. I could exercise more, but if someone asks me to join them for a social rendezvous, that run gets kicked aside. I'd be lying if I didn't say that I occasionally miss being in fantastic shape, but I simply don't miss the work it takes to get there. I've prioritized socializing over fitness (not health, they're not one in the same. Trust me, I'm a doctor.) This is right for me. It makes me happy, it makes me less stressed, it recharges me. If exercise does this for you, then you prioritize it. So, yes, from an outside perspective, the ideal would be to get in both, but from the inside perspective, you don't feel like you've lost anything, you've just adjusted your expectations. Adapted.

I used to write blog posts, with carefully chosen and edited pictures to compliment the story up to 10 times a month! I edited photos and updated albums. I was great about thank you notes and birthday wishes and thoughtful gifts. I hung framed photos or art in my home. I planned elaborate and well-executed parties on the regular. I spent time day-dreaming of home improvements. Now, I get a post up about once a month. There aren't any photos. The last photo album I printed was almost 2 years ago. The last item I framed?? No idea (though, I did, after nearly 3 years, finally update photos to include all 5 of my kids in the existing frames on the wall.) And if  day-dreaming about sorting through toys and throwing out broken ones and putting them all in their "place" counts as "home improvements" then, I guess I still do that on a pretty regular basis.

I laid out at the pool for hours on my days off. Leisurely swimming laps if the urge compelled me.

I fed my competitive spirit by being part of adult sporting leagues in volleyball, kickball and basketball. We regularly had game nights with friends. I now find ways to be competitive in the form of competing in corporate challenge, subbing for adult leagues in volleyball, soccer and pickleball. Maybe even playing with my children...but there's a fine line there, that I'm not certain I don't cross over. They need to learn how to be a good sport when losing, right!??

Now, I feel I need to add some perspective at this point. I have never been without a huge commitment filling most of my time. I played sports intensely; swam, lifted, exercised for 6+ hours a day from age 11-22. I then worked 2 jobs until the start of medical school, and after that, residency, and now, a full-time position as a physician. So the time I am speaking of filling, has always been tremendously limited for me. There has never been a point in my life that I haven't been forced to really assess my true priorities...and this might be where most people struggle.

To continue to adapt, you MUST establish your priorities. It's vital. And once you've done this, it's time to manage expectations. And once you've done that. You can do ANYTHING. You can have all the children in the world. Or none. You can marry. Or not. You can run a marathon. Or walk around the block. You can travel. Or never leave your home state. You can make choices and evaluate their impact on your quality of life and keep them up, or leave them. And instead of saying "I could never do that" you will find that you've started to say, "why only 5"?

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Love is blind. Or is it?

As quickly as that rare and blissful moment came of waking up due to my own body's natural inclination, it vanished. 7:02am!!!??? My meeting started 2 minutes ago. I jumped out of bed just as Matt walked back into our bedroom, exasperated, "I have to shower and leave, ASAP! I am going to miss the whole meeting, and I really needed to make it to this one."

Unphased by my {more common than I'd like to admit} hysterics, he replies, "Why is this one so important?"  

"I was supposed to introduce Botox migraine treatments to my partners!"

"Oh. Well just don't shower then."

What?? Don't shower? I mean, don't get me wrong. I have been known to push that a bit longer than I should. I still blame the swimming days for my severe aversion to getting wet. But, I was at the pool all day yesterday. In fact, we even went twice! {And now you're questioning that whole aversion to getting wet statement. Yeah. It doesn't make total sense, but I can tell you this; I rarely get in the pool. I'm mostly just observing small children while getting a bit of sun, and feeling free.} I can't possibly skip out on this today, can I?

So, I start in with all the excuses. I was at the pool. My hair is greasy. I haven't washed my face. I have to be in small rooms with patients. Near them, touching them, they can smell me. He just stands there, and says, "seriously, Erin, you look fine."

I'm just not buying it. God love him, that man always thinks I look "fine". I think I look like a supermodel, he says I look "fine". I think I look like a ragamuffin, he says I look "fine". I spend an hour on hair and make-up. Fine. I go for a run on my 3rd day without a shower, and, well, beyond fine...if I'm in active wear, he's trying to grab my a$$. I simply cannot trust his judgment when it comes to my looks. And, honestly, as much as this is a put down to myself, I'm not real sure about his taste in general...ask him his celebrity crush picks. Thumbs down. He even liked "10 Things I Hate About You" Julia Stiles. What? Puke. She's got some kind of weird moon face. (No offense Julia. Mwah.)

"Matt, you always think I look fine. Love is blind. And that's great, and it really works out well for me, and it's something I'm so glad we have, but, sorry, I just don't believe you."

"Well, just know I have nothing to gain by telling you this. I don't care what you do, but I think you can go to the meeting without showering."

With that, we part ways. I'm sold...let's face it, I'll take any excuse not to shower. I throw on some clothes. Bobby pin my hair. Throw it in a messy bun, in that oh so basic attempt to make my slovenliness appear intentional. Dash out the door. Show up late to my meeting, and...

...I am greeted by smiles. What!? No one is holding their nose or vomiting in their mouths from my filth!? What's wrong with these people? Can't they see I didn't shower this morning!? Am I taking crazy pills? Was Matt, god forbid it, RIGHT!??? Stay calm, Erin. Stay calm. Present your Botox, and just go with it. Maybe he called them ahead and warned them about my appearance: "Hey guys, Erin looks pretty awful today. It's bad. I'm worried about her. Can you please just not say anything? And also, just try to hide your disgust when she walks in the room? K. Thx"

The meeting went as usual. I got to the office. I walk into my first patient's room, yet again, late. I apologize for my tardiness, and she looks up at me for a moment and says,

"Well. You just look too pretty to be seeing patients today."

Huh. I guess he really was right, after all. Maybe love isn't all that blind. Maybe love sees everything. Guess, I'm going to be googling pictures of Julia Stiles later...

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Berry's Great Mis-Adventure

It all feels kind of like a dream. The instant I looked down at my phone, while attending a wedding shower in St. Louis to find that I had missed 2 calls from Matt in less than 4 minutes, I knew it was bad. He was supposed to be at the hotel, swimming with the boys, so, instantly I knew that one of our children had drowned. I couldn't breath as I waited and waited for Matt to answer my call back. He didn't pick up. I called again, and again. Diana followed me to a back corner near the laundry and fiddled with the dryer (hope she didn't damage anything) and the whole party disappeared as I focused on that phone. Finally, a voice, "Berry ran off." Huh? What? How? Why? That dog has literally never left the front yard, ever. "She panicked when the neighbor came to let her out and just took off." Shit.

Here we are, her people, 4 hours away in St. Louis. At a party. At a hotel. Breath, Erin. And start texting like mad. I tried to notify every single person I knew in Brookside. I posted to Facebook. Matt posted to Next door. Within minutes I had friends and family looking. Within an hour, someone had responded to my Instagram post that they'd seen her in Mission Hills, but that she was too scared to come and was just running. People came together from all directions, connections, neighborhoods to get the word out. To give us advice. To help us. In the same moment that I was sick to my stomach with worry, my heart was filled to the brim with amazement at all the human kindness. One of my longest and bestest friends spent no less than 5 hours searching for that dog on Saturday.

This was a dog. A silly family pet. How often had I not given a second thought when I loose dog didn't come to me? I shrugged it off, and though, "Oh, I'm sure it gets out all the time and is headed home." Never again. If I see a loose dog, if I can't pick it up, you betcha I'll be scouring those lost and found sights, calling animal control and finding it's owners.

We got that first sighting one hour after she escaped, then proceeded to have 54 hours of silence.

Berry went dark.

Matt drove, and drove and drove for days. The hope I was clinging to, was that she'd been found and they were just waiting for Monday morning to take her in to an open shelter or vet. I called every single one. No luck. The sad thoughts that whirled through  my head never ceased. I wanted to start preparing myself that she was gone. Sure that she'd either been hit, was curled-up injured, freezing and dying, or someone had found her and was simply keeping her for their own because she is simply the sweetest thing in the world.

So sure was I of tragedy, that I scoffed at the insistence by veteran pet rescue searchers to create flyers. How on earth could printing flyers and hanging them help anything? Everyone is on Next door and Facebook. Where would I print them? How many, how much, who would create it? How would I hang them. Everything felt like a mountain. Even feeding my children. Thank goodness my sister took a few for those middle 40 hours. 

This is where the encouraging stories play a vital role. Friends, family, acquaintances all started telling me their lost pet stories. How their dog was gone for 2 weeks and they found them. My mom reminded me of my sister's childhood dog, Ribbon, who ran off and was found underneath a truck almost 3 days later. Texts about neighborhood dogs being gone for 2 weeks and being reunited. The more people told me these things, the more I realized, we have to do the signs. We have to do everything.

A kind woman, named Kim, connected to me through one of my very first swim coaches sent me a long, long text explaining to me exactly how to make the flyers. This complete stranger had so much advice for me and told me to call her at anytime if I needed more help. I quickly created the file, called around to printers and found one who said he'd like to do it for me immediately and at cost (Moss Printing on Johnson Drive). He told me his own tragic pet story and said he wanted to do anything to help, and to keep him posted on the search. Matt bought a laminator and some zip ties. I got some bright colored poster board, and we went to town. Creating 100 signs. People reached out and asked for the PDF so they could print and hang signs in their own neighborhoods.

We drove around hanging signs, the kids bound up in the van watching a movie. I honestly cannot remember when or if the kids were present for most of this venture. Matt was annoyed that I insisted on coming, and bringing the children, but I told him, "I'm not currently equipt to care for them." My brain couldn't switch off. I could hardly hear my children, let alone care for them. My phone ran out of battery 9 times in 70 hours (normally this would only happen 2-3 times.) I was glued to it, waiting for something!! Anything. On any one of the 7 Facebook groups, 3 lost and found sites or Next door, or a phone call from a flyer. It got to be after 7pm on Monday night, so Matt dropped us at home so I could attempt to focus on the kids for a moment and feed them and put them to bed. So, I put my phone on the charger and spent the next 15 minutes warming mac & cheese and hot dogs.

Then, it happens. A foreign number starts ringing. "Hi, is this the person looking for Berry? I posted to Next door, but I think my husband and I saw your dog cross Shawnee Mission parkway and Santa Fe heading South. I got out and on the ground and called to her and just as she started to come to me a motorcycle scared her away. We tried to follow but she was running away full steam and we lost her." What!!? OMG. She's alive! She's alive. I got off the phone and sent Matt in that direction. I called me mom to relieve me, so I could head that way. Soon, another sighting an hour later and 10 blocks further South. I had texted friends. Matt's mom headed that way. I ran into an old neighbor who'd seen that she was in their neck of the woods and he came out with his own dog to search. Again, we drove for hours. No luck. It was snowing and freezing and pitch black.
Matt hung signs all around Overland Park and headed home around 11:45pm. Exhausted. Disappointed. And hopeful, we tried to sleep.

But, she's alive. She's crossed so many major, major intersections, has been out for 60 hours, and it still able to run fast enough that no one can catch her. She's ok. We will get her in the morning. I can feel it.
The next morning, we woke up to another post. Someone on Nextdoor said they'd seen her another 8 blocks South at 1am (79th and Antioch.) Matt headed straight that way to search and hang more flyers. Our neighbor headed out to search before work. Mimi headed out again. Our previous nanny of almost 5 years, Kerry, loaded up her kiddo and headed that way. I got the kids dressed and fed and motivated, and we started our own search party. No luck.

I called Matt at about 11:30am to inform him that the kids were done, they needed food and to be released from their car seats. He stated that he didn't want to leave the area, in case we got a call, but you could tell his spirits weren't real high. No sooner did I start to drive home, than my phone rings again, and a woman slightly out of breath says, "I just walked past your flyer and I see your dog! She's right in front of me at 81st and Mackey, I'm trying to follow her." My heart is pounding, I can't believe it, that's near where we are all searching. I turn around, I tell her to keep an eye on her if she can, but to not chase her. I hang up and call Matt, he starts to head that way. I hang up to see I'd missed a call from Kerry. I call her back and get a loud, "I've found her, Erin! I've found her. There are a few of us trying to get her." And I stay on the phone with Kerry, as she gently calls Berry's name, and finally, the terrified, panicked pup stopped. Her brain switched off survival mode, and she curled up crying at Kerry's feet. It was over.

71 hours later, a lifetime, yet a flicker, we had our pup. It all feels kind of like a dream.

If this experience taught me anything, it is this: there are still amazing, altruistic, caring, helpful people that exist in this world. So many of them. Good exists.

But it also showed me that:

Tragedy helps you really see what matters and get over past indiscretions.

Microchip, tag, collar and leash your dog. No matter how well trained or behaved they are. (Berry had never previously left the yard.)

Flyers work.

I don't know how those families that have a loved one go missing that is never found, ever function normally again. My brain really couldn't switch off into normal life function. I honestly didn't hardly eat or drink my self, let alone feed my children.

There are some people out there that are just "do-er's". And I am not trying to dis anyone, but do'er's are my favorite types. I'm not real sure I qualify as one. I describe myself as the "idea man", with poor execution skills. Which might be why I surround myself with do'ers, because, they jumped into action without hesitating. Spent hours of their weekend searching the streets of KC. They are amazing.

My eye is still twitching.

My heart is still swelling.

Things I still don't understand after this whole experience:
Why do we have pets in the first place?
So, that, my friends, was the great Berry chase of 2017.