Monday, December 30, 2013

Four Kids and a Funeral

Today was my grandmothers funeral and my children's first experience. I have to say everything went so much better than I imagined.

A few years ago I lost a grandfather while out of state for residency, and just getting to the funeral proved dramatic. In fact, it is the first and only argument of significance I remember having with my husband. It was ugly. But I traveled alone and the children were none the wiser.

This time, I traveled only a few hours and did so with just my children. I suppose that is just another one of the sacrifices we make when your husband takes 5 days off at Christmas time, you must return to work. And when you partner is on vacation, it is what it is, no arguments. So me, four kids, road trip and funeral.

I think the worst part might have been getting the kids up and dressed before daylight by myself. I am not a morning person and typically do not sleep with an alarm. If I know I have to be up early I do not sleep well. I value my sleep and therefore refuse to wake before my body says I must. While that makes me happy and proves successful 99.9% of the time, those rare occasions that require early rising are anxiety inducing. But we got up, were dressed, and even arrived on time. It was miraculous. And my kids though the funeral was "awesome", and that is a direct quote.

Kids aren't scared of death. They don't mind talking about it. They don't treat the words "dead" or "death" as a bad thing, they are just words. Maybe they know something more about the process of living and dying than we give them credit for. To them it made perfect sense that Grandma was born, lived, died and we will see her again.

On our ride we talked about what would happen at the service, and what they might see, where we would go for the burial and lowering of the casket, and what that means. They were great with all of it, but what they will probably remember is getting to see all of their cousins and meeting cousins they never knew existed.

Funerals for our family seem to be one big reunion and during the eulogy I thought to myself that we were involved in a very special reunion. One her on earth with her living friends and relatives and another reunion was happening with my grandmother, her husband, her daughter, her parents, and all of her friends and family who have gone on before. It was a beautiful image and one that I believe with all of my heart. Pure joy.

What a life she had, and I wish I would have known her better. Because she was ill for most of my life the context in which I know her is one of pain and suffering. Today I learned so much more about her and hope to continue to learn more about her life. What a source of strength our families can be if we really know them, even if it comes after their passing or generations after they have lived.

Life is amazing. The whole process from beginning to end. Even the ordinary and uneventful life holds truth, treasures, and miracles. In reality there is no ordinary life - every life is amazing.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Baby Was Born...

Christmas. We have been thinking about it all month. Some days I have thought of the coming holiday with less than celebratory feelings. But something happened yesterday that made me think a little differently about it all. Life is an amazing gift and Christmas is a celebration of life!

A baby was born in a stable over 2,000 years ago and changed the world. And on the very day that we celebrate His birth, in the middle of the afternoon, a woman died. My grandmother. In her own way she changed the world too.

My Grandmother had six children. One passed away when only 3 years old. The other 5 are all living and collectively have 27 children. Those grandchildren have given her 52 great grandchildren. What a debt of gratitude I have for my very life to her. Families are amazing even when they don't function like we think they should.

My grandmother has been in poor health for as long as I can remember. The kind of failing health that leaves a person confined and immobile. It has been that way for decades. I was a small children when I remember her walking on her own. Her husband passed away almost 20 years ago from a debilitating illness. I don't know how she was able to go on for so long in her condition. It is really astonishing.

I have often wondered why God allowed her to live so long in such a state. The conclusion I have arrived at is maybe it had less to do with her and more with us. During the time that she has been ill she has lived with each of her children relying on them for her care and maintenance for varying periods of time.  Eventually, that arrangement became insufficient and she required professional care in a managed environment. I know that decision was difficult for her children and for her. She must have known what that would mean. Her mental faculties were intact up until the last month or two.

I am ashamed that I didn't see her more often, but am so glad that during the last few months I was able to visit her at least once a month. The last time just days before her passing. I think that is the closest that I have ever been to seeing death. I am so grateful for the kind and patient people who work with those that don't have much time left on earth. They do a remarkable work and are angels in my eyes.

A baby was born in a stable, and because of His life and death I know that my grandmother will live again. I know that her struggles on earth weren't cruel or in vain, they were lessons. Lessons for her and for me. I know that with God we can endure and accomplish anything. I know that life can be difficult, and seem unfair but that is only a matter of perception. I know that we are never alone even when we are in solitude. Death is not the end.

There is a hymn we sing at church called "Each Life That Touches Ours For Good". I can't help but think about the vast influence each of us have during our lifetime. You never know who will cross your path, or what seeming insignificant event will mean to another person. We are all tied up together in a pretty (and complicated) bow. We each have a purpose and contribution to make. 

This next year I hope to live with more purpose in honor of my grandmother.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

'Tis the Season to be....

'Tis the season to be busy. It seems that everyone is busy around the holidays. The stores are packed, and the restaurants are too. The roads are crowded and the lines are long. Nobody is home, and no one is blogging. Things need to be bought, made, wrapped or baked. It's that time of year. There is just too much to do and never enough time to do it.

Just another example of what happens when you don't plan and execute the plan:-)

Each year I tell myself that I am going to have all the shopping completed by Thanksgiving.

Each year I tell myself that I will schedule a family picture in September, print the cards in October, then address and mail cards in November.

Each year I tell myself that I will make some fantastic gift for my family, and usually end up not sleeping for the week before Christmas to finish it because I started late. I actually thought I had enough time, I always do.

Each year I promise to think of a Christmas list I can share when the question is asked. What do you buy the woman who doesn't want anything that can be purchased at a store or wrapped under the tree? How can you box "silence", "sleep", "getting along", "naps", or "potty training"?

I am actually torn over Christmas lists. I like getting what I want, but I also like being surprised by what people think I might want. It is possible to miss out on many wonderful gifts when you tell the giver what it is that you want.

For example, my mother in law recently told me that one of the best gifts that she uses all of the time is a pair of pot holders that I crocheted during the super-lean years. We didn't dare ask people what they wanted because we knew very well that we wouldn't be able to get them what was on their list. But who would have thought to ask for crocheted pot holders? If I didn't give what I thought they could use and what I was able to make my mother in law would have been denied her favorite pot holders. They really are amazing. In fact, I may need to learn that pattern again because I never made a pair for myself. That year we gave them all away.

Now there isn't much that I want. So this year I am telling whoever asks to surprise me. There really are so few surprised left that I want to enjoy them when they come.

But if anyone needs a little help here are three suggestions:-) Babysitting! Babysitting! Babysitting!

Before things get to crazy, don't forget Medical Monday's is coming up again January 6, 2014!  It will be a New Year and a new guest co-host. By January we will all be feeling more like ourselves, maybe even better.


Monday, December 9, 2013

The Holiday Anxiety Edition

I don't think I am the only one who has conflicting feelings about the holidays. They are wonderful one minute and the next they aren't.

Over the years I've come to realize that I have issues with my family members around the holidays. It just happens. I don't know why. I don't know how. I just know they exist. And even though I  have been trying to identify their source for some time, I have been unsuccessful. I thought that maybe being near family for the holidays would help soften the angst, but it has actually compounded it. Who was I trying to kid? There are so many people to see. So many people who will be upset if we don't see them. So little time. So many people to disappoint. So many expectations set to high - mostly by me.

Holidays create pressure. Let me rephrase that: I create pressure around the holidays, the holiday itself is totally innocent and shouldn't be blamed. I do it to myself. Pressure to purchase gifts the recipients like. Pressure to attend parties. Pressure to send cards (too late). Pressure to decorate (haven't started). Pressure to buy, buy, buy. Pressure to be everything to everyone. And of course the pressure to get it all done in time. It's not going to happen.

One of the areas that I create unrealistic expectations around is my family Christmas party. In the past I was also disappointed that we couldn't be there, and now that we can I'm thinking I'd like to be somewhere else. But I would never really do that. And I suppose it is only fair that since I have missed the last 7 Family Christmas Parties that I should be put in charge of it this year. That is fine by me because I like being in charge. But, that also means being in a position where inevitably people are going to be disappointed with something. And there will be many things to choose from. In fact, the party is still two weeks away and I am already feeling the disappointment or irritation.

Some will be upset that I discontinued the gift exchange.
Some will be upset with the menu.
Some will be upset over the photographer selection for a family picture.
Some will be upset that we are even taking a picture.
Some will be upset over the date and time.

I am quite happy with all of the choices - that's what happens when you are in charge. Maybe that is the lesson - when it is your turn to make the decisions do it however you want and don't complain when it's not your turn. Just show up and put a smile on your face and have a good time and hope no one complains when it is your turn.

Having a family, especially a large one, means making a lot of compromises. Some people are better at compromising than others. But the truth remains that you can't please everyone. And an even larger truth is some people refuse to be pleased no matter what you do.

I recently read a blog post that suggested we all have "scripts" that we write for the holidays and that the people in our lives play the part we give them. Like my sister whose husband is never happy with anything we do even though it was his idea last year. There probably is some truth to the script I have written for the holidays, and I am trying to re-write it and give room for something different to play out.

So how do you handle the stress that comes with extended family at the holidays?


Friday, December 6, 2013

You've Got A Friend

I know most of the Thankful posts were written in November, and rightfully so. But I am joining the trend late and celebrating Thanksgiving in December. This months always seems to bring about a lot of personal reflection and this year I am particularly thankful for a husband who is a "helper". He helps so many people in so many ways. The most obvious is his patients, but I'm not writing about them. I am writing about the people outside of the hospital.

This past year I have had a friend with a brain tumor, another with major back surgery and a cousin with adult onset seizures. All people I love and people that needed some reassurance and someone to ask the questions they forgot to ask their doctor.

The first was my friend that I meet during residency at the gym of all places. We were in the same Zumba class when I used to shake my tail feathers. We would dance, and laugh, and because we weren't done talking would go and walk on the treadmill until one of us HAD to leave. She was always so happy and just cheerful perpetually. No wonder I liked being around her.

She was pregnant and had her baby just after we left residency. Shortly thereafter, she developed a fast growing tumor that was causing problems with vision, tactile sensations, and memory loss.  Her baby was only a few months old. The tumor needed to be removed and she was terrified. Her husband called and wanted to talk about the surgeons in the area who could perform it, and what the success rates would likely be. Because my husband knew the surgeons in the area he was able to get them to the best one for her type of tumor. He was able to look at her MRI and explain things in a way our friends understood, outside of a hospital setting. Because of his relationship with the hospital he was able to talk with the surgeon after surgery and look at the final MRI's. Our friends needed to hear things from someone they knew and trusted. Our friends needed reassurance that everything was going to be alright and coming from a friend they believed it. She has made a full recovery.

Since then there have been others, big and small who have needed some reassurance from someone that they know (or at least knows me - who does a doctor really know). I've always said I hope to never need the services that my husband provide, but I am so thankfully he is able to provide this service to my friends and family and that I get to be the link that connects them.

As I thought about this over the week, I realized that everyone should have a friend who is a doctor (or spouse of one). Unless they are going to be "that" kind of friend, you know the ones.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Medical Monday's In December

Hello December! I hate to break the news to you, but Christmas is going to be here in 3 weeks and 2 days. Did you get your holiday shopping done? I see why people gradually shop throughout the year, if you wait until Thanksgiving you've waited too long. It happens every year.

Before the holidays are gone let me say how thankful I am for people like you who understand and recognize the sacrifices that medical families make in every stage. Where else would anyone understand this? Thank you for coming. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for supporting those who participate in this blog hop. Thank you for being you. Let's get started!

Are you confused if you qualify for the party?

If you have a pager interrupting your life... you DEFINITELY qualify!
Do you work in healthcare?
Doctor? Nurse? EMT? Chiropractor? Vet? Dentist? Therapist?
Are you the spouse or SO of a healthcare worker/student?
Are you a nursing student? Medical student?
Intern? Resident? Fellow?

You get the picture, right? Come on, now... don't be shy! Let's keep growing and meeting new bloggers, so we can build a community of support and friendship, learn from one another, and share our stories.


Here are the rules:
  1. Follow your co-hosts via Bloglovin, GFC (if you are Blogger), FB, email or Twitter.
  2. Link up you medical/med life blog. If your blog name does not clearly state how you fit in to the med/med life world, please write a little intro or link up a specific post which clearly demonstrates your connection.
  3. Visit at least 3 other link ups, comment, introduce yourself, and tell the your stopping by or following from MM!
  4. Help spread the word by using our button on your post or sidebar, tweet about Medical Monday, or spread the word on Facebook! The more the merrier for all of us.
Complete step one by following your co-hosts:
Want to be awesome? Help us spread the word by grabbing and posting the Medical Monday button on your post or sidebar...

Want to co-host next month? Shoot Emma an email at and be sure to write "Medical Monday Co-host Request" in the subject field.

Now, link up below and have fun! The link up is open through Friday, so be sure to come back during the week to check some great reads!