Sunday, March 28, 2021

Worth a Thousand Words

One of those dating website gimmicks of 'pick which one describes you better' got me thinking recently. It was something to the effect of 'snap a photo' or 'experience the moment' and I realized that I live in both camps pretty regularly and some of my biggest regrets are picking the wrong one for the experience at hand. The elevation of the Eucharist atop a cold and rugged Blanca Peak...I chose not to snap the photo and I'm forever regretting it. Playing with Little Bit and trying so hard to snap a selfie of the two of us that is Insta-worthy...I should've just savored the moment because they'll soon be far too few. I want to be the person like the photographer at the end of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty who says "If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don't like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it." It's got me wondering why I so often want to take the picture and why I find it so much easier to remember the joy or wonder of a moment when I have the photo in front of me. There are certain photos that truly are worth a thousand words, or a thousand seconds of reminiscing, or a thousand attempts of reflection on the good. 

This picture could just be me and E at Christmas time. But there's so much more that this captures for me. This was taken around the time that she was independently and frequently signing "auntie" when she saw me. It warmed my heart so much to see not only the recognition in her eyes, but to have someone so light up when you walk in the room covers a multitude of insecurities and loneliness. This picture brings all of that back. It was also taken while I was in the middle of a shift at the hospital, and it reminds me of some of the best parts of working at South: the relationships I've built over the years, the purpose of our work, the generosity to the community, the unique gift of working at the same place as my sister, my own professional growth and how I've helped others grow.

Wind, wind, wind, click. Wind, wind, wind, click. Ahh, the magic of disposable cameras in 2002. This is one of those moments where I probably should've just basked in the wave of the Holy Spirit that washed over the crowd as JPII rode by instead of frantically trying to snap a lousy photo on a cheap camera. But while there are far more compelling images of our late great pope, this one is mine. It immediately brings back the heat, the soaking wet sleeping bag, the meals in a bag, the flags and banners, the hard gym floors, the fast friendships, the foreign languages, the massive rows of port-o-lets, the bus (mis)adventures, and the soul-altering experience of being surrounded by 800,000 Catholics hearing "JPII...he loves you too." Even the storm clouds bowed to the sacramental presence of God that final day, and this picture still makes me tear up. 

It's Christmas Eve day. It's both an eve and a day. It's a Christmas miracle! Obviously it's not Christmas Eve day in this picture. But again, the photo means more to me than it does to anyone else looking at it, and it's why I think I treasure them so much. This reflects my 14er adventures (Mt. of the Holy Cross, a beast conquered too soon after my flatlander lungs moved back from Omaha) and getting to share those adventures with my family, some of my favorite TV (the above Christmas miracle reference is from a particularly memorable episode of Bones), and most importantly, the fun of sharing inside jokes and constant movie/TV quotes with the wombmate. Only we get it, but that's enough. I love going back through my 14er pics and remembering the good of those days, because in the moment there was good of course, but also a lot of struggle and pain and questioning my sanity. Like with Kilimanjaro, where the farther past it we got, the more awesome the trip was, these pictures are a positive-memories-only version of battle scars. 

I'm tempted to not even write about this picture and just leave it here in all its glory. Definitely one of my favorites for the shock value. But also one of my favorites because that summer was one of the hardest and definitely one of the best things I've ever done, sundaes not withstanding. I credit Totus Tuus for some really solid formation, a chance to stretch myself in ways I didn't know was possible, the ability to drink black coffee, praying regularly for my future spouse, familiarity with Liturgy of the Hours, relationships with some of the amazing men who would become priests and Companions of Christ (leading to Brian Larkin Sundays, Catholic Stuff You Should Know, Gregorian Rant, and other nuggets being a part of my life), and this photo as a reminder that things are never quite as bad as they look. 

I could keep going with pictures that represent more than the image. And I'm realizing with music playing in the background that I could do this with songs too. The story is where the magic is at. And I've been reminded frequently the last few weeks that we were made for story. It's been good for my soul to live for a minute in the stories of these pictures, and to find the goodness, truth and beauty in them. 

Monday, January 18, 2021

2020 in Hindsight

I put off writing this for a while, because despite my wholehearted intention to let this upcoming year be one of opportunity and 'yes', adventure and hope, that's not at all how I feel about last year and I wasn't quite ready to relive it. There are still parts I'd rather bury, but looking back on the good primes your brain to look for more of the good. If I can't see it in the past, I risk walking right past it in the present. And I'd hate for the wins of the year not to be logged for posterity. So here are the biggest wins of the year, in the random order they're coming to my brain:

In March, I saw four years of tireless work come to fruition as my article on cosyntropin use in pediatric postdural puncture headache was finely published. I could've written a whole post on that ordeal and the lessons learned. Pretty much everything about the research project was done backwards or wrong, but eventually I got the right people involved, the right data collected, the right words to paper, the right edits and concessions, etc. I actually reread the article last week as I was sending it to a former classmate, and I am very proud of the finished product. The most ironic part is that I don't even have full text access to my article. The journal didn't send me the final proof so I had to have a colleague, whose job allows her extended primary literature access, send me the pdf. If you're only interested in the abstract, you can find it here.

The celebration of said article brought another milestone achievement in the form of my 100th Colorado brewery visited. Several years ago, an article highlighted the growing craft beer scene in Colorado and listed a relatively comprehensive list of breweries. I made it a game to start my own list (around 40 at the time) and watch it grow. Once I got to 95 or so, I had the grand idea to pair the 100th brewery with the publication of my article. It turned out to be somewhat short-sighted as I had to crawl my way to the finish line, enduring outright rejection of the first submission, copious edits from a second submission, and a delayed online release. The party happened to fall as the city was shutting down in the first wave of COVID closures, but it was still the social highlight of my year, celebrating with friends and using the publication and the 100th brewery as an excuse to see my favorite people.

"In non-technical terms, this trail sucks. It is 1,600 vertical feet of misery. Climb three steps forward and slip two steps back. It feels like walking on greased marbles, except that these marbles have sharp edges and wedge inside your sock and prick your sole. More swear words have been uttered by hikers climbing Mount Columbia than any other Colorado 14er. This mountain twists ankles, skins knees, and shreds bottoms of pants." That's a dated description of the hike up Mt. Columbia. Another win from this year is the work that CFI (Colorado Fourteeners Initiative) continues to do on the trail, turning an outright slog into a relatively enjoyable hike. Ten years after our first failed attempt took us off route north to scree fields from hell, dad and I enjoyed the renovated trail and summitted. The trail work is not complete, and the final few hundred vertical feet were a glimpse of why the mountain was so hated, but it was a wonderful hike, exactly what a 14er should be, including not being able to walk for two days after.
False summit, amidst the "greased marbles"

The bulk of my professional year was dedicated not only to COVID, which despite the relatively low impact on pediatric patients nevertheless threw our hospital into upheaval on a pretty regular basis, but also to the completion of my Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certification. Starting with 80 hours of class at the beginning of the year, and progressing through a 9-month process improvement project, the experience was the very definition of growth. The excitement of learning new skills and tools was tempered by the missteps of leading an interdisciplinary project team comprised entirely of not-my-direct-reports. My mentor was incredible, and even though I gained valuable experience for my own professional development, the biggest win was her guidance and friendship. The other biggest win was putting on my new green belt. ;)

Shouldn't have thrown away my old karate belts!

The rest of the year is really a bit of a blur. I rode in my first "Courage Classic" which only sorta counts because it was virtual and only twenty-something miles. I successfully navigated my first solo (8th overall) Creighton lecture, and even got invited back to speak to a student group about a career in pediatrics. I said goodbye to my faithful Stella, the CR-V that transported me for the last 12 years, and replaced her with...another CR-V. Name still TBD, it's hard to top Stella. I played mentor and mentee- mentor for the School of Pharmacy's Exemplary Professional Development program which was actually right in my wheelhouse and very fulfilling, and mentee in the hospital's Mentoring Matters program which provided a needed balance to the other stories and advice in my professional life. I did a couple things for myself- a mountain retreat and a virtual conference, which both inspired and taught me and also made me wonder if I need a new career. I did a lot of baking--and watched a lot of The Great British Baking Show--including highlights of Aunt Carol's sticky buns (the second attempt at least), iced brown butter maple pecan oatmeal cookies, my first choux pastry, millionaire shortbread, and at least two batches of Mary Berry's florentines. I also failed pretty epically at a couple attempts with a sourdough starter and decided to stick to store-bought yeast. 

Millionaire Shortbread with Little Bit

I got a new phone which means my normal process of scrolling back through my calendar to find other notable events is off the table. 

I think some of the unsettledness I felt through 2020 came from not necessarily loving the right things (or from mourning the loss of things that weren't the right things). A recent podcast summarized some of Augustine's teaching on desire, and that the life of a Christian is about learning to love the right things, ordering our desires toward the greater good God has for us, rather than settling our desires on lesser things. He says: "The entire life of a good Christian is in fact an exercise of holy desire. You do not yet see what you long for, but the very act of desiring prepares you, so that when He comes you may see and be utterly satisfied. This...will be effective only to the extent that we free ourselves from desires leading to infatuation with the world." May 2021 be a year of aligning my desires with the desires that God has for my life. 

I reserve the right to make this blog as worthless to read as I feel like, and also to write as infrequently as I deem necessary. Just thought I'd let you know since I finally decided to share my blog.