Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Potty That Stole Christmas

This past Christmas was extra special for several reasons: It was our first Christmas as an old married couple, it was my first Christmas as a Jew who married into a Catholic family, and of course it was especially meaningful because hubby won't be here next year for Christmas.  Excited about bringing food for Christmas Eve, we cooked up a storm pausing only for a few impromptu dance sessions in the middle of the kitchen floor.  My husband made his famous buffalo chicken dip:

I made the always crowd-pleasing White Chocolate Cherry Chunkies (courtesy of Paula Deen):

Also on the menu was Black-Bottom Peanut Butter Mousse Pie from Epicurious:

                                                        side photo from

My husband told me to "never make this again" as he inhaled the pie in one large bite.

Finally, I made Alton Brown's Shepard's Pie.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of the finished product (Peppermint chocolate martinis...need I say more?).  Trust me though, it was delicious.

We spent Christmas Eve catching up with family, sharing stories, eating, laughing, and getting tipsy (or more than tipsy) on those deadly peppermint chocolate martinis.  Hubby and I stayed at my sister-in-law's house overnight, which allowed us to experience a truly magical moment - our 2 1/2 year old nephew waking up for Santa in the morning.  This was the first year that he really got what Christmas was all about so it really was priceless and so special.

For several months he has been announcing daily (or sometimes multiple times a day) what he wanted for Christmas.  It was unequivocally this doll from Toy Story:

He already had a small doll that was similar but he wanted "Big Woody" and he was not afraid to tell anyone that fact.  Let's just say it sparked quite a few jokes.  Imagine Santa's (from the mall) surprise when our nephew sat on his lap and proclaimed that he wanted "Big Woody" for Christmas.

When he walked downstairs and saw "Big Woody" sitting on the couch, he seriously almost passed out from glee.  Never in a million years did I think that level of happiness could be beat by any other Christmas gift for the rest of the day.

Boy was I wrong.

Here's what stole the show:
He screamed "CARS POTTY CARS POTTY CARS POTTY!!!" and started shaking and revving his engine (which coincidentally looked very similar to going potty).  He then proceeded to stand in the middle of the living room floor and attempted to pull down his pants and sit down.  Thankfully, my sister-in-law quickly interjected and swept him and the new potty into the bathroom.... 

Potty Success!!!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, Readers!  I hope you have a marvelous holiday and eat lots and lots and lots of delicious cookies. 

As you spend time with your families and celebrate together, don't forget the thousands of troops currently on the other side of the world:

A Soldier's Christmas Poem:

'Twas the night before Christmas,
He lived all alone,
In a one bedroom house
Made of plaster and stone.

I had come down the chimney
With presents to give,
And to see just who
In this home did live.

I looked all about,
A strange sight I did see,
No tinsel, no presents,
Not even a tree.

No stocking by mantle,
Just boots filled with sand,
On the wall hung pictures
Of far distant lands.

With medals and badges,
Awards of all kinds,
A sober thought came through my mind.

For this house was different,
It was dark and dreary,
I found the home of a soldier,
Once I could see clearly.

The soldier lay sleeping,
Silent, alone
Curled up on the floor
In this one bedroom home.

The face was so gentle,
The room in such disorder,
Not how I pictured
A United States Soldier.

Was this the hero
Of whom I'd just read?
Curled up on a poncho,
The floor for a bed?

I realized the families
That I saw this night,
Owed their lives to these soldiers
Who were willing to fight.

Soon round the world,
The children would play,
And grownups would celebrate
A bright Christmas day.

They all enjoyed freedom
Each month of the year,
Because of the soldiers,
Like the one lying here.

I couldn't help wonder
How many lay alone,
On a cold Christmas Eve
In a land far from home.

The very thought
Brought a tear to my eye,
I dropped to my knees
And started to cry.

The soldier awakened
And I heard a rough voice,
"Santa don't cry,
This life is my choice;

I fight for freedom,
I don't ask for more,
My life is my God,
My country, My corps."

The soldier rolled over
And drifted to sleep,
I couldn't control it,
I continued to weep.

I kept watch for hours,
So silent and still
And we both shivered
From the cold night's chill.

I didn't want to leave
On that cold, dark night,
This guardian of honor
So willing to fight.

Then the soldier rolled over,
With a voice soft and pure,
Whispered, "Carry on Santa,
It's Christmas Day, all is secure."

One look at my watch,
And I knew he was right.
"Merry Christmas my friend,
And to all a good night."

(Written by a soldier in WW2 stationed in Japan)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Some Dude

I won't pretend to have seen it all or done it all in medicine. Not even close.  Not even remotely close.  But, even in my short experience, I have had quite a few internal monologues that I wish I could say to patients.

Here are a few:

  •  If you find yourself returning to the emergency department every month for STD testing and treatment because your boyfriend has tested positive for chlamydia again, it's probably time to find a new boyfriend.  Seriously.  I'm not sure if this was written about in the book "He's Just Not That Into You," but I'm pretty sure it qualifies.  Also, this isn't an emergency.
    • If you survived 8 gunshot wounds to the abdomen last year, perhaps that was the time to get out of whatever business you are in (p.s. I don't want to know).  Congratulations for surviving a gunshot wound to the cheek this time - it looks beautiful. Are you going to push your luck some more? 
    • It was "Some Dude" again this time?  "Some Dude" has been attacking and assaulting innocent citizens across the country for years.  Just this week "Some Dude" stabbed a patient in the arm, hit another with a fire extinguisher, stole another patient's prescription medications, hit someone in the head with a hammer, and yet at the same time managed to secretly drug four people.  "Some Dude" must be really slick because no one ever sees him, knows him, or catches him.  Hide your wives, hide your kids...
    • I know, I know, you are an upstanding person who was just minding your own business on the way to church.  You are just trying to work hard, provide for, and be a good role model for your son.  The thing is, I didn't realize that churches are open at 2:30 in the morning and cater to people with blood alcohol levels of 0.24.  I also didn't know that "Some Dude" just hangs out by the church entrance waiting for innocent strangers to walk in so that he can stab them and stealthily run away. 
    • If you are here in the emergency department seeking narcotic pain medications, at least come here sober.  You might think you don't look high, but really, you do.  The likelihood that we will give you anything for your severe and debilitating chronic back pain is inversely proportional to the length of time it takes you to get this sentence out: "No........ seriously..........I'm........ a........... drug........... and.......... alcohol............... counselor."  Negative points for falling asleep while saying it.  
    • Your primary care doctor took the time and effort to write a memo to every single emergency department across the state instructing people to never give you narcotics.  I'm sure you are misunderstood. I'm sure this is a great injustice. I'm sure your doctor is out to get you. I realize you are allergic to Tylenol, Aleve, Motrin, Toradol and every other pain medication except Dilaudid.   I'm sure you will get a lawyer and sue everyone.    Have a turkey sandwich - see you again tomorrow. 

    *I will never write identifying characteristics of real patients.  If you think I'm writing about you - trust me, I'm not.  But if you read this and still think I'm writing about you, then you might want to do some soul-searching. *

    Wednesday, December 15, 2010

    OPSEC: Silence Means Security

    You may notice that I am sometimes vague about things on this blog - this is intentional.

    You will never see my full name, place of work, place of residence, close-up photographs, or any other specifics.  The same goes for details regarding my husband and his military unit.  This is for my safety and for his safety.

    In fact, even if you know me in real life, you will find that I am probably going to be fairly vague when answering your questions about my husband's deployment.  This isn't because I don't trust you. It's because I don't trust life and I want my husband to come home safely.

    OPSEC or Operations Security is based on the premise of protecting loved ones by protecting the information that you know.  It is being aware of what you share because it could be heard, read, or seen by people that intend to use it in a negative way.   Even small, seemingly insignificant details can be put together into a bigger puzzle and critical information can be extrapolated.

    As Household 6 Diva writes on her blog:

    Don't talk about the time frame.
    Don't talk about the mission.
    Don't talk about equipment.
    Don't talk about numbers.
    Don't talk about destinations.
    Don't spread rumors.
    Don't share pictures with unit insignia

    Phone, email, chat rooms, message boards, blogs.
    Always assume someone is listening.

    My lovely readers, if you ever see anything on this blog that you think violates OPSEC, please let me know.  

    Sunday, December 12, 2010

    Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program: Parts 1 & 2

    Being a loved one of someone in the military is incredibly difficult.  For active duty families, it involves frequent moves (sometimes internationally), military housing, multiple deployments, and a myriad of personal sacrifices.  Recently, I have been reading blogs of other military wives to try to get ideas for coping with the upcoming deployment.  While I can relate to them in some ways, it is still completely different to be the wife of a deploying reservist.  It poses its own specific challenges that do not exist in the active duty world.

    We are used to the military being a part of our life, but we are are not used it being our life.

    Our soldiers are nurses, doctors, lawyers, firefighters, teachers, store name it.  When not deployed, military obligations involve one weekend a month and two weeks a year of putting on the uniform and training.  Therefore, when our loved ones get activated for an upcoming deployment, we are not always mentally or psychologically prepared.  Its not something we are used to thinking about on a regular basis.

    It is difficult because we do not have the same types of support systems as active duty families.  Some unique challenges that we face:
    • We don't live near other military families.  The families in my husband's unit are spread out over hundreds of miles.  We don't see each other on a regular basis and we don't all know each other well.    
    • We don't have access to the resources of living on or near a military base.  It can be difficult to find assistance with military legal, financial, and social issues.
    • Our soldiers have to leave behind civilian jobs and civilian obligations.  Employers may be less than understanding about this situation and it can sometimes be difficult to return to them.
    • We don't have other friends or family members who have been through this or who truly understand.
    • Our children may be the only ones in their school who have a parent overseas.  The child may struggle with this and the school may not have experience with helping.
    For this reason, the Department of Defense has developed something called the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program to help soldiers and families of reservists through the deployment cycle.  It's a series of seven conferences where they provide information, services, referral, and outreach.

    This past weekend, the Army gave us Part 1 & 2 (Alert Phase and Pre-Deployment).  We arrived at the hotel to a patriotic greeting:

    After some socializing with the unit, we headed to bed to rest up for an entire day of information overload.  The next morning involved a buffet breakfast, singing of the national anthem, a greeting by one of the Army Generals, and then it was straight into the schedule.  Some of the things we heard about:

    • Military OneSource: A 24/7 phone number and website that can assist with virtually any issue that may arise, ranging from counseling to broken dishwashers to help finding a lawyer and so on.  They say that you can call them with literally any question you might have about anything.  I learned that I can even call Military OneSource and ask them how to cook a turkey.
    • ESGR (Employer Support): The short story is that it's illegal for your employer to give away your job while you are gone and if you have any problems, you call them and they help you.
    • Financial planning:  I was excited to find out that we can get free financial planning.  Given the astronomical quantity of student loans I have, I think we could use some help.
    • Health insurance: Self-explanatory
    • Child and Youth Services: We don't have kids, but if we did there would be many cool things for them including Army Reserve Camps, Army Reserve Leadership Conferences, tutoring, daycare, free YMCA memberships, and financial stipends for extracurricular activities.
    • Legal Issues: Power of Attorney, Wills, Trusts, etc...(Moral of the story, don't give Power of Attorney to someone you met two days ago at the casino - even if you think they are a really good person.)
    • OPSEC:  What you should and should not talk about publicly regarding deployment.  I'll post more on this another day.
    Then we had a few more talks about "Pre-Deployment Battlemind Training for Spouses," "Emotional Cycles of Deployment," and a Family Readiness Group meeting.  During this time I focused on  chugging back the disgusting, bitter coffee as a source of distraction from the lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

    After dinner, we ventured out on the town for drinks and had some unit/family bonding time.  This was a great opportunity for people to socialize with each other, exchange contact info, tell stories, laugh, and yes, of course, cry together.  The entire conference was really informative for me as I have never been through this before.  The other thing it did, for better or worse, was make the deployment something that I clearly can no longer pretend doesn't exist.

    The next Yellow Ribbon Program (Phase 3) will be for families only and will occur approximately 1-2 months after the unit is overseas.  I hope I can sneak away from the hospital for it!

    Thursday, December 9, 2010

    There's a First For Everything

    Today was a huge day in my medical education.

    I performed my first lumbar puncture on a newborn.

    For those of you who aren't familiar, a lumbar puncture (a.k.a "spinal tap") is a procedure done in order to collect a sample of the fluid that surrounds the spinal cord.  This is known as cerebrospinal fluid and can help diagnose a multitude of conditions including infections like meningitis.  A needle is introduced in between the vertebrae and into the subarachnoid space and the fluid is sent to the lab for evaluation.  If done properly, the risk of hitting the spinal cord is actually very low because it ends a little higher than where we insert the needle.  Nevertheless, it is still not an easy or risk-free procedure. 

    Usually the residents want practice and take the opportunity to perform the lumbar puncture before medical students.  Well, today was my lucky day!  The general philosophy in this pediatric emergency department is "your patient, your procedure." So when the attending physician quietly informed me that the patient coming into Room 2 was a four day old with fever, I just about jumped across the desks to click the computer and assign myself to the patient.  I knew without ever seeing him or talking to the parents that the baby would need a lumbar puncture and I wasn't going to let one of the residents claim the patient first.

    You see, any baby below the age of one month who presents with fever automatically gets blood drawn, urine samples, a lumbar puncture, and an overnight hospital admission with IV antibiotics.  This isn't because they are definitely sick - in fact most of these babies just have a virus.  However, upwards of 12% have a serious bacterial illness and this is not something worth gambling against.  This unique subset of patients is susceptible to its own list of infections and the history and physical exam in babies this young is difficult to interpret.  It may seem excessive, but the risk/benefit scale tips to erring on the side of caution.

    The attending told me I had one shot and if I couldn't get it, then the senior resident would take over.  I'll spare you the details for those of you who may have queasy tendencies...

    The story ends with me carrying my four vials of cerebrospinal fluid out of the patient room and the attendings and residents cheering for me. 

    Today was a good day.

    *Don't worry, the baby was fine.*

    Sunday, December 5, 2010

    This Little Jew Gets a Christmas Tree

    When I was little, the holiday season meant sitting around our kitchen table eating latkes and lighting the Menorah.  I have fond memories of running upstairs to my parent's bedroom where there would be two large garbage bags full of presents - one for me and one for my brother.  Each night we would get to pick one, bring it downstairs, and open it.  I personally liked to save the biggest one until the 8th night of Hanukkah so it would end on a bang. 

    There was only one other Jewish kid in my entire grade and he was half Jewish.  Therefore, the holiday season also meant being the only one who didn't celebrate Christmas.  My parents tried to make us feel more included by giving us stockings on Christmas morning.  Of course, someone a little bit different dropped off the goodies:

    Also, every year my mother would come into my classroom and teach all the other kids about Hanukkah.  She would make potato latkes, tell the story of the oil that just kept burning, and give everyone a flourescent colored dreidel.

    I still look back on this very fondly and I love her for doing that.  It made me feel special during a time when I could have felt very left out. 

    Then, I grew up and married a Catholic.  Now we get double the fun!  The benefit of being an interfaith family is that you get to celebrate twice as many holidays.  This past week my husband has stood by my side as we lit the Menorah and he has even come up with his own improvised prayer.  It goes something like this: "Baruch ata, Adonai eloheinu....nanu nanu nanu."  Hey, close enough. I don't understand the Hebrew either.

    I finally get to have a Christmas tree!  I spent hours trying to find the best tree for our apartment.  So many choices...tall, short, fat, skinny, white lights, colored lights, no lights.  Shhh, I know that Home Depot only has like 10 fake trees to choose from, but it was a big decision and I had never done this before.  I brought my tree home and I've been just waiting for Thanksgiving to pass so it would be socially acceptable to put it up.

    Then came my hunt for ornaments.  We have approximately 8 ornaments that have been given to us over the years, so we needed more to fill the tree.  As I walked around the Christmas Tree Shop, I realized that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.  People were pulling things off the shelves left and right but there I was, standing in the middle of the aisle, puzzled.  It occurred to me that I had no clue how many ornaments one needs for a tree.  I called in reinforcements:

    Me: "Hi Mom, how many ornaments do you think I need for a 6.5 foot tree?"
    Mom: "Umm... I think you should get 12."

    Clearly my mother had never decorated a Christmas tree either.

    I picked up 88 starter ornaments, a tree skirt (who knew?), and a snowflake tree topper (unfortunately, I could not find a Star of David).  The store was packed, children were screaming, ornaments were breaking, shopping carts were colliding...oy gevalt. I found it quite ironic that shopping for the "Holly Jolly" season made me want to jump off a cliff.  Don't worry, I broke out my yenta heritage, got in everyone's way, and shoved through the crowd with my elbows held high.

    As I approached the check-out line, I passed the tiny shelf of clearance Hanukkah decorations and I stopped to take a look at the plastic dreidels, chocolate gelt, and stuffed bears with "Happy Hanukkah" stitched across their abdomens.  Standing in front of the shelf admiring a Menorah was an elderly Asian man.  Now, I'm not meaning to stereotype here, but I'm almost 100% sure that he was not Jewish.  I had to chuckle to myself because I realized that the same bewildered look on his face was most likely present on mine as I fumbled through the piles of Christmas stuff.  I kind of wanted to tell him that the ceramic flip flop Menorah was really weird, but I figured I'd let him decide that on his own. 

    And without further ado, I give you this little Jew's first Christmas tree:

    If you look closer in our living room, you will see another beautiful Christmas decoration that dates back to circa 1953:

    This amazing light up Santa belonged to my late grandparents, Grandpa Bob and Nanny.  Apparently, I'm not the only Jew in the family who enjoyed a little Christmas spirit.

    Thursday, December 2, 2010

    Moments Like This....

    A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I went to his sister's house for a visit.  When it was time to leave, our 5 1/2 year old nephew reached up to hug my husband and say goodbye for the night.

    He looked up at my husband, smiled, and said, "Thank you."

    My husband was puzzled at this seemingly random expression of gratitude.  He replied, "For what?"

    Our little 45 pound nephew -- who was not even born when the military first set boots down in Iraq and Afghanistan -- responded:

    "You're a Soldier, right?  Thank you for protecting us."

    It's these kind of moments that tug at your heart.