his & hers 2: notes

While Y and I are both in graduate/professional school, our programs are drastically different. He needs to remain competitive; I can slack off if I want. His classes require a level of brain power I could never hope to achieve; mine... don't. My classes are in English, his technically are as well, but it's debatable. For example, paraphimosis? That word does not exist in any language I learned. 

I think our notes reflect the differences in our graduate education:

Y's notes on who-knows-what: 

We have notebooks full of pages and pages of this stuff - and not even one margin of my name with a heart around it. I'm offended.

My notes, after a particularly thrilling International Health lecture on the deadly threat of guinea worms, which have to be pulled out of their host's leg. Gross, right?

One of us is going to go far in life. 

By the way, when I posted my first "his & hers" post, I thought I had come up with this great new blog concept. But alas, as with pretty much everything in life, it had been done - very well, might I add - by the adorable blog Hooray (and probably countless others). You gotta admit though, you probably won't find another "his & hers" post containing the words "boggy waterlogged sponge consistency of prostate". 

And with that, I'm unique again.

my letterman jacket

Dear high school me,

Right now you're probably sitting in an overly air-conditioned classroom, shivering, wishing you had a jacket. At least, that's what you'll tell anyone who asks. What you really and truly wish is that you had a boyfriend, and if you're really going out on a limb here, a boyfriend who has a letterman jacket. Think about how warm you would be, swallowed up in a twice-your-size jacket that just reeks of manliness?

Well I've got news for you, sister. Something better awaits you. 

Ten years from now, when you're feeling a little chilly, you can slip on the letterman jacket's way cooler cousin: the white coat. 

Just like the letterman jacket, wearing the white coat will let everyone know that the coolest guy in school picked you. And when you wrap yourself up in the scratchy fabric and take a deep breath, you'll not only smell notes of manliness, but - bonus! - undertones of feet that haven't seen any personal hygiene in decades.  

Forget about patches, or varsity letters, or whatever it is that the cool kids put on their letterman jackets (I can't remember; it's been ten years. Do people even wear letterman jackets anymore?). When you run your fingers over the sleeve of the white coat, you'll find something better: mystery stains. Red, brown, and every color in between. Badges of pride, for sure, because getting squirted with bodily fluids is far superior to making the varsity football team. 

And the pockets. Oh, the pockets. Inside and outside, of varying sizes, most of which are perfect for stashing... miniature notebooks. So convenient! You'll never need a purse again.

So hang in there, high school me. And if I can give you one piece of advice, it's this: bring your own sweater. Because you won't have a boyfriend for a loooong time. {Also, don't really touch the mystery stains. Gross.}


Yes, you read that title right. Roleplaying. Complete with costumes.

But before you assume things have taken a turn for the scandalous around here, you should know that I've been dressing up as Paul Stout, a 75 year old man presenting to the clinic with hearing loss.

Y takes the next part of his boards in a few weeks. This part of the exam process tests the student's ability to communicate with patients and ask the right questions. Y has been studying with a big book of fake cases, and when he asked me if I would practice with him, there was only one answer.

Yes, but only if I can use props.

Compromise, people. It makes healthy marriages.

Besides Paul Stout, I've been John Matthews(above), a 25 year old banker who was texting and ran into a tree;  Jack Edwards, a 28 year old male angel dust user who sees writing on walls (probably my finest acting thus far, if I do say so myself); Gwen Potter, a graduate student who can't sleep (and whose famous last name inspired a strong British accent);  and the mother of Adam Davidson, a child suffering from bed-wetting issues. A special guest star took on the role of Adam:

He was brilliant. 

life as a med student's wife

Our friend T's homemade table, site of many dinners with medical students

I wrote this for the Real Simple blogger contest this summer, which asked bloggers to write about the friend they were most surprised to have. At the last minute I decided it didn't really answer the question, so I didn't enter it, but I thought it might be worth sharing. 


My only memory of high school science is the day we thought it would be funny to ask our teacher what “sodomy” meant (it wasn’t). My most vivid memory of college science is my elation that attendance wasn’t enforced.

And yet, here I sit at a restaurant with a medical student (my husband), two surgeons, a dentist, and a physician’s assistant. They talk about medicine, science, break to discuss the food, then more medicine, more science. I chime in to comment on the risotto but remain silent when talk returns to bodily fluids. Though discussing discharge over dinner no longer fazes me, I have nothing to add.  
Our waiter reads the specials. When he leaves, the table huddles together. I lean in, in case it’s layperson gossip.
“Did you see that?” someone asks. “How about the lump on that guy's neck?” The rest of the table agrees, throwing out potential diagnoses. I realize I’m the only one at my table who doesn’t perform a secret physical examination on every passing human.
Born to be a liberal arts student, I was shocked when I married someone who was so thoroughly a scientist. Though I know he accepts me mass communication degree and all, it’s hard not to be intimidated when we meet friends for drinks and discuss the experience of delivering a baby.
It’s a daily test, but I’m becoming acclimated to my unexpected social circle. I’ve learned when complaining about my terrible day in the office is in poor taste (right after a friend shares that his patient died, for instance).  I’ve absorbed enough to comment on medicine occasionally. Most importantly, I’ve discovered that as intense as these very smart people are, they sometimes crave tales of life outside the hospital. And that’s where I come in.

on iphones

Just this afternoon, I marveled at the fact that even while sitting at my desk at work, I was able to coat-shop with Y. (I convinced him our coats, made for Louisiana Novembers, might not cut it when he interviews in a Wisconsin or Minnesota November.)

Just yesterday at work, I read about the ways that doctors using iPads and iPhones can revolutionize patient care in medicine. 

Which sounds like a great idea and all, until you realize how hard it is for an almost doctor to type something simple like "woohoo".

Or that time he told me Ike had large forks. (He meant laryngitis.)

Oh well, we can't all change the world.

But we can try, right? 

"the only way to do great work is to love what you do."
                    -steve jobs


The girl spends her day off at a local boutique inhaling perfume, coffee beans, perfume, coffee beans. She just exhausted her latest bottle of the perfume she grew up with and it's time for a change. But her new scent has to be perfect; when she leaves on weekend getaways the boy breathes in her signature scent from her empty pillow.

After an hour of back and forth and he'll love it, he'll love it not, she finally lets the cashier wrap up a scent. A sweet, almost fruity scent; chosen as much for its warm vanilla bean and rice flower aroma as for its pretty bottle. 

The most luxurious of fragrant escapes. 

At home, she spritzes her neck and waits for the boy. When he walks in the door, he inhales, pausing for a moment, a faint smile appearing as a memory plays out in his mind. 

The girl is satisfied, she's chosen a scent that calls to his mind a comfortable childhood memory. 

The boy finally exhales.

"You smell like diabetic ketoacidosis."

{because it's more fun to tell your "love story" in the third person}

match day nightmares

I've had some disturbing dreams this week. Last night I was pick-pocketed in Italy. The night before, I was held at gunpoint at a mall. While the gun was to my head, I closed my eyes and tried to relax with yoga breaths, and when I opened them I was staring at the ceiling in my bedroom. I guess you could say yoga saved my life.

By far the most disturbing dream, though, was one that stemmed from my chronic lateness in sending birthday gifts. You see, I love giving gifts. But I'm always convinced there's something better out there; that I'm not giving the perfect gift. So I wait for the perfect thing to come along. The birthday/occasion passes. I keep waiting. Eventually I realize it's September and the birthday was in June and I get flustered and send what I initially thought about sending in May. 

I've had a birthday present for my nephew (birthday June first) sitting under my desk for at least a month. In my disturbing dream, something happened to the gift and I was never able to give it to him. I told him this, and assured him that I owed him a HUGE favor.

Turns out, (we're still in dreamland here) he ended up needing a favor. A really big one. As is the nature of dreams, I can't remember anything about it except that I had to do it and it was during.... match day. 

I woke up sweating. Mind you, I wasn't sweating after being stolen from in Italy. I wasn't sweating after my shopping trip turned near death experience. 

And here's the thing: my dreamland favor didn't prevent me from going to match day. Whatever it was, it only prevented me from having a picture taken of my reaction when Y announced his match. 

And not having my picture taken during match day was apparently enough to strike sweaty, nightmarish fear in my heart. 

Pretty sure I need to calm down.

(But you better believe I sent my nephew his birthday present today.)

Am I Male: When applying for residency makes you crazy

Today, Y asked me when his birthday was. 

He was perfecting his application for residency, and that particular question was about the 4983059430th ridiculous question I was asked (others included "Am I male?"). So I did what I should have done after the first few questions: marched over to his computer and submitted the stupid application myself. 

Y applied to 25 programs. Here's what happens next: within the week, residency programs could start replying, offering Y an interview. The interviews take place from mid-October to January, and for those 4 months it's a giant game of Where in the World is Y.

I'm a sucker for any kind of map art, and when I saw this United States bulletin board on design*sponge a year ago, I bookmarked it immediately for the very purpose of keeping track of applications. (Remember bookmarking? That's what people did before Pinterest, kids.) 

Unlike most of the craft projects I bookmark/pin, this one actually happened.

The legend (which Y claims is "legend.....ary") explains: a black pin means he applied, a white pin means they offered him an interview, and a red pin means he accepted the interview. 

 The application went out 15 hours ago and everything is back to normal. Y is confident about his date of birth and his gender again. But we have noticed an increased heart rate and jumpiness every time he gets an e-mail. That will stop soon, though... right?

the composite

Y just received his fourth and final med school class composite.

It's not quite as exciting as his first composite.

I pored over that thing, matching names to faces as he told stories about the new people in his life. I think I knew everyone's name before he did.

(I didn't have too much going on at the time.)

One of Y's classmates used his composite to explain his feelings on classmates to his girlfriend (we'll call her Molly). A few circles here and there, and, over one or two faces, a heavy-handed "X".

I met Molly a few weeks later, along with some more of Y's classmates' wives/fiances/girlfriends. Over dinner, Molly pulled out her composite. "This one's mine,"she said, pointing to her boyfriend. One by one we showed her "ours".

One girl hesitated, but eventually pointed. "That's mine, but he's got a huge X over his face."

Molly snatched the sheet of paper out of the girl's hands. "Yeah, those are the people he doesn't know yet."

And we left it at that. Funny how that memory is three years old almost to the day, and still so vivid. I can tell you where I was sitting, where I parked, the nonchalant way Molly rolled the composite up and placed it back in her purse.

(This is what happens when you're not busy cramming med school facts in your head. It has room to breathe and remember. So in ten years, when Y's head is chock full of diseases and drug names, I'll still be able to list the members of his med school class, in alphabetical order. I love being useful.)

neurosurgery scars, part 2

I get it, neurosurgeons. You're angry that I managed to somehow blame you for the scar on my leg.

You were so angry, that you used your God-like status to insist that the universe repay me. And 48 hours after that blog post, while I was grocery shopping at Target, the universe caused the Earth to tilt ever-so-slightly. This imperceptible shift caused a can of black beans to roll from the top of my shopping cart (through the holes that were meant for chubby little baby legs) and sail to the floor, slicing my shin with its sharp lip on the way down.

Right next to my "neurosurgery" scar.

I've gotten over that, brain surgeons.

But then last week, you decided I deserved a harsher punishment and used your powers to move the cement stairs that lead to my back door just a tenth of an inch. And I tripped and skinned my other leg. And stubbed my toe. Like a 5 year old.

Okay. Fine. So maybe neurosurgeons had nothing to do with this. Maybe I'm just a klutz who shouldn't be allowed to use stairs and can't be trusted with canned goods. But that's just not as fun.

Trust me.

ooey gooey


There is one household task that, without fail, I always end up doing. We don't have a garbage disposal, and our sink tends to clog. It has become my job to reach into elbow deep water and pick out the bits of food that got stuck in the drain.

It's my job because it makes Y gag.

How is it, I wondered, that Y can perform rectal exams and dig around inside of long-dead human beings without blinking, but he can't scoop up some wet bread and a few smushed cherries with his bare hands?

And then I figured it out.

A long long time ago (circa the 1960s) "Officer" Don Kennedy, an Atlanta TV personality, invented a game to play with the studio audience at his children's show "The Popeye Club". He placed several paper bags on a turntable and stuck prizes in a few of them. In the rest, he dumped raw eggs, flour, mayonnaise, ketchup -- anything that would make a kid squeal if he or she stuck a hand in it.

One of the children from the studio audience was selected and blindfolded. As the turntable went round and round, the child stuck their hand in a bag, hoping it was the one with the prize. If not, everyone yelled Ooey gooey!

At this time, my dad was a teenager growing up in Atlanta and apparently bored enough to watch children's variety shows.

I'm imagining he came home from a round of golf with his dad, flopped down in front of the TV and realized "The Popeye Club" was the only thing on. Reluctantly, he watched the Ooey Gooey segment and filed it away under Games to Play at My Future Little Girl's Birthday Parties Twenty Years From Now.

(Kind of like how I'll occasionally watch "16 and Pregnant" and file it under My Future Little Girl Is Never Allowed to Date, Ever.)

And sure enough, twenty or so years later Ooey Gooey was a staple at my birthday parties. I was positive that my dad, the smartest man in the world, had come up with it all by himself. It wasn't until the other day, when I made the connection between the game and my sink and asked him to explain how he invented Ooey Gooey, that he crushed my dreams and told me about Officer Don.

Regardless of where the idea came from, I'm thankful I was made to stick my hand in raw eggs and ketchup as a child. It was useful in teaching me a very important adult skill, right up there with financial planning and laundry.

Here's to my next house having a garbage disposal, so I won't have to put that skill to use anymore.

eau de step 2

As you read this, Y is taking step 2 of his boards. They say step 2 isn't as big of a deal as step 1, and it's true, there weren't as many brushes with crazy as during Step 1 (as seen here and here) and there did seem to be a lot of ping pong games in the lounge...

Regardless, there has been some serious studying going on and Y needs a break. And if you won't take my word for it, take Ike's.

As I've mentioned, Ike enjoys long walks in the park and snuggling with items that smell like us. The other day, I caught him snuggling with something that, understandably, has Y's scent all over it:

A study guide.

When your study materials start to smell like you, it's probably time to get the test over with. Am I right?

By the way, I think Y appreciated the half-asleep wisdom I came up with this morning as he left: "Remember, all step 2 is is putting your junk in that box."

on peeing in a cup

a portrait of an uppity, pee-judging health professional

I'm not a fan of carrying my own urine around.

I came to this conclusion after agreeing to pee in a cup every day for 3 months. One of our friends is doing research during her 4th year of med school, and her team is collecting urine samples from women to track our levels of some kind of virus, the nature of which I promptly forgot after signing the forms I was given.

The refrigerator at work where I have to store my pee cup is about 50 feet from the bathroom. But that 50 feet is heavily trafficked. People have seen me clutching my little cup. And for some reason, this makes me extremely uncomfortable.

I'm not sure why; another 100 feet away from the refrigerator is a hall of patients who have exposed themselves in far more personal ways than a glimpse of their urine in a cup. Maybe, since most of the people I pass are medical professionals of some kind, I think they're judging my sample?

And if they're not medical professionals, I assume they just think it's gross. (Because that's what I would do.)

While thinking about how ridiculous I am (a favorite pastime of mine), I realized that maybe, just maybe, I actually had an advantage in this specific situation. Because in my lifetime, most likely the only urine I will have to deal with will be that of someone related to me. Not the case for most of those uppity, pee-judging health professionals I pass in the hall.

And while I was looking on the bright side of this situation, I also realized that there was no chance of me:
a) meeting the man of my dreams in the hallway while carrying a cup of urine or
b) running into my crush (literally) and spilling urine all over him.

Also, I get paid to do this.

That's a lot of whining for a 30 second walk and 70 dollars, am I right?

couch potatoes

In the summer, when our handful of television shows are off the air, we tend to overcompensate. We start at the beginning of a series we've never seen, watch it obsessively, send back to Netflix and repeat. Not surprisingly, we have tv on the brain.

Specifically, we have Parks and Rec on the brain. Everything Aziz Ansari does makes me laugh, so I'm not sure why we just recently started watching. And Leslie's love interest in Season 3 made me giddy in a Jim/Pam or Logan/Veronica way (Any Veronica Mars fans out there?).

Our recent Parks and Rec marathon explains the following situation. The other night at approximately 2 am, Y must have been having a dream that I ran off with Rob Lowe. I assume this because he rolled over and mumbled, "Are you going to leave me for Rob Lowe?"

Without missing a beat I replied -- while pretty much still asleep, mind you -- "I would lit-rally never do that."

And the following situation can't really be explained. Y has been speaking to a secretary at the school where he was planning to do an away rotation. I asked him what she sounded like (because I saw her picture and needed a voice to match to her face, I'm weird like that). He replied, "Harriet."

I cocked my head. "Harriet?"

He rolled his eyes. "Harriet. Duh. Winslow. From Family Matters."

Which brings us to something I've been wondering since we had this conversation: when you reference a character from a sitcom that was on over 15 years ago, can you really just use a first name?

Speaking of tv, and speaking of Y's away rotation, I have recently removed ER from my Netflix queue. More on that later. In its place we've been watching Scrubs, which I've heard is the most true to life medical show out there. We just finished episode 4, where JD sleeps with a patient. So...yeah...


The scene: an impromptu frozen yogurt date. The girl, unstoppably excited about her signature combination of pistachio yogurt, raspberries, and mochi, dives in a bit too quickly. The cold enters the roof of her mouth and envelopes her. She stops, mid conversation, the brain freeze apparent on her face.

The boy stares at her with a loving smile on his face. Through the girl's crushing pain, she appreciates this look, as if he wishes he could do anything to make it stop. When it does, the girl gives the boy a look of relief.

He opens his mouth, the girl can only assume, to tell her he can't stand to see her in such pain; that he hopes he never has to see that pained look on her face again.

The boy opens his mouth,

"Know why that hurts? The blood vessels in the roof of your mouth rapidly contract then expand, causing pain in that nerve, which then refers to the covering of your brain. The covering of your bain is literally what's hurting you right now. That's why they call it brain freeze."

The girl makes a mental note of the subtle difference between the boy's "loving" gaze and the boy's "I know something you don't know" gaze.

on colonoscopies

I'm a very visual person. When someone tells me a story, I set up the scene in my head. What the room looks like, how many people are there, where people are standing, etc. If I actually visit the place in question later, I usually find out that I was dead wrong. But I still need my imaginary visual in place to be able to pay attention to the story.

Last year when Y was on his surgery rotation, he started telling me something funny someone said during a colonoscopy. As I started to create my fantasy-colonoscopy world (doesn't that sound fun? Sim Colonoscopy, anyone?), I realized I couldn't complete the scenario in my head: I wasn't sure exactly how one is positioned during a colonoscopy.

This was vital to my understanding of the story. So I interrupted Y and asked him.

Y has expressed interested in taking an academic career path; he's always liked to teach. So he did what any good teacher would do in this situation: demonstrated the proper position of a patient undergoing a colonoscopy:

That's the last time I ask him a medical question.

re: your wife's diarrhea

Last weekend we were at a wine tasting party discovering the wonders of chocolate wine (it tastes like chocolate milk!) and "pregnancy" wine (it tastes like melted plastic!), when Y started to feel ill and we had to leave.

Later, the host of the party (a fellow medical student) texted Y and asked, "Your stomach hurt? Did you end up vomiting or having diarrhea?"

It occurred to me that if I had been the one to leave the party with a stomachache, his friends would have asked the same question about me. And I'm guessing Y would have told them, because intestinal issues are just intestinal issues, and we're all human.

I imagine, in normal life, that friends don't ask friends about their wife's (or their own!) diarrhea. I certainly don't tell my friends about anything of that nature. I know these guys have seen it all, and upset stomachs are probably on the low end of the grossness spectrum. But... it weirds me out to think that my medical issues could be fair game for discussion

What do you think? Would it weird you out for your husband's friends to know your bowels' every move... even if they were doctors?

neurosurgery scars

I don't know if you can see it, but I have a neurosurgery scar on my shin.

Part of me wishes I could tell you it was from some innovative new brain surgery technique where they go in through the leg. The other part of me is glad I've never needed brain surgery.

Nope, it turns out my scar is a casualty of the lifestyle of a neurosurgeon. Or in our case, a pretend neurosurgeon.

Y was exhausted after a week of waking up at 4 am to assist with observe brain surgery. So, he went to bed at 6:30 one night. When I tiptoed to bed 4 hours later, it was pitch black. I thought I might be courteous and leave the light off.

Apparently (in a lack-of-sleep induced state?) Y hadn't thought about being courteous and closing his dresser drawer -- the corner of which, when opened, is right in my path to the bed. It sliced right across my leg. (Commence wincing.)

Hence, my neurosurgery scar.

on being the wife of a medical student

Over a week after I asked my friends to weigh in on their experiences being pegged as a stay-at-home doctor's wife, I think it's finally my turn. Warning: this post ended up longer than I expected. So if you want nothing but funny videos and a picture of Ike, scroll to the bottom.

My experience might be unique, it might not. In the town we live in, medical professionals are everywhere. Example: when it comes to bar dress codes, scrubs are almost as popular as Affliction t-shirts. Stethoscopes peek out of purses at Starbucks. In yoga, the pre-class chatter revolves around Step 1. And on top of it all, I work at the medical school. My father-in-law works at the medical school. 75% of dinner table conversations revolve around medicine, the medical school, people at the medical school, etc. Sometimes it feels like my entire life revolves around something that, quite frankly, I'm not interested in except on the most basic of levels.

This by itself kind of makes me feel like an outcast; like I should be part of the community. And believe me, I've had people ask me what I do, and then ask -- almost accusingly --, "Why aren't you in med school?"

I majored in advertising in college (which should be a good enough explanation of why I'm not in med school). On the first day of class, we usually had to introduce ourselves and tell why we majored in advertising. A lot of people simply shrugged and said, "it had the least required science credits." I share that sentiment. But the real reason I majored in advertising?

It's embarrassing.

It has to do with a Mel Gibson romantic comedy.

That's right. I saw the movie What Women Want, and thought, I want to do what they're doing. Also, isn't that the little girl from Growing Pains? How old am I?

It turns out it was a pretty good fit - I really enjoyed the creative process that led to advertising campaigns. And I wasn't terrible at it. But my senior year, we had a huge final project that doubled as a national competition. Our product was a locking mailbox. (The year before us had Coke and the year after us got something equally fun. We got... a locking mailbox.)

If you can't read the text... you'll be okay. It's incredibly boring. Because it's an industry ad for a LOCKING MAILBOX.

During a lesson in presenting our ad campaign, our professor told us, in what seemed to me like complete seriousness, "You have to sell this idea. If one of your co-presenters keels over with a heart attack in the middle of your presentation, push them out of the way and finish. your. pitch."

I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. They warned us in school that any ad agency we would end up working at would be hell compared to the environment at school. If my teacher was this serious, I finally got a sense that the general attitude in the advertising world was even more so. SELL YOUR PRODUCT OR ELSE.

I decided that I couldn't do it. But it wasn't long until I discovered the concept of social marketing, which uses the principles of marketing and the same processes I loved so much in advertising to change behaviors for social good.

When we moved here, I did what I thought would be the closest thing to experience for that specific niche:

1) I enrolled in a Masters in Public Health program (to better understand behavior change theories and all of the social problems in the world)

2) I took a job in health communication - the big sell was that I would be on a team that creates a nationally distributed series of guides focusing on living with certain chronic diseases.

(I didn't realize it also involved catering to medical students by picking up bakery treats for their small groups and ensuring that some of their lectures went as smoothly as possible. I don't mind doing this -- are you kidding? I would never complain about having to enter a bakery-- but occasionally it does make me feel even more like there is absolutely nothing in the world as important as being a medical student.)

ANYWAY. A few weeks ago I was in Tampa taking a 5 day intensive course on social marketing, where we learned how to create campaigns like this one:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ytMx7irm-c&w=480&h=390]

and this one:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElgkLZX401E&w=480&h=390]

By the way, when I explained in that course that my undergrad degree was in advertising and my masters was in public health, it was suddenly like I was the most qualified person in the room. That has never happened before. People usually look at me like this: