Friday 7:55am Dr. Kalpana Kelkar’s phone intercom flashed on and Crystal’s voice came over, “Are you there yet?”
“MJ is taking your patient back but I’m afraid someone followed them into the back office.”
“Got it” she replied, grabbing her stethoscope. She glanced down at the result of a blood count and made a note to herself to repeat another set of labs as she made her way down the hallway. After setting her laptop down at the nurse’s station, she pivoted and followed two sari-clad Indian women. The women walked in unison, trailing behind the family being led into an examination room.
Dr Tricia Sias, new to the practice, turned her head down the hallway, curious to see why Kalpana had abandoned both her stethoscope and her laptop behind. What she saw left her speechless...
Kalpana reached into a pocket of the lining of one of the woman’s saris. She retrieved two knives and, without hesitation, flung them straight ahead. Anticipating the move, the Indian women parted and leaned outward, avoiding the sharp blades that whizzed past their shoulders. The knives narrowly missed the family who’d been hurried into one of the examination rooms and struck the man instead.
He writhed and twisted against the steel that pierced his shirt sleeve and pant leg, anchoring him onto the wooden door (and putting unnecessary holes and scratches into the vision chart). In a flash of swirling colored saris, the Indian women rushed forward, detached him, and then escorted him out the back door.
Kalpana glanced over her shoulder and found Tricia looking both stunned and confused. “I guess Badaracco hasn’t updated you yet?”
“What? What just happened?”
“Talk to Badaracco...” And with that, she opened the door of the exam room and entered with a cheery “Hellooo, how is everyone today?”
Tricia returned to the nurses’ station with her mouth dropped open. “Did anyone see that? What’s going on?” The pitch of Tricia’s voice was higher than normal and a pink flush colored her cheeks. Blank faces returned her gaze. ‘Didn’t anyone see Dr Kelkar just now?…”
MJ came from behind and took in the situation. “Dr. Badaracco has not talked to you yet? Don’t worry... everything will be fine.” She retrieved Dr. Kelkar’s abandoned laptop and headed back down the hallway.
8:20am Dr. Susan Badaracco left the exam room shaking her head. “I had to explain that french fries don’t count for a vegetable...again” Iris motioned urgently toward the waiting drug rep who slid forward with his laptop open and ready. Susan groaned when she recognized him but then scrolled through the information on his screen.
“Will you be signing?” he asked.
“Of course.” Challenge accepted. This was no ordinary drug representative and Susan motioned to Dr Marla Conger before entering the next exam room, where twins with sore throat awaited her. “I just signed, you’re up next.”
Marla also read the information, nodded to herself, and then signed with her finger on the pad before entering the room to start her nine month well visit. The rep turned on his heel and drew the laptop up to his chest as Tricia approached. “You must be Dr. Sias, I’m afraid that I don’t have you in my system yet.”
Tricia frowned. It appeared he was hiding something from her but what?
8:30am Sensing something amiss but unsure what to do next, Tricia walked into her next exam room (a thirteen year well visit who also wanted to get her opinion on hoover boards)
Susan finished reassuring an anxious mom and then rushed down the hallway to the office of the clinic administrator. Lisa Hobbs invited her in. “We have a problem,” she began.
Lisa responded before she could finish, “I’ve been waiting for you. I have something to show you...” She pressed a few buttons on her computer keyboard and the shelves behind her swung inward. Her door lock engaged just as the stairs appeared. The two of them descended rapidly.
“I don’t have much time,” Susan said.
“Who does?” replied Lisa.
Lisa tapped a few more strokes on another keyboard and a world map appeared. Routes were highlighted and one destination, in particular, drew their attention. Highland Village.
“When is the shipment due? How much time do we have? How good is our intel?” Susan fired off questions as Lisa highlighted each section of the map.
“It appears shipments have already started to arrive”. Lisa replied as she keyed up another screen. Both women sighed when they saw the list with multiple drop dates.
“Well, that explains today’s earlier visitor.” Susan watched the map blink out as she entered the termination code and then ascended the stairs with Lisa close behind.
“Why are we the last to know, how come the Indians have such good intelligence? They were already here today, helping us out again.”
Lisa shook her head but didn’t answer, instead pushing on a hidden button. The shelves swung forward and clicked into place, once again camouflaging the staircase and its entrance into the chamber below. The door lock disengaged and Susan walked out on her way to check out the eight year old with abdominal pain (who had no idea where the remainder of the Halloween candy went). Lisa remembered something and called out, “Have you brought Dr. Sias onboard?” But Susan was already gone.
8:55 When Leigh Gistinger logged on for the morning, she noticed that she already had an urgent message. Leigh, timeline has moved up considerably, will need your input by noon meeting today. She read the enclosed information then reviewed the lipid panel for her first patient of the morning.
Lisa Spangler also received an urgent message. Shipments seem to be originating in China. Will need to reach out to your Chinese contacts to explore the situation further. She pulled up a new computer screen.
9:00am As Leigh walked into her first visit for the day (triplets that needs sports physicals), Mel Calhoun was pulling up factory locations and shipping lines. She copied this information to the appropriate parties.
Noon Sarah Caudle was the last one to finish seeing patients for the morning. She entered the office and pulled up a chair to the conference table. Marla barely waiting for her to sit before beginning, “Lets start with a quick reminder. Our team had made significant progress and were fully expecting to finish this assignment in 2012 when bankruptcy proceedings successfully put an end to worldwide production. As you recall, a buyout by Apollo Global Management enabled flow of goods again starting in mid-2013.” She sighed before adding, “Recently been sold again. Leigh?”
Tricia interrupted before Leigh could begin, “Excuse me but what are we talking about? I thought we were reviewing the work up for newborn rashes.”
Leigh gave her a sympathetic look before beginning, “I want to point out the gravity of the situation. My investigation on the internet shows that the ingredients are coming from oil fields in China, phosphate mines in Idaho and gypsum mines in Oklahoma. Other ingredients, a total of thirty-nine, are used for the production of sheet rock, shampoo and rocket fuel. This is a very real threat to our kids!”
“Are we talking about drugs, is that what we are talking about?” Tricia tried one more time.
Susan held up her index finger, motioning that she would explain later. “Other updates?” she asked.
Sarah pulled out the folder that Mel had worked on and reviewed the list. “I think I have this.” She pointed out the local warehouse locations. “I will, of course, have to drop by after hours to handle the situation. I already have a team on standby.”
“Charles called and we're making progress too” Marla added.
“I didn’t notice any computer problems,” said Tricia “What’s he working on now?”
Marla made some adjustments to her computer screen before looking up at Tricia and replying. “He’s working on the firewall at Apollo Global. We’re making significant headway and expect to have altered the shipping manifestos by tonight. Hopefully diverting future shipments.
“He’s working on the firewall....” Tricia murmured and then fell silent.
Missy took over, “I’ve come up with a new angle to approach this. I’m going to broadcast some information concerning a possible link to autism.”
“Brilliant,” said Marla, “it’s conceivable, if we’re talking maternal diet. Conceivable...get it?”
“I thought the proven health risks were scary enough.” said Leigh.
“They are but we agreed to stay ahead of this. If there’s any possibly link...are you doing the usual Missy?
“Yup, this afternoon you can expect to see studies on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. I would like to drop an article on Wiki... Marla can you help with that?”
“I’m all over that, send me the copy of the information” she replied with a grin, “Gotta get back to work now”. Marla stood up, glancing at her schedule as she walked out the door. Providers scrambled when they too, noticed the time and realized that they had patients waiting for them.
Tricia grabbed Sarah’s arm as she attempted to exit.
2:00pm “Seriously, what is going on...”
“Susan still has not had the talk with you yet? Umm, Kids First is not exactly a front business since we are really a pediatric clinic but we do have other skills that we utilize...Sarah paused when a knife flew past her and anchored into the eye chart... again.
Before Tricia could blink, Sarah ran down the corridor and then up the hall wall. For a moment, her body was horizontal to the ceiling. Tricia stared wide-eyed and narrowly missed the second knife as it, too, shot past her. Sarah leapt from a Spider Man-like crouch and landed on the back of tall stranger. The two of them stumbled, off balance, until Sarah used one leg to kick off the wall and launch the two of them into an exam room.
Stephanie sauntered by, nodded at Tricia, and then closed the door, dampening the scuffling noises from within. Further down the hallway, she shook her head when she noticed the knives. “Need to get Mel to order another eye chart,” she murmured.
Tricia froze for a moment as she watched the weapons slide into Stephanie’s pockets. When Stephanie turned the corner and disappeared, she propelled herself into room where Sarah had disappeared.
“I love this new sports tape! Sarah smiled up at Tricia as she finished tying up the last knot on the now scowling man. “Now, I better get back to work.” Sarah grabbed her laptop from Jose just as Angie and Joy entered the room.
“Are you going to...” started Dr Sias.
“This is nothing compared to giving shots to a eight year old,” answered Joy as both medical assistants pushed the struggling man toward the back door.
2:15pm “The new face recognition software is not working.” complained Lucia as she entered Lisa’s office.
“What happened? I thought we had the bugs worked out.” Lisa replied.
“The new employee tried to frisk one of pregnant moms. And don’t get me started on the metal detector, do you know how many false alarms we’ve had with piercings?”
3:00pm “Siblings who claim they can only walk backward since their mother forced them to eat vegetables, hmm, interesting case.” Kalpana leaned back into her chair and took a sip of her afternoon coffee.
“So you look like you have a few minutes to explain to me WHAT IS GOING ON??” Tricia’s voice rose to a yet unheard higher pitch.
“Oh yeah, sure.... Where do you want me to start?”
Angie’s voice interrupted her over the intercom. “Did you see the stat labs you ordered?”
“No, let me check on them” Kalpana replied, with her fingers flying over the keys. Tricia pulled closer to Kalpana, a silent reminder that she was not going anywhere until she had answers. Kalpana finished and then looked up to Tricia. “You know that Indian dancing group I belong to?” she started.“We don’t just dance...”
3:20 Missy looked up when Susan walked into the back office. “You still haven’t talked to her yet, have you?”
“No time yet, should I have Lisa talk to her?” Susan replied as she grabbed the phone.
“Wouldn’t do that if I were you....she’s still trying to clean up the Cuban problem and it has been a bit of a delicate situation, remember?”
Susan nodded, “I better make time myself...” The phone intercom went off. Iris was letting her know that her next patient was ready. She passed by Marla on her way out of the room. “Still doesn’t know…” Susan said.
“You loser, when are you going to tell her?” Marla laughed.
Tricia walked in and saw Marla bent over her desk scribbling notes.
“Can you please explain what is going on?” Tricia begged.
“Sure” said Marla. “Let me remember, I think we started the computer charting in 2001. Soon after that I started dabbling in running reports. I started to see some interesting trends based on an entirely innocent observation. Well, maybe not 100% innocent. See, I wanted to test some of my computer skills so I kinda hacked into a company. Really, it wasn’t NASA or the CIA or anything. In fact, it was a bit of a joke a first. Then, what I uncovered was not so funny. Distribution of shipments were corresponding to...”
“Dr Conger!” Joy’s voice sounded over the intercom, “did you realize that you had a patient in room N?”
“Drat, I’ll finish with you later or you can catch up with Badaracco.” Marla edged around Tricia as she headed to the door.
4:00pm Tricia walked toward her desk after completing well visit in time to see Sarah getting ready to leave. Sarah had changed clothes and appeared to be ready for a work out.
“Crossfit tonight, Sarah?” Tricia asked.
“Well, kinda. I’m meeting up with our Crossfit team and we will be running by a certain warehouse to remove a shipment that arrived this afternoon.
“Your Crossfit team is even involved...involved in what exactly?” Tricia asked.
“Well, we all have our roles but our training makes us uniquely able to do heavy lifting while also addressing any obstacles that may present themselves.
“But what are you actually doing in the warehouse?” Tricia asked but Sarah had already slipped out the back door.
Mel walked in to see Dr Sia’s head cradled in her hands. “Cheer up,” Mel said, “it’s really all about the kids and doing whatever we can to keep them safe”.
“Safe from what??” Tricia looked up in time to see Missy’s approach.
“I guess you could say we will do anything to keep kids save from any danger. We have formed a team to make us more effective. While Marla can delve inside the internet, I like to think I work kinda on top of it...like creating a spider’s web of connections. We recognized the power of social media and are capitalizing on it.
“Unfortunately, our work towards protecting children has made us a bit of a target,” said Leigh as she sat down to join the conversation.
4:10 Jose popped his head in the door, “Dr Sias, your 4:00 patient arrived a bit late and your 4:20 arrived a bit early, who do you want to see first?” Tricia looked backward at Missy and Leigh as she walked out. “Can we finish this conversation later?”
5:50pm Crystal had been suspicious when she checked in the new mom consult. First, she did not look pregnant and second... something just did not seem right about her. Crystal logged her into the schedule but also typed a quick message to the back office. A message that Dr Sias, now really on the lookout for suspicious activity, couldn’t help but notice.
Think we have trouble with Dr. Sia’s new mother consult.
Tricia had no idea what to do with this information. She shrugged her shoulders and went to the next room.
Susan finished working with her last patient of the day. She stopped by the nurse’s station to give Iris some last minute instructions. It was there that she saw the message flashing on the computer screen.
Several things happened at once.
Kassie was walking the new mom down the hallway as she explained about the medical practice. Caught up in her story and eager to point out the decorated exam rooms, she did not see the woman pull a small pistol from her purse.
Dr Sias opened the door just as the two women were passing by. She saw the side profile of the woman...with a gun in her hand—aimed at Kassie’s back. Instinct, and possibly a little frustration, took over. She stepped forward (while closing the exam door behind her).
Without pausing she lifted her laptop and slammed it onto the woman’s outstretched arm. The gun tumbled and came to a rest on the carpeted floor at the nurse’s station. Lisa Spangler, on her way back from the break room, reached down and palmed the weapon. She locked it into a nearby (childsafe) cabinet before returning to her desk.
Joy and Angie appeared from nowhere. In seconds, they had tourniquets tightly bound around the woman’s wrists and a roll of gauze jammed in her mouth.
Susan looked up at Tricia and smiled. “You’re going to fit in just fine....”
“FIT INTO WHAT?”
The above story is based on facts. Not many facts actually but just a few…
Twinkies were created during the time of the Great Depression as a snack cake. They were originally made by Hostess but then purchased by private equity firms Apollo Global Management and C. Dean Metropoulos. These firms paid $410 million dollars to save the company and return Twinkies to our grocery shelves. Apollo has since sold Hostess for 2.3 billion dollars.
Urban legends claim that Twinkies have an infinite shelf life but the company reports it is only 45 days.
In 1978, Daniel James “Dan” White murdered the mayor of San Francisco. He claimed to have been overcome by depression and was consuming a large amount of junk food and soft drinks. During the trial, there was testimony that said that elements of such a poor diet could worsen existing mood swings. This came to be known as the “Twinkie Defense”.
Kid’s First cares about what kids eat but we haven’t formed a secret squad to defeat the importation of Twinkies (yet)… despite the fact that the list of ingredients is a bit concerning.
We're moving to a new office. Not a big deal, right?
Packing up. Finding a new work flow. All daunting.
But what has impacted us the most are the memories that each room holds of all the children we have taken care of. I've been writing down some of the tales. Silly stories with funny kids. Part of the reason we all went into pediatrics is how we love to laugh.
I know it's a big deal when you move homes but frankly, this has hit me harder. I think it's because we have the privilege of seeing families at their most emotional moments. Overwhelmed, intimidated and...delighted parents of newborns. Tired toddlers with fevers who've not slept well. Depressed teenagers accompanied by parents whose eyes reflect how scared they are to see their child in such a state.
Life concentrated into short segments.
Memories, once layered one on top of another, now bubble over when I walk down the hallway.
Here's the really good news.
Soon...children's laughter will permeate the hollow echoes of the new building. The perfect paint job will be marred by a few dents from the urgent maneuvering of the oxygen tank. The aroma of coffee and sometimes burnt popcorn will replace the new smells of construction. Staff will personalize their work spaces with photos, calendars and checklists. We'll side-step around run-away toddlers on our way down a hallway, wave to a familiar face before we step in an exam room...and then we'll do our best to listen, comfort, educate, treat...
And, in no time at all, we'll feel like we're home again.
I've been cleaning my desk since we're moving to a new office. Clearing files of outdated medical information...here's information on child abuse that is, sadly, not out of date...
-In 1866 the Society for the prevention of cruelty to animals was created. Legislation to prevent cruelty to children wasn't passed until 1974.
-In 1999, child abuse was the number one cause of death in children under age 1.
-Most cases of sexual child abuse (over 90%) do not involve a stranger.
-Sexual child abusers are often intelligent, admired and cohesive. They used the internet to educate themselves and promote their actions. They also used the internet to teach each other how to successful attract children and gain their trust.
-Sexual abuse does not start with the genitals, children are taught not to let anyone pull down their pants. They often start with the mouth.
-Single mothers, especially those with latch-key children are a common target. The pedophile will befriend the mother and offer to help her out...eventually gaining her trust. They look for a child with low self-esteem and then compliment them, buy them gifts and spend time with them. Disney movies evolve to movies with more explicit scenes.
-Successful pedophiles (those that don't get caught) are smart. We have to be smarter.
-Educating one adult about sexual abuse can prevent ten cases.
If you're interested in how to recognize and prevent child abuse, you can receive training at the Children's Advocacy Center of Denton County.
Another Christmas has passed and the New Year is around the corner. I wonder what memories you will have of this Christmas season? Do you want to hear mine?
Sitting on the sofa with our feet up while watching one of my favorite movies, “White Christmas”. My husband, the good sport, complaining, “They’re not going to sing again, are they?” My son laughing..."It’s a musical, dad."
Putting my stethoscope on a sniffling 3 year old’s chest. Tiny breaths move in, out, in, out. I watched as her eyes widened suddenly and her mouth went into the shape of an ‘o’. She reached out a petite index finger and softly touched the Santa pinned on my sweater. When her eyes met mine, she smiled at me like we were sharing a wonderful secret.
My next memory needs a bit of history.
Years ago, I was teaching a Vacation Bible School class. The theme was camping and the kids would get stickers after competing activities. It wasn’t unusual for them to want to exchange a raccoon for a squirrel or a turtle. This boy stood in line with a special request. He asked me...”Do you have a sticker of a bear mauling a man?”
“WHAT?!?” It took me a minute to realize he was sizing me up... wanting that very reaction. I shooed him back to his seat and thought to myself...”I’m going to have to watch that one.”
This year, that same boy...now a man... explained the Christmas story through the eyes of Joseph, Mary and the shepherds. I’ve heard the nativity story a million times. But this was from different angles and for the first time in years...I was able to see the birth of Jesus in a unfamiliar way.
He paced the stage, stopped to face the crowd with quips, sarcasm and truth.
The sanctuary was dim. Quiet. No one gossiping to their neighbor. Light from the altar streamed, glowed onto the worshipper's faces and it was clear that he held them all in the palm of his hand. It was an extraordinary experience.
At his conclusion, I looked at all the faces in the sanctuary and thought to myself, “They think he should be watched too...”
Charlie Ridenour preaches at Crossroads Bible Church in Double Oak, Texas.
It was a religion that I’d never heard about before. I was horrified and wanted nothing to do with it. But maybe I was wrong.
I was in fourth grade when my teacher announced that while she celebrated Christmas... she did not believe in exchanging gifts.
My mind spun at the thought. I was outraged that such a religion would even exist. What about tradition? The happiness of children? Brightly wrapped presents?
Fast forward to a few weeks ago when my daughter and I had a conversation.
“What would you think if we stopped exchanging gifts?”she asked. My mind spun at the thought. Not give Christmas gifts to my children? Over the years, we have purposely made our Christmas less chaotic. My sisters and I decided it was silly to buy gift cards for each other's children. We stopped exchanging with other family members because we didn't want them spending their retirement money on presents. For different reasons our Christmas list was shorter. But not buy presents for my own kids?
“Lets see how your brother feels about this...”
I needed time to reflect. Why did I have such strong emotions about giving gifts in the first place? It wasn't receiving gifts that mattered...although one of my all time favorite Christmas gifts was an old shoe of my son’s. In preschool, they put some clay inside it, stuck some hearts on a stick and made a sign (I love you heart and sole!)
It was giving gifts.
My children know that I love them. But they're adults ...with jobs...they buy what they want or need. So what was the big deal?
It's not like this hasn't happened before.
I started thinking more about my Christmas list and decided that I had it backwards. Giving was still okay. But I should be giving more to those that need it...and less to those that are already blessed.
So, Christmas 2018 is going to look different. I’m putting total strangers at the top of my list. I’m going to dig deeper and give to more charities and try to remember those around me that could use a little help.
And my children will get nothing. (Even typing that feels wrong)
I'm going to try to find some different way to celebrate....I don't have any ideas yet but I've got a whole year. Something radical and fun and unique.
Skydiving will not be on the list...but I'd appreciate any other suggestions!
I want to finish by saying how grateful I am for all the support I have received in the last several months. Thank you for reading my book. Thank you for helping me support local charities. Thank you for being in my life.
Until that moment, I was on top of my Christmas game.
I’d sent the packages to relatives in advance of the rush, draped lights on the shrubbery, hung a wreath on the door... and put a line through every item on my Christmas gift list. That year, I was ready.
To celebrate the season, we bundled the kids up in the back seat and took them for a surprise drive to see the Christmas lights in Farmers Branch. My son’s eyes were wide with fascination and my daughter excitedly pointed and giggled at the glowing displays. I squeezed my husband's hand and felt pride at delivering such a wonderful event to my family.
The crowning moment was when we rolled down the windows and Santa approached the car. As he handed my daughter a tiny candy cane, he asked her a single question. “What do you want for Christmas this year?”
She answered quickly and with some urgency. “A teacher Barbie...that’s all I want...a teacher Barbie.”
My husband and I froze (and I don't mean from the weather). We looked at each other in confusion. There was no teacher Barbie on the list. It was mere days before Christmas. Mentally I was already punishing myself. How could I have missed this? Her voice gave away how important it was to her. I questioned her about the other items on the list...the ones I had wrapped and hidden already. She would not be swayed.
There was only one thing in her mind that year.
My husband could see the panic on my face but he grasped my hand and tried to reassure me. "I'll just find one,” he whispered.
That was easier said than done. He searched, I searched. Between phone calls and visits, my husband and I covered most the toy stores in the DFW area. My mother-in-law covered the rest.
I felt defeated. There were no teacher Barbies left on any shelf. As mom-in-charge of Christmas buying, I had failed. I kept seeing her face looking up at Santa's.
Fortunately, my mother-in-law did not give up. She was not about to allow her granddaughter to experience disappointment on Christmas. She contacted her daughter who lived in another state. My sister-in-law joined the search, and found the last teacher Barbie in the US (at least I think so) They promised to overnight it but by this point, I was feeling hopeless. It was December 23.
The box arrived on Christmas Eve. Literally, that evening. Unbelievable. With the children hovering by my side, I slipped the box to my husband. He slid it under the bed.
Do you know what else is unbelievable?
We forgot it.
We had a list of things to do and we both just forgot to get it out again and wrap it.
Fast forward to the next morning where my daughter has opened up her gifts and no teacher Barbie shows up. Worst feeling ever. Tears glistening in her little eyes and my throat burning with my failure.
My husband whispered to me..."Distract her, I’ve got this.”
I took my daughter to the kitchen, poured her some hot chocolate and wiped away her tears. We came back and found her daddy peering at the fireplace.
“Something’s in there...something must’ve gotten caught in the logs.”
My daughter is very smart and knew exactly what happened. She explained it to us: “It fell from his pack when he came down the chimney. He must not have noticed it, so he didn’t wrap it”
We nodded and I silently toasted my genius of a husband.
One of my best memories of Christmas is how we scrambled so we didn't disappoint a little girl. I have other great ones- the year my husband fell into the pool with the Christmas tree in his arms, the morning my brother-in-law appeared at the door as a surprise to his wife, the reflection of the Christmas lights in my children's eyes.
I had a recent disconcerting conversation with my daughter. I need to think about it more (I'll tell you later)...and continue to remind myself of what Christmas memories are supposed to look like. It's more than gift-giving, it always has been.
I've been working on simplifying my life, including Christmas.
For years, I agonized to achieve a magazine worthy look to my Christmas decor. Bedecked garlands ran up my banister, greenery with properly placed candles and stockings draped over my mantle, clusters of poinsettias by my front door and steps. Boxes and boxes of lights and ornaments for the tree. It took strength, endurance, and stamina. And some years, it was totally worth it.
But for other years...it was just draining.
I talked to a woman recently who dreaded decorating her house. She uses actual live greenery! This year, a family member experienced a serious medical issue and everyone was feeling drained. I encouraged her to consider skipping the holiday decor and she looked at me like I ask her to skip Christmas.
That's not what I meant at all. I think you should only do all the work of decorating if it brings you joy. If you're dancing to the Christmas tunes, keep going! Sara Teasdale said "You will recognize your own path when you come upon it because you will suddenly have all the energy and imagination you will ever need."
Maybe this year you need to spend more time with your friends. Go to church and listen to the choir singing your favorite Christmas melodies. Make cookies with your kids.
I started downsizing Christmas a few years ago. Now I have a table top tree whose lights pop on at exactly five o'clock. Their glow greets me when I come home after work- it's a lovely end to my day. Sprinkled around the house are a few more holiday reminders. Not too many...but the right amount for this year.
I'm less stressed out and I'm enjoying the season a lot more.
So, maybe you should try it too...have yourself a merry LITTLE Christmas!
In our pediatric office, we have different themes for the rooms. An airplane room, a jungle room...this is the castle room. Wallpaper displaying ivy covered turrets and wooden drawbridges cover three walls. This is the fourth wall...and the chair where she sat.
On my schedule, it said that this teenager was coming in to see me about a sore throat. I'd known her for years and we caught up a bit while I examined her. Right in the middle of our discussion about sinus drainage, she informed me that she'd been molested.
By a family member.
I think I stopped breathing. My thoughts scattered for a moment. I told her that I'd call the police... that I'd call the Children's Advocacy Center. But all of that had already been done. And then she started telling me what happened.
I'll confess, I didn't want to hear. Don't get me wrong, I would do anything to make sure she was ok. But stories like hers spread like poison in your brain...you can't unhear those molestation accounts. She needed to talk...so I listened.
She described how he pushed her down onto a table. Her gaze shifted to her feet as she spoke, now reluctant to meet my eyes. I looked up, didn't want her to feel any more awkward than she already felt. Saw the unicorn above her chair.
Unicorns were a symbol of virginity in medieval times. It was thought that the only way to capture a unicorn was to have a virgin sit quietly in the forest. The unicorn would come out of hiding and lay its head gently upon her lap.
He held her hands so she couldn't push him away.
I looked at that unicorn and it was as if the unicorn was looking back at me. Right there, in a field of flowers, I imagined it faltering, staggering as she spoke of what happened next.
He pulled down his zipper.
I was silent. My chest felt so tight that I found it hard to breath. The unicorn crashed down as she spoke, disappeared, leaving a empty space in the green field.
My throat hurt from the urge to scream at the injustice, the pain.
Unicorns also had a reputation for their ferocity in medieval times. It was not uncommon to find them on shields and banners, along with lions and dragons. That horn, after all, was not just decoration.
In my imagination, a second unicorn took the place of the first. Where the first unicorn was white, this unicorn was dark, with slashes on his hide from previous battles. It was massive like a Clydesdale and it was furious. Steam billowed and rolled from his nostrils. He drew up on his hind legs, opened his mouth and let out an unearthly roar of rage. His tail whipped, slapped his thigh, and dust flew up when he slammed back into the earth.
His eyes bore into mine and I saw what I wanted to see...a promise of vengeance. A promise to inflict punishment for what had happened to her.
I wrote a book about unicorns. Probably different than the unicorns you're used to seeing. No rainbow colored horns over snowy hides. They're darker and their sole purpose...is to keep her safe.
I admire my girlfriend's never ending optimistic attitude toward life. She signs all her letters with Frank Sinatra's song lyrics, "The Best is Yet to Come." Says the same thing when the girls get together and raise their glasses of wine. I don't, however, believe it...
I consider myself a realist. The new year is coming and it may hold the best for you. Maybe you'll get a promotion, your teenager will be voted homecoming queen, you'll see your unborn child's heartbeat on the ultrasound. I hope that something happens so extraordinarily awesome that it rocks your world.
But along with all that incredible good fortune, you will suffer. Your air conditioner may breakdown in the middle of the worst heat wave in Texas, the IRS will discover a discrepancy in your taxes...you may lose a loved one. Thinking about those things doesn't make me a pessimist. As I said, I'm a realist.
What's the difference, you ask? Let me tell you.
I had been called to my mom's memory care center (she has Alzhiemer's) for yet another problem. As I entered the building a thought popped into my head...this will never end. I almost staggered at the concept. Endless issues, mostly with no solutions. It took me a bit to unravel... to recover... from that insight. But I did.
Here is the undeniable truth...none of us knows what will happen in 2018. I'm going to assume the worst. You know what I'm talking about, of course. A zombie apocalypse. There's been so much talk, after all. So, if my days on earth are numbered, I'm going to savor what I have left.
This morning I saw the sunrise as I went for my run. Beautiful. I've had some hamstring pain which has put me in a panic. If I can't run... I could lose my mind. Twinges to my thigh as I jogged, but it's healing. Thank God. Somewhere in India, they keep growing tea. Bless them. My cat did not climb on my chest and tap my cheek in the middle of the night. Ok, I won't feed her to the zombies. All day today, I can eat until I'm full. I can shower past removing the sweat- just because it feels good.
Frank is wrong. The best is not to come...it's already here. We just have to learn to recognize it.
Is this what your Thanksgiving looked like? Probably not. Our Thanksgiving dinners aren't traditional anymore.
This year we had a Spanish themed dinner and our menu was made up of recipes like- Ensalada mixta (Spanish mixed green salad), Catalan spinach, green beans with Marcona almonds, sliced ham and paella. Yup, it took me three grocery stores to pull these ingredients together and Central Market was the winner for having the most obscure, impossible to find items.
Paella is a seafood dish, cooked over an open flame (husband loves doing that) with rice, peas and spices I didn't ask about. There are thousands of variations of the recipe including a black paella that features squid ink (No- thank you). We had a pretty generic version.
Last year was Italian. Turkey meatball soup, pumpkin lasagna. Cranberry bellinis. The goal is to take apart some of the core items of Thanksgiving and put them back together in a different theme. Not everyone agrees with this. I've seen the eye-rolling. I don't care.
I'm not ready.
For whatever reason, I associate Thanksgiving with my dad. He's no longer here. We had the same menu each year, he sat at the same spot each year....you see where I am going?
So, I reinvented Thanksgiving. One year, I did fried chicken (close enough to turkey, right?) on sweet potato waffles. I'd never fried chicken before but I did research and trials and... it worked. And I got through another year.
I don't know if my table will ever see a traditional Thanksgiving again. I'm giving myself time...and apparently... it's taking a long time.
But meanwhile, I had a wonderful dinner. My family came home, my friends came over, we cooked new recipes and laughed a lot. I couldn't have asked for a better day. It's a lot to be thankful for.