Monthly Archives: January 2015

The gut, the brain, the heart: one pack of note cards to rule them all.

Hey, guys! Long time no see!! And so much has happened since the last time we talked…

I soaked up a few glorious moments of Miami sun. I turned 31 and ate Mexican food. I got the grays dyed right out of my hair. I found out that my friend Jess is basically an international celebrity and am still riding a total pride high over it. And the biggest deal of all? Boston got snowed on!!!

Perhaps you’d already heard?

There are a lot of ideas swirling around in my noggin… some have even made it onto the screen in short bursts. I want to tell you about why 31 was almost not but actually is just fine. I want to confess to you about the guilt I harbor over my reaction to Paul Tangen in the sixth grade. I want to tell you about the new church I am desperate to join– the Church of Marie (although Marie seems to think it makes her sound too “deified” so I’m working on another name). I want to tell you why I think gonorrhea is better than cookies.

So many ideas!

But for now, because I’m having a tough time getting this thing up and running again, I’m going to piggyback on my friend Aimee’s suggestion (not this Aimee, or this Aimie, or even my other friend Amy), but Aimee… Aimee from gonorrhea-land. One of my most favorite curly girls on this great green earth. She likes note cards, you see, and so do I. And when she saw my latest, greatest note card insanity in a Facebook post, she wanted to know more about it. So I’m going to tell you more about it.

Then maybe, on account of being inspired by this particular Aimee (oh how I love all A-MEs! never met a bad one!) we can seamlessly transition into the gonorrhea vs. cookie debate. It’s fun to inspire people to talk about STDs and cool to encourage people to talk about bake goods. Both? Ah-dang.

So… this:

note cards

Note cards. Love them. Multi-colored note cards? Too bad I’m already married…

Seriously though, this was a genius idea born of self-preservation and I’m not even going to be humble about it at all. Buckle up.

Sister Doctor is about to get officially doctorified: M-period-D-period.

Only two more steps on the way to surgical oncologist-dom.

Two more steps… nine-ish more years.

Approximately seven in the next locale. Seven years in a general surgery residency. And Sister Doctor is in high demand. Stellar test scores, glowing recommendations, research experience, honors up the wazoo, you know. All these programs are falling all over each other begging her to come here, no here, no here!!

It’s a good problem to have, of course. But also makes for a tough decision. Seven years. Surgery residency. Nothing to sneeze at.

Especially if the wind of your sneeze is likely to mess up your beautiful note care display. Got to be careful, you know! This kind of thing takes a lot of work.

Let’s be real honest for a second though.

Sister Doctor was driving me cra-zy! She was obsesssssssssing. Out loud. To me. To my husband. To my dog. To my house.

It was, shall we say, unproductive. And a bit annoying.

Real annoying.

So I brainstormed. I bought some note cards. Sister Doctor and I brainstormed again, together this time. And then I sent her quietly on her way to fill out the note cards.

Hear that?

Quiet, productive obsessing.

That’s my kind of obsessing.


I don’t want to make light of this decision, because it’s a big one for Sister Doctor and Mr. Doctor and little puppy Doctor too. But I think that after nearly 20 interviews all over this great big country (truly east coast to west coast and back again and again and again), Sister Doctor had something of a gut feeling about what felt right.

But to trust the gut?!

On something this big?!

Heck to the no.

A decision this big calls for options, priorities, pros, cons, and the like. So that’s what we did.

First, I asked Sister Doctor to describe the things that mattered to her. We made a list.

Then we reviewed the list of 13 items and ranked them in order of importance. Each institution was assigned a color and we wrote out each of the thirteen questions on a note card in the appropriate color. Sister Doctor spent the next week (quietly) writing out the answers and this week, we laid it all out… to see what would happen.

The 13 criteria down the left, the five institutions across the top with a strand of yarn down the middle to divide the pros (left) from the cons (right). Straddlers are neutral of course. And we laid out the cards– let the chips fall where they may.

Except what if you hate where the chips fall?

Just as telling! If you’re not sure about your gut feeling before the cards– I guarantee you will be after. There’s no mistaking the disappointment you’ll feel if the choice that pops out on top isn’t the one you really want.


So… did it work? Too early to tell. The cards are still on the table. We’re still a hemming and hawing. But Sister Doctor will get there, she’ll make a decision. And she’ll, at the very least, know that she’s thought it out very, very carefully.

Of course, there’s no perfect decision. Never is. Nothing’s perfect. So it’s still hard. But the note cards have made it a little easier for Sister Doctor to think about.

A little quieter for the rest of us in the house.

Win-win. We’re all looking forward to match day!


Doesn’t matter how you do it, getting to doctor-dom is a headache. Note cards help.

… or construction paper…

Back in our day, it was construction paper and colored markers all the way to quals... doctor-dom, a headache no matter what.
Back in our day, it was construction paper and colored markers all the way to quals… doctor-dom, a headache no matter what.


For seriously though, you know what you know. It’s there, it’s in your head, your heart, your gut. But getting the three to connect? That can be somewhat tricksy. That’s where the note cards really come into play. They can reinforce what you feel, they can make it become what you know, and ultimately, what you believe. It never hurts to just see it all laid out there in front of you.

I’ve been doing it for years. Decades even. The note card industry basically survives because of people like me. I’m ok with that.



Fun Fact: The big and famous surgeon who wrote Sister Doctor’s most glowing and influential recommendation letter recently SLAMMED a paper I’ve been working on for over a year with a local endocrinologist. I’m super happy for Sister Doctor, but if I ever get a goiter, I’m leaving it in just to spite Mr. Oh-So-Famous Surgeon Man. That’ll show him!


My freshmen year of college, some friends and I went taert-ro-kcirt-ing in the dorms on Halloween. Taert-ro-kcirt-ing is trick-or-treating backwards. Obviously.

We dressed up (just barely– some cat ears and butterfly wings or something of the sort) and went from door to door with a plastic jack-o-lantern full of candy that we handed out. Maybe we collected for UNICEF or something while we were at it? I can’t really remember… but I do remember it being an absolute blast.

I’m normally pretty scared to interact with people, especially people I don’t know. And people I do know. So all people, actually. But when we taert-ro-kcirt-ed, I don’t really remember minding at all. I felt silly and confident and fun as we knocked on each door and handed out candy and a smile– people didn’t expect it, they were so happy. Like I said, an absolute blast.

And maybe it is that simple. When you want to do the opposite of something, just turn the word around and do it. That easy.

I hope anyway. And here’s why.

Remember that chocolate I told you about earlier this week? All of that delicious and amazing chocolate?

Do you also remember about that little binge eating thing that tends to haunt me from time to time?

Welllll…. this:

A trash can full of shame...
A trash can full of shame…

Sigh. It was not the best afternoon of my life.

Delicious, of course, but so very out of control.

But why? When I have so much to look forward to!

I mean, first thing tomorrow morning, I’m getting on a plane and heading to Miami, one of the only places in the country currently untouched by this mess:

So much cold, so much snow.
So much cold, so much snow.

… where I will meet my husband for a lovely long weekend and to attend his work Christmas party where all of his co-workers and their spouses will be waiting to meet me and look at me and talk to me and realize how ugly and stupid and weird and lame I am…

Ah ha!!

I’m stressed. Stressed backward is desserts. So I’m eating desserts. Doing the opposite.

It’s science, don’t think too hard about it.

And the reason I’m stressed?

Really… it’s because I’m terrified. And even worse, I am certain that all of Seth’s coworkers and their spouses and basically all of the people of Miami are going to hate me.

What’s not to hate?! My jaw is so square. My hair is going to be so frizzy (Miami?! of all places!! with this HAIR?!). I haven’t lost any weight (I wanted to lose weight first!) and my clothes come from Target. I’m almost thirty-ONE and I have ZERO kids and I’m a NERD. A huge nerd. I really wish my right eye would open up as far as my left. Oh god oh god oh god. What am I even going to WEAR? What in my closet is the least make-you-hate-me-able of all???


Cheese and rice.

I have got to stop.


I assume that everyone who meets me down in Miami is going to hate me.

All evidence points to the contrary, of course– Seth loves these people and they love him back. Seth is awesome and Seth chose me so of course they’ll love me too. And if they don’t? B… F… D…

Not everybody clicks, and that’s ok. A truffle for everyone, you know?

But maybe it would be better to head to Miami with my jack-o-lantern full of candy before I start knocking on doors, if you know what I mean. To ditch the assumptions and just emussa instead that everyone is going to love me. That’s the opposite, of course.

Think it could be that simple?


Probably. And here’s why.


… I assumed that Theresa wouldn’t want to be in my book club because she was pretty and wearing fancy jewelry and drinking a fancy drink and married to a doctor and just seemed so cool. She overheard me telling someone else about it, though, and begged me to let her in. We’ve been texting ever since. I really, really like her.

… I assumed that Kristen wouldn’t want to be my friend because she’s pretty and thin and a pediatrician and therefore a “class A” doctor (not kidding about the classification system at my place of employment, that’s real), but today, after we ate lunch together, which we do pretty regularly, that Grumpy Gus told me I had “lifted her spirits” and wished me well  on my trip to Miami. We’re hanging out for my birthday next week.

… I assumed that my very young friend Emily (like younger than my sister AND brother) wouldn’t want to be my friend anymore after our mutual slightly-closer-to-both-our-ages-friend moved away over the summer, but Emily’s coming to my birthday dinner next week too. And also we do yoga and crafts and watch trash tv together. Traaaaaaash.


I wonder how much time, stress, and probably desserts, I could have saved myself from wasting, experiencing, and eating, respectively, had I gone in emussa-ing instead??? Not to mention how much cooler I could have played it if I hadn’t been busy trying to keep them from hating me instead of letting them like me like they were always going to do. (That’s a super confusing sentence. Leaving it.)

Eventually, this afternoon, I went to a little mini holiday party and ate some cocktail weenies (oy, so good) and got over it just a bit. I chatted with some people from another department (who I originally assumed hated me… but totally don’t– another excellent example of that assuming crap) and stopped the spiral. I’m going to face the day tomorrow essuma-ing instead of assume-ing and everyone is going to love me in Miami.

Or not. But it honestly doesn’t matter.

Regardless, the weather will certainly be warmer and I’ll get to spend a bit of time with my long lost husband (it’s really only two weeks, I’m being dramatic) and (you do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around) that’s what it’s all about!



Coincidentally, I’ve talked about assuming before. But unfortunately, Tim Haight never taught me what happens when you assume something about yourself. Like that you’re super hate-worthy. Lessons are so much more difficult to learn on your own. I wish Tim were here.

He’d probably hate me anyway 😉


I’m so neurotic. You knew that already. Don’t hate me, k?

What Forrest Gump said.

Life is like a box of chocolates.

Did you read that with Tom Hanks’s perfect, slow, southern drawl? Such a good actor!! Maybe you even prefaced it with “mama always said…”

It’s just such a classic line. We’ve all heard it. We all know it. I think most of us agree that it is true.

You never know what you’re gonna get.

This Christmas season, my office was spoiled rotten with chocolates. SPOILED, I tell you! Completely rotten. It was so delicious.

One of the boxes was particularly fascinating. It came from Vosges Haut-Chocolat (fancy pants chocolates!) and had some of the most unique (that’s the nice way of saying weird) truffle flavors I had ever encountered– things I never would have even dreamed up! But man, did they ever WORK.

I didn’t sample them all, of course. Some were simply too unique and I was too chicken to try it. And sometimes I just couldn’t justify taking another lactaid. (And I remembered right away how important it is to take a lactaid with chocolate. Lactase?! Lactase?! Why have you forsaken me?!)

(Are you Catholic?… Yes, I did just replace the phrase “My God” with “Lactase” in a classic Easter-time responsorial psalm… probably blasphemy. I’m kind of known for that around here.)

Sometimes I just remembered that the box wasn’t entirely for me and the respect I have for my colleagues (where respect = fear of judgement) prevented me from eating any more.

Regardless, those that I did try, even the really weird ones, were absolutely phenomenal. So amazing that I even emailed my Aunt Susan and Uncle Ed to apologize for my previously very cavalier attitude toward good chocolate. I had laughed at Ed’s use of the word divine, which sounds super serious with a Scottish accent, but now I get it. And I owed them an apology.

So if life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get…

I posit that PEOPLE are like this divine box of chocolates. Even the weird ones just seem to WORK. For someone, at least.

I did not expect to looooove a dark chocolate truffle sprinkled with paprika. But I did.

And there are a whole lot of people that I would consider dark chocolate truffles sprinkled with paprika or creamy plum-powder caramels covered in milk chocolate and sprinkled with pink Himalayan sea salt (oddly specific, right? so delicious though– who comes up with these things?!)… odd, intriguing, unique… amazing.

Of course, not every taste suits every palate, but when I saw all of those descriptions laid out before me on the fancy truffle map (I love those guides to the box!), I could certainly appreciate the uniqueness and interest of every last one.

It was easy to do when it was chocolate.

I want it to be easier to do with people, too.

Even a box of Russell Stover can taste amazing. A delicious molasses chew for me, a chocolate covered cherry for my Seth. A truffle for everyone and for everyone a truffle!!

I think the trick is appreciating it for what it is– a unique combination. Something different. Maybe it’s not your taste, but it’s still special and delicious to someone. I may not get why you love it, but that doesn’t make you love it any less.

And in the above paragraph, the “it” can be a chocolate or a person. Same, same.


My friend Jess once told me that my palate was likely to change as I got older. I wanted to believe her, but honestly didn’t… I’ve just had such strong aversions to certain textures and flavors and tastes and smells my whole life. I couldn’t imagine anything else.

Yet here I am today, eating zucchini and adding (pureed) onions to my soup. (Yes, I just pretend that I’m my own toddler and get myself to eat healthy things by hiding them. Works quite well, actually.) These aren’t just baby steps– these things are enormous for me!

The fancy truffles, and my attraction to all sorts of different folks, are my grown up palate. The one Jess promised me several years ago. The chocolate is delicious. And the people? All of their unique and unexpected qualities– absolutely the best!