Sunday, April 28, 2013

I spent the first really nice day of the year inside working...and other thoughts

So, I've been thinking, "I hope the meek really do inherit the earth" (to quote the Bible). I could use a light at the end of the tunnel right now.

And no, this picture has nothing to do with this post except I look pretty happy and carefree which is a nice reminder.


To say it's been a hard week would be an understatement. I feel like I've been saying that for a long time now. I'm not quite sure when it started, but it probably coincides with Abe's Head and Neck rotation beginning just under 8 weeks ago. This has been by far his busiest couple of months of intern year so far. And I feel like my emotions have been mirroring his crazy rotation.

I was discussing with my mom my run of "bad luck." We both decided I often do seem to draw the short straw. But I also get lucky a lot. I seem to have a lot of little annoying problems but luckily things seem to work out for me in the end.

So what's the deal? Mostly just little things, with a few big things mixed in. Stress about life decisions (I keep thinking we are done making these but they seem to crop up again and again). Frustration with not seeing my husband very much and sympathy pains when he seems miserable or tired or busy. Mistakes at work and mistakes at home. Relationship challenges. A mini-health scare (which luckily seems to have turned out to be nothing). Busy days/nights on-call. Disappointments and unmet expectations. And things like getting stuck by contaminated sharp items at work and hoping to not get Hep C and die of liver failure in the future...

But most of all, it's my own guilt and self punishing. I have really been beating myself up lately. Funny, because we had a lesson at church just last Sunday about not doing that. Funny because yesterday we had another activity at a different church meeting on forgiveness and grace. Funny because I like to talk way too much at church and can't follow my own advice about letting go and moving on.

Awhile back I developed a bit of a personal mantra based on a scripture from the Book of Mormon. The scripture is Ether 12:27:
And if men come unto me I will show them their weakness. I given unto them weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then I will make weak things become strong unto them.
I decided that maybe God gives us our weaknesses as a roadmap to success. Maybe the things we are worst at are what He is trying to tell us He wants us to improve. Things like my messy house will one day be motivation for becoming a very tidy and organized person. Or my habit of talking too much will prompt me to become the world's best listener, probably after I really embarrass myself in the future. Or my junk food eating will culminate into becoming a real health nut.

So, I am hoping I can use some of my current mistakes to my advantage! I could certainly use some of that lately. God must have a lot of greatness in store for me!

...and there goes my pager....again!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Another Bad Picture Monday


You might argue my past “Bad Picture Monday'” pics haven’t been that bad. I think you can all agree this is a pretty “good one.” But J looks so cute she makes up for the both of us.

I think battling insecurities about our looks is an almost universal trait for women. It seems silly on days I have participated in complex surgeries that sometimes I come home and feel bad that I am having a bad hair day (once the surgery cap comes off). I get annoyed with myself that sometimes that is the preoccupation. Why don’t I focus on the great things I’ve achieved that day, rather than my smeared mascara or tired eyes? I doubt many of my male colleagues even have a second thought about such things. They probably go home thinking, “I am the man!” All while I am questioning my worth as a woman because my hair is all stringy after a sweaty day in the OR.

On days I am falling into this trap I try to remember an experience I had in college. I’m sometimes embarrassed to tell this because I feel like it makes me sound vain (and not very philosophical!). But it’s true and I’m trying to be honest with and about myself, so here it is:

I was at BYU in probably my second or third year. It was a rainy day and I was passing through the Wilkinson Student Center. I had a busy day and was wearing a pony tail, sweatshirt, and no make up. I must have caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror or something because I was feeling pretty lousy about myself and my lack of effort in my appearance.

And then I had an epiphany. A REAL epiphany. A thought I had never had before:

Erin, you are the same (good) person whether you look good today or not.

It was enough of an AHA! moment that I remember where I was standing when I had this experience. Even today, I try to remind myself of that thought when I am feeling down on myself about not measuring up or “taking enough pride” in my appearance.

So even on the day this picture was taken, I know I was smart and capable and responsible. I was kind and passionate and open -- even if I don’t like my hair or the face the camera caught me making.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Painting the grass

I wonder if they paint their grass?
Before leaving BYU, I remember having an exit interview just before graduation in the science building. I spoke to a couple of women on the advisory board for the college of Biology. They asked me about my plans for the future. My experience at BYU. Suggestions and feedback I had for the college. We talked about my family and my siblings and their future plans. They seemed impressed by the things we were accomplishing and they asked me what gave us our high ambitions and drive to achieve. I wasn’t sure at the time. Thinking back it may have had something to do with painting the grass.

We grew up doing yardwork as a family. Very frequently (it seemed like every Saturday in my memory), we were roused by my father to help with the yardwork. He would come up with a project he wanted to accomplish and rally the troops. This consisted of “the big girls” (which depending on the age, was my twin sister Amber and I, and as we got older, our younger sister Brenna) following him around to pick up never-ending branches after they were trimmed, planting the garden, weeding, raking, or other standard yard work, and the younger kids getting bored and frustrated early on and “the big girls” annoyed they had to do so much of the work. Luckily, we were usually rewarded with a fun dinner out or an activity that evening. I learned early on Saturdays were for the yard.

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I still find it a habit (when I can get up the motivation) to spend my Saturdays working outside. Too bad I’m the only “big girl” (don’t I look it in this picture?—talk about flattering angles) around to help!
During the summertime while our friends seemed to have never-ending activities with friends and not a care in the world (I wonder how close perception was to reality here?), my dad made us promise to never sleep past 8:30 and to spend one hour per day in the yard. ONE hour…60 full minutes outside laboring away. It seemed like torture sitting in the morning sunshine with a quiet yard, and pretty unreasonable to me at the time. None of my friends had to spend a full hour a week doing chores (at least not that I knew about—did you guys?), and we had to spend one whole hour each day! Amber was in charge of pruning the roses, and while it was frought with danger (thorns!), at least she had the great satisfaction of the beautiful blooms to keep her going. I was in charge of weeding the flower beds, which ironically I think back on now, one hour per day was not enough to keep up with all of the weeds. And I hope Dad, you aren’t reading when I confess despite how awful I thought this time was, I don’t think I came anywhere close to meeting the time quota. I’m guessing you already knew that, though – by looking at the flower beds.

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I’m still not very good at keeping up with my flower beds!
But I haven’t even got to the worst of it: painting the grass.
Never heard of this chore before? I’m not surprised. I’m not sure where my dad got the idea, but I remember him coming home from work one day and gathering Amber and I to the front porch. He gave us each a pair of gardening gloves, a little mug, and a sponge paint brush. I was a little excited by the cute green and yellow gloves and mugs until he instructed us that we would spend an hour each day “painting the grass” with weed killer. He filled each mug about half way with Roundup and put us to work.

I quickly inherited a disdain for “crab grass” from him.

Can you blame me after hours of artistically “painting” Roundup on individual blades of crabgrass in our lawn “each” day during my high school summer? If you know anything about weed killer, it kills pretty much anything it comes in contact with. Thus, you cannot simply spray it on the lawn hoping to kill the undesirable grassy varieties that threaten to choke out your beautiful lawn unless you want to kill all of the surrounding grass as well. Therefore, it must be applied more carefully, blade by blade, and a paintbrush was evidently just the tool to deliver the chemical.
I have no idea if it made a difference or not. I couldn’t tell and I think I thought my dad was kind of crazy. Who knows what the people in the cars driving by must have thought?

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Sorry, Dad, but it’s a lot more fun taking care of my own yard!
Isn’t it interesting how your perspective changes with time though? I look back and realize he was GENIUS. Maybe he really did believe in the blade by blade method for weed control; I suspect he believed more in the power of work. I’ve heard of parents or discipline programs making kids move piles of rocks back and forth to teach hardwork and discipline. I think the grass was our own little never-ending rock pile. I may have learned to hate crabgrass, but I think I also learned the importance of working hard, even if it seems silly or futile, never-ending, or like you just can’t make your way out of the weed patch.

My life definitely has had some overgrown patches to pass through since then. And I just keep painting…

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Listen, listen

My body likes to tell me to eat lots and lots of dessert made by Abe!
When I was a kid I had a couple of impacted canines. These teeth were supposed to come in to my mouth so I could use them for biting and chewing just like the other adult teeth God gave me, but for some reason (probably had to do with my huge teeth and small mouth combo, leaving little space to erupt) they did not come in on their own and were “stuck” down in my gums. After years of waiting, I finally had surgery when I was 15 to have these teeth exposed and they were brought into place with braces.
Years later, during dental school, I was undergoing routine xrays only to discover one of my canines that had been brought in place surgically/orthodontically had died. I guess it wasn’t able to survive the surgery and the movement. This meant I had to undergo a root canal. This tooth had never caused me any problems. (except for needing surgery and braces). I felt annoyed that I would have to undergo a potentially painful and unpleasant experience to have a root canal (which wasn’t bad, actually). It was inconvenient to find a time during my school schedule to have the procedure done. And I certainly wasn’t excited about paying the large bill that would accompany this silent problem. It was tempting to pretend the tooth was fine and ignore it but I decided to proceed with the root canal. Looking back I am happy I took care of the problem as I know it was a ticking time bomb for an infection even though it caused me no trouble. My body was unable to “feel” a problem with the tooth because the nerve, or feeling part of the tooth was literally dead.
That leads me to my point: I feel like there is a big push lately to “listen to your body.” While I think this is great and can be an important part of personal health, I don’t believe it should be an excuse for ignoring otherwise good medical care or practices.
There are times when I think this can be helpful or important. I do think my body talks to me. I think if I listen, I can tell my body is happier and healthier when I choose to eat a salad instead of brownies for dinner. I think if I listen harder my body will tell me I am feeling stressed rather than hungry; that I am thirsty; that I could use some extra sleep at night; that I am pushing myself too hard. Likewise, I see a lot of patients with tooth pain (a message something is wrong) who put off dental care for weeks until it finally “goes away.” They sometimes put off care because it “didn’t bother” them anymore, only to end up with a more serious problem. If they would have listened the first time, they would have prevented some larger problems later.
But I think there are a lot of things our bodies probably can’t tell us. Just like my tooth was unable to communicate to me a problem, there are some potentially serious medical issues that cannot or usually are not detected by listening or increased mindfulness. People have heart attacks without ever knowing –they are called “silent MIs.” Most diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart blockages, cancer, high cholesterol aren’t detected through symptoms until much later and the damage is already done and sometimes irreversible. It is not uncommon to see patients stop taking much needed blood pressure medications, insulin for diabetes, or heart pills because they “feel fine” when that is certainly not the case.
I see instinct used a lot as an excuse to disregard medical advice during pregnancy because “women have been doing this for thousands of years,” forgetting the number of women and infants who died in the process along the way. “My body will know what to do.” I hope that is right, but I also hope you will not get angry with your physician when she makes recommendations that work for most people or even if strict or excessive, will prevent problems in people prone to problems and she can’t tell if that is you or not.
Heck, some people grow huge tumors out of their faces without catching the message.
I’m not meaning to sound judgmental or critical. I hope we can all pay more attention to what our bodies are telling us. But I also hope we can realize there are parts of our bodies that just don’t have a good way to give us the information we need. And even if they did, we obviously miss the call a lot. Nature is great but science has added a lot along the way.
And besides, if I always listened to my body, I don’t think I’d ever get out of bed!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Bad (Picture) Monday

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I was planning to post another “Bad Picture Monday” photo today.

But it felt a little silly or trivial for a day that people lost their lives celebrating a state holiday. A day where as I did laundry, cleaned my bathroom, and did dishes (sad that I look forward to vacation days like this), it was also a day where some of our own family members were very close to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. A day that as my brother put it, as people were celebrating the wonders of life and the ability of bodies to perform almost miraculous feats, was marred by senseless violence. Suddenly, feeling a little insecure about a picture everyone else thinks probably “isn’t that bad” (or maybe even “is a perfect likeness” of me –I hope not), seems pretty trivial.

But then I thought about terror. Most people don’t wake up thinking,

“This could be the day I am injured or killed by a terrorist while watching a sporting event.”

Unfortunately today, that was the reality for many.

And when you do start thinking that way, being afraid to live your life, is when they win.

When we let the terror get to us, they win.

And so, here is my picture. I think it is pretty unflattering. You probably disagree. But on a day that I could choose to be solemn and fearful, I am going to live my life as I normally would…getting braver at accepting who I am even in unflattering moments, at least on Mondays. 

I find it fitting the picture I chose was at Disneyland’s “It’s a small world” ride.

Because it truly is a “Small world after all,” and more importantly, a  “World of laughter, a world of cheer” if we let it be.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Bad Picture Monday

I was having one of those days today. And then I looked on Facebook and continued to have one of those days. Somehow seeing all the beautiful profile pictures, adorable children, and good news updates didn’t help me feel much better. It reminded me of a previous post I wrote about always posting adorable pictures of ourselves to create a more personally acceptable alter ego of ourselves. One where we always look beautiful and have amazing lives full of crafts, homemade meals, and perfectly behaved children, all while we clean house in evening gowns.

I brushed off this topic as a potential blog post idea (too repetitive) until I saw this article today, Bad Picture Monday. This seemed like the perfect day to join in.

At first, I looked and looked. After realizing I didn’t have any bad pictures of myself, I decided to post one of some other people instead.

2012-12-28 12.09.13

Okay, just kidding. Can you imagine how that would go over? “Here’s a horrible picture of my sister for Bad Picture Monday. Oh, and one of my friend, too. This is so easy!”

I think everyone looks great in this picture but me. Normally I wouldn’t post a picture of me for all the world to see looking so tired. But in the spirit of the “Bad Picture Monday" it was the first “bad” one I found.

But I realize in thinking about it, it’s a great picture of Abe’s family -- and it’s a great picture of me. This is me in my normal every day life at work (except the fact I am visiting a family member in the hospital). It shows me in my typical residency attire. It reminds me of the hard work I have put in to get where I am and that I give to my patients every day. I may look tired (because I am) but I am certainly working toward something important and I will probably want to remember this time, even with pictures of me looking dog tired and without make-up. And lucky for me, I am surrounded by family, all of whom are supportive and caring. I am lucky to have such a good support system during the struggles of residency.

This may not be the “baddest” picture I could find. It is certainly diluted by beautiful Sheffields (I often feel like the non-photogenic one in this crowd), but it’s a good reminder that there are more important things in life than keeping up a perfect social media profile.

Wouldn’t it be cool if we all posted a few of these every once and awhile? Wouldn’t it be liberating to see your friends and neighbors looking like human beings with bad hair days just like you? I am going to try to post these when I can. I think I could use a dose of reality and humility in my life. I hope you are brave enough to give it a try, too. And a real try, not one of those ones where ‘I look “terrible”’ because you forgot to paint your nails.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

More than just bunnies


Photo from

I have a had a number people ask if members of my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, celebrate Easter. This question, along with the “Do you celebrate Christmas?” question always takes me by surprise. I think that is because I want to say, “Yes! We do!” And probably in a similar way to you and your family if you are Christian. Some families do the Easter baskets, egg dying, egg hunts, etc. We typically have a special Easter service that day at church. This year we went to a special musical program put on by our Stake (a multi-congregational unit for the area).

I don’t really feel comfortable speaking for the whole church in what we believe about Easter and the resurrection but this is a very important part of the doctrine of our church, the idea that Jesus payed for our sins, died on the cross, and was resurrected.

Here is a short Bible video made by my church you may be interested in. Enjoy!