Wednesday, December 24, 2014

New neighbors for the holiday season

A few days ago, my husband forwarded me the following email message.

  Sent: Saturday, December 20, 2014 4:06 AM
  Subject: Re: stable for rent

  Dear Dr. DMA,

  My name is Mary. My husband and I are looking for a nice barn for a  
few days and noticed that you seem to have one available. We are only  
a couple of inches tall, and we don't play loud music or anything. We  
have with us three kings and a shepherd. They also keep to themselves  
and don't listen to loud music. Do you allow animals? We also have a  
couple of sheep. We will clean up after them; their poop is probably  
so small to you that you wouldn't notice it anyhow. We really like the  
pictures you have on your entertainment center and hope we will have  
some like that when we can afford it. Unfortunately, the inns around  
here are really expensive. We tried the one next door but they said  
they are full. Could you please let us have a place to stay until Dec.  

  Mary and Joseph

  p.s. Do you have a cat? We will stay with you regardless, but we are  
hoping not. Our sheep had accidents last year by falling off the cliff  
and we are sure they are not suicidal.

I told him since nobody was using the empty stable on the bookcase, that was fine with me.

  Sent: Saturday, December 20, 2014 7:45 PM
  Subject: Re: stable for rent

Dear Mary and Joseph,

We would love to have you come and stay with us. You can come as soon  
as you want and stay through Epiphany. We do have a cat, but he is not  
as much of a climber as he was in his younger days, so your sheep will  
probably be safe, although if they fall to their deaths, we can  
reincarnate them and put them back in the stable for you: no worries.  
Also, the sheep poop is no problem. A little Pledge at the end of the  
holiday season will take care of it, I'm sure. See you soon!

Dear Husband and FrauDoktorDoctor

Do you like how he mentions "a little Pledge at the end of the holiday season"? Guess who dusts around here.

  Sent: Saturday, December 21, 2014 3:09 PM
  Subject: Re: stable for rent

Dear Dr. DMA,

That sounds wonderful! Thank you so much for your generosity this  
holiday season. My husband and I will move in right away. We will  
probably see you tomorrow. Again, thanks so much!


Dear Husband forwarded Mary's response to me proclaiming, "They're coming!"

And sure enough, the next morning they arrived: Mary, Joseph, Caspar, Balthazar, Melchior, Hozie with his wife Talitha and their little girl Marta, and a couple of sheep. Even the innkeeper Gilad came out to see what all the fuss was about.

"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward all."
~Luke 2:11-14 KJV

The Word became flesh and blood,
    and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
    the one-of-a-kind glory,
    like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
    true from start to finish.
~John 1:14 The Message

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Hannah and Mary dance for joy in the Lord

The Fourth Sunday in Advent is traditionally known as Mary's Sunday, when we light the candle of Love in the Advent wreath. I was asked to choreograph a dance for the choir anthem this Sunday, a duet for Hannah and Mary. Uniting Older and Newer Testaments, they make an interesting pair: Hannah was barren and unhappy, and she very much welcomed her pregnancy with Samuel (1 Samuel 1). Mary was young, just engaged, and at first did not welcome her pregnancy with Jesus (Luke 1:26-28). Both women sing songs of praise of God for over-turning the expected order: the barren conceive, the hungry are filled, the proud are scattered (1 Samuel 2; Luke 1:46-55). Contemporary composer Carolyn Jennings has set the two hymns to music as "A New Magnificat." I played the part of Hannah, while RA played the part of Mary. (You might recognize her from last year's World Communion Sunday trio.)

Hannah: My heart exults in the Lord;
My strength is exalted in the Lord.
My mouth derides my enemies;
I rejoice in God's salvation.

Mary: My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior,
Who looks upon a lowly handmaid with favor.
All generations shall call me blessed.

Choir: My heart overflows, Allelulia!

Hannah: There is none holy like the Lord;
There is no rock like our God.
Let not your mouth be arrogant,
For the Lord is a God of all knowledge.

Mary: For God who is mighty
Has done great things for me,
And holy, holy, holy is God's name.
And God's mercy is giv'n to God's people
From generation to generation.

Choir: My heart overflows, Allelulia!

Hannah: The bows of the mighty are broken,
But the feeble put on strength.
Those who were full are hungry,
And those who were hungry are filled.

Mary: Strong is the arm of the Lord,
Who has scattered the proud in their hearts;
God has put down the mighty
And lifted those of low degree.

Choir: For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's and on them God has set the world.

Hannah: The Lord kills and brings to life;
God brings low and also exalts.
God lifts up the poor from the dust
To sit with rulers and inherit a seat of honor.

Mary: Strong is the arm of the Lord,
Who has scattered the proud in their hearts.
God has filled the hungry,
And the rich have been sent empty away.

Choir: My heart overflows, Allelulia!
Hannah: Alleluia! / Mary: Alleluia!

Hannah: God will guard the faithful flock,
And human might shall not prevail.
The Lord will judge the earth;
And will exalt the pow'r of God's anointed.

Mary: For the Lord has helped the servant Israel
In remembrance of God's love and mercy,
Which was promised to Sarah and Abraham,
And to their children's children forever.

Choir: My heart overflows, Allelulia!

Hannah: Alleluia! Alleluia! / Mary: Alleluia!
All: Amen!

A recreation after the service of the simple pyramid with which the dance ended. Much to our relief, we were able to get into it on the first try during the performance, long skirts and scarves notwithstanding!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Reindeer Turds

Perhaps a little late for this holiday season, but if next year you suddenly remember about that potluck, need to make something for a bake sale, or can't think of anything for a secret Santa gift swap, then may I suggest this recipe?

I first tried these delectable little "truffles" at the church choir's Christmas party. I haven't made them myself, but the hostess insists they are just as easy as all the reviews online claim. I swore off Oreos and other packaged products made with high-frutctose corn syrup years ago, but these little guys--which she and I dubbed "reindeer turds"--are worth breaking that fast. When your teeth break through the chocolately shell to reach the soft, moist mh hmmm!

What you need: 1 16-oz. package Oreos; 1 8-oz. package cream cheese; 16 oz. baking chocolate.

What to do: Crush cookies and cream cheese together. If you need to work off some holiday stress, feel free to employ the rolling pin and plastic bag method on the cookies, or if you have bad arthritis, go ahead and use a blender or food processor,

Form into 1-inch balls and space out on a wax-paper lined cookie sheet. Send them to the North Pole (aka the freezer) for 10 minutes. One hour in the fridge also works, if you have the time.

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate, either in the microwave or in a double boiler on the stove like your (grand)mother taught you.

Dip the balls in the chocolate. Don't be too fastidious about letting the extra chocolate drip off--it contributes to the truffles' turdiness. Place back on cookie sheet and refrigerate until serving to rave reviews.

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Downton Abbey Masquerade

When our local public radio/tv station announced they were showing the Season 5 premiere of Downton Abbey at the historic theater in town--for free, with costumes and antique cars--I went looking for girlfriends to go with. I have to confess that before the big night, I had watched exactly one episode of this big BBC hit. But I have many friends who adore the show, and besides, I know from historical costumes.

On the big night I pulled out of my closet a pink satin and black sparkly chiffon number that could pass for a c. 1920 party dress. I added elbow-length black velour gloves and a black fringed mesh shawl. I don't own a pair of vintage silk stockings, and with temperatures as low as they were, I wasn't about to be all authentic and draw a seam line up the back of my legs with an eyebrow pencil; I just wore black stockings and my black tango shoes.

The internet brought me a picture tutorial on a period-appropriate quick up-do for long hair (a Gibson-girl holdover from the pre-WWI era). I got it right on the second try with just one elastic hair tie, two big hair pins, and a bobbypin, plus one black rhinestone brooch re-appropriated as a hair accessory.

You can't really tell from this picture, but I wore the garnet jewelry I've been gifted or bequeathed from my grandmother and aunt: earrings, necklace, bracelet, ring. Mother-of-pearl opera glasses from the other side of the family. And a pocket watch around my waist, after watching a short video about the actresses' favorite Downton Abbey costumes.

Alas and alack, the costume contest was full and/or closed by the time we got there, but I certainly had fun dolling myself up. (Hello, grown-up dress-up!) Watching the episode in a crowded theater was also a blast. I can tell that the writers and actors have really settled into the characters, as there was plenty of the drama, humor, and sass we love British serials for so much.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Uncertain Shepherd

Dear Husband has given me permission to share his "reverse paraphrase" of Psalm 23 from Disciple I Bible Study. Whereas I made God into an abusive parent, he swapped the positions of God and supplicant. The narrator in his version is a pastor trying to do it all by himself--and suffering a crisis of faith because of it.

For the Director of Music--of the Pastors, a Psalm of Lament

I am the Lord's shepherd; when I get through defending orthodoxy with my moribund sermons, God won't need anything. He can just relax--head out to pasture. Me, I'm slaving away over here to make God look good. I've got answers for all the hard questions, except who's gonna restore my soul when I'm weary and worn out from all this.

Sometimes it's touch and go--people wander through some pretty deep valleys--I try to get them to stop worrying and just be content in God. If they won't stop with the questions, I get worried. How are they going to get out of this? What if there isn't an answer?

We prepare tables for our flock--every week, every month; once in a while. We try to give them goodness and oil. Maybe it works, sometimes. But what if it doesn't? And who's gonna look out for them if I can't?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

What if the Good Shepherd were an abusive parent?

This week in Disciple I Bible study, we were asked to perform a writing exercise called "reverse paraphrase." Theologian Dick Murray developed this technique 30 years ago to help congregants understand the dark, terrifying place--real or spiritual--that the writer of Psalm 23 must have inhabited in order to pen such a beautiful expression of trust and blessing. If you think about it, it makes sense: when do most people turn to Psalm 23? It's not at their brightest moment but in their darkest hour: at funerals, when the Titanic is sinking, when the Twin Towers are on fire and falling. We were asked to rewrite the psalm from the opposite point of view. I went to a very dark place in my imagination, knowing full well that this is some people's reality.

1-The Lord is my abusive parent; I am neglected.
    He takes me to crack houses.
2-He leave me alone in the street.
3-He calls me "stupid."
4-Even though I got a scholarship to college, I don't think I deserve it.
   You couldn't care less. You haven't remembered my birthday in years.
5-You're off shooting up, getting high, and spending my support check.
   You rain blows on my head and spit epithets in my face.
6-Surely hatred and spite will follow me all the days of my life.
   I might as well be an orphan.

Editor's note: Click here to read Dear Husband's reverse paraphrase of Psalm 23, in which the narrator becomes an over-worked pastor trying to go it alone, without God, with disastrous results.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Green Grain Gourd Salad

You might know the stereotypical vegan recipe: Take a pot. Add a green vegetable, a grain, and a bean (or legume), cook, and call it "dinner." This recipe is a derivative of that. I first tasted it at a Thanksgiving potluck. Here's my (renamed) version. It took an hour to make, so I wouldn't recommend trying to add it to the weekly rotation. It is better suited as a party dish or for making on a weekend to eat from during the week.

Green Grain Gourd Salad

1. Prepare the gourd. The original recipe called for sweet potato, but my hostess made hers with butternut squash. Because Dear Husband doesn't eat sweet potato, I decided to try my hand at butternut squash, too. It was the first time I had ever prepared this fruit of the vine, and I dare say it nearly got the best of me. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon? No problem. Cut into 1/2- to 1-inch chunks? You got it. Peel this sucker? Holy moly, I'm lucky I didn't lose the end of a finger trying to get the rind off. This was easily the longest step of the whole process, and it gave me great respect for anyone who makes butternut soup from scratch. Once you've got those gourd cubes, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until fragrant and soft.

Butternut squash and farro pilaf with sauteed kale and walnuts (original title was Sweet potato quinoa pilaf with sauteed kale and walnuts -- so you can substitute out different orange vegetables + grains if you'd like!)

2. Prepare the grain. The original recipe called for quinoa. My hostess used a package of 10-minute farro that yielded 2 cups cooked. I had ~3/4 cup of pearled barley in the cupboard and simply boiled that.

3. Prepare the green. As a hardy leaf, kale is probably your best bet for this dish. Wash and dry the kale, then remove the ribs and tear into pieces. Heat garlic and (optional) onion in some oil in a large pot. Add the kale all at once and stir frequently to coat and cook evenly. Remove from heat when bright green but still crunchy. Salt/pepper as desired.

4. Prepare the salad. Combine all three major ingredients in one large bowl. Add about 3 tablespoons of lemon juice (about 1/2 large lemon), 1/2-1 cup of chopped walnuts, and 2 tablespoons of minced flat-leaf parsley or other spices (I used ground sage). A little salt might be necessary. Best served warm.

Green Grain Gourd Salad + Lentil Loaf

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Kohlrabi Fritters

Since we discovered kohlrabi--first at the grocery store, later at the farmers market--I have enjoyed finding ways to incorporate it into our meals. Early on I would mash them with their steamed greens, my take on a recipe from the New York Times. Kohlrabi are also good raw, shaved on top of a green salad. For dinner recently I adapted this recipe from a farm blog for kohlrabi fritters.

First, make the topping: 1/3 cup yogurt + dried mint (lots) + 1 teaspoon lemon juice (if you remember) +/- salt to taste. Store in fridge.

Peel and shred the 4 kohlrabi bulbs into a colander and squeeze out excess moisture. In a separate bowl, combine 2 beaten eggs + 3 tablespoons bread crumbs + 1 teaspoon of salt + generous amounts of dried tarragon + pepper. Add kohlrabi by the spoonful and mix until egg is coating the entire mixture. Heat olive oil in skillet. Drop ~ 2-tablespoon balls of fritter mixture into skillet. Press gently with spatula to flatten. Cook for 5-7 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Top with yogurt sauce. Feeds 6-10.

Here you can see we served the kohlrabi fritters with Greek salad (right) and a salad (left) made of the kohrabi greens, chopped carrots, craisins, and either honey-olive oil or red wine vinegar (I can't remember). The batter and sauce kept well in tupperware in the fridge; it was easy to fry up a couple fritters every other night until the batter ran out.

Monday, December 1, 2014

French-Fried Deliciousness

Facing the prospect of a bunch of green beans and broccoli going bad before we could eat them--usually steamed or fried in sesame oil at our house--I decided to try them in an old American classic: green bean casserole. Most of the recipes online called for canned beans and a package of french fried onions, but not being a big fan of preservatives--and having a whole onion in the refrigerator--I decided to make my own french-fried deliciousness.

The recipe I used called for slicing the onion thinly, soaking in milk, and then dredging through flour. I spiced the flour liberally with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. I probably could have used more sunflower seed oil, but oh well. The results came out light, fluffy, and very tasty. They went well with the vegetables, which I chopped and mixed with a can of cream of celery soup and a little milk.

Here you can see the dinner we had them with: kohlrabi fritters with mint yogurt dressing and simple egg noodles. I tried keeping a few onion rings until the next day, but they were disappointing, even after being reheated in the microwave. Likewise, the casserole was less appetizing the more we ate it. I think I would only make it again if it were for a party and would be assured of being eaten in one sitting.

Is green bean casserole a tradition in your family? How do you like it?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Erntedankfest 2014, 1 von 2


With thanks to this vegan Canadian blogger in Thailand! 1863 von Präsident Abraham Lincoln verkündigt kommt Erntedankfest in den Vereinigten Staaten jeden vierten Donnerstag in November wieder. Aber dieses Jahr haben wir mehrmals gefeiert. Zuerst fand ein Abendessen bei unserer Kirchengemeinde statt. Freiwillige Köche arbeiteten tagsüber, um ein traditionelles Mahl anzurichten: Truthahn mit Füllung und Bratensosse, weisse Kartoffelbrei, Mais, grüne Bohne mit Speck, Süsskartoffelbrei mit Ananas (!), Brötchen, und--was ich am liebsten habe--Cranberrysosse. Leider habe ich meine Kamera mitgebracht aber nicht vewendet--sogar während der Musik die Michael, eine Sopranistin, und ein Saxofonspieler gemacht haben. Mein Teller sah ungefähr so aus (Foto vom Internet geliehen):

Die gesammelte Gemeinde, von der Bühne aus.

Dann haben die Medizinstudentinnen im ersten Jahr ein Abendessen organisiert. Jede/r hat eine Speise mitgebracht: Truthahn, Chili, Hackbällchen, geröstete Gemüse, Maisbrot, Kuchen. Wir haben gemischten Salat beigetragen. Auf englisch nennen wir es einen "Potluck." (Ich weiss, dass die Deustche solche Parties auch haben, aber das richte Wort kenne ich nicht.) Gutes Essen passt immer mit Fanta, nicht wahr?

Mehr teile ich später. Viele Studenten geniessen eine Woche Pause von Vorlesungen, aber die Medizinstudenten im dritten oder vierten Jahr, die in Kliniken studieren, müssen jeden Tag ausser Donnerstag arbeiten. Einige von uns haben vor, ein Potluck-Mahl zu haben. Ich verspreche Fotos davon!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Fancy Schmancy

Do you ever fix a nice breakfast on the weekend and serve it on good china, because you're tired of looking at your everyday dishes? Yeah, us too.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Dance of the Children

This weekend, Dear Husband and I performed together. He is the accompanist for an adult choir in our community. When I traveled with them to Central Europe two years ago, the director asked me to choreograph and perform a dance to Eliza Gilkeyson's "Requiem" for the 2005 tsunami victims in Indonesia. I later reprised that piece for their fall concert. Earlier this fall, she introduced me to Kurt Bestor's "Prayer for the Children" and asked me to do interpret it in movement for this year's fall concert in honor of America's veterans. In fact, The Chorale was so kind as to dedicate this piece to me "in gratitude and friendship...for bringing the beauty of dance to the music of The Chorale. Thank you for your grace and lyrically sensitive interpretation of this poignant song." This is how it begins:
Can you hear the prayer of the children?
On bended knee, in the shadow of an unknown room.
Empty eyes with no more tears to cry,
Turning heavenward toward the light.

Crying, Who will help me
To see the morning light-of one more day?
But if I should die before I wake,
I pray my soul to take.
It would be easy to pantomime most of the words, but I felt that would trivialize it. Instead, I made a word document of the lyrics and highlighted a few phrases to anchor my interpretation, like "prayer" and "tears to cry." The sun and its light is another repeating motif. I created more and less stylized gestures to fit these phrases. Then I strung movements in between them that expressed the mood of the lines, which was a combination of sadness, hope, and--in the most difficult part--anger and violence.

"Prayer of the Children" was an interesting selection to include on the program, which otherwise consisted of crowd-pleasers like "The Last Full Measure of Devotion" and "Proud to Serve." Kurt Bestor explains on his blog about how he came write this little piece about the unrest after Tito died in Yugoslavia--and how it became a staple of youth choirs in the 1990s during the violent breakup of that country. The penultimate line, "Can you hear the prayer of the children?" is sung in Croatian.

Between some of the songs on the program, the maestra read remembrances from Americans who fought during World War II. She connected "Prayer" with the rest of the program by reading a poem written by a boy who died in the Shoah (or Holocaust).
A little garden,
fragrant and full of roses.
The path the little boy trudges
is exceedingly narrow.

A small boy,
tender like a budding blossom,
but when the blossoms bloom,
the little boy will be no more.
Franta (Frantisek) Bass was born in Brno on September 4, 1930; deported to the Terezin concentration camp on December 2, 1941; and died in Auschwitz on October 28, 1944. He was only fourteen years old when he was murdered. She had discovered his poem when we visited the museum at Terezin two years ago.

For the performance, I eschewed my usual white leotard and flowing skirt in favor of my paternal grandfather's Bohemian blouse with beautiful embroidery and cut-out lace, his wide, black and red sash, and simple black dance pants. A friend put my hair in french braids. I figured this costume was suitably "Eastern European" and besides, my grandfather is a WWI Marine veteran.

The week before the concert I spent several hours finishing the choreography and polishing the presentation. Unfortunately, I seem to have peaked too early: I think the best rendition I gave was the night of the dress rehearsal, when I danced for the choir. (So they could satisfy their curiosity first, and then pay attention to the director like they're supposed to.) When we did it a second time, with them singing and me dancing, I injured my foot coming out of a split leap awkwardly. I applied iced and ibuprofen immediately and went to the student health center the next morning--aka the morning of the concert--where an exam and xrays confirmed I had not broken a toe. The doctor did not want me to dance at all, but I couldn't bear the thought of not going through with it, so I let him "buddy tape" my toes, replaced the split leaps with grapevine steps, and danced anyway. I am not entirely happy with the way it went, but many audience members told me afterwards that it was beautiful. After all, they do not know what the choreography should have looked like (in my head), so I guess what happened was a good enough representation of the horrors of war and national chauvinism, which is not all glory and honor and valor, but also little children orphaned, injured, and killed, like little Franta.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

"Today I feel euphorian"

Image courtesy
Back in October, I posted some thoughts about psychiatry and included an Ogden Nash poem at the end. I challenged you, Dear Reader, to write a mental Status Examination for the narrator of “No Doctors Today, Thank You. Here's the poem again, followed by my mental status examination (MSE). Please read with tongue firmly in cheek!
No Doctors Today, Thank You
~Ogden Nash
They tell me that euphoria is the feeling of feeling wonderful, well, today I feel euphorian,
Today I have the agility of a Greek god and the appetite of a Victorian.
Yes, today I may even go forth without my galoshes,
Today I am a swashbuckler, would anybody like me to buckle any swashes?
This is my euphorian day,
I will ring welkins and before anybody answers I will run away.
I will tame me a caribou
And bedeck it with marabou.
I will pen me my memoirs.
Ah youth, youth! What euphorian days them was!
I wasn't much of a hand for the boudoirs,
I was generally to be found where the food was.
Does anybody want any flotsam?
I've gotsam.
Does anybody want any jetsam?
I can getsam.
I can play chopsticks on the Wurlitzer,
I can speak Portuguese like a Berlitzer.
I can don or doff my shoes without tying or untying the laces because I am wearing moccasins,
And I practically know the difference between serums and antitoccasins.
Kind people, don't think me purse-proud, don't set me down as vainglorious,
I'm just a little euphorious. 

Mental Status Examination

Appearance: Patient appears his stated age. He is dressed appropriately in pants, shirt, and tie. He is wearing glasses. Hygiene average.

Behavior/Attitude: Patient demonstrates psychomotor agitation: straddling his chair, pacing around the room, and play-acting. He makes intermittent eye contact but cooperates with the interview.

Speech: Patient uses what sounds like a stage voice. His speech is loud, verbose, pressured, and peppered with neologisms like “antitoccasins” and “Berlitzer.” Language skills above average.

Mood: “Today I feel euphorian.”

Affect: Mood congruent, euphoric.

Thought Process: Confused, with frequent flight of ideas and clang associations (caribou/marabou, flotsam/got some, etc.) bordering on word salad.

Thought Content: Fixated on his euphoric mood. Some delusions of grandeur (agility of a Greek god, being a swashbuckler) and also magical thinking (that he will “ring the heavens”). No suicidal or homicidal ideation.

Perception: Evident visual and auditory hallucinations, as patient speaks and gesticulates as if he were on a stage in front of an audience.

Sensorium and Cognition: Awake. Uncertain orientation to person, place, and time. Memory not formally assessed.

Insight: Fair, in that he knows he can put his shoes on or take them off without un/tying laces; but poor in that he does not think he needs a doctor despite his (hypo)mania and psychosis.

Judgment: Poor, in that he would go outside in the rain without his galoshes.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Indianapolis Monumental Marathon 2014

In a previous post I described everything about our marathon weekend except the race. This is the post about all 26+ miles and 5+ hours.

Breakfast did not come with our hotel room, so the morning of the race we got up in the dark and ate the yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, zucchini bread, and bananas that I had brought with us. DH took a hot shower and then applied twice as much clothing as he planned to run in. Then we headed downstairs. Here you can see the lobby of our hotel, which was on the start line, full of runners. It is 15 minutes before the start of the race, and they are supposed to be in their corrals. "Hey," said Dear Husband, "they may be insane, but they're not stupid." Temperature at race time: 32 degree Fahrenheit.

Rod Burgundy agrees:
"I immediately regret this decision."
The sun came up while we milled around in the open, too-slow-to-be-seeded corral. Just before the gun sounded, I collected DH's extra layers, then walked along the sidewalk as he approached the starting line. After he took off, I went back to the hotel, deposited his things, picked up my purse, and went back out. I cheered the runners along their course--even surprising DH at the 2.5-mile mark as he rounded a corner--as I made my way across downtown Indianapolis to meet up with DH's parents, who had come to do the "drive and cheer" with me.

The three of us spent the morning driving a big, looping circle around the race course in central Indy. We stopped first at the 13.1-mile mark with a noisemaker, some balloons, and a personalized sign. Some of the other signs were pretty clever: "That seems like a lot of work for a free banana" or "I'm impressed with your stamina: call me!" One guy was offering "free high fives," and a kid had a sign that said "Press here for speed." Click here to see more Super Signs from the race.

In case you were wondering, I don't do marathons. Heck, I don't even run, unless it's on one of those special stair-climbing ellipticals. I have flat feet and bum knees and can only go 15-20 minutes on a treadmill or regular elliptical machine before my feet start burning with nerve pain. I had to give up Zumba and Pi-Yo because the repetitive movements made my knees hurt for days afterwards.

Instead, I cheer. For everybody. Some spectators wait quietly along the course until their runner comes along; I shout and clap for all of them: "Go, go, go! Looking good! That's it: one foot in the front of the other! You can do this--you ARE doing it! Nice form! Run, Forrest, run! So far, so great! I believe in flying unicorns!" That was for the couple in matching unicorn headbands, rainbow tails, and wings. And of course, "Whooooo!" I was hoarse by the time DH had finished the race. Maybe I should take up voice training?

DH accepts a high five from his mother at 13 miles.
Despite it being the day after Halloween there were few runners or spectators in costume. I wore my jester hat with the bells on the tips, carried a wooden noisemaker that is supposed to sound like "crickets," and generally made a noisy fool of myself. When we moved to the ¾ mark (18.5 miles) at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, some of the runners remembered our sign and my silly hat.

Raising the roof at 18.5 miles. A DJ was spinning
rap tunes on the other side of the circle drive in
front of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
DH was making good time, so we closed the circle by driving back to downtown Indianapolis, where we took advantage of $5 event parking at a garage one block from the finish line. ($5 ?!?! Only in Indianapolis. Even football parking in our small town costs $10.) We ate lunch brought from home in the warmth of the car before getting out to stand at the final turn of the race course. The wait was longer than we had anticipated because, as DH explained later, the last fourth of the course involved some serious and unexpected hills that were physically difficult and mentally demoralizing. He ended up having to walk a couple times. And yet, he found the strength in himself to run the last mile, finishing in 4 hours, 40 minutes, and 11 seconds--only 10 minutes behind his goal of 4.5 hours!

Rounding the last corner into the final straightaway
--and looking pretty darn good in stretch pants.

To Journey With You Wherever Life’s Adventures May Take Us

This weekend Dear Husband and I traveled to Indianapolis, Indiana, so he could run in his first marathon, the 7th annual Monumental Marathon. This post provides a quick overview; the next one contains his finishing time and the immortal line, "[marathon runners] are insane, but they're not stupid!"

Race weekend always begins with an expo of vendors. This is where we pick up his race packet and test his timer by waving his bib over a pad hooked up to a computer screen. We also look for a pair of running pants, since we couldn't find his swishy exercise pants, and the weather forecast calls for a wind chill around 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The first and biggest stand we check out offers moderately priced pants that are too big for him, or expensive pants in his size with "muscle-gripping technology" to support his joints and massage his muscles while running--to the tune of 100 bucks. We settle on a low-tech pair of men's black stretch pants for $20.

Then it is on to the pasta feed. Carb-loading the day before a race is a time-honored tradition that usually involves a buffet of pasta and breadsticks, with meat and veggies for those who want them. The organizers need a place to put all those people in downtown Indy on a Friday night, so they set up a big tent with heaters at the finish line. Unfortunately, the weather is not cooperating. It is cold and very windy, and in the photo you can see the tent sides flapping. At one point, the far end of the tent starts to lift up, despite the sandbags on the poles, and suddenly 1, 2, 3 tables overturn like dominoes. The workmen eating at the table behind us get up to hold the tent down, and I put the cap on the bottle of water DH and I are sharing and start making an exit plan. Sure enough, the operations manager shuts down the tent and the pasta feed midway through dinner. We can't believe we dropped $20 a plate (pre-paid) on luke-warm pasta, eaten in life-threatening conditions. Meanwhile, the loudspeakers are playing popular tunes like "Criss Cross"; they should have put on "Fly Me to the Moon."

After dinner, we go back to the hotel to warm up and watch a couple movies. I had packed "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," because it is Halloween after all, and "Happy Feet," because at least one of us needs to have a sense of humor about this whole running 26.2 miles thing. DH did waddle like a penguin after the race, but his feet were NOT happy.

In case you were wondering, this race is called the Monumental Marathon because it starts and finishes near the Soldiers and Sailors obelisk in Monument Circle at the heart of Indianapolis. Constructed 1887-1902, it commemorates the state's participation in various conflicts: that's Victory aka Miss Indiana with a sword, eagle, and "the torch of civilization" on top. Underneath is the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum. (Both are closed for renovations until further notice.) To the right you can see the day-glo-t-shirted tail of the Kids "Fun Run" 5K going by. The race course loops back to come at the monument from the east before heading north for 10 miles. It then turns southwest and zigzags to the Indianapolis Museum of Art before following the White River State Park trail back into downtown Indy. Although locals gave DH a surprised look when he mentioned afterwards that the hills had been tough, the course elevation map shows some serious hillage, particularly in the second half.

I'll satisfy your curiosity now by saying that Dear Husband completed his first marathon! And we are so proud of him. After he fueled up at the finish line (water, banana, and Steak N Shake chili), we trundled back to our hotel room so he could take a long, hot shower and a nap. Then we went out to dinner to at The Eagle's Nest, a rotating rooftop restaurant where we had celebrated our second wedding anniversary.

The restaurant takes 1 hour and 15 minutes to make one revolution. Some of Indianapolis is scenic to look at, like the Greco-Roman capitol building built in 1878 (see above). Some of the city is not scenic, like the roof of the convention center (built in 1972) and the factories with smokestacks in the background. We could also see Lucas Oil Stadium and the Eli Lilly headquarters. Did you know Lilly was the first company to produce injectable insulin on a large scale?

Dinner was okay: DH had the prime rib, with a big baked potato and (overcooked) asparagus. I ordered the seared lamb rib eye with mashed potatoes and ragout of peas, asparagus, and lamb demi. DH usually eats more slowly than I do, and sure enough this time I had cleared my plate well before he did. The lamb tasted good, but it was really more of a show piece than a dinner serving. (I didn't take a photograph of it because I was trying to spare you my food porn!) Still hungry, I immediately ordered a beet salad, which the server was kind enough to comp us. I wish he could have done something about the wine: $10 for what amounted to half a glass. Just over one revolution later, we skipped dessert and ambled slowly back to our hotel to watch an excellent South African film, Tsotsi.

Sunday morning we were up early again, ate the same cold breakfast, packed our bags, and checked out. The drive home was sunny and uneventful. It was a good marathon weekend. Stay tuned for DH's next 26.2 miler in April 2015!

Editor's note: The title of this blog is a line from our wedding vows.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


    * 1-1/4 cups milk
    * 1 cup all-purpose flour
    * 1 egg
    * 1 teaspoon cooking oil
    * 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

    * 1/4 teaspoon salt for savory crepes OR
    * 1 teaspoon vanilla + 1 teaspoon sugar for sweet crepes

   1.   Mix up batter as smooth as possible. Flavor as desired. (I made ours plain.)
   2.   Heat a lightly greased small skillet over medium-high heat. Remove from heat. Pour 3 tablespoons of batter into center of skillet. Lift and tilt skillet to spread batter and coat bottom of pan. Return to heat. Cook for a few minutes until light brown. Turn with a spatula, and cook second side until light brown and bubbly.
   3.   Slide finished crepes onto a warm plate. For filled crepes, spoon filling into center; roll or fold crepe while still in the pan; slide carefully onto plate. (Or just make a stack, as illustrated above, with the top crepe folded in half to reveal the filling.) Repeat with remaining batter, greasing skillet and stirring batter if needed. Makes about 12 (8-inch) or 16 (6-inch) crepes.

I can't remember where I found this basic crepe recipe, but I pull it out once a year for variety. I like to make a filling with goat ricotta cheese from our local farmers market--this one is herb and sun-dried tomato flavored. I added canned corn the first night (pictured above). The second night we ate this I extended the filling with chopped fresh broccoli. There is enough batter left for one more meal, but I'm going to have to improvise a filling. Suggestions welcome!

I paired the crepes with a raw kale salad massaged with lemon juice and dressed with 50/50 olive oil-lemon juice with a touch of honey and a generous amount of "hot" chili powder from Turkey. There is also cherry tomatoes, green pepper, and a white radish.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What Medical School Looks Like VIII

217. Sometimes medical school:
          a. looks like yet another multiple-choice question.
          b. tastes like kettle corn
          c. tastes like hot apple cider.
          d. sounds like electronica music.
          e. all of the above.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Hug o' Tug o' War

"I will not play tug o' war.
I'd rather play hug o' war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins."
~Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein was one of the preeminent poets of my childhood (along with Odgen Nach and Anonymous). This verse of his came to mind one night while lying in bed and thinking about my psychiatry patients: I want to hug so many of them. The outpatient encounters I have had so far were too brief to learn about many of the patients' hurts. In in-patient hospital medicine those hurts are usually physical. But in in-patient psychiatry, we spend enough time with them to learn about our patients' real wounds. If psychiatry has taught me anything, it is how cruel human beings can be to each other.

The standard psychiatric interview includes a history of the present illness, the patient's psychiatric history, and demographic information. That includes asking about any abuse or trauma the patient has suffered or is suffering. The stories of abuse and rape are horrific. So are the tales of woe about (near) homelessness, unemployment, lack of help caring for sick or disabled family members, missing disability checks, uninsurance (yes, still), toxic family dynamics, and lack of beds at substance-abuse treatment programs. It makes me want to hug my patients when they leave the ward, as if that could apply a thin layer of armor on them as they head back into unpromising situations without much of a social safety net.

Sometimes I want to hug them for joy, too. It is really gratifying to get a patient on a combination of medications that allows them to think clearly after months of agitation, racing thoughts, and frustration. One of them remarked to me, "Where have I been all this time?"

Of course, psychiatry is a particularly fraught field in medicine, unsure if it is more art or science. Do psychiatrists treat the mind or the brain? With the move toward more biochemical explanations of mental illnesses in the recent DSM-V, many of them feel that they can finally base their treatment plans on a materialistic pathophysiology that other doctors will respect. However, that further stigmatizes the disorders without neurotransmitter or genetic explanations as "all in your head." And not everything that is wrong with a patient can be treated with medication.

This tug-of-war between drugs and counseling is as old as psychiatry itself. Even after establishing psychoanalysis as an approach to mental illness, Sigmund Freud never entirely forgot his neuroscience roots. Tensions flared in the middle of the 20th century with the introduction of the first psychotropic drugs, which worked better than talk therapy for some conditions. "Better" at controlling patients and making them artificially compliant, retorted the likes of Thomas Szasz, who argued that without tests there could be few true mental illnesses. Patch Adams continues to advocate an extreme view of this line of thinking: out with the drugs that are overprescribed and just make Big Pharma rich, in with human connection and understanding. Forget haloperidol, hug your psychotic patient until he's calm.

I don't think I can cure any of my patients with an embrace if they ask for one. But it does seem like a positive human expression that cancels out just a little of their suffering. And who knows, maybe the endorphins it activates help their medication work better.

No Doctors Today, Thank You
~Ogden Nash
They tell me that euphoria is the feeling of feeling wonderful, well, today I feel euphorian,
Today I have the agility of a Greek god and the appetite of a Victorian.
Yes, today I may even go forth without my galoshes,
Today I am a swashbuckler, would anybody like me to buckle any swashes?
This is my euphorian day,
I will ring welkins and before anybody answers I will run away.
I will tame me a caribou
And bedeck it with marabou.
I will pen me my memoirs.
Ah youth, youth! What euphorian days them was!
I wasn't much of a hand for the boudoirs,
I was generally to be found where the food was.
Does anybody want any flotsam?
I've gotsam.
Does anybody want any jetsam?
I can getsam.
I can play chopsticks on the Wurlitzer,
I can speak Portuguese like a Berlitzer.
I can don or doff my shoes without tying or untying the laces because I am wearing moccasins,
And I practically know the difference between serums and antitoccasins.
Kind people, don't think me purse-proud, don't set me down as vainglorious,
I'm just a little euphorious.

p.s.--Beaucoup bonus points for anyone who can write a mental status exam on the speaker of this poem!