Category Archives: Life

We Need to Talk

Dear Scale,

I really don’t appreciate what you said to me this morning.  It’s as if you have no concern for my feelings whatsoever.  I come to you, completely exposed, insecurities laid bare, and you don’t even have the decency to offer a small complement.  You just flash those horrible numbers at me. “Sure, you’ve put on about 10 pounds since last year,” you might say, “but those curves are kickin’!”  And, I have to say, you are all over the place.  I don’t know that I can trust you anymore.  One day you say one thing and the next it’s something completely different.  Why are you so up and down all the time?  I need some consistency in this relationship.  I really hope things can be different between us.  I appreciate the honesty but, if you can’t be kinder to me, we may have to stop seeing each other.

Sincerely,

Gretchen

True Love

I don’t say it often enough but I love you.

Wherever you are is where I want to be.

When I am with you, I feel warm and secure.

When we are parted, I long to return to you, to linger in your embrace.

When I am tired or sad, I fall into you and you comfort me.

Your touch is healing.  You rejuvenate me.

Our hours together make me feel as if I can conquer the world.

You take me as I am – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

There is never any judgement.

Our time together is precious.

I can’t imagine life without you.

I love you, Bed.

Yvonne

We got the money back!  The drama is over and the lesson is learned.  And after this last couple of weeks of heartache and doubt, I think we need a feel good story.  I wrote this after a recent trip back home and re-reading it has reminded me that there are still good and loving people in the world.  I won’t lose my faith in humanity just yet.

 

She hugged me as if she’d known me my whole life; as if she’d watched me toddle around the yard making mud pies and trying to catch fireflies in the fading light of a late summer afternoon; as if I’d gone and come home again. And I had. I had been gone from the South for many years. I moved away after college and hopped around the country – D.C., Portland – finally settling in Spokane, Washington with my husband and children. But I had returned again for a reunion weekend with my sister and my high school girlfriends.

The streets and buildings of Atlanta were foreign to me now. Driving around town, I had trouble recognizing where I was. There is a bank billboard on Peachtree Road that tallies the city’s population and just before I went away to college, there were around 2 million people in this city that I loved. But after the Olympic games came to Atlanta in 1996, the city exploded. Now there are close to 6 million people, with the accompanying increase in high rise buildings, businesses, restaurants, housing and traffic. I almost felt like a stranger back in my hometown.

But a stroll around the neighborhoods of Buckhead helped me recall the city in which I grew up. The majestic homes with their expansive, well-manicured lawns, the trees – oh so many trees, their canopy offering dappled shade on a hot day, the smell of Tea Olives and Honeysuckle, and the ease with which strangers greeted each other on the street welcomed me home again.

And then there was Yvonne.

My sister and I had run across the street from our hotel to grab some breakfast. We went to a little place called the Corner Café, situated right off of Peachtree in the heart of Buckhead. It had a lovely outdoor patio area and we rushed to place our order so we could find a table outside to catch the morning breeze and rays of sunshine. That is when we met Yvonne. She was our server that morning. “Ooh, are y’all twins?” she crooned as she brought us our food. She proceeded to dote on us like a mother hen on her chicks. We reminded her of her nieces, she said. She hugged us around our necks, as if we were family.

As we sat and ate our breakfast and watched Yvonne work the patio, we remarked how she did this with every single person who sat down. Some she obviously knew but most she did not. These were strangers whom she welcomed as if she were welcoming them into her home. She fussed over babies and children. She stood at each table a while and visited with folks. Even now I get a lump in my throat and a warm, fuzzy feeling just thinking about it.

As I said, I’ve been away from the South for a long time. I always knew I’d move away and sometimes I’ve felt like a false Southerner. When people find out that I grew up in Atlanta, they always say “But you don’t have a Southern accent!” And, I don’t. The little bit of one that I had went away a long time ago. My sister says I have more of a Midwest accent now, and that is probably true. My in-laws are from North Dakota and Minnesota and I sometimes find myself talking about hot dishes and saying things like, “Oh, fer sure” and “Yeah, you betcha!” But when I get around people from the South, particularly those with a graceful drawl and a welcoming way, my “y’all” comes back. I speak more slowly. I put a “miss” or a “mister” in front of people’s first names. I say, “Yes ma’am” and “Yes sir” when speaking to my elders.

That day, Miss Yvonne reminded me of what it felt like to be a Southerner and she reminded me of the positive impact that one person can have upon another, just with a smile, a hug, and a genuine interest in how that person is doing. As we left the restaurant, I gave Miss Yvonne a note to say thank you – for being a bright spot in my day and for reminding me of what I missed about the South. She hugged us and kissed us on the cheeks and said she’d look forward to seeing us next time.

When I find myself back in Atlanta next, you can bet I’ll be stopping by the Corner Café to see Miss Yvonne. She represents everything that I miss about the South and it is people like her who make the South still feel like home to me, even after all these years.

 

 

Vacation Rentals – A Cautionary Tale

I like to think of myself as a reasonably intelligent person. I generally have sound judgment and insight. But, I am also a trusting person with faith in the goodness of my fellow humans. Turns out, I am sometimes too trusting. A little bit of skepticism can be a good thing and I recently learned this the hard way.

Other than my duties as doctor and mom, over the past few years I have also taken on another role – that of Travel Agent. Somehow, I have become the organizer of trips, the renter of vacation homes, and the planner of activities for family and friends. It has generally been a task that I have enjoyed, until now.

Recently, I was charged with finding a vacation home in Martha’s Vineyard. My Dad, who is turning 70 this year, wanted more than anything to get all of his children and their families together for a weeklong reunion. I began my search as usual… VRBO, Flipkey, etc., and I was beginning to get a bit concerned that this trip was going to be out of our financial reach, at least for a property that could accommodate all 14 of us comfortably. Then we stumbled upon an amazing property, like finding a needle in a haystack. It was right on the water, had rooms for all, access to kayaks and paddle boards, a rooftop hot tub, and a pool. And it was not exorbitantly expensive!

The property was listed on a reputable site but when I went to try and reserve it, the site wanted a $15,000.00 security deposit, more than the cost of renting the home. So, I did as I normally would do. I contacted the manager. The manager explained that this was typical of this site (heretofore, I had never had dealings with this particular site) and that another site offered a more reasonable security deposit.   He offered me a link to the other site, which I happily followed because we were all so excited about the opportunity to get this amazing house. The other rental site offered beautiful photographs, excellent customer reviews, and listed a reassurance that this manager had achieved their verification ID.

I ran it by my family (though in hind sight, not thoroughly enough) and everyone was on board. I let the manager know of the dates we were interested in. He replied that a wire transfer needed to occur to secure the rental dates and that another party was interested in renting for the entire month. The pressure was on. I took time out of my workday to run to the bank and request a wire transfer for the entirety of the rental amount and emailed a copy of the wire transfer receipt to the manager to confirm that the transfer was going through. You can see where this is going.

Later that day, I received an email. This email was from the original rental site that I had contacted – the one that wanted the $15,000.00 security deposit. The email stated that the listing for the property I just rented looked suspicious and that it was removing the listing from their site.   My heart sank. I felt sick. All the red flags that I should have originally seen became suddenly clear.

I hopped on the Internet and searched the address for the property. It was indeed a real house but it was for sale. I contacted a couple of local real estate agents who confirmed that the owner was not using the house as a rental property. I contacted the site I thought I was renting through and they had no listing of the property in question, nor any of my information.

In the following days, I have spent countless hours on the phone with the bank, trying to request a wire recall. I reported the event to the Attorney General’s office. They referred me to the Internet Crimes division of the FBI where I submitted a report of events. I contacted my employer, my credit card company, and the credit bureaus to place a fraud alert and to put a freeze on my credit reports. I have done all that I can do and, with every day that passes, I grow less and less confident that we are going to get our money back.

While I feel embarrassed that I allowed this to happen, I share these events with you because I don’t want anyone else to go through the strain with family, the risk to personal security, and the self-doubt that this has caused me. These are some very important, and very expensive, lessons that I have learned and I hope that you’ll take note and remember them the next time you are looking into vacation rentals.

  1. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER wire money. Credit cards offer fraud protection but once you wire money, it is gone and there’s no getting it back if the funds have already been withdrawn.
  2. NEVER pay the full amount for a property upfront. Legitimate listings will have you put a certain amount down and the remainder will be due just prior to your trip.
  3. Just because the property is listed on a reputable site, don’t trust that the property is legitimate. Do your research. Look up the property outside of the site. Talk with other renters if possible.
  4. Don’t let yourself be rushed! In this case, the manager put the pressure on but I also pressured myself – pressure to keep costs down for my family, pressure to secure a site that seemed ideal and would make everyone happy. I allowed myself to be rushed and we definitely don’t think as clearly or objectively when we are rushed.
  5. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Listing rates should be in keeping with those of other similar properties. If it is much less expensive than everything else you’ve looked at, this should be a clue.

So, I’m out of the Travel Agent game for a while. I need some healing time and some time to reflect on how I let myself get into this situation. I have always lived my life trying to see the best in others and I hate that I have become more jaded and suspicious as a result of these events. On the other hand, I don’t want to be that person that gets easily taken advantage of. If the Universe was trying to teach me a lesson about healthy skepticism, it has certainly succeeded. Well done, Universe. Well done.

Gratitude on Mother’s Day

I am blessed with more than the usual number of mothers, the usual number being one. I count four. And that is not including the adopted mothers that I claim as my own… the mothers of friends who have given me guidance, support, and love over the years. I won’t go into the details of how I came to have four mothers but let’s just say that my family tree has many branches. Mother’s day around my house is a big deal. Just signing Mother’s Day cards requires an assembly line set-up that would make Henry Ford proud. Unfortunately, most of my mothers are far away. But, on Mother’s Day, I gather up the mothers closest by and we celebrate with food, drinks, presents and walks on a beautiful spring day, being thankful for each other’s company and honoring those who couldn’t be with us for the day. After all, being a mother is an amazing gift and it deserves special recognition.

Since becoming a mother, I make a special effort to take time on this day to think about the many mothers in my life and to reflect upon the ways in which they have helped me to be the woman, and mother, that I am today. I am so grateful for the lessons in courage, confidence, giving, humility, fearlessness, humor, determination, and dignity that they have taught me. We, like all mothers and daughters, have had our ups and downs. But we maintain an infinite capacity for patience, love, understanding, and forgiveness and this has made us grow only stronger over the years.

The other mothers in my life, my girlfriends (and I count my sister in this bunch because she is my best and forever friend) also receive a special place in my thoughts on this day. They are the women I’ve grown up with. In some cases, we have known each other years before ever becoming mothers. We have embarked upon life’s journeys together… love, marriage, careers, and then, children. We have supported each other through bad times and good. Though life has put distance between us, we remain close in each other’s hearts. Though years may separate us, our reunions feel as if were just together yesterday.   We have walked the path of motherhood together, feeling the joys and doubts and sorrows and triumphs that this wonderful calling has given us. I could not have survived motherhood without these women and I feel so lucky to have them in my life.

And, finally, my thoughts turn to the men in my life who have allowed me to have this most amazing of jobs. My husband shares this parenting journey with me and he is a wonderful father and husband. And then, there are my sons. Their smiles, the little freckles on their noses, their humor and cleverness, their will and determination…. Well. I am one lucky mom.

Thank you, all of you, for walking this road with me.  Happy Mother’s Day to you and to all the wonderful mothers in your lives!

Prince

Much will be said in the coming days about Prince Rogers Nelson and probably in words more eloquent than mine but I feel a need to express my sadness over Prince’s passing. My degree of grief over his death surprises me. After all, its’ not like I knew him personally or had some earth shattering young adult experience set to the backdrop of his music. Yet, I feel as if a bit of my youth has just passed away. Prince is gone. I still can’t believe it.

2016 has taken too many of our great musicians but Prince’s death has definitely hit me the hardest. Maybe it’s because his music was the soundtrack to my adolescence. To a reserved, uncertain, self-conscious teenager, his music was a celebration of life. It was electric. He was electric. He was unapologetically cool. To call him unique seems to underplay his individuality and style. He was duality embodied. He was masculine and feminine. He was sexual and in-your-face and unrestrained on stage. Yet he was soft spoken and reserved and humble in person. He was small in stature but titanic in presence. I never got to see him in concert and that is a regret that I will carry with me until it is my turn to leave this earth. Though his performances, even if seen only through the television screen, were transformative. His dancing must have been choreographed but his moves seemed only to emanate from some deep, intuitive, organic place. He appeared to engage each and every person in the audience as if he was having a conversation with them alone. His skills on the guitar were legend. I can think of no one better. His showmanship was genius. He was a giant among giants.

It is hard to fathom a world without Prince. Without him, some of the lightness seems to have gone from this Earth. I went to work yesterday dressed in purple and black, a tribute. I expected there to be others in mourning. I expected the world to take pause. I expected my patients to take time out of their exams to talk of his impact upon their lives. But the day went on as usual, as if nothing happened. It all seemed a bit of a dream. But life goes on, I suppose, though life less sweet for having lost one of the most beautiful artists the world has known.

So, in his own words… “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.” Life without you, Prince, will be a lot less groovy.

Holy Guacamole!

Well, turns out I am not skilled enough to create a separate page for recipes so I will be mixing recipes in with regular blog posts.  Maybe some day I’ll get some actual help in managing this blog site.  But, for now, you are stuck with me. So, today I thought I’d share with you my world famous (I might be exaggerating a tad bit) guacamole.  I happen to think it’s pretty awesome. My kids love it.  My husband loves it.  It even converted my sister-in-law to a lover of guacamole and she hates avocados.  We eat it with chips, I put it on nachos, I even use it to top burgers (along with a little chipotle mayo).  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.  The problem is, I don’t really have a recipe.  It’s a bit of this and a bit of that.  But I’ve recently had requests for a recipe so I’ve tried to put some measurements to my concoction.  Here goes…

  1. 4-5 small avocados, ripe
  2. 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  3. 1 cup packed cilantro, leaves and stems ok, finely chopped
  4. 1/3 cup finely diced red onion
  5. 1/2 large lime, juiced
  6. large pinch Kosher salt (or to taste)
  7. 10 turns pepper grinder (or to taste)

Combine and enjoy!  This recipe serves about 5-6 when used as a dip.  Let the fiesta begin!

Always Look on the Bright Side of Lice

Nope.  That’s not a typo. “Lice” is what I meant to write. For those of you that have dealt with this scourge in your families, you may not see a bright side. But I, ever the optimist, have chosen to see the good that has come from those little buggers.

How fitting that we discovered on April 1st that our family had been afflicted. It is the start of the kids’ Spring Break and we were set to drive to Portland to visit our dear friends for a few days. “April Fools!” You’re not going to Portland for vacation. You get to stay home and do load after load of laundry and scour each other’s heads for vermin. Won’t that be fun?

That’s the crummy part. But here’s the glass-half-full point of view. I always wanted to be a momma monkey. Now’s my chance! Also, my house has never been so clean! There’s nothing like a little infestation to bring out the obsessive compulsive cleaner in me. Furthermore, how often do you get to spend an hour and a half of uninterrupted one-on-one quality time with your child? Searching for nits will allow you this blessing. I think we bonded. And, now my son has received the most thorough going over of the moles on his scalp that he has ever had! My husband and I had some well deserved alone time. As he searched diligently for lice in my hair, I could almost imagine that he was giving me a scalp massage. It was practically a date.

I wish for all of you that you never have to deal with lice. But, if you do, may you enjoy the quality time with family that it brings you. Happy April 1st! Oh, how I wish this was a joke.

The Science Fair – not fair at all

Dear Elementary School Administrators,

In my house, February is usually a month full of joy. Both of my sons were born in February, as were several other family members, so there is typically a lot of celebrating going on. But lately, February has become a month that fills me with dread. Anticipation of February is enough to give me the cold sweats. February, in our school district, is Science Fair month.

The process starts out all right. We brainstorm ideas (“No. Which brand of soda shoots the farthest when you drop a Mentos into it really doesn’t have many real world applications.”). We settle upon a question and form a hypothesis. The testing piece isn’t usually even all that bad. But then… then, comes the research, data collection, and interpretation. Don’t even talk to me about creating charts and tables. I have nightmares about the kids typing their segments for the poster board. And, please, put me out of my misery if I have to help cut one more piece of construction paper.

I don’t remember science fair projects being such an ordeal when I was a kid. But then again, I was in middle school and these are elementary school kids we are talking about. The attention span of a nine year old is quite a different thing than that of a 13 or 14 year old. Maybe I’m looking back on it with rose colored glasses. After all, I was the kid in that scenario, not the parent. Now, as a parent, I am convinced that there is a place in one of Dante’s circles of Hell reserved for science fair projects. They were most definitely designed to unravel the fabric of family life. We parents have to hear whining and complaining. We have to endure tears and accusations of “Why do you always make me do stuff I don’t like?” We have to sit by and painstakingly watch our child type up their research and results sections – one hunted and pecked-out letter at a time. Shoot me now!

We’ve all been at science fairs where you see a project, perfectly appointed with professional quality graphs and photos, and say to yourself “That kid’s parents totally did that project for them.” In the past, I would have secretly judged that parent, thinking they were just in it to win accolades and live vicariously through their child. But now, I totally get it. That poor parent was probably just at the end of their rope and, in a fit of anger and frustration, said to little Johnny, “Move over. Just let me do it!”

Dear educators. I implore you. For the love of all that is good, please take pity on us parents. I love science. I majored in Biology. I became a doctor. I want my kids to have an appreciation for science and investigation. But can’t we wait until middle school, when kids are a little more responsible and independent, to require them to do science fair projects? Or at least, let’s call a spade a spade and label the projects honestly.

“Which Brand of Paper Towel is the Most Absorbent?” by Johnny Jones (4th grade) and his mom.

Humbly submitted,

Worn out in Washington

It’s My Birthday

Yep.  It’s my birthday.  I actually woke up this  morning and had forgotten that it was my birthday until my husband reminded me.  Maybe I wanted to forget.  After all, there’s nothing special about 43.  At 41 and 42, I could still imagine that I was fresh out of my 30s.  But at 43, I am well entrenched in my 40s, only inches away from 45 which is half way to 50 which is half way to death.  My son called me middle aged the other day and I suppose I am.  But I always thought of middle age as being in the 50s to 60s.  Though, if I do the math, none of us are living into our 120s these days.

I’m not doing anything special today.  My family gave me their cards and gifts last night, wonderful homemade cards from my sons – one of which said I was “old” and the other which said that I was “not old”.  My oldest just thinks he’s being funny but age will come back to bite him in the butt one day.  My youngest is just trying to make me feel better.  Today, I am home on my day off, doing the usual errands and activities.  Tonight I have a Board meeting to attend. Whoop!  Whoop!

Okay, I shall make a list of the good things about being 43.  Here goes…

  1. I am not stupid, like I was in my teens and 20s.
  2. I am a mom to two amazing boys who bring smiles to my face every day.
  3. I have a wonderful husband and don’t have to do the whole dating scene thing.
  4. I’ve learned to not care too much what other people think of me.
  5. I have the confidence to speak my mind, even if my opinions are unpopular.
  6. I have grown comfortable with my midsection, having stretched a little to grow those two amazing boys.
  7. I am devoting more time to my creative side.
  8. Every new year gives me experiences that help me understand and sympathize better with my patients.
  9. I have found a new common ground with my parents.
  10. I am not stupid, like I was in my teens and 20s.

Well, there you go.  I am grateful to be alive.  I am grateful for good health.  I am grateful for amazing friends and family.  I am grateful that I get to pursue my passions in life.  I am truly a lucky 43 year old.  Happy Birthday to me!