zero is my hero.

Today is my 39th birthday.  Birthdays are always a little strange for me.  I spend most of my day caring for the needs of others and have worked hard for a long time to be able to care for my own needs.  I love a crowd.  I love a party.  But a day to celebrate myself honestly makes me just a little uncomfortable.  So in today’s post I will tell you about some lessons I have learned this year from one of the greatest.

Russell Westbrook averaged a triple double in the NBA this year.  A feat not done for the last 50 years.  He also recorded more triple doubles in a single NBA season than any other player has done in history.  And the Pastor and I got to see it.  This alone could be the reason why number 0 is my hero.  But it’s not.  Here are the reasons why.

  • With the right attitude you can pull off almost any outfit.  Overalls. Floral shirts. Ripped jeans. Camo. Glasses.  Russell breaks the rules with most of his fashion statements and wins.
  • Work hard and then work harder. Russell doesn’t shoot well in a game?  You’ll find him putting up shots afterwards in the practice gym.  Be the first to arrive and the last to leave.
  • Smile at your critics.  If you follow along with number zero enough you will start to notice this great big smile he carries around with him when he’s not staring down his competition on the court.  It’s as if he knows those famous words from Teddy Rosevelt, made famous again by Brene Brown: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,because there is no effort without error and shortcoming.”  Keep smiling Russ.
  • You’re nothing without your team. At the end of the 2017 season losing in the first round of the playoffs Russell was asked about why teams did so much better against them when he wasn’t playing.  His answer?  Don’t try and split us up.  NEXT QUESTION.  I figure Russell asks everyone on that squad to play their best, to get better every day.  That’s all that matters.  No one can do it alone.
  • Always give back. From countless elementary school reading rooms, serving a hot meal at Thanksgiving to those without, to helping at-risk youth.  Westbrook quietly and consistently gives away from himself with joy.
  • WHY NOT? If you’re unfamiliar with the #whynot hashtag then you must be unfamiliar with RW. It is attached to everything he posts, everywhere he is, everything he does.  It’s not about the why we can’t, it’s about the why we CAN.

In year 39 I will continue to wear the pink heels with the coral skirt, the striped shirt with the patterned pants.  I will work harder this year than I have in the past.  I will smile at my critics and continue to step into the arena.  I will increase my empathy.  And most importantly, when the voices in the room say “we can’t” I will be the voice to say, “why not?”

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(di)stressed.

April showers bring May flowers.  And what does May bring? Well, as we approach the end of this month it seems that May 2017 has brought with it a heaviness. May brought with it a multitude of tragedies.  May was sad.  So I find it utterly appropriate that May is mental health awareness month. Did you know that 1 in 5 adults in the US will experience a mental health condition at some point in their lifetime?

Our culture seems to treat physical and mental health in very different ways. I find myself often talking with my patients about how best to prevent things like cancer, heart disease, bone loss and other physical ailments. As physicians we often forget to remind our patients to take care of their own mental health.  In fact, I would dare to say that for most of us our mental health takes a back seat to all other areas of our lives. We are so busy caring for the needs of others, worrying about the world around us, and so on and so forth, that we forget to stop and reorient ourselves towards health for both our body and our minds.

So in the same way that we should prepare our bodies for long term health and wellness, let us prepare our minds.  It means taking time to rest our minds, find peace in our heart and extend kindness to our minds. So on the last day of this month full of distress, take time to create some new mental health habits. Find your support system.  Those people who will check on you when the days are long and hope runs thin. Take some slow, deep breaths when life seems to be moving fast. Take a walk, preferably in the warm sunshine. Do something just for yourself like reading a book, attending a yoga class, writing something in a journal.

And finally, if you need us, we are here.  Physicians. We care about your mental health. We are ready to listen, to provide empathy, to give resources and to remind you that you are not alone and that there is help.  So say goodbye to May, but say hello to better mental health my friends.

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you’ve got a friend (in me).

As many of you know from the rest of my social media presence, my youngest graduated from PreK this week.  It was all the gloriousness you would imagine.  There were caps and gowns, diplomas, pictures, refreshments.  For part of the program her class sang the song “You’ve got a friend in me” from the movie Toy Story®.  It was, as you can imagine, adorable.  And then the big one had her first acting gig in the church musical.  She nailed it. And back to the little’s ballet recital.  Killed it.  And now we ready ourselves for the last week of school. Of course, you can’t go through this time of year, full of its transitions, without some reflection on the months that have passed.

It was a little over a year ago.  I was listening to some music on a run and for some reason I started thinking about what it meant to be merciful. I was quick to realize that I didn’t really have any idea how to describe or understand or even think about mercy. This, of course, was disconcerting to me having been married to the Pastor for almost 15 years at that point. I was at a loss.  So I decided I would spend some time trying to figure out what mercy was, where it was present, how it happened.  And turns out, mercy showed up in all sorts of places. What I discovered is that mercy might be hard to understand because it is that sneaky thing that is always around but not obvious.  But when you start looking for it, when you take the time to seek it out, you will find it’s all around. In the last year I have been enveloped in mercy.

Mercy is your best friend from long ago and also today getting up before the sun does to go to the YMCA with you.  Even though she could go later…because you can’t.  It is a new friend who came along just at the right time and always tells the truth even when it’s not nice.  And reminds you they are there to stick through the best of times and the worst of times. You can feel it when you sit for coffee with someone who has been in your shoes and nods their head in understanding.  You feel it when that call or text arrives at the exact perfect moment from someone you don’t often get to see but the friendship remains none the less.

Mercy shows up in a big blue van driven by a teensy twenty something year old who picks up kids, who look nothing like mine, after school and nourishes them with food, education and love four days a week.  It’s there when those same kids are on stage at your church next to your own reciting lines in the cheesy kids musical that makes you tear up because you know that this demonstration of inclusion and unity is what God intended. And soon those kids aren’t those kids at all.  They are just kids like mine and yours, showing up every week.

Mercy happens when that person who thought she’d never have a baby sees that face on the ultrasound, or even better, holds that person in their arms. But it is also there when you hold someone’s hand as you give them bad news or grieve with them in the losses great and small.

Mercy happens when the Pastor does a funeral for what can only be described as a tragedy and reminds us that the gospel is an unconventional story and we have an unconventional Savior.  And so is mercy.  It’s there in the loud and in the quiet.  In the wins and in the losses.  It’s wherever we show up and remind each other that there’s mercy enough for each of us.

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thanks a lot internet.

The Pastor and I were having dinner with a young couple that is getting married soon. Along with all the (fantastic) unsolicited advice we gave them, we discussed the enormous amounts of ideas and information available to plan a wedding.  When the Pastor and I got married half a million years ago there was no Pinterest, no wedding websites, no Instagram.  In fact, I can’t really even remember what we used the internet for except doing homework.

Our access to a huge amount of information has been wonderful…and terrible. Never before has one been able to see what every single person you went to high school with is eating for lunch or how your grandmother’s diabetes is doing on a weekly basis.  And while the world wide webs have allowed me to continue my search for the best snocone in the city, how many teaspoons in a tablespoon and to connect with other physicians nationwide for support and resources, let’s be honest.  The internet has ruined a lot of things.

Holidays. Let me apologize to all of you who have lost a mother or a child, who long to be a mother but have not become one and will have to endure the onslaught of mother’s day pics and posts.  And not just that. We can now all see what intricate decorations and party favors are made for children’s birthdays and what everyone is having for dessert on their anniversary along with Christmas morning and on and on.  It’s exhausting.

Compliments and complaints. It used to be that if you wanted to complain about something or somebody, you called up your friend or went to the office next door and spilled your heart out.  And if you wanted to compliment someone you would find them and tell them or send them a note or an email or a text.  Now everything on the internet IMG_4733is either the absolute best or the absolute worst.  I feel like nothing is ever just fine anymore.  That when your hamburger comes out with mustard instead of ketchup the whole world must know of the trauma you have endured. In the same way all things good or great are now “I die” and “Gah.”  New hairstyles, vacation photos, work events, your dog’s haircut.  It’s all over the top.

Professions. All that knowledge out there in the interwebs is awesome. And terrifying. I think we are coaxed into thinking that we can use all that information to master any area of life we would like. Here’s the problem…we can’t. The internet won’t make me into a third grade teacher anymore than it will make you into a gynecologist.  And that’s awesome. The internet should empower us to learn and grow but we should not be mistaken as a replacement for the hard work and training people invest in their careers. So let’s stay away from thinking that a quick search can make you into an electrician or a plumber, a surgeon or a theologian.

In all seriousness, may we use the power of the internet with grace. Celebrate the highs and respect the lows. Think twice before wielding your social media account for vigilante justice. Say a prayer for those who won’t celebrate the events in life that you have the opportunity to celebrate. Make sure the people you love and respect know exactly why that is true. Post a million pictures of your kids, your pets, your food and your drama if you wish. But always remember the power of the internet and that kindness and empathy have a place here too.  And while you’re at it…if you find the best snocone in the city let me know about it, ok?

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this interruption brought to you by…

There are certain things that really help you mark time. It’s easy for me to forget how long it’s been since I was a student or a newlywed, or a brand new mom. But then you get glimpses of how oh so long it’s been.

Yesterday I attended a graduation party. Today I will attend a baby shower.  The graduate and the expectant mom were the ages of my kids are now the first time the Pastor and I watched them while their parents were away.  Which means I’m now the age their parents were back then.  And I’m now the person who can’t use snapchat and has to ask what certain words mean. So the moral of the story is, well, more time has passed than I’d like to admit.  (Insert grandma emoji.) Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 9.55.24 PM

One of the biggest issues I discuss in my patients who have the benefit of the tincture of time is menopause.  By definition, menopause is the permanent cessation of the menstrual period.  Get it?  Men-opause.  It usually occurs around age 51 and the time just before menopause is referred to the menopausal transition. As has been so famously penned, the menstral cycle “does not go gentle into that good night.”  The menopause transition can be torturous for some.  Up to 80% of women experience bothersome symptoms of menopause.  One of the most common is what is known as the hot flush.  I haven’t been through menopause but I have been pregnant and had some similar hot flushing experiences. Imagine you are sitting at work and someone just moves the surface of the sun about 2 feet from your head. Your head, your face, your neck feels like you have entered the portal to hell for about 3 minutes. They can happen daily and often times women experience hot flushes for 3 or more years. Additionally, as estrogen declines women can experience severe symptoms of vaginal atrophy.  (Sorry friends, you know a gynecologist is going to write the word vagina in her blog at some point right?) The point is that menopause isn’t just the joyful absence of a monthly cycle, it is a transition into a new phase of life that can be, well, painful.

Fear not my faithful reader.  If you have made it this far I have good news for you.  The symptoms associated with the menopausal transition can be managed.  Your doctor can offer you different types of medication along with non-prescription therapy to alleviate your symptoms. We will also talk to you about what to expect during and after the transition and how best to care for your body.  For example, women in menopause are at increased risk for osteoporosis and associated complications so we might gently remind you to take your calcium and vitamin D and get your weight bearing exercise done.

I have big plans for the last stages of my life. Like just telling everyone what I think all the time.  I know some of you are thinking…don’t you do that already?  But really, just let all the thoughts come out.  Pretty sure there is an age at which I can get away with that. The point is that you are not alone in your transition.  Ladies, don’t let the menopausal transition get in the way of your big plans.  See your favorite gynecologist.  Talk about your symptoms.  Listen to what they have to say.  And then get on with your big plans.

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(photo credit to the twitter, the emojis and the someecards who are always full of delightful things)

in plain sight

It was Holy Week.  The week of Easter. The mother of all weeks in the church. There was preparing, cleaning, cooking, shopping, eating, egg hunting and so much more.  Frankly, as fun as it is, it is exhausting.  So I won’t belabor the point today.

This Easter I cannot let go of the words from Luke 24:5.  “…why do you look for the living amongst the dead?”  I think now, more than ever, we are looking for signs of life. We are flooded with images of death and destruction from our own country and around the world.  Mothers and children in war torn countries, live streaming videos of crime or self harm, the dropping of bombs, all the way down to angry emails and rants on social media.  It’s enough to make you feel withered and dry and near dead.

Where are signs of life?  I think it’s tempting to say that we will find them in our beautiful pictures on social media of our well dressed slightly less well behaving children on Easter or in our waxing on about our job, house, or whatever new or exciting thing has come our way.  I would argue that there isn’t true life found here. Where then, will we find signs of life? For me it’s in those text messages from friends far and near who understand the daily struggle to balance all things work and church and home.  It’s sending a note to remind someone that they are loved and prayed for.  It should be obvious to those of us who have spent most of our lives wandering in and out of the church doors.  If you lose your life you gain it.  We find signs of life when we extend ourselves to another.

I sent a giving key to a fellow pastor’s wife.  One of the tribe.  If you don’t know about giving keys they are necklaces, with a key on them, and a word inscribed in the key. Someone who tak51412342510__07BB8511-CA17-4486-9560-2002B6474851.JPGes the time to remind me to breathe and relax sent me one. The word I sent was “hope.” It was a promise to hold out hope for my friend on the days where it didn’t seem like hope was possible. When the problems in life, the problems in church, the problems in the world seem too much.

So when you find yourself overwhelmed by all the death and deathly news that surrounds you, give away part of yourself. Make a phone call, write a note, sit down for coffee, send a token of care. Find signs of life and share them with those around you.

i’m not making this up.

A few months ago I was at dinner with friends, one of whom is pregnant. The topic of drinking in pregnancy came up and someone said to me “you just tell people not to drink because you have to, not because it’s really harmful right?” Um…I made that face. That face.  You know. The one where  you couldn’t possibly believe what you heard but, then again, you heard it.  The one where your eyes are big and your mouth is open.  After a pregnant pause I explained that national and now international guidelines recommend against any alcohol consumption in pregnancy.

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We all know that you are never going to get more unsolicited advice than when you are pregnant.  What you can and can’t do including raising your hands above your head or eating peanut butter in the bathtub along with what your baby should eat, how it should sleep, what it should wear and where it should go to college.  Whether or not you should consume alcohol in pregnancy is among that advice.  However, drinking during pregnancy is the most common cause of birth defects in the United States. And while these birth defects are most common among women who drink heavily, there is no safe amount of alcohol consumption for a pregnant woman.  Alcohol use in pregnancy is associated with low birth weight, preterm birth, birth defects and developmental disabilities.  Health care providers are encouraged to discuss discontinuation of alcohol for women who are pregnant and those actively trying to get pregnant.

April is alcohol awareness month. It was established to reduce the stigma associated with alcoholism and increase awareness about alcohol abuse, treatment and recovery.  Excess alcohol use costs the United States about 250 billion dollars per year.  About 5 billion of that is related to alcohol use in pregnancy.  So no, as gynecologists we don’t just say these things because “we have to.”  We say them because we truly want the best outcome for you and your baby.  So if you should find yourself with two lines on that pregnancy test, congrats!  It’s time to take a break from alcohol.  If you are already pregnant and haven’t stopped drinking I would urge you to do so now.  You can tell your grandmother, your best friend, the lady at the grocery store and the dude at the gas station that you are doing everything you can to take care of yourself and your baby.  Really.  We’re not making this up.