Archive | July, 2013

larger bodies

26 Jul

(photo by rebecca)

(We are talking now of summer evenings in Knoxville Tennessee in that time that I lived there so successfully disguised to myself as a child.)

…It has become that time of evening when people sit on their porches, rocking gently and talking gently and watching the street and the standing up into their sphere of possession of the trees, of birds’ hung havens, hangars. People go by; things go by. A horse, drawing a buggy, breaking his hollow iron music on the asphalt; a loud auto; a quiet auto; people in pairs, not in a hurry, scuffling, switching their weight of aestival body, talking casually, the taste hovering over them of vanilla, strawberry, pasteboard and starched milk, the image upon them of lovers and horsemen, squared with clowns in hueless amber.

A streetcar raising its iron moan; stopping, belling and starting; stertorous; rousing and raising again its iron increasing moan and swimming its gold windows and straw seats on past and past and past, the bleak spark crackling and cursing above it like a small malignant spirit set to dog its tracks; the iron whine rises on rising speed; still risen, faints; halts; the faint stinging bell; rises again, still fainter, fainting, lifting, lifts, faints foregone: forgotten. Now is the night one blue dew.

Now is the night one blue dew, my father has drained, he has coiled the hose.

Low on the length of lawns, a frailing of fire who breathes….

Parents on porches: rock and rock. From damp strings morning glories hang their ancient faces.

The dry and exalted noise of the locusts from all the air at once enchants my eardrums.

On the rough wet grass of the back yard my father and mother have spread quilts. We all lie there, my mother, my father, my uncle, my aunt, and I too am lying there….They are not talking much, and the talk is quiet, of nothing in particular, of nothing at all. The stars are wide and alive, they seem each like a smile of great sweetness, and they seem very near. All my people are larger bodies than mine,…with voices gentle and meaningless like the voices of sleeping birds. One is an artist, he is living at home. One is a musician, she is living at home. One is my mother who is good to me. One is my father who is good to me. By some chance, here they are, all on this earth; and who shall ever tell the sorrow of being on this earth, lying, on quilts, on the grass, in a summer evening, among the sounds of the night. May God bless my people, my uncle, my aunt, my mother, my good father, oh, remember them kindly in their time of trouble; and in the hour of their taking away.

After a little I am taken in and put to bed. Sleep, soft smiling, draws me unto her: and those receive me, who quietly treat me, as one familiar and well-beloved in that home: but will not, oh, will not, not now, not ever; but will not ever tell me who I am.

— James Agee (lyrics of Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915)

When I was in grad school at UVA, one of my best friends allowed me to participate in her distinguished major recital.  Together, we performed Samuel Barber’s 17-minute opus Knoxville: Summer of 1915  for voice and orchestra, reduced to one of the awesomest, most challenging piano arrangements, which of course Sarah schooled.  I have some not so great memories of learning the piece, wanting to smack myself for each missed entrance.  But what I remember most is our choir director’s adoration for the text and how the music echoed its intent.

My daughter does this sweet thing now where she’ll entertain herself for several moments as I’m getting things ready, then she’ll cock her head back and look up at me in eager anticipation of what’s next for us.  I always think about this line of music at which our director so encouraged us to marvel: “All my people are larger bodies than mine.”  You have to hear it.

I spent several moments admiring her tonight asleep, stretched out in her crib.  She is the littlest, but she seems so, so big.


crazy mom moment

25 Jul

My friend posted this link on facebook recently, which has of course haunted me since and forced me to read all the articles associated with it, including this one.  The idea of anything happening to my daughter makes me weep and vomit simultaneously; the thought of leaving her in the car, it rips me.  John and I are thoughtful, aware individuals, but as Gene Weingarten describes, we are just as likely to be the perpetrators, especially given the multiple distractions in our lives.

Yesterday, John was kind enough (and available) to pick Ari up from daycare and take her to crossfit with him so I could get an extra hour of studying in.  I told him that I knew I was being ridiculous, but could he please just humor me and call me to let me know he got Ari out of the car (as though our carseat-hating soprano would not constantly remind us of her presence).  When I didn’t get a phone call, I got in my car, drove to the gym, tracked down John’s car, and scoped it out like a crazy person making sure it was infant-less.  And then I was able to get back to the qbank.

the worst studier

21 Jul

That would be me.  But a few hours lost of studying for the chance to meet a six-week-old future BFF with Ari, come on!  AND we got to see our most favorite Israelis!


Oh Jacob Henry, you are a sweet little man.  We would expect nothing less from these two!

(Side note: I was not initially supposed to join in on the fun yesterday.  But when John called me while I was at the library, informing me that Ari’s carseat was still in my car, I took it as a sign that I should just extend the interruption.  John made me promise that I would not take it out on him later.)

current place on the mental wellness spectrum

19 Jul


So…we’ve reached that not so comfortable place before a major exam.  The place where I accost my classmates in the streets begging them for reassurance that I am not an embarrassment to Penn.  (If you are/have been one of them, oh God I’m sorry.)  The place where I tearfully make my husband cuddle with me, all the while asking him, “Will you still love me if the USMLE thinks I’m stupid?”  Model of the confident woman I want for my daughter?  Not this week.

I’m going to bury myself for a bit–so I can maybe get an honest couple of hours of work in–but I assure you that I have still been a responsible caregiver to the nugget.  She just had her nine-month well-child check and, though a shriek and a few fat tears accompanied her hep B vaccine, I’m happy to report she is quite well, holding strong at the 80-85th percentile for weight, 65th for length, 75th for head circumference (no Rett’s disorder for this girl!).

And last weekend, we had one helluva a last hurrah pre-boards (many more celebrations to follow post).  Have you checked out Ellen’s blog?  She’s one of those friends who you just have to say “yes” to, to whatever she suggests, if you value happiness, good food and thought.  I should do a Julie/Julia project and try remaking all of her recipes in the next semester.  Ari would be thrilled!

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More pictures would love to include, but my computer has been scanning for viruses for the last 30 minutes.  Womp.



john in charge

18 Jul

He bathed her happily and put her to bed.  Then I went to check on her…

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Nicely played.  Though I really shouldn’t make fun, considering I let our daughter throw recycling across the kitchen for about a half hour while I got dinner ready:

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And nothing is better than this:

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lather, rinse, repeat

11 Jul

As I’m sure you can tell, my posts have been a little uninspired recently.  I’ve hit that point in studying where I’m a little over it, and I’m just making myself hammer through practice questions because the ticking clock of the q-bank is the only thing that keeps me moving.  Now I understand why my friends told me to absolutely not spend more than six weeks studying for this exam.  I mean, I could spend A YEAR studying and still not feel ready, I could drive myself crazy.  So, I’ll just get it done on the 29th and move on.  I hope that some of the pictures of the cute beefcake have been good enough distraction.

This is going to sound awful.  Yesterday I spent a couple hours in a Starbucks waiting for the library to open, and these two girls at the table next to me were studying for the MCAT.  One of them started crying out of frustration and stress.  I offered a few go-get-’em words that I’m sure more annoyed than motivated them, but I left the conversation feeling a little better.  (I know, I know, it’s horrible for other’s anxiety to help lessen one’s own but, still, thank God I’m not studying for the MCAT.)  I keep thinking about the med students I would see when I was studying for the MCAT in 2008 (has it been five years?!), really thinking that they had made it.  And then I think about how many tears I cried over that damn test.  (My husband is a saint.)  The boards aren’t over yet, but I don’t have the same sinking feeling of impending doom (well, John will probably remind me of when I did, in fact, burst into tears a week and a half ago…but I’m over it, really), even if I still have some practice tests where I get fewer correct than what the laws of probability would assume if I had guessed on all of them.

My studying is bookend-ed with Ari rituals, like sitting on the kitchen floor eating over-easy eggs before the sun’s come up, and watching her do crazy shit like pull herself up to standing, or wrap her arms around my legs when I come to pick her up (heart to floor).  Oh, and her excited panting has been replaced by a gorilla like, deep: “Hoo!  Hoo!”  Must get on video.


Helping mama eat up them boards!  (That’s the binding of the First Aid for the USMLE Step 1.)


one of the sweetest images…of someone else’s children

9 Jul

I love, love the second image in this post.  Considering how much Ari is loving being around other kids right now, I just know she would flip if we were to bring one home permanently.  Don’t worry, not pregnant.  But the image of Ari as a big sister (among other things) does make me really hope we’re able to have more children.  Also, Leigh’s words could not be more spot-on perfect.

Bloopers of besties from our Nashville trip:

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I think my favorite is the second to last, where Callie’s sideways glance says something like, “I don’t know why you’re still smiling, nut-ball.”

reading rainbow

8 Jul

The anti-productivity fairy has officially swatted me with dust because I just fell asleep trying to process pages of drug names, their mechanism of action, side effects, toxicity antidotes (I always want to write/say anecdote).  My attempts at optimism are waning.

Have I mentioned that I joined the public library chain?  I haven’t had a library card for maybe 15 years, and I LOVE it!  John says it’s painful, but I actually think that studying surrounded by rows and rows of books and books is kind of lovely.  And it’s summer and there are all these little nuggets running around, and I cannot wait to share this with Ari.  Hopefully she’ll have an easier time getting her first library card than I did.  I remember that I had to be able to spell my full name in order to qualify–do you know how hard it is for a four-year-old to spell “Oppenheimer”?  Well, maybe I was behind the curve.

Med fun facts of the day:

  • It’s not HIPP to have lupus.  (Drugs that can cause SLE-like syndrome: Hydralazine; INH; Procainamide; Phenytoin.)
  • With seizures, I BITE My tongue.  (Drugs that lower seizure threshold: Isoniazid; Bupropion; Imipenem/cilastatin; Tramadol; Enflurane; Metoclopramide.)

Ari sweetness of the day (the last I already posted on FB, but too yummy not to repost):

“I love you!”

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“Oh?  Do you love be back?”

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“I eat your face!”

horace 3

chocolate & egg whites

3 Jul

Christina, a table 6 lady and one of my closest friends in med school, has maybe the best attitude ever.  She legitimately enjoyed studying for the boards–she found it both rewarding and fun to rediscover (or simply discover) the nuts and bolts of how disease processes and drugs work.  While Christina enthusiastically recounted her six-week step 1 immersion, Rebecca (her girlfriend) asked, “Are all med students like this?”  No.  Most definitely not.  As a population, we tend to lean more toward the whiny end of the spectrum.

With her in mind, I tried to go into today prepared to find joy in biochem, perhaps my most feared of the basic sciences.  I can’t say I was all together successful (sitting in a library a mile from Ari’s daycare, it was all I could do to keep from bolting out of the parking lot), but a few details certainly helped lift the day.

Biotin: Vitamin B7, a necessary cofactor for several metabolic reactions.  Where do we get it?  Chocolate.  I kid you not.  (And organ meats and legumes and nuts…but, come on, wouldn’t you rather get your biotin from chocolate than sweetbreads?–this coming from a girl who actually likes sweetbreads and could eat her weight in pate until she gets weepy thinking about the poor ducks.)  How might we lack it?  By the excessive ingestion of egg whites.  Egg whites contain avidin, which binds to biotin and makes it indigestible.

My take away is that Hollywood starlets should have a fist full of Nutella on some carb-heavy bread (carb for pyruvate, acetyl-CoA, and propionyl-CoA carboxylase, the enzymes for which biotin is a cofactor) in lieu of their standard egg white omelets in order to avoid going bald and being covered in rashes (the result of biotin deficiency).

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The chocolate consumed in utero had an effect.