Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Rememberlutions 2017

Since January 2015, I have kept a decorated glass jar on a shelf as a place to store reminders of things I want to remember about the previous year. You can find my posts about 2015 and 2016 by clicking. Because these early years of medical training tend to involve a lot of doubt and self-recrimination--as well as long working that seem to preclude having time for fun and relationships--I like the idea of pausing to look back at my accomplishments and positive experiences. This blog post is mostly a personal exercise in gratitude, but I share it with you in case you are curious about what went on with me over the last year. I don't expect you to read all of it, but maybe leave a comment at the end with one of your favorite memories of 2017.

To be honest, my favorite memories from 2017 are every time I hugged a crying mother, or when a patient, family member, or attending thanked me for being a good doctor. There was the catastrophizing teenager who assured me I had calmed his fears about his prognosis. Multiple children of old and sick patients in the hospital expressed appreciation for how I conducted family meetings, answered their questions, and grieved with them. And my heart just melted at the way the mother of a newborn with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome called me "Dr. Kristen." I hope most of these memories were left out of the jar more out of concern for my patients' privacy than because of exhaustion. I did collect encouraging feedback from my superiors to come back to when something goes wrong, or I (inevitably) fail at some task:

"Thanks for all your great work on neurology. You have great attention to detail even working overnight as a guardian angel of neurology. Hope you will get some good rest after your overnight."

"You have good clinical judgement." (From none other than the guy who literally wrote the textbook on pediatric clinical diagnosis.)

"Special thank you to you for always going the distance: your willingness to step up in a lot of ways from this project [on reducing burnout] to your [history of medicine] noon conference and the stuff from this morning [sitting up front at Chairman's Rounds after an overnight shift in the pediatric emergency room] is inspiring!"

"I just wanted to let you know that you did a great job this week. The patient that you saw today was very complex from the ID standpoint and you did an exceptional job of collecting all of the information and putting it together in a coherent fashion with an excellent plan. I usually try to come up with some critical feedback but you really did an exceptional job and I can't think of anything specific for you to work on."

In other news, I was made a Yelp! Expert and have had two of my reviews featured as Reviews of the Day. My Yelp! account is another repository of memories from the past year, from the sketchy froyo place in Shadyside (Happy Berry) to our marvelous 12th anniversary dinner (Altius).

Now on to the Rememberlutions jar. It is not big enough for all my good memories: there was a whole stack of programs in addition to the tickets and scraps of paper stuffed inside. Here they are, in approximate chronological order:

We started the year by using our new Carnegie Museum membership to visit the Art Museum to see Brazilian artist Helio Oiticica's work.

Then there was a Duquesne University studio production of local faculty musicians performing late-19th-century French, Weimar-era German, and mid-20th-century American cabaret pieces called "The Art of Cabaret."

Probably my favorite musical performance of the year was the organ and vocal concert "Choral Fantasy" at East Liberty Presbyterian Church in January 2017. The melancholy sounds of the singers' voices drifting down to us from the balcony still haunt me.

Watching Hidden Figures with a group of Black women leaders in Pittsburgh.

Any year that includes Dale Chihuly glass is a good year. (Columbus, OH)
Other criteria: good food, fun games, beautiful music, friends and family.
While playing a pre-show ice-breaker game before a WordPlay performance at the Bricolage Theater (like The Moth, but with a live-DJed soundtrack), Dear Husband and I (Delilah) met Mary (Sampson), who invited us to attend the 19th annual Summit Against Racism at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, which she was organizing over MLK weekend. I later went back to the Seminary to watch "Unfinished Business: From the Great Migration to Black Lives Matter," a documentary about Pittsburgh's Black community.

The Pittsburgh Opera's Pennsylvania premiere of As One, a two-person operetta about a transgender woman's coming to terms with herself, had some of the best music for string quartet I have ever heard.

A "Welcome to worship card" from Third Presbyterian Church with the verse, "Jesus spoke to them saying, 'I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.' John 8:12"

Beauty and the Beast, which was beautiful to watch but involved so much CGI that it wasn't really an improvement over the original cartoon version

Nefarious, another of our favorite new games this year.
Woody's Order, a one-woman show about the play-write and actor's older brother, Woody, who was born with cerebral palsy and "ordered" a sister from his parents. At the Pittsburgh Playhouse.

Pilobolus' Shadow Land at the Byham Theater, a review of which I combined with some of my own nocturnal dreams at the same time: What Dreams May Come.

A worship concert, "The World Beloved," at First United Methodist Church, one of our three faith communities.

This hand-written note from the Chair of the Pediatrics Department that came with a gift card to Millie's Ice Cream: "Have a couple of scoops on us. I am so grateful for your hard work and caring ways! Best, Terry" (Everyone got one, but still.)

At some point I went back to the Bricolage for WordPlay and played a game of bingo that involved finding someone who had never attended one of these shows and someone who had hands larger than mine. If I can, I like to attend on Friday nights, because the American Sign Language interpreter is really good.

Visiting the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston with friend FN while there for a conference in April.

I completed two jigsaw puzzles this year, one of a Bengal Tiger by myself (click for photo and short story), and one of the constellations and zodiac with my family over Christmas.

Treasured memories from our trip to Copenhagen and Scotland at the end of May so I could give a conference paper include walking on the beach in Aberdeen and touring the grounds of Balmoral Castle, Scottish Home to The Royal Family. Most interesting tidbit: watching Queen Elizabeth age from a perfectly ordinary-looking young wife and mother in their early photo Christmas cards to the wizened, white-haired old lady as I have always known her. We had actually attended church with her that morning(!). Also riding the funicular part of the way up Cairngorm Mountain and then hiking to the summit.

I gave the first Pediatrics noon conference for the new interns, a history of medicine talk about using food as medicine.

Staying up late on a work night to watch Moonlight with our "friends": someone shared to a list-serv I'm on that there would be a viewing of the film at a local theater, so we showed up, only to discover that it wasn't a public event at all: the owner of the theater had invited people he knew to his "home" to see the movie projected on a large screen over the stage.

Celebrating my birthday with dugout seats from one of my residency programs that were close enough for the Pirates Parrot to wiggle his butt in our faces.

Of all the game nights with L & R, apparently my favorite was the time we played the ever-expanding game of Concept. Second favorite: Carcassonne. Third: Starfarers of Catan.

The Pittsburgh revival of In the Heights, the Tony-Winning Best Musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda advertised with his picture (but a different lead actor in the show). Heart-felt but not particularly memorable for me.

Laughing our butts off from the cheap seats at An Act of God, an irreverent religious comedy written by a former Daily Show writer for a local comedian. Unfortunately, the home-town crowd appeared to have found ticket prices too high, and they ended up closing the month-long run 3 days early, before we could recommend it to anyone else.

Attending "On Green Dolphin Street," the September 2017 Jazz at Emmanuel vespers service

A note from friend JR, who hand-made my new Halloween earrings in the shapes of candy corns, spiders, and pumpkins: "Dearest Kristen, I hope that this week is going better for you. I also hope that you enjoy the earrings. I love and miss you and am always here if you need me." (I went as a Smarty Pants for Halloween; those are Smarties stuck to my pants with double-sided tape.)

The Carnegie Museum of Natural History's Power of Poison in the Natural World exhibition. I should get around to writing that blog post... Did you know the Mr. Yuck sticker was invented at the Children's Hospital here?

Then there's the program from the jazz concert by our neighbor at a suburban Presbyterian Church containing the following written conversation: Me: "We need spinach for Cajun chicken." DH: "We also need to cook rice." I guess that's what we had for dinner, which reminds me, I should post the recipe sometime, as it's one of our favorites.

Watching Murder on the Orient Express over Thanksgiving.

A ticket the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's superfluous and mildly offensive mini-operetta staging of Haydn's Creation. The music by itself was worth it, however.

Probably my favorite theater experience was Dodo, an "immersive" theater experience put on by The Bricolage in the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History after hours that began as a surrealist comedy and became a meditation on memory, loss, and preservation.

From the jar I also retrieved a ticket to see Rogue One at Christmas 2016 (we later re-watched it with FUMC friends over dinner) and our stubs from a community theater production of The Music Man back in November 2016. Big events from 2017 that didn't make it into the jar included a c-c-c-cold visit to Fallingwater and a warmer one to Columbus; hearing the Junior Mendelssohn Choir sing and also the Bach Choir's War concert; going to Kennywood amusement park and tubing down a crick with my pediatrics colleagues; planting trees with the Pittsburgh Redbud Project and wandering Main Street in little Cambridge, Ohio, all decked out like a Charles Dicken's novel (blog post coming!).

Happy New Year, Reader. What are you going to remember about 2017?

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