Monday, December 31, 2012

So this is Christmas, so what have you done?

"So, what are you doing for Christmas Break?"

I must not be a very patient person because I get very annoyed with this question. I feel like I shouldn't be because isn't it very nice that people are interested in me and are asking perfectly appropriate social questions?

The irritating thing, I suppose, is that I don't get a Christmas Break. I am coming quickly upon 30 years old, have been out of school for almost 4 years, and rarely even have Christmas itself off. Odds are, I'll be up all night seeing patient's in the ER while Santa is ushering in a wonderful day for you and your family to begin the next morning as you sleep in late and look forward to days or even weeks off.

I guess your question is like rubbing salt in the wound. It's a painful reminder that my time isn't always my own. That while others are enjoying life and making memories I am often at work.

This year was different, however. I got lucky! This month I am rotating on a team that doesn't really need me. I am lucky to be there to learn about what they do but they really don't need me for much of anything. This has translated into a lot of extra time off over the past 10 days or so. Finishing work early or even just getting extra days off has been such a blessing and the closest thing I've had to a Christmas Break in years. Unfortunately, Abraham has been working the typical intern schedule in the ER with nights, weekends, and holiday hours. We still don't know if he will be working tomorrow or not but are planning that he likely will be.

So to answer the above less-annoying-than-usual-and-maybe-not-annoying-at-all question, we spent a few days in Chicago with Abe's family (a yearly tradition), enjoyed a lazy few days opening presents, saw Les Miserables, attended an engagement party (again in Chicago), and today I am starting on my New Years Resolution to have a "house of order" by doing some long put off (for way too many months) cleaning and organizing.

Hope you all had a great "Christmas Break" as well.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The real deal

One of the reasons I love blogging is keeping up with old friends. I like reading posts about people I feel positive feelings for but don’t always have time to call. And I especially love hearing from old friends, no matter how obscure or out of touch they may seem (comments are always welcome and appreciated!). But one of the drawbacks is that it can also be a little discouraging (at least for me) seeing the edited versions of my friends’ lives. I really appreciate those who blog not only about the best hair days and expensive vacations, but the challenges they are having as well (minus gross pictures with things like dirty diapers or baby vomit).

So, at the risk of being a Debbie Downer, I thought to counter my Digital Christmas Card I would counter with the “keeping it real” version (with less pictures—I only have so many somewhat bad pictures I am willing to post, even in the interest of full disclosure).

As if you haven’t noticed already, December has been a bit of a challenging month for me.

I miss this guy…


Abe and I are both on relatively easier rotations. The problem is that we have worked opposite shifts almost all month. Even though we are working potentially fewer hours than usual, I feel like I’ve hardly seen him in weeks. He tells me that he talks to me or cuddles me when he gets home at night (or in the early morning) but unfortunately I don’t usually have the benefit of remembering these interactions as I am sleeping and probably dreaming about the zombie apocalypse or stalkers, etc. Pair that with him studying for his last set of medical board exams and that makes for a stinky month.

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I’m feeling a little emotionally, physically, and financially drained. Money feels tighter than usual, I can’t seem to gather the courage/stamina/energy/motivation to clean my house, grocery shop, make healthy meals, exercise, or much anything of besides sleep (which I don’t do very well when Abe is gone). I have been a little better about studying this month. Little victories! I also regained any of the few pounds I lost over the past few months in my attempt to get healthier. Aargh! I must be an emotional eater.

For the sake of truly keeping it real, here is a really awful picture of me obviously feeling wiped out after a bike ride earlier this year. It is a good visual for how I’ve been feeling.


But overall life is good! We are making our way along with Abe’s intern year almost half way completed, boards almost under his belt, and with all of the necessities and comforts of life. I tend to be a little dramatic about the negative in my life, more for a good story than for any real feelings of despair. But hopefully my bad bike day pictures and flair for the dramatic will help you feel a little better when you are bogged down in those dirty diapers and thinking of my GLAMOROUS life as a doctor of dental surgery!

I am really looking forward to a few days off around Christmas, hopefully to rejuvenate and regain some momentum into the new year. In the meantime, if you are looking for some meaningful opportunities to get outside yourself and help out someone in need I'd be happy to provide some of these for you!

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Digital Christmas Card…

I’ve started receiving Christmas cards from old friends and family members with cute pictures and yearly updates. I realize that Abraham and I have never sent Christmas cards. I’m not planning to start but I was recently perusing pictures from the past year and I guess I could share some of those.

So here is your digital card of sorts…

In 2012 we survived

Birthdays (getting older and into those ages that aren’t quite so fun to mention)…


Medical school Match Day (and long days on Neurosurgery…can you see how tired I look? This picture is in the morning, about 9 hours after I had arrived at work that morning)…


Graduation (after 8 years and two doctorate degrees later)…

Graduation 2012_Abe Camera 191 - Copy 

A celebratory trip to Curacao…

Curacao Vacation_2012 156 Curacao Vacation_2012 130

The first day of residency…

Night before starting residency (in just a few hours)

And many nights long at work…

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Five years of marriage…

5th Anniversary!

The summer with my brother Colton…

Sandcastles in Iowa City

A trip to Utah, Wyoming, and Montana

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More work (including Abe pulling his first tooth)

drErin Dr. Abraham Sheffield

And expecting to “survive” a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year (even when on-call!).

Wishing you the same (minus the on-call part).



The Sheffield 2012-10-07 11.59.09

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Where are you Christmas?



The world we live in can be a scary place. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and had an even stronger reminder yesterday with the horror of the school shooting. I think working in a hospital I get more than my fair share of reminders of how short or tragic this life can be. The night before the shooting I remember saying to Abe in bed, “It’s kind of scary, you never know what can happen. Tomorrow you may not wake up, you could get shot in a school shooting, fall from a ladder and lose your arm, become paralyzed in a car accident. Or that could happen to someone you love. You never wake up thinking, “This is the day that could change my life forever.” Or at least I rarely do.

I remember when I read about the movie massacre this July. I was shocked, horrified, very sad. I felt unnerved and a little scared. And it become that much more real when I had the opportunity to treat one of the victims in our clinic. She had gone to a showing in the adjacent theater. When the bullets started coming through the walls into her theater there was a stampede. She was trampled and her jaw was broken in the incident. Since she had no health insurance and was from Iowa, she was sent back home to be treated. It felt like a blessing to meet this woman who by a simple stroke of luck was just a few hundred feet from an almost imminent death. I felt like she was a walking miracle.

This time I feel a little numb to it. I can’t quite comprehend it. It’s almost like I have felt too much in the past and am past feeling. Instead of FEELING so much this time, I’ve done a lot of thinking. I worry a little about writing these next thoughts because I don’t want to be misinterpreted. But these are some things I would like to sort through mentally, if not only for myself.

* * *

I’m not sure why it came to my mind as I haven’t seen or thought of this in years, but I couldn’t help but think of a short film I remember watching as a child called, Cipher in the Snow.

If you don’t feel like watching the clip, here is the main idea: within minutes of watching a boy walks off a bus and dies. I don’t completely understand the show from my childhood memories (and didn’t feel I had the time to rewatch all of it), but essentially from my memory he is a boy unknown to almost anyone. He went through life almost completely unnoticed. And then he just dies (of a presumed broken heart?). People are shocked at his death but even then don’t really have anything positive to remember about him.

* * *

I find myself wondering how someone could perform some of these horrible acts. Are they truly evil? Or maybe just crazy? These are the easy answers. I don’t quite understand evil and I hopefully don’t understand crazy. . .

A less easy answer I wonder about is a haunting thought they maybe these people are ciphers in the snow themselves, except instead of collapsing in the snow, they make themselves known in a very dynamic way. A last cry for help, recognition, acknowledgement, showing the world the hurt they have been experiencing inside in the most public way they can imagine. I really don’t know. I don’t know what happened that day, or the night of the batman shooting or Columbine or any of those awful events. But I wonder if they were hugged by their mom that day? If the girl at the busstop said hi? If the neighbor asked how they were doing?

I do know this may make people mad. You may even say I am trying to take away the accountability for their actions. Or make excuses.

That is not what I am saying. I’m not entirely sure what I am saying…

But when I remember to hug my loved ones a little tighter, I want to try to also remember to be that much kinder to those around me who may be less loveable, may even be a stranger, or someone usually forgotten. I don’t think I will ever prevent a tragedy and probably wont change any lives, but I think a kind word or smile can go a long way. I hope I never pass up a chance to add that bit of needed sunshine to someone’s day.

It seems a little sad to say Merry Christmas with all of those presents that will go unwrapped under multiple trees and the homes that Santa will no longer have to visit but I hope we can find hope and peace in this world of trouble remembering the true meaning of Christmas, that a baby was born to “bear our griefs, and carry our sorrows.” Isaiah 53:4

Thursday, December 13, 2012

He’s back!

I’m not sure if I ever made public a death in our family. Some of my loyal, long term readers may remember him from previous posts.



Initially he was just like any other gnome. He just sat there in the dirt. Until one day a woman at work took a particular interest in him. She made the mistake of thinking he was a robot and eventually asked a friend if he was a “mormon shrine.” We got quite the kick out of that. Pretty soon he started to develop quite the personality (as we can see in the post above) and popular among friends at work. It wasn’t uncommon for us to come home to find him ready to celebrate the next holiday.

Sadly, sometime this year he was broke to pieces after falling to an untimely death. We felt it was unlikely a suicidal incident and more an unfortunate accident. We like to think of it as an “act of God.” Really, gnomes should never be at the height he was enjoying when a burst of wind came through. There were some rumors that it was the work of an Iowa State Catholic (there was some early confusion about him being a Mormon icon), but these rumors were never confirmed. Unfortunately, humpty dumpty could not be put back together again and too sad to put him to rest, he sat in a pile on the porch. We had to celebrate Labor Day, Halloween, and even Thanksgiving without him this year.

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In reflection, it is interesting to note that I never thought I would adopt a gnome. In fact, I felt they were rather silly. However, he had really grown on us and we were sad to see him gone. I guess we weren’t the only ones…

Looks like he was re-incarnated and back to his old, jolly antics.

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A Christmas miracle! Coming out our door we noticed a familiar face. He looks a little different (I guess the stress of resurrection really put the white in his beard) but we recognized him right away with for his holiday cheer.

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I’m excited to see what he does next. He truly seems to have a “life of his own.”

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Erin’s Top Ten of Residency (AKA residency blues):

The local news here in Iowa is really something. I like to be a well informed citizen so I occasionally turn on the news at night to catch up. We are pretty lucky I guess that it is quiet enough here that the nightly news usually consists of house fires (man there are a lot of house fires here!), high school sports or even just interviews with people excited about high school sports segments, and helpful blurbs on topics such as seasonal depression. Evidently the holidays is a difficult time for a lot of people, “it’s not always like the commercials make it appear.” Luckily, “it’s only a myth that more people succeed in suicides at this time of year.”

Maybe I’m part of the group susceptible to the lack of sunshine, the cold weather, and the stress of the holidays because I’ve been feeling it lately. Or maybe it just has to do with residency. Six months in to the year it is easy to feel the grind.

So here’s my list.

You know you are in residency if you can relate to any of the following:

1—Not having any Christmas shopping done yet. And wondering if it is even worth all the trouble when you are likely to be on-call anyway. It’s easy to feel like the Grinch when all the who’s down in the whoville are celebrating without you while you are eating your cafeteria provided turkey dinner.

2—Paying hundreds of dollars per year for parking when you live just a 10 minute walk away. Every few minutes of sleep helps.

3—Not having time to feed your husband, go grocery shopping, or clean your house. Does anyone else wonder who has time to run errands during banker’s hours? Seriously, how do people go to the bank? If it weren’t for Saturday morning extended hours I think I’d have no access to my money.

4—Gaining weight. It seems ironic that the hospital serves such healthy after hours food. Fried cheese, french fries, chicken fingers, fried mushrooms, etc. Oh, and hot dogs.

5—Feeling like a full weekend off is VACAY! It isn’t called a GOLDEN WEEKEND for nothing.

6—Living with the knowledge that you are a carrier of all hospital acquired infections. Try not to think about it too much…and wondering if you’ll get a DVT (or varicose veins) while standing in the OR or catch a blood bourne disease from a patient during surgery.

7—Forgetting that talking about surgery or bodily functions isn’t appropriate dinner time conversation. Most of the time (except you really can’t help yourself)

8—Wondering what will happen with the healthcare changes on your ability to provide not only for your patients but your family in the future. Here’s to hoping I can pay back my quickly growing school debts after 12+ years of education.

9—At least I don’t drink coffee (how expensive would that be?!). Then again, maybe it would help at rounds at 5 am. I wonder if Red Bull really does give you wings? I could use them today.

10—The only contact you’ve had with your spouse in days is through the hospital paging system. Hope they don’t monitor those too closely! #Embarassing-I-love -you-honey pages!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

unorganized thoughts on dentists lost in the hospital

Being a dentist in a hospital lends itself to interesting experiences. Things that you didn’t imagine yourself doing as a dentist. Things like working more than 4 days per week. And nights. And weekends. And holidays (yay for this Christmas off!). Things like rectal exams and hernia checks and being asked by physicians for your medical advice for their patients when you’ve been out of dental school for three weeks.

Luckily this month my new experiences are more in the realm of looking in ears and noses, which is usually more pleasant to me than poking in other orifices I have had to poke. And patients seem more approving and less confused seeing me as an oral surgeon in the Otolaryngology clinic (Ears Nose Throat) than on almost any of my other rotations. I feel like overall I have a better idea of what is happening with these patients and I have seen a lot of our overlapping oral surgery patients in the ENT clinic. They seem more trusting, one mom even said, “Oh, so you are the one that will be doing the tonsillectomy?” (No.) and my favorite, “Dental injections are worse than that!” (I’ve never heard that before!)

So, I finished my first month as “trauma chief.” I was on call all of November. I dispelled any current misconceptions about me being a “black cloud” (hospital slang for someone who brings in a lot of patients on call) with only 9 total trauma cases to operate on the entire month. Now, I am on the otolaryngology team for the next few months. So far this has been good. I’ve seen a few surgeries and hope to see a bunch more of what Abe will be doing. I have worked with the cleft palate team and seen a lot of plastic surgery patients.

--I’ve noticed that cosmetic patients don’t complain about injections like my dental patients do. Can you imagine, “I’m sorry, doctor, but I just HATE when I have toxins injected in my face. I think I’m allergic because I can never move my face afterwards!” They don’t seem to mind. They don’t flinch. And they leave smiling. For whatever reason, having medication that takes away pain to have a necessary procedure done is just so much more distasteful than poison injected into your face!--

And to end on more dentist in the hospital stories is one stolen from a co-resident:

He was sent to the ER to evaluate a patient having chest pain (concern for heart attack among other things) as part of the cardiology team. When he arrived the patient’s escort was suspicious of who he was. He mentioned something about how being in a teaching hospital you never know who you are talking to with so many students and interns, etc. The resident (with his badge turned around) said, “Yeah, but It’s not like they’d send a DENTIST to evaluate you for a heart attack?” Satisfied with this response, the patient and family allowed him to complete his exam.

And a similar personal experience, a patient told me she has had a lot of friends who have questioned her decision to have her care done at the university hospital. “How could you go there, you never know who will be doing your surgery!” She told me she says, “I know, you don’t! My oral surgeon did my breast cancer surgery and she did great!”

--If these stories make you worried, we are usually under very close supervision. Even if we are “only” dentists.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


Abraham has been rotating with the emergency department this month. This means that although he may not be super busy, he is working strange shifts. Last week he was working the evening shift and gone until well into the middle of the night/morning, often coming to bed within an hour of me leaving for work in the morning.

I have some bad habits when Abe is gone. It often includes marathon sessions of Gossip Girl or some other trashy show I know he wont mind me watching without him. I also tend to stay up later than I should. These together are often a bad combination. Especially because the trashy tv shows I often choose are creepy or scary.

Last week I had the great instinct to watch a show about stalkers. I learned all about how a woman was murdered by an ex-boyfriend after secretly moving to a whole other state; a woman who was stalked by an anonymous caller; a woman who was stalked by an old high school acquaintance, etc. All of these stalking tales ended up with the victims being attacked or almost attacked by their stalkers. Really useful information when you are home alone at night. I couldn’t help but thinking of a circumstance where a too-friendly patient decided to come track me down while Abe was at work. And probably through my blog.

I finally fell asleep (after watching a non-scary trashy tv show) but had dreams all night I met a stalker at an event aimed to help prevent us from becoming victims of stalkers.

I maybe need to stick with Disney from here on out.

* * *

It does bring me to a serious thought of changing my blog title to something more anonymous. When I started blogging I never thought anyone would read or try to find me and I wanted it to be easy to remember for those close to me. Now, I am not too excited about patient’s finding me through my blog, friendly or stalkerish, when searching my name online. Not only is that a privacy issue (not like I’m very private to begin with), but I see so many different patients I’d rather not be so easy to track down online.

Will you keep reading if I change my address? I guess changing now will prevent future stalkers but not any current ones I may have. So please blog stalkers, stay friendly!

P.S. I’m taking suggestions for a new address…I wonder if or are available?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

pregnancy mistakes

Evidently my blog made bigger waves than I expected. Abe said he had an attending ask if I was really pregnant. And nope, still not.


Being confused for a pregnant woman is one of the most depressing and frustrating offenses that can be made against a woman. This time I wont be upset as I seemed to have brought it upon myself, but a food baby confused with a real baby is downright humiliating. I did have a roommate in college and a boyfriend in college agree I had a “funny tummy” (thank you very much for that complex which I am still struggling with 11 years later) but there is only one time I can think of where I was confused for a pregnant woman:

We were at a conference and an old dental school professor was introducing me to another woman:

“Isn’t this lovely, two expectant mothers! Wow, that really is great.”

“Oh you are pregnant? Congratulations…Um, wait, who did you say is pregnant?”

“Yeah, it is really wonderful. Both of you having babies, when are you due? She’s due in X.”

“What, you think I’m pregnant, too? That’s news to me!”

Luckily he followed (perhaps strategically with), “Oh, I had heard you were. I thought for sure it was you. It’s not? But I heard you were. I guess I am mistaken.”

He evidently had me confused with another newly expecting woman he had heard about through the grapevine. And it was hard to convince him that I actually wasn’t pregnant. He was so pleased for me (I could see the genuine happiness in his eyes) he didn’t hardly hear my clarifications that I wasn’t pregnant.

I’m lucky he was just remembering wrong instead of me looking with child (isn’t that a strange phrase? kinda gives me the creepers!). Hopefully I can continue to prevent further incidences as I get older (and a little chubbier).

Monday, December 3, 2012

A little clarification

It appears there has been some confusion about exactly who and how many Jackson twins are currently pregnant. For those of you reading between the lines, I’m sorry to disappoint you but there is only one twin with a bun-in-the-oven. If you are still wondering, I can say, it isn’t me!

Sorry to disappoint, especially those thinking, “It’s about time!” For those of you thinking, “How will she make THAT work?” I’m wondering the same thing. Let me know if you have ideas or want to be my free full time nanny. Of course you’d have to be on call 24 hours a day, at least some months, so let me know.

I can’t say I blame you if you were confused. I suspected people may make assumptions. I am sorry I didn’t designate my photo as a “sympathetic bloating” and not the real deal. I didn’t purposefully try to deceive but I am convinced I can make myself look pregnant with how far I can push out my belly. I think my mom agrees (as she took the picture) and so does my husband (which he doesn’t seem to like).

Here is photographic evidence from the same day that I’m not as pregnant as I looked before (hopefully I don’t look pregnant at all!) and Amber trying to be sympathetically un-pregnant.


And photographic evidence that I have at least a 50% chance of having an adorable little duck of my own when I finally do make this milestone:


Do you see a resemblance? She is genetically equivalent to one of my own. It leaves Abe as the variable factor in the equation.


Hope Abe can pull his (genetic) weight!

And thanks for all of the congratulations. I will mentally store them away until they are really merited.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Baby names



First grade: that’s when I found out I was born with half a heart and half a brain (sounds like I should be part of the Wizard of Oz!).

Luckily for me, I had a very smart friend, Brita, who filled my sister Amber and I in on this fact. Up to that point we felt like we were pretty normal, but she was happy to point that as twins we did indeed share all of our internal organs, including our heart and brain.

I wasn’t happy to hear this: I think I cried a bit and at the very least did what any sane first grader would do and tattled on her to the teacher. I’ve since put it out of my mind but occasionally I wonder if maybe she was right. Like when we show up at family events wearing almost the same outfit (we live over a thousand miles away from each other). Or the fact that we almost always order the same thing at a restaurant even when sitting at opposite ends of the table. Or having the same color scheme and design ideas for Christmas trees.

My sister is currently pregnant with her second child. I’m guessing that her raging hormones and difficulty sleeping with her pregnant belly was responsible for another on of my strange dreams the other night. In case you are confused, when you share the same brain it makes ESP that much easier to channel. Never thought about it before, right? That’s why twins can read each other’s minds, feel each other’s pain, and say the same thing at the same time.

So back to my dream. I was out and about and was informed that I had just had a baby. I was surprised as I didn’t realize I had been pregnant and did not remember going through labor or anything about the baby. I remember saying, “Shouldn’t I at least be a little sore after that?”

I was told that Abe was home with the baby and that he had named him “Cameron Hapcock.” It’s a risk putting the actual name on here as you may be tempted to use it for your next child. I figure it was an inspired name as I’ve never heard of the name “Hapcock” before, let alone in this combination. It’s reminds me of the story of John from the Bible, “His name will be John!” Everyone was wondering, “Where’d that come from?”

Anyway, I was angry that Abe would/could name the baby without me. Especially a name like that. I went home to find him asleep with the baby, who was already like a 3 year old with long red curly hair. I didn’t get far enough into the dream to figure out if we kept the name. I guess we could always call him “Happy”—as opposed to other shortened options of the name.

So thanks, sis, for the pregnancy dream and the inspiration for the next name of our child. If you don’t steal it first!