Saturday, January 28, 2017

ch-ch-ch-changes




This blog, from the beginning, has been a journal about change. I started writing here in the year 2000 (though some of the older Homestead archives have since been eaten, believe me, they went alllll the way back, and yes, there was an Internet then) and from the beginning, it’s been a chronicle of x/∆y. Medical school. Marriage. Residency. A different residency. Parenthood. Moving to the South. Every year was something big and something new and oh hell, how are we going to do this now and the constant, underlying theme through it all was change.

At the time I kind of petered out on the blog (and know that I never really intended to step away entirely, but the slow fade just kind of…happened) part of it was that the rate of change had slowed. Things were calming down, and we were settling into our lives in a way we’d never had a chance to before. Joe and I were both attendings and in stable jobs. Our kids were getting older. We bought a home and lived in it for a while. There were days with patients and nights on call and parent teacher conferences and summer camps and carpool lanes. And while things continued to be busy, they also became shockingly normal. Calm. Maybe even a little bit boring, though I mean that in the best possible way. It just felt, though, that in this journal about change, there wasn’t much left to write about.

I don’t think I feel that way anymore. There are a lot of ways to view this post-Trump ascension world we live in now, but I don’t think I can say anymore that life ceases to change. But neither can I continue to insist that it is boring, so...there's that. I think a lot of people—regular people, normal people, people like me—have a lot of energy and a renewed sense of civic responsibility in the face of this new administration, but often if feels difficult to know where to channel all that energy, you know? What do we do now? Where do I put all this? How can I help? How do you do stuff?

Look, I’m just a dumb doctor. I do what I know how to do. I work with patients. I help people individually in sometimes big but usually small, concrete ways. I speak the language of medicine and science and research and data. My campaigns are waged at the bedside, or in the operating room. I’m not a politician. I’m not a legislator. I’m not a lobbyist. I’m not a judge. I don’t know how that world works, or the avenues into it. But I want to change that. I want to learn. Then I want to do it. And I don’t want to do it alone.

I’ve done a few things since Election Day. These are just very small things, things I know how to do, in order to chip in, help shore things up, fix things, and teach my kids how to do the same. But it’s not enough. These things are important, but they are also too small. I know it takes thousands of little drops to fill a bucket, and I want to keep on adding those drops, but I’m ready to start doing more, and I just need to figure out how. So now we’re going to start, and we’re going to do it together.

Here’s a small list of some of the things my family and I have done since November 9th. It’s not a complete list (there are probably some things I don’t quite remember, I didn’t write them down or anything), but I also didn’t talk about it much on social media either, because my instinct was always that anonymous good works are the best kinds of good works. However, now I think the need for collective action and coalition building supersedes those instincts, and also, more than ever, we deserve to know that we’re not alone on this. So, an incomplete list.



But these are tiny actions, and not nearly enough. Lately it has been suggested to me that one means of political action is, quite simply, talking out loud. I mean, after a fashion. Via the Internet, on social media, ways in which ideas can be shared widely and communities built broadly. I know this is not a new idea at all—it's pretty much Twitter's entire modus operandi, at this point—but I never felt that it was as satisfying talking about doing stuff as actually just shutting your mouth and doing the stuff. But I think what I'm learning now is this. Sharing ideas is activism. Talking to people is activism. Starting the conversations and keeping them going is activism. And then we'll get to what comes next.

Anyway, this blog. I'm still just a doctor. This has always been a small platform focused on the minutiae of daily life, and will continue to be for as long as I can remember my Blogger password. (Hey, shut up, it's hard sometimes.) But the world is bigger than any one of us, and it's also up to us to take responsibility for all of it.

Now, to what you've all actually been interested in.




Cal is eleven now, and in the seventh grade. I know many of the people who have been following this blog since time immemorial remember when Cal was just born, and it's impossible for you to believe that he's in middle school. Don't worry, I feel exactly the same way.




Mack just turned eight a few weeks ago, and is in the second grade. He only recently stopped making a weird face every time I tried to take a picture of him. This photo was taken before that particular skill was mastered.




Nina, she will insist on telling you and everyone in earshot, is A Big Girl. She also insists on dressing herself sometimes, as you can clearly see, but has luckily tried to cut her own hair only once. She is four and a half years old, and in Pre-K.




Joe is 42 now and in the one millionth grade. No, but really, he's doing well. I'm not going to talk too much about his work, because that's probably pretty boring, but he's great at what he does, and it's an honor being on his team. Probably the most important thing you can do in life is choosing the right co-pilot, and somehow I lucked into a good one. I'm not a perfect person, and I have more flaws than I can reasonably enumerate. But whatever good I've done, and continue to do, is due to and in the service of these guys right here.

Anyway, this is just a brief mic check, and a post it note on the wall to say...I'm here. I hope you are too. So let's start talking. Let's get to work. Let's do this thing.

Discuss: What social or political actions you and your family taken, if any, since the election, and why? I understand that we don't all have the same political leanings, and I respect those differences. I live in the South, after all, I am accustomed at this point to having smart people disagree with my political views and having it descend into a slap fight only 50% of the time. (60% tops.) But the goal is the conversation, after all. In the end, the campaign of change has to be one of hearts and minds. So let's start here.

32 comments:

  1. Guuuurl, I have followed you (in a non-creepy way) from the beginning. I'm also peds--> anes--> mom--> Atlanta and we even have some mutual friends. Let's talk out loud together.

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    1. We absolutely should. Maybe even in person, neighbor! ;-)

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  2. Anonymous9:03 PM

    I've been following you for years, since I was in college. I'm now headed off to fellowship in CA in a few months - thanks for all the inspiration over the years, especially when things got really tough. I'm so glad to see you blog again! I also feel the tremendous and terrible momentousness of our times, and I'm just a dumb doctor, without much money. But I've also been proud to donate to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood as well as start talking on social media. If I don't keep talking, this fascist racism/sexism/xenophobia might start to feel like just another Tuesday to people, and I can't let that happen. So thanks for coming back!

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  3. When I saw your tweet, I was so happy! I've been reading your blog since I was a junior in college, and I'm glad that you're back. In terms of the action I've taken, I felt compelled to write about my own experiences with racism and sexism. If you'd like, you can read it here: http://justaspoonfulofsomething.blogspot.com/ Welcome back!

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    1. Thanks for the link! Going to read it now...thanks for sharing!

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  4. I was following you before you had a blog. Ok, that sounds a little creepy when I read it back out loud, but I like to think we were friends in college. As for actions taken, we currently live in Saudi Arabia supporting US interests here. So, as you might imagine, it has become slightly less clear what those are. My big social media positions orbit around preservation or improvement of the ACA, addressing and fixing income inequality/"privilege", and continually reminding folks who have never met a Muslim that practicing religion and practicing terrorism cannot be achieved simultaneously.

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    1. Greg Bollrud! I was following you before I had a blog too! ;-) I think the preservation and improvement of the ACA is going to be a huge issue, and one that I would like to get into more, and soon. Interesting perspective you must have on all of this, living in Saudi Arabia now. I'd like to hear about it. (Your kids are super cute, by the way.)

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  5. aaaah welcome back! what an awesome surprise! i too have been following you since before i went to medical school, and i am not in year 8 of my mdphd. one day i will graduate, i think. this is great to see, and i hope that people in medicine, in science and with ovaries continue to converse. in particular if they are of different parties, hoping that one day the gop and dnc platforms are changed, more diverse, and more interesting than abortion/taxes/racism. i also hope this new change encourages doctors to band together and to advocate for themselves better, because in the end that will allow them to advocate for their patients more efficiently too

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    1. I totally agree with you, and I think that you're right, that doctors and researchers need to get more involved. The impediment for medical people not getting more involved in politics, I think, is that we're busy with our jobs, in a way that many other people aren't necessarily. Our jobs are all in, so it feels hard to make the time or the space for anything else extracurricular. However, extraordinary times...

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  6. You were the first blog I ever read- I'm not even sure I knew it was called a blog, back when I was still pre-med before I switched to pre-law my senior year of undergrad (not because of your blog to be clear; in fact, your blog was always a window into the path untaken and I enjoyed the view very much). Now I'm a full time federal lawyer (ugh, my new boss makes it hard to come to work) with three kids of my own and I am thrilled to hear your voice again.

    We now live in ultra conservative Fort Worth, Texas, so in addition to upping our monthly donations to Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and the Conservation Fund, I am trying to talk more and post more about my views and why I hold them. And I try to do it when I'm not full of rage, but when I can try to at least explain and inform my beliefs (with 50% rage because I'm still human and MYGOD it has been a week). And so far, I've been thrilled to find so many people in my new community who think similarly, in addition to occasionally engaging in a rational conversation with someone who doesn't. It's made me braver and it's something positive to come out of the last few months.

    Your hands-on actions are inspiring to me, I need to find a place we can volunteer with the kids in our community. My federal employment prevents me from doing legal pro-bono work in many areas (like immigration), but I can use my hands and my time! So happy to have you back :).

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    1. Hi! Yes, it's difficult to find volunteer opportunities to do with kids, particularly little kids, because a lot of organized volunteer opportunities (soup kitchens, food pantries and such) have age cutoffs that are pretty high, I assume for safety and liability reasons. You know, no one wants your four year old flattened under a pallet of green beans. We've been keeping an eye out (some volunteer organizations have specific "family day" events that are more inclusive--ours was an art project, so safe for all--and also, we've organized our own little charity drives that the kids can get in on and help deliver. Thanks for reading from back when we were kicking it old school!

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  7. Yay thanks for the post! I've been following you ever since college when I met with you as a peer premed advisor. I am now a peds oncologist in Los Angeles, married to a pulmonary critical care and sleep doctor, with two girls. I am at a loss for words ever since the election... I'm still trying to find my voice... but we have donated to Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and taken the kids to the Women's March in downtown Los Angeles. (and bought a lot of Hillary inspired quotes/artwork from etsy).

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    1. OMG, I forgot I was a peer premed advisor. I hope I did not tank your application with any terrible advice! I can not tell you how much Hillary swag I have at my house (so many shirts and stickers and hats and of course, I have the poster) but it's going to take a long time before I can look at all that stuff without feeling...pretty depressed. But no matter. Onward!

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    2. I ended up at the University of Chicago for med school, where I met my husband, so I think it's safe to say all your advice was right on. Random memory- did you live in Beebe with xmas lights in your room?

      I have a mug that says "Still With Her" that I use every chance I get. So heartbreaking but also empowering in a way.

      I look forward to reading your posts!

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  8. Michelle - I started following you as a medical student, and I'm now a first year female urology fellow. Glad to see you back, and to hear your voice in this tumultuous and anxiety-provoking time. Thank you for writing.

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  9. It's so great to see you posting! I'm a PGY-1 obgyn resident/mom. I've followed your blog since I was a pre-med camped out in the library studying/procrastinating. Having someone to look up to who is doing the mom/physician thing has gotten me through some tough times. This election has been very angst inducing. I find myself wanting to do more and to be proactive. However this would require either dramatically lowering my sleep requirement or defying the laws of nature in order to add a couple more hours to the day. Women's health is a scary place to be right now. I joke with my husband that if the Vice President gets his way, I might end up in jail. My resolve at the moment is to put my head down, do the work, and treat all my patients be they homeless or wealthier than the president with equal compassion and respect. I try to reach out on social media to be an advocate and source of fact-based information. It doesn't feel like enough, but it's a start.

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  10. Welcome back! I've followed your blog since way back when. My husband and I are both fellows now (I'm pathology & he's anesthesia). I've supported our local NPR station & PIH for years, now Planned Parenthood, ACLU & SAMS foundation (Syrian medical relief). I'm also for real going to call my representatives on Monday. Check out Daily Action if you haven't already.

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  11. I have followed your blog since I was a freshman pre-med and I was so excited to see an update. I'm currently a second year med student with boards looming. My small contribution has been to try to propagate the distribution of accurate scientific information (vaccines, climate change, etc) and just to show kindness to everyone regardless of illogical views that they may hold. The amount of hate and bitterness that exist in the current culture is alarming. I've also been more active in contacting state representatives.

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  12. Wow - so glad to see you pop up in my feed. As a family we have donated to similar causes, participated in the Social Justice and Women's March here in Atlanta. I'm a mom of 7th-grade twins, work at the home office of a non-profit health agency.

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  13. Great to see you back, Michelle! I've been following your blog since I was considering being a pre-med about 15 years ago. I went into public health instead, but have stuck around since your writing is just awesome. I moved to Atlanta shortly before you did, so it has been fun to follow your GA adventures. I am looking for some inspiration/ideas for how to fight back in this new scary world, so I look forward to your future posts.

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  14. Great to see you back. My new goals: learn Spanish; save up for solar panels; write letters, send faxes(!), and call my representatives every day; generally just be engaged. I've given money to refugee groups, the ACLU, and NPR. It's not much, but it's not nothing.

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  15. medrecgal3:46 PM

    Great to see you back! Been reading for years and wondered if/when you'd get back to blogging again. As for personal actions on the political front, I am not the activist type, but Trump is a truly terrifying character doing some shady things that could do serious damage. I follow several blogs and pages of organizations and influential people working hard to counteract the craziness; if I ever come into some disposable income I will donate to a good cause or two like the ACLU and the SPLC.

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  16. I was pleasantly surprised to see your blog pop up in my reader! This is certainly a trying time in the world, and I feel empowered that that so many people are being active. I went to the women's march in NYC and an immigration protest and have written a few letters to senators. I'd like to do more, but it can seem so overwhelming.

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  17. Katie9:20 PM

    I've been reading the blog since I was a tiny high schooler accepting my place at wellesley. I didn't know anyone who'd gone there, but I felt like you sorta counted. Then you came and talked at Swells while I was there (and while you were pregnant with Nina and still thought you were having a third boy) so full circle! So far I have no plans to switch from Peds though :)

    I'm painfully shy but I've tried to call my senators. As an intern this is tricky, since i never have free time, but damnit I'm trying

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  18. Brittany1:43 PM

    Welcome back! I've followed your blog since I was applying for medical school, way back in 2003/4.

    Since the Trump election I have:
    1. Increased my recurring donations to RainForest Trust
    (https://www.rainforesttrust.org/) - great charity, btw.
    2. Preparing for solar panels - the plan is to replace my roof, put on solar panels and then buy an electric car. My electricity is already 100% wind, but I figure this will help more. Getting quotes for the roof now.

    How are the dogs, by the way?

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  19. Anonymous2:26 AM

    I'm still donating to the same places I was donating before the election, "liberal agenda" type things. I'm optimistic about Trump. We have to give the guy a chance.

    -a nonChristian, Arab descent, female in a male dominated branch of medicine

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  20. Anonymous7:40 PM

    I started reading your blog when you were in your paeds residency, before anesthesiology, before Cal, before Atlanta! I was in a different career then...now, I'm wrapping up med school. I can't think too much about how time flies, it's too mind-bending. Glad you're back to blogging!

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  21. You're back! I've followed this blog since back during my nursing school days and have periodically checked in over the last few years during radio silence. My husband and I donate to the World Food Program and PP but would like to add ACLU into the mix. I'm not a very vocal person-- I do good when I can sign a petition or donate etc. We've recently moved from central Texas to Portland for work, at least temporarily, and feel much more at home politically. Hopefully we can can find meaningful ways to make an impact with plenty of like minded folks around.

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  22. Anonymous9:00 AM

    Such a wonderful surprise you are back to blogging! Greetings from across the pond!

    I think I found your blog after searching for 'types of medical students', found your '12 types of medical student' comic, then your blog, and followed ever since. I think this was back in ?2002/2003.
    Some of your posts have been helpful at various points of my training. The one that comes to mind is the post on the first time you anaesthetised a patient during an organ harvest. I remembered that blog post when I was anaesthetising such a patient in the final moments as I watched the observations on the machine when the procedure ended. It was done at night. Your post really helped.

    Wishing you all the best in your acts of citizenship :-)

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  24. Anonymous1:19 AM

    It is so good to hear from you again Michelle. I still had you bookmarked and would check back every so often. Since the election, me and my husband (both doctors) have been donating to as many places like NPR and Planned Parenthood as possible. We will look into clinician action network and some of the others you have mentioned.

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