Friday, February 14, 2020

George turns 8.

As Matt and I sat, listening to George's teacher discuss his progress, we glanced throughout the room, noticing all the 2nd grade classroom art and various decor. Directly behind the teacher was a large billboard of adorable pink pigs, relatively uniform in their construction. Clearly, the children were given pre-cut pieces for each of the body parts, and potentially shown an example of how one should/could assemble them (which was the pig with it's head situated on the right, facing you, attached to a standing profile of the body.) Though each pig had its own little flair of uniqueness, they were all relatively identical.

With the exception of one pig.

This pig was sitting on it's rump, it was squarely facing you, it's body behind it, and it's tail behind that. This pig seemed happy, and content, and really not anything like a rebel. Just, simply different from the others.

Maybe this pig didn't listen to the instructions?
Maybe this pig did, and just didn't feel like facing the right, today.
Maybe this pig heard everything, actually wanted to follow instructions, really tried, but for some reason, signals just get crossed. What goes in, does not necessarily come back out as we all expected.

As if, maybe, instructions go through some sort of jumbler.

I'll give you zero guesses on who's pig was sitting, staring us directly in the face.


Since his birth, George has done things *not quite* right. (Literally. He actually came out "sunny side up" - aka upside down.) Though we always attributed this to his goofy nature...we've actually never been quite sure if his antics are purposeful or a happy mistake. I'm not sure he knows either.

His faces. The way he talks. The words he uses. The way he holds a pencil. The way he dresses. His accessories. His ideas. His stories.

{I think people take psychedelic drugs to bend and warp the world around them to see what George sees naturally.}

Of all my children, he is the one I've worried most about sending to Catholic school. Or, pretty much any school. He's as square a peg as I've ever seen...and we are trying to send him through a round hole.

He's smart. He's kind. He's funny. He has friends. He's compassionate (so much so, he's won this virtue twice.) His teachers love and appreciate him.

He's CREATIVE. So incredibly, naturally, accidentally creative. It's as if every experience involves all 5 senses for him. You will never see George simply eat a meal with a spoon or fork. His fingers get involved somehow, his face, his clothes...a slotted spoon, a straw...you just never really know.

I don't worry about his success, or making his way in this world.

I do worry about crushing his spirit. Seems that's the only way to get a square peg through a round hole - you know - to crush it a bit.

George turns 8 this week. I want nothing more than for him to continue to enjoy this life to the fullest! I don't want him to see it as a bunch of difficult, stringent hurdles he's being forced to jump. I also want him to find a way to fit in, just enough, to get through those round holes without losing his shape.

Gosh, I just love that kid and his incredibly distinctive peculiarities.

I mean, and maybe I'm just partial to the misfits, but long before I knew the fat, front facing, sitting pig was his, I knew it was my favorite.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Physician as a Career?

On a rare Sunday morning, I woke and had the time to make breakfast for my kids and their cousin who'd stayed the night. My nephew said, "Thanks Aunt Erin, I feel like I never see you." To which my oldest (10) stated very matter-of-factly, with no ill-intent, "That's because she's never home."

Being a full time, private practice physician and mom to 5 kids, with a healthy social life, it's extremely common to get a variation of the question, "Will you support/suggest your kids become a doctor?" More specifically, I've gotten, "Would you want your daughter to go into medicine?"

You can't help but take this to mean, "Are you happy with your decision to go into medicine?"

Despite the ever-changing climate, and somewhat significant downsides (insurance requirements/EMR/ commitment in both time and emotional energy), medicine still remains a stable career. If you become a board certified physician there is (are) a (million) job(s) for you. This job will not be low income. This job is something you can always be proud of (if practiced correctly) and full of satisfaction, knowing you are helping and treating your fellow man. This job typically comes with an element of automatic "respect" in society. This job allows you to use your knowledge daily, as well as expand your knowledge daily. It's good for the curious, it's good for the creative, it's good for the caring. This job has no specific personality type.

As a mother, probably my single greatest goal is to raise 5 happy, self sufficient, contributory members of society. That's it. Do I think having a career in medicine can accomplish this? Absolutely.

Will I caution them? Yes. Will I sugar-coat the state of medicine? No.

I think as a mother, we can see, from an extremely early age, our children's strengths. Their weakness. Their struggles. What motivates them. What frustrates them. So, I'd like to think I would counsel them appropriately if they came to me, interested in the medical profession. 

I'd tell them that becoming a physician requires patience, determination, dedication, confidence, sacrifice. So, so, so much sacrifice. 

I'd tell them, no matter what you go into, inpatient, outpatient, surgery, specialties, primary care, you will work more hours than you want to, and some days will be hard. So very hard. 

Some days will be hard and without reward. The outcome won't be great. The patient you spent so many hours treating, worrying about, caring for might not get better. You might be giving the hardest news any human ever has to hear. They might die. They might not appreciate your services. They get mad at you. Give you poor reviews. Abuse you, for lack of better term, all because you did what was best for them to the best of your knowledge and training (which will be extensive, grueling and perhaps the hardest trial of your life.)

Some days will be hard, yet wonderful. You might deliver a baby, bring life into this world. You might be the one to tell someone their cancer is gone. You get to help someone through a rough patch. You are trusted by your patients in their most vulnerable of times. You'll get to hug someone who comes in with a smile on their face to thank you for saving their life. You save lives. 

You save people from acute infections, from ruptured appendixes, from traumas, from cancer, from mental illness. 

YOU SAVE LIVES! You change lives. You improve lives. 

But to do this, you risk destroying life. You bear the heaviest of burden. Practicing medicine is such an honorable profession that comes with the deepest responsibilities. And the scariest outcomes.

You have to KNOW the answer. And if you don't know the answer, you need to KNOW that you don't know. You must first be humble...and then you better figure out the answer, or where to get it. There is no giving up in medicine. 

And, because there's no giving up, some days you will miss Holidays. Your family. Your friends. Your spouse. Your kids. 

The hardest part, as a parent, will be missing your children's sporting events, school programs, recitals, birthdays, bedtimes, bath times, and yes, even Sunday morning breakfasts. 

You hope they all understand. You hope they know you'd be there if you could. You hope they know you're not picking a stranger's well-being over theirs. 

You hope they know that you've been bestowed an incredible gift, and that, for some reason, you've been called to share it. Really, one of the truest forms of altruism. You hope that maybe they even love and respect you for it. 

In fact, maybe, just maybe, they will love and respect you soooo much for it...they want to be it. 

So, when you ask, will I support my child going into medicine? The short answer? Absolutely, and with caution.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Death by Charting

It's 10pm.

Seven days before Christmas.

I'm sitting at work "finishing" up some charts.

I am suddenly overcome with anger.

WHAT am I doing here right now?? At this minute? I am helping NO ONE.

This work I'm typing away at, trying so hard not to just scream, it's hoops. Fucking hoops. For insurance companies. So I can BEG them to pay me. Pay me peons for the hard, good. compassionate, humanitarian work I'm out here trying to do, but can't, because of this.

This death trap of notes.

I put quotations around "finished" because, at this moment, I know, no matter how diligently I try. No matter how much time I spend here. Typing. Instead of completing my shopping list for my 5 children. Instead of seeing my husband AT ALL today. Instead of eating a complete meal. Instead of enjoying the rest of the evening, after finishing clinic at 8pm, to provide walk-in hours for my sick patients. I will quite literally, NEVER BE FINISHED.

 I am typing away.

Clicking box after box after box after box after box after box after box.

Reading reminders on each patient. Have they gotten their mammogram? Their pap? Their flu shot? Their colonoscopy? Have you checked their labs? Their HgA1c at least twice this year? Have you talked to them about their "health care goals"?

Did you order an Xray within 30 days of their acute back pain? You did? Ok...ding...you're no longer a "quality" physician. So...we're going to actually pay you less.

As quickly as I resolve them, new results come in. New documents. From specialists. Labs. Physical therapists. Insurance.

F.U.C.K.I.N.G insurance.

Under the guise that they "care". That they are courteously reminding me of all the "missing" items for the "quality" care of my patients.

Do you know what quality care is!??

I do. It's my passion. I love speaking to people. Meeting them. Getting to know who they are. What makes them tick. What makes them enjoy life. Are they enjoying life? Are they not? What's stopping them? Is it mental? Is it physical? Is it chemical? Is it biological? I have these answers. All of them...if I just had the time to dig a little bit. The time to help them trust me. To understand their communication style. The time to really, REALLY understand their healthcare goals.

If I were allowed to do it my way, I could help all of my patients.

But, instead, I am in front of this horrid, white, glowing, screen...typing away.

As I type, I'm neglecting something.

My patients can't stand it. They confuse lack of time, with lack of compassion.

We don't care about them. We don't return their calls. We don't get their forms in on time. We don't give their lab results until 2 weeks after their drawn. Their referral wasn't sent. Their refill wasn't sent.

I hate it more than they do.

I am a problem solver. I like solutions. I like to help.

Sitting here. Typing. At now 10:24pm, is the last thing on EARTH I ever wanted to be doing.

Yet, here I am.

Drowning.

In this, slow death by charting.






Monday, January 7, 2019

Hello 2019, Farewell 2018.

I ran into one of our favorite former neighbors tonight at swim lessons tonight. She so genuinely asked, "how are you!? How have things been?" I replied, just as genuinely, "Great, actually. I mean, really, really good. Things are as crazy as ever, and we never have a chance to sit down, but I don't think I'd want it any other way." Her kid was done with his lesson, and we parted ways, but the thought lingered, have I been great? Am I one of those people that misleads everyone into thinking an actually VERY difficult life, is one that is beautiful, fun and "perfect"?

When I think of the negatives from 2018, they're pretty significant. The most recent being, the loss of Matt's uncle Martin. Just days before Christmas. The others began in March, with the rupture of my achilles tendon. An injury that resulted in, not only significant pain, large medical bills, some existential crises, a brief depression, a strained husband, and early retirement from the sport of Pickleball, but a HUGE loss in income. Like, 6 weeks worth gone...even though I didn't take more than 4 full days off, despite surgery, a cast, and no weight-bearing for weeks. Then one month, nearly to the day, when both Matt and I probably couldn't have felt any lower or more strained, his job went through a HUGE round of lay offs...including him. In the span of 4 weeks, we went from potentially planning an addition on the house, or a big, family European vacation to just trying to open our eyes in the morning and not simply give up. A bruised ankle. A bruised ego. And our savings vanishing. The Spring of 2018 has only one stint in the life of Erin & Matt that could potentially match it in lows...Spring of 2011, when I both failed a board exam and didn't match into my residency of choice...oh, and Matt got let go then as well. Can the employers suddenly sense his strain from my failures!!??

He went the whole Summer, without a job, but home with the kids! I view this as a very positive experience. If he ever wants the job of SAHD, I am ALL IN!! It was heavenly. To know your kids are taken care of by their father. Not having to coordinate anything. I would gladly work 60+ hour weeks if I knew he was home with the kids.

The kids did swim team for the first time. Curtis narrowly missing level II's on only his 3rd 25 backstroke, ever! Such a fantastic experience, we all loved it. We had true Pool rats this Summer.

We went to Bunkerhill with my family. To the lake with my dad. To the farm. Twice.

We hosted the 4th of July for the 3rd or 4th year in a row. Neighbors joined. Family joined. It was a blast.

School started. Brock plays an instrument he loves. Matt and I went on a lovely vacation to Cancun, just the 2 of us. Though, our pet bird Slushie passed away, it allowed us to welcome Ducky. A much younger, friendlier and more trainable parakeet.

And, I launched right into my injury, skipping our wonderful early Spring. We went to San Antonio. The kids' first flights! The whole trip, I have only fond memories. The kids are steamrolling into fun ages. We truly are in the sweet spot with the kids. No diapers. No naps. No hormonal teens. Just sweet, innocent, inquisitive, beautiful kids.

The 4 youngest played Soccer. Curtis making huge strides. George the high scorer. Mitch met future classmates. Diana stole the show.

Diana started dance. Formally. Who are we kidding? She's always been in "dance".

Brock, begrudgingly played tackle football. Loved seeing those adorable boys in their pads and helmets.

I went to Vegas, via PJ, with my longest and bestest friend, as well as our mothers.

All three of my boys were awarded "virtues" in school at some point this year, which makes me feel we are doing something right. But, there I go again, forgetting that we also had many a meeting about George, and even Brock. Struggling with schoolwork and participation at times.

Brock rocked it with him trombone in the Christmas program. After stressing to the point of it affecting his schoolwork for the 10 days leading up to it.

Matt did finally, get a job. He's now at KuMed. EXACTLY what he wanted. Honestly, he had started searching before getting let go...the job loss timing just couldn't have been worse.

Curtis, Brock and I snuck away to St. Louis for a little mom-son birthday trip.

We celebrated Thanksgiving in our home, with 40+ family members.

We all remained healthy for Christmas, and spent it with our closest loved ones.  Santa even visited and spoiled those children rotten.

We attended endless social events, game nights, weddings, showers, celebrations with our friends and family, new and old!

Ending the year with a nice dinner party, including a handful of our closest friends. Eating great food, and playing fun games. Brock, Curtis and George actually staying up to ring in the New Year for the first time.

I list all of these, and it's what I remember. I smile. I loved it all. But, I'm truly leaving out the part about how much money all these events cost. How much time and energy I put into hosting Thanksgiving, school parties, etc in addition to working 45 hours a week. I do have moments where I am insanely stressed. Where, perhaps, I'm even bitter. Moments where I'm not sure it's worth it. Weeks where I feel overwhelmed because I haven't been home enough to do one single load of laundry, nor make a meal, nor read my child a book. I know I this happens, but, it's not the highlight in my head.

My memories of 2018 are filled with joy. With the beauty of childhood. With a true appreciation for health. Family. Friends. Jobs. And, perhaps, more than anything, my husband. During this insane rollercoaster that was 2018, we became even closer. Respect one another just that much more. And our love and partnership has never been stronger nor more in sync.

So, you all can call me delusional. Crazy. Misleading. A liar. But, I mean it when I say, "I'm good. And things are really great."

And, let me close with these wise words: Whatever doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.

Friday, November 2, 2018

All out WARdrobe.

I'd secretly been planning it for months. Heck, maybe it's even been a year. Scheming. I'd been dropping some hints. Sending some emails. I'm pretty sure the hubs knew it was coming, eventually...but never really when. I had started collecting a small pile. An assortment of colors. But, what began in one season, finally came to fruition in a completely opposite time of year.

Spring. No, Summer. Ok, definitely Fall. Nothing was going to stop me now. Then, it started raining. Raining for days. Not that silly saying, like after Halloween when we say: we have candy for days. Literal DAYS it was raining for...weeks really! Every single weekend was ruined by rain and sports games and even the occasional adult social event.

Then, suddenly, the rain stopped. The kids had a 4 day break. The temperatures approached the 70's at times. The sun shone. The trees!! Those breath-taking, Kansas City fall trees almost seemed to glow in the sunlight. We had mountains of laundry to do, Halloween costumes to assemble, groceries to buy for the impending school and work week. The list of To-Do's just seems to accumulate and never diminish, doesn't it? But, I couldn't handle it anymore. The kids needed showers real bad anyway. (I'm not admitting how long it had been since their last bathing.) That's it! We are getting outside to perhaps the most the beautiful park in the city, just blocks away from us. The children are going to wear those clothes I had been assembling FOR. EVER. And we are simply getting an updated photo of each individual child, as well as the five of them together.

One. One photo of each child. One. One photo of the group. ONE!!!!!!!!!!!!

So. I took a deep breath. I briefly, and with no choices presented, prepared the husband for what I was about to do...and then...I did it!

I interrupted the video games. The movies. The fort building. I called all the little ones to attention. And I said, "Guys, we are all taking a shower real quick, then getting dressed to go to Loose Park to take one picture."

KABOOM!!!!! Went the bomb.

They scattered. The oldest in tears, all but actually ran away. The 2 youngest boys rolled on the floor as if they had actually been hit with shrapnel. The second child just shriveled up to die a lonely, sad, pathetic death; it must have been some sort of chemical nuclear warhead for him. And, the girl? Well, bombs apparently don't work on her, because she hopped up and raised her hand saying, "Me!!! Me! Can I shower first!?" (Perhaps, the military should have been full of women?)

After much, non-negotiations. Threats of no Trunk or Treat. No Halloween. No birthdays. No candy ever again. Then the option to stay home, alone. Oh and by the way, no more screens EVER again. Then begging. Explanation over and over about how simple this could be. That if they would just comply we could have this whole process done in under and hour and have time to actually PLAY in the park on this most beautiful day of Fall. Each of them slowly gave in. Showers were had and clothing...well...the clothing nearly killed a few of them.

Three kids would be easier to wrangle and photograph anyway.

I was already writing two of the boys' combined obituary in my head:
      October 28th, 2018 just weeks before his tenth birthday, the oldest son, succumbed to death by wool sweater and leather shoes with no socks. The texture and itchy sensation, as well as the flexibility of the material, making it momentarily difficult to free his hand from the sleeve, were just too much for his feeble mind and body to tolerate. Though attempts were made to allow for socks briefly, or an alternative pair of shoes until the actual photograph was to take place, it was too late.
      In a similar fate, his five year old brother overheated and collapsed due to an additional sweater vest atop his already much too restrictive, collared, button down dress shirt. Shortly, before his untimely death, insult to injury was added when his mother attempted to put on some ill-fitting TOMS...

Addendum to previous release:
...then, in a surprising turn of events, the two boys were begrudgingly resuscitated as the thought of no more screens for eternity acted as a defibrillator and they returned to the awful, torturous life of a child about to be photographed. In nice clothing. On a nice day. In a beautiful park. 

So, on we went. With more crying. More threats. More bribes. Car seat arrangement arguments. And finally, arrival to the park. Where, suddenly, the open air. The freshness. The release from captivity. Whatever the reason, it elated everyone's mood. The children began to venture out and scout for their special "photo spot". They forgot about the clothing on their backs and shoes upon their feet. The worries and cares about holding still for a measly, life-altering, FORTY FIVE SECONDS vanished.

We found a reasonable spot. A nice stone wall, the shade, and maybe a bit of tree and leaves. I arranged the children in what seemed a cute set up. The oldest insisting on choking his two brothers. The girl constantly moving. The oldest then doing some bizarre and incredibly awkward squat-type pose. The 5 year old trying to simply wander off. I frantically jumped up and down, pointed at the lense saying "Look here. Look RIGHT here. Guys, right here. At the camera. Please, look at the camera. Ewwwww! Daddy tooted, P.U. Hey!! The Camera. Right here. Ok, giving daddy bunny ears. Ignore the leaves. Ignore your brother. This could be over if you all would look here RIGHT NOW."

Pedestrians in the park watched the spectacle and smiled. I mean, I'm always willing to entertain, but if I'm so funny, WHY AREN'T THE KIDS {expletive} LOOKING AND SMILING!??

Voila. {At the very least} an hour later, we have our lovely {much left to be desired} photo. Peace has been restored. And we sprint home...

...for another all out WARdrobe change...into costumes.