Archive for the 'Narcissistic self-involvement' category

Summer is magic

Jul 28 2011 Published by under Fatherhood, Narcissistic self-involvement

Last night it rained.  A lot.  Six inches in some areas, and enough to supply a steady rumble of rain on the roof.  But it wasn't the rain that woke me up: it was an insistent tapping on my arm.

"Daddy.  Daddy. DAADDDDY! I'm scared Daddy."

The rain came with thunder, and the thunder was loud enough to wake my little kiddo.  She does not like thunder.  At all.

"Grumph hrmph," I said, gesturing her into the bed.

When my wife was in the hospital, PalKid slept in my bed as often as not (OK, every night), but to have all three of us in one bed, comfortable and without IV lines was worth the lost sleep.  We lost a lot of family time time this spring.

But August is our month for family.  I don't generally take much time off, and having recently joined a new practice I'm ambivalent about leaving town.  But August is mine.  I spend two weeks away, each in one of my favorite places.

The first is here:

A misty morning

Me, PalKid, and EldestSis will get in the car before sunrise and drive until the road ends.  Once there, I can take out splinters, hug homesick kids, swim in deep, cool waters, and turn off my pager.  And of course, paddle.

That's my paddle and I made it.

A month is what I want; a week is what I'll get, and I'll be thankful for it.  It's a working vacation, but one with a nice cabin, good food, friends...but I'm bringing my own coffee.  I'll drink any coffee, but if I can avoid camp's pishechtz, I'll be much happier (and so will the nurses I'll share it with).

(For those ignorati who think my canoe is tipping over, go study your Omer Stringer and Bill Mason, then get back to me.)

Anyway, despite the pile of work that will await my return, it'll be well worth it.  There is nothing like reaching for your belt and realizing that your pager isn't there and you don't need it.  After a presumably joy-filled reunion of Pal, PalKid, and MrsPal, and a few late nights at the office, we'll head up to Favorite Place #2, my family's summer retreat for many, many decades (I'm fairly certain my dad first went up there sometime in the 1930's and we've rarely missed a summer).

This is the real-deal Up North summer vacation, with bikes, beaches, fudge, and family. The cast changes from year to year, but the setting does not (although, like every other idyllic place, people always complain that "it's not the same anymore").  Maybe we'll drive down to Sleeping Bear Dunes.  Maybe we'll take a ferry to Mackinac Island.  Maybe we'll just sit on the porch reading and watching the sun cross the sky.

For me, summer ends when I cross the 45th parallel heading south.  The trees are still green, the heat is still there, but the air feels heavy and the fun has gone out of it.

10 responses so far

Mid-week meanderings

Jul 13 2011 Published by under Narcissistic self-involvement, Uncategorized

Wednesday again and it's been three days since my last bike ride.  I treated myself to a new bike this year, upgrading from the used bike I bought about eight years ago.  I'm not a serious road biker and probably never will be, and serious mountain biking is pretty much laughable around here so I went and got myself a hybrid, and all of you hybrid haters can kish mir in tuchas. I kept the old bike attached to the trail-a-bike for PalKid, but the new one is all mine.  Wouldn't you know, PalKid decided this was a good time to figure out how to ride a two-wheeler, so now we get to go for actual rides together, rather than my simply pulling her along.  She isn't fast, but she keeps going.

Since it was the best way to get around as a kid, I rode a lot.  I rode to middle school every day, as long as it was 40F or above, about 2 miles each way.  I expanded my commuting significantly when I lived in San Francisco as a twenty-something, with a 15 mile round trip commute (in the flatter part of town).  When I wasn't commuting, I would ride over the Bridge to Marin and head out into the headlands or ride up Mt. Tam.  Riding over the Golden Gate and looking back at the City is something everyone should do at some point in their lives.

Med school and residency were a biking low.  I would ride around Evanston just to get around, but mostly when I traveled I was on the El or in a car.   When I moved back here, getting a bike felt like getting younger---getting a good bike felt like getting younger still.  I was happy to find this past weekend that my I can still do some serious riding.  Pulling the kiddo has probably been a good work out, because 14 miles up and down the small hills around here felt awesome.  All those little voices in the head (the pestering "get this done" ones, not the "redrum redrum" ones) just fade away when I'm pumping up a hill, or better yet, coasting down with the wind in my face.

Plenty of people ride in the winter around here but I'm fairly certain they all have the "redrum redrum" voices, so I have to get it in while I can.   We don't generally get a lot of snow around here, but the last few years have been wetter, and I'm thinking about snow shoes for a winter activity.  I understand that they can give you quite a work out.

Meanwhile, on the home front, poor PalKid.  She did not like having Mommy sick in the hospital.  She gave up sleeping in my bed fairly shortly after MrsPal came home from the hospital and is really bouncing back, but now she's terrified of tornadoes.  We don't get a lot of tornadoes around here.  The sirens did go off early this spring when a nasty storm was approaching, and poor little PalKid came down to the basement in four layers of clothes, snow boots, and an armful of dolls.  Now she "hears" sirens every day.

She'll get through this, but meanwhile it's affecting our bike riding.  We've told her that tornadoes only happen "out in the country", so now I can't get her to come for a ride with me "out in the country."  Oops.


9 responses so far

Brief update

Apr 28 2011 Published by under Fatherhood, Medicine, Narcissistic self-involvement

When MrsPal was young she babysat for a local doctor's family. One of her charges is now a resident at my hospital, another a successful business woman, another a teacher if I recall correctly. The father is the head of my state medical specialty society and is one of the finest doctors I know. His wife, with whom my wife shares a unique closeness, has been at the bedside nearly as much as my mother-in-law, helping with everything from showering to answering emails to keeping the flowers fresh. And my mom-in-law has spent hours every day at the bedside, keeping her daughter company, watching over her recovery.

MrsPal is still hanging out in the hospital, and I'm still learning how much work she puts into getting PalKid where she needs to be from moment to moment. If it weren't for the help of friends and family---and a very loving and loyal babysitter---I have no idea how we'd do this. My wife seems to inspire a closeness in her friends, who are in and out of her room visiting, and are constantly calling, texting, emailing, and calling me with offers of babysitting.

I had a close call today: on my way from office to hospital, PalKid's teacher called---Daisy Scouts was cancelled, and she and PalKid were hanging out doing homework. I turned the car around, grabbed the kiddo, and went to my folk's place, where we were fed and watered and generally spoiled for a while. This required missing yet another hospital shift, but my little pal is requiring a lot of love and attention at the moment.

After a good shower, I removed her nail polish (yeah, yeah...) and I'm letting her try to trim her nails for the first time. She's actually not bad at it, and doesn't need reading glasses. If I can get her to fall asleep by eleven, I'll count myself lucky. If we don't get any more thunder tonight, I'll count myself luckier.

7 responses so far

Thunder and lightning

I'd be asleep right now if a loud clap of thunder hadn't sent me bolt upright.  Fortunately, my daughter's only reaction was to mutter senselessly, turn over, and snore peacefully. She's slept with me nearly every night since her mother has been in the hospital.   She's done remarkably well with unexpected changes, even sleeping at a friend's house.  At night she mentions missing mommy, but generally she's her usual charming self.  Last night she realized she'd left her favorite pillow at her friend's house, and that broke her.  She sobbed uncontrollably for her pillow until finally, at nearly midnight, my friend came by in her PJs and dropped it off.

We stopped by another friend's house last night.  It turns out that when there's a crisis, friends are a good thing to have.  She played with the other kids and I ate sushi with the adults, two of whom she refused to believe were married because "girls don't marry girls"---except of course when they do.  She'll figure that one out eventually.

Despite her sticking to me like glue, she's getting pretty tired of a boring old adult, so I just dropped her at another friend's house to play and paint Easter eggs, so for a while at least I get a break from single parenthood.  At least it's a temporary single parenthood.  I was chatting with a colleague yesterday who recently lost his wife.  I am also even more amazed that MrsPal gets done everything she needs to in a day.  I've bent my work schedule nearly to the breaking point and it still takes all the help I can get just to get PalKid where she needs to be from moment to moment.

I don't really know yet how PalKid is processing this whole thing, except that I have a little bedfellow every night, one that despite her diminutive stature can turn a king sized bed into a small palate.

Hopefully she'll enjoy the whole Easter egg thing and come home nice and tired.  Daddy needs some sack time.

16 responses so far

Sunday morning coffee reflections

Oct 03 2010 Published by under Narcissistic self-involvement

Yesterday was lovely.  We took PalKid to her soccer game, and in usual Midwest fashion, a cold rain pelted and soaked us while the little ones ran around chasing the ball.  This gave us an excellent excuse to find a warm coffee shop and get some hot chocolate.  After verifying the nut-free status of the chocolate syrup, I ordered up a hot chocolate for her, and iced tea for Mrs. Pal, who really needed a palatable caffeine-delivery device rather than a warm-up, and then treated myself to something I hadn't had in years.

My usual coffee drink are black espresso or black coffee.  I'm not terribly interested in sugary, milky concoctions that come with more calories and GI distress than a simple doppio. But I was cold, wet, and wanted something I hadn't had in years: a mocha, which in the usual cafe parlance is steamed milk with chocolate syrup (hot chocolate) with a shot of espresso.  It's not overly sweet, allowing some of the more subtle chocolate and coffee flavors to emerge.  I expected a flashback to a cool, foggy day in the Richmond district of San Francisco, studying organic chemistry and enjoying a shot of strong Peet's coffee in a cup of minimally sweetened hot chocolate.

Instead, it took me further back.  When I was just out of college, I was living in Arizona, looking for a job in the last big recession before this one.  I applied for teaching jobs, but the substitute pool was overloaded with the recently laid-off.  There was a Greek deli across the street form my apartment, and I asked the old guy there if he'd hire me, but he wasn't interested.   I figured I'd better clean up a bit.  I went to a local barber and asked him to cut my hair, which at the time was impressively voluminous.  We were chatting, he heard I was looking for a job, and refused to take any money for the cut---he told me to just come back for more hair cuts once I had a job (which I did).   I put out more applications for university jobs and retail jobs, and finally wandered back into the deli one day for a sandwich.  The old guy, who I usually chatted with, said, "hey, kid, you want a job?"  I said, "Sure, but you already turned me down once."

"Impossible. Been lookin' for someone for a while."

"I had a lot more hair back then," I reminded him.

"That was you? It's a good thing you got a goddamn haircut.  When can you start?"

He and his wife (both in their 80's) taught me how to cook a variety of popular Greek dishes, and it wasn't a bad job as these things go.  The deli was at a corner where four postal routes met, so at lunch time four postal carriers would stop in and have iced tea and sandwiches, along side tar-stained roofers escaping the heat of the Arizona mid-day sun.

For lunch, I would usually throw a slice of feta and some olives on a plate, drizzle them with some olive oil, and enjoy with a piece of bread, maybe with skorthalia.  But during the day I would snack on chocolate-covered coffee beans, something I'd never tried before.  I felt like the apocryphal Ethiopian goat, nibbling on an odd-tasting fruit, getting a nice buzz, and going back for more.  I hadn't thought of that for years, until I finished my mocha yesterday.  Left in my mouth was a nutty, chocolaty taste near the back of my tongue, identical to the chocolate-covered beans of decades ago.

The surprises that a taste-memory can bring are remarkable, even more so for being unexpected.

9 responses so far

What a day!

Aug 15 2010 Published by under Narcissistic self-involvement

To end off the summer, we hopped in the car and shot up to the Lake Michigan shore. Folks who aren't from around here often have a hard time believing that a "lake" can look like this. Today a stiff onshore wind created an endless field of whitecaps, and the near shore waves were about 4-5 feet high.

The lighthouse has been restored to its original maroon, but I haven't taken a picture of it yet.

Charlevoix South Pier Light

No responses yet

Farmers' market

Aug 12 2010 Published by under [Et Al], Narcissistic self-involvement, Uncategorized

One of my diabetic patients explained that his recent increased blood sugars were due to Michigan peaches. I had to have a Michigan peach.

Ripe peaches don't travel well. When I lived in California, we used to get great peaches, trucked in ripe and gone from the shelf in a couple of hours. Here in the land of supermarkets, peaches are photogenic but that's about it. They are hard without being crisp, and tart without having flavor.

For the last couple of summers, my hospital has hosted a weekly farmers market. I don't usually make it out of the office in time, but today, thinking of peaches, I made it.

Once there were four

This is what a peach should be.  The first bite pierces the crisp skin, and the flesh beneath is impossibly sweet and flavorful, the juice inevitably dripping down the wrist.  I bought four.

As I was trying the peaches, my nose was drawn to the left where a pile of cantaloupes were perched  on the top of a cart.  There was no need to check them for ripeness---I could smell them from across the driveway.  I brought one of them back with the peaches.  I have no idea what I'll do with a whole melon tonight at work.  Both of my residents are fasting for Ramadan, and I don't think I can eat a whole melon for dinner.  But if it's as good as the peaches, I don't care.

8 responses so far

Who are you again?

Jul 02 2010 Published by under Narcissistic self-involvement

DrugMonkey has revived a blog meme that originated with uber science writer Ed Yong. It is basically a request for readers to "de-lurk". On any blog, the majority of readers never comment, and the people who do comment tend to so over and over again.
Writers are inherently narcissistic. As bloggers we can get an idea of how many people are reading us, but not that much else.
So for the sake of the community, I'd like to ask you all, without revealing any important identifying information, who you are. Just leave a comment, even if you never have before. Don't worry about the email address requirement. That isn't visible publicly and you can always use a dummy address, such as Be anonymous or not.
I'd be interested to know many of the same things that DrugMonkey and Ed want to know. Do I know you IRL? Why do you read this blog? Do you have an interest in medicine, writing, journalism, or nothing in particular?
Throw me a bone here.

126 responses so far

Summer reading list

Jun 21 2010 Published by under Narcissistic self-involvement

I'm looking forward to having some time to read this summer. I've planned a total of two weeks away from work, and if all goes well, I'll get some time to plow through a few good reads. My first trip away will be my usual gig as a camp doctor in Ontario. Last year I brought up The Great Influenza by John Barry, which was ironic, given I landed at flu central. My second week off will be up in northern Michigan. Here's my list, which is heavily biased in subject matter (I'm far too lazy to give a three-source bookstore link, so you'll have to google them):

  1. Breakthrough: Elizabeth Hughes, the Discovery of Insulin, and the Making of a Medical Miracle, by Thea Cooper and Arthur Ainsberg.  Actually, I just finished this one, and I'll have a review up by the end of the summer.  It's a great read about the discovery of insulin, but not available until the fall.
  2. Newton and the Counterfeiter: The Unknown Detective Career of the World's Greatest Scientist, by Thomas Levenson.  I've been dying to read this one.
  3. Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World, by Tracy Kidder.  A friend sent me this one a while back, and I finally started it.  The first sentence contains the word "beheading".  It's about a doctor, and I love it.
  4. The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York, by scibling Deborah Blum.  I've been dying to read this (heh...)
  5.  Inside the Outbreaks: The Elite Medical Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service, by Mark Pendergrast.  Hopefully it will be as good as The Medical Detectives, one of the first medical books I read, a couple of decades ago.
  6. & 7. Superbug, by Maryn McKenna, another scibling.  It's about bacteria, resistance, and all sorts of geeky things that affect what I do on a daily basis, and that may affect you, especially if you are ever in a hospital or nursing home.  Oops, and one more from Maryn, Beating Back the Devil.

I really wish people would stop writing such interesting books---I don't know when I'll read everything I want to.   Now if award-winning science writer Ed Yong would just crank out a new one, I'll never get anything done.

11 responses so far

Another Fathers' Day---so soon...

Jun 20 2010 Published by under Narcissistic self-involvement

I visited a physician this week as a patient. The details of the meeting are in the TMI category, but the long a short of it was he gave me advice that the altmed folks wouldn't believe. Surrounded by the most advanced diagnostic technology, armed with a nearly infinite pharmacopoeia, he made a single recommendation: stop caffeine.
Stop caffeine. Ugh. He said, "Stopping caffeine often solves the problem you're having. You know, it's a drug. You don't need it. It's like speed. Stop it, and I'll see you in a month."
Caffeine is my friend. In college I always wrote my papers in one, long sitting, drinking tea the whole time. I started drinking coffee just after college. My life doesn't always include enough sleep, and my good friend caffeine lets me pretend I living a normal, healthy life.
Except when it doesn't.
Recent literature suggests that much like other addictive drugs, once one is tolerant of caffeine, the boost one feels is really just the mitigation of the withdrawal syndrome. Caffeine, taken occasionally, increases alertness. Taken chronically, it simply helps prevent withdrawal.
And withdrawal sucks. I had some decaf today---my plan is to have a bit of caffeine for the next few days and then just enjoy decaf coffee, which is not completely devoid of caffeine, but the amount is pretty minimal. I love my coffee rituals---buying beans, grinding them, stirring them to evenly extract them. And I hate the lethargy and headache.
But I do enjoy even decaf, and I know the withdrawal syndrome will be over in a couple of days. Despite the fact that coffee does not appear to have serious risk in most people, it is definitely causing me some trouble, and I look forward to mitigating that.
And while I wait for the positive effects of quitting caffeine, I'm enjoying some of the benefits of being a dad on Fathers' Day. This morning, in addition to my decaf, we had fresh bagels (because any other kind are useless), hand-sliced Nova lox, and the usual additions such as Muenster cheese, sliced onion, and of course hand-packed cream cheese. And I stayed up late last night making lockshen kugel and despite not having a recipe, it didn't come out too bad. I'm stuffed. Another advantage to decaf: my dad usually drinks it, and there are few things I enjoy more than coffee with my dad.
And I'm with my kiddo. We're being decadent. We're hanging out in the guest room watching Disney while she snacks on edamame and I eat some leftover kugel. She has a room full of toys, and yet has entertained herself for the last hour-and-a-half playing with a pile of balloons and a couple pieces of styrofoam packing.
PalKid finished kindergarten last week, and we had to cut off four inches of her hair (which doesn't really look any shorter). Tomorrow she starts day camp, which means our morning routine together is over for now. But I have time planned for us this summer, if all works out. I'm taking her up to Canada for my usual gig as a camp doctor, and we've talked my folks into going up north with us for a week. By the end, she'll be good and tired of her daddy. And she'll be a first-grader. Everyone says kids grow up fast, but you never believe it changing a diaper in the middle of the night.
But one of the advantages of decaf is that tonight, after I tuck her in, I can pour myself a cup of coffee, look at pictures of my family, and think about what is past, or passing, or to come.

36 responses so far

Older posts »