SQT: Small triumphs

Seven nearly-random observations about life on 8/11/17.

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  1. I just made a record-fast trip to the DMV to renew my driver’s license. I brought approximately 80 pounds of school books to prep for lessons (starting school in 10 days! ack!) and then only made it through one before they called me.  I am happy to report that my photo is marginally better than the one I had taken 13 years ago, immediately after my worst haircut ever. (It was a “short shag” and is the only haircut I’ve ever gone back to have fixed after the fact.)
  2. When I got home I realized I’m flying to my uncle’s funeral tomorrow and have no driver’s license (for up to 30 days.) Thank goodness my passport is current.
  3. Our farmers are donating a full share of vegetables to our refugee friends. It had taken so long for her to call me I’d given up, but instead it’s just been a busy year. (I can relate to that.) So starting next week, they’ll be getting delicious yumminess like this: image.  Hooray!
  4. Owen’s godmother was in town and took him out to brunch. It has been such a blessing over the years to have my children’s godparents to share in the care of and prayer for our children. (As an added bonus, I got to spend time with her too, after brunch.)
  5. I have been following the IAAF track and field world championships, mostly on youtube. (If you know a better way to do it without cable, please let me know.)  The most impressive thing I’ve seen so far is the sprint finish (after 26 miles!) of the women’s marathon.  (That’s a youtube link.)  Those women are amazing.
  6. We spent yesterday in the mountains with my friend Christine and her kids. She and I have been friends since medical school (24 years now).  Even though the kids are getting older, all of mine rearranged work and other schedules so we could spend the day together. (Side note: it still startles me that the kids’ calendars are as busy as mine.)
  7. I know I came across as an Instant Pot skeptic on my recent post.  However, I just hard-boiled a dozen eggs (start to finish, 22 minutes, so only slightly faster than on the stove) which were the easiest-to-peel eggs I’ve ever made.  I thought I had tried all the tricks on how to make a fresh hen’s egg peelable, and none had worked till now.  The Instant Pot made the perfect hard-boiled egg.

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I really, really hope Owen is standing on a rock.

Check out Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum for more quick takes.

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Daybook 8.7.17

Outside my window: rain. We were supposed to meet friends for a hike, but due to a high fever and rain (or, either one of them individually), this is what we’re doing instead:

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Yes, that is the 2014 movie, Annie. I like to think of it as Dickens lite.

In the kitchen: Meal prep. This is the difference between cooking on vacation and cooking during the school year. I plan my meals and shopping year-round, but during the school year, I don’t have time to cook ingredients on school days. So I broke down and bought an Instant Pot. (This link will take you to the an affiliate link for the Instant Pot on Amazon, and any purchase you make will benefit a great organization, Foster Source, that supports foster families. If you buy through them, Colorado foster families receive training and direct support. Thank you!) The Instant Pot jury (that would be me) is still out. Yes, I can cook an enormous amount of chicken for salads and enchiladas and future recipes in less than an hour, but man, the thing is huge. I feel like NASA every time I turn it on. Is this the time it’s going to explode?

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Before I loaded up the rocket Instant Pot, Moriah made miniature apple strudels for lunch. At some point I will have to come up with something else to have with them.

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Also, I have some bread rising. It’s my first time making this recipe (Oatmeal Bread, from The More with Less Cookbook) since early spring, when it got too hot to bake bread. I always seem to forget something on the first round. Initially, it required a trip to the grocery store, because I forgot to check my ingredients before I started throwing things in the bowl. Hopefully I didn’t forget to put anything in the bowl.

What I’m hearing: Dear Evan Hansen on Pandora, which means a funny potpourri of clear tenors (like You’ll Be Back, from Hamilton) and angsty high school songs (like Beautiful from Heathers). Also, a chicken is announcing that she just laid an egg. That’s a different kind of angst.

In the school room: school supplies. I love them. Also, stacks of books and half-laid plans. I have a ways to go. More on school planning coming up.

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On my reading list: I’ve been listening to All Clear on my runs and hikes. I’m also rereading The Martian (see above note about NASA) while I wait for Lost in a Good Book (book two in the Tuesday Next series) by Jasper Fforde to come in at the library.

On my mind: Our numbers are dwindling around here. Jonah is working about 20 hours a week, and Owen has been volunteering most days this summer. It has meant a constantly changing number of faces around our table, and in and out of the house. This fall will be more of the same, with Jonah at a local college for classes a few days each week. I guess it’s getting me ready for next year’s big shift, but even this is uncomfortable.

Grateful: for our weekend celebrations of my dad’s 80th birthday. (He would like to say that, despite how this photo appears, he is not an invalid. We were going for “king on throne” but managed instead to achieve “doting family surrounding patriarch in wheelchair.”)

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Praying for: Mandy, Judy, Christine, Lori, Ruth. My aunt and cousins, who are mourning my uncle’s death. Patience and peace, even in the midst of change.

In which I remember what I forgot

We had an 18-hour turnaround time between coming home from the beach and leaving for the mountains for a weekend with friends. It would have felt like more time except that my Instant Pot (which I bought on Prime Day) had arrived, and I used six of those precious hours making Roast Potatoes, Pork Carnitas, and Beets. (For the record, they were all delicious, but the time it takes the pot to decompress at the end of the cooking time needs to be written down for all recipes, instead of a vague and nebulous “allow a natural release to occur.”)

Here are my daughters in our boat. Can you spot what’s unusual about this photo? (Answer below*.)

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The weather forecast for hours and hours of rain. We were grateful that our friends loaned us their house for the weekend. Sleeping in a beautiful, dry house is much better than sleeping in a wet tent.

Saturday morning, we laid around for a long time before we finally drove five minutes to the lake and the boat launch by our (dry) campsite.

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We unpacked the boats and realized I had forgotten to bring the sail*. This isn’t the first year I’ve forgotten a key piece of sailing paraphernalia. From past years, I have learned that the blue sailboat works as a canoe if I leave the tiller in it, so the girls were still able to paddle across the lagoon to “discover” the peninsula. That seemed really cool until we let the boys paddle significantly further to an island, but I promised that when they are 14 and 17, they will be allowed to go to the island, too.

Again, their competence was a shock to me. I know that coaching my children into competence is my job, and I spend a significant portion of my life doing just that. But their growing abilities still catch me off guard.

Sunday morning, I took advantage of the amazing weather (not a raindrop in sight, either day!) to take a run.  The path headed down from our friends’ house, across the road, and then along the lake. Again, I let myself stop whenever I wanted to admire the view (with or without the camera).

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The farther I ran, the better it got. Until I turned around and realized that now I had to run the same distance uphill. The view was still incredible, if lacking in oxygen.

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And now I’m home. Ten days away served their purpose to help me see home- with all its joys and responsibilities- with fresh eyes.

But next time I’m running uphill first.

Hello, friends. I’m back.

Well, hello there.  I’m glad to see you.  It’s been awhile.

You may have gathered from the sporadic nature of my posts in May and June that I was drowning a little bit. Drowning is too strong a word, but I was definitely treading water as fast as I could and couldn’t stop to write about it.

Now I’m back from a week on the beach and a weekend in the mountains, and I feel more like myself. Hopeful. Mostly content. Like tackling the mountain of laundry won’t quite do me in.

I’m here to ramble a bit about our vacations and how good it is to be home. Will you have a cup of tea with me?

Our beach trip was preceded by a panicked email from our rental company. Repairs on our unit (from last fall’s hurricane) weren’t finished, and they needed to move us to a different house. I spent a few days mad that they were moving us half a mile from the rest of Sam’s family and further from the beach… and then I got over it. The space worked well (good beds!) and we still were able to spend every day on the beach in way form or another. What was I all worked up about?

We spent the week:

feeding seagulls…
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burying cousins…
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walking at night…
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with the kids…
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and without…
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It had been 2 years since our last trip to the beach, and the kids were so much more independent than before.  It made for a much more relaxed week. I tried a few new things this year:

I bought flowers for our house. Every day I looked at them on the table and felt happy.

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I ran more.  And instead of focusing on how far or fast I was running, I stopped and took photos.

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I worried less about how many episodes of Friends the kids watched, and spent my time reading instead.

I polled everyone in our family before we went about what they wanted to do while we were there, and then we made (most) of those things happen early on. The only thing on the list we couldn’t do was spend a day at the National Seashore, which was my item. And you know what? That was okay, too. I allowed myself a little time to grieve it, and then I enjoyed what I had, which was pretty incredible.

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Next time we go- whenever that is- I plan to rent this bike and ride around town all week, except for when I’m reading books or walking on the beach.

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I’ll be back tomorrow with the final weekend of our trip, which we spent two thousand miles further west with more water.

The Trump Budget Cuts to HRSA will be very expensive

The American Association of Medical Colleges estimates that we will have a shortage of 4000-30,000 primary care doctors by 2025. Even now, 45 states have fewer psychiatrists for their population than they had in 2009, despite well-publicized epidemics of opiate addictions and suicide around the country.

I work in a Community Health Center (CHC) with a team of other doctors, PAs (physician assistants) and NPs (nurse practitioners), dentists, licensed therapists and psychologists. Our 13 clinics in northeastern Colorado provide more than 74,000 patient visits per year. We provide medical, dental and mental health services to people of all ages, with a focus on low-income and underserved populations, including migrant farm workers. Many of us came to work in a CHC because of scholarships and loan repayment provided by the National Health Service Corps (NHSC), which paid for 3 years of my medical school in exchange for 3 years of full-time employment in an FQHC (Federally Qualified Health Center). After completing my three years of payback, I have worked another fourteen years in Community Health Centers.

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Map courtesy of HRSA.

Among the many other more dramatic changes in President Trump’s proposed budget are deep cuts to the budget for the Health and Human Services Administration (HRSA), which administers the NHSC scholarship program.  Graduates of the NHSC provide medical care in the areas of most shortage, including CHCs/FQHCs and FQHC-lookalikes in inner-cities and rural areas, correctional facilities, immigration holding centers, Indian Health Service clinics and Tribal Hospitals, migrant clinics, school-based clinics, community mental health facilities and critical access hospitals, all of which provide care regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. 10,400 current providers (and an uncounted number of post-NHSC alumni like me) provide care to 23 million of Americans who otherwise would have little-to-no access to health care, either because of geography, incarceration or poverty.

President Trump’s current budget proposes $400 million less for the NHSC and programs to train medical students and nurses in primary care. President Trump has called these programs “ineffective,” a statement which disregards years of research which has shown how effective community health centers (CHCs) are.  Despite the fact that most CHC patients are typically more complicated than patients in an office-based practice,

Community Health Centers save $24 billion in health care every year. Cutting the program that funds the training for and administration of this network is short-sighted and ill-advised. Community Health Centers save both lives and money. Let your Representative and Senators know how important your state’s CHCs are to your state.

Daybook: Mid-June

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It’s been a long time since I’ve written a daybook.  I’ve missed the ritual of logging my thoughts here.

Outside my window: Heat. I’m back to opening the windows early to lower the temperature inside the house, and then closing them up at the nadir.  Yesterday (which hit 87 degrees) the A/C didn’t come on until 4 pm.  Not bad.  I didn’t get it as low today, though, so I think the air will be on longer.

In the kitchen: Our first CSA farm delivery will happen this week.  I’m looking forward to peas and garlic scapes.  Last night I made this chimichurri (minus the jalapenos). Delicious.

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In the garden: The flowers are really beautiful right now.  The vegetables are growing as fast as they can… probably trying to make up for lost time, since I planted them so late.  The chickens got out of their yard last night (someone left the gate open), but the hens were so overcome by the delectable glory of green grass that they didn’t even notice my vegetables. Phew.

What I’m hearing: Owen is playing the piano. It’s a little wonky, because Jonah broke the harpsichord pedal. The middle range is stuck on harpsichord, and the outer octaves are still piano.  Here’s hoping the tuner will know how to fix it.

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In the school room: We have started our summer reading program, as well as one from the Tattered Cover (a local bookstore we love).  Jonah is studying occasionally for the SAT subject tests.  (I wrote the date down wrong and didn’t realize I had the date wrong until after he’d missed it. Whoops. Now he’s rescheduled to take them in August.)  Everyone else is doing a little math every few days, though not as consistently as I’d like.

Summer rhythms:  We are sticking to our 7-things-before-getting-on-a-device plan, although I need to make some adjustments, namely: after they’re on the computer/phone, I need to have an ending time so it doesn’t magically morph into the rest of the day.

I had grand plans for my writing this month, but today was the first day I’ve been able to type after nearly amputating my fingertip last week.  The ER was able to throw a stitch in it to reattach it, though I suspect the fingernail is never going to be quite right again.

Jonah is babysitting and working at the library.  Owen completed a junior-lifeguard training last week and is assisting teaching swim lessons and lifeguarding for the next few weeks. The girls just wrapped up a ballet performance on Saturday and are looking forward to our neighborhood theater camp.

On my mind: How long will it be until a black life is recognized as the having the same God-given value as a white life?   The words of Job 19:7 are on my heart: “’Though I cry, “Violence!” I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice.'”

Grateful: For a fantastic visit from my sister-in-law Mandy last week.  We had a blast playing Exploding Kittens and hanging out and doing crafts.

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Wow, this is some great posture my kids have!

I’m grateful for my dad, and Sam who is an amazing dad to our children.

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For the blast we had at the Dignity Festival this weekend.  My kids were willing (with a little prodding) to journey out of their comfort zones to learn about the challenges and strength of the refugee community here in Colorado.

For the persistence and courage of journalists and bloggers who are not willing to take easy answers to their questions and have the guts to write the truth, even when it’s hard.  I am grateful to those whose words and example open my eyes to my own prejudice and ignorance. (For good writing on the subject of racism and the Church in America, here is a place to start.)

Praying for: Judy. Mandy. Justine & family. Jen.  Lori. Christine.  Mary & family.  Laughter.  Refugees, both near and far. A first response of “yes!” to my kids, instead of, “I’m too busy.”  For justice to roll like a river.  Healing for my hand.  To be woke, and stay that way.

Head Game

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The view on a recent morning run.

Let’s talk endurance for a minute, shall we? As many of you know, I developed a running injury last August. I went from running 8 miles to struggling to walk to the mailbox.

I was blessed to have access to great PT and time to do my exercises and was cleared to start running again in January (that’s right, it was almost 5 months). I expected to complete a couch-to-5K program by mid-March and to be running a 10K at the end of May.

Instead, my head got in the way.

All the months I had been training physically last summer had also trained my head to think, “I can do this.” Completing 5- and 6- and 7- and 8-mile runs had gone right into my confidence bank, and it was full.  Until I couldn’t run at all, and my mental balance was zero.

Instead of thinking “I’ve got this!” every time I run, I’m now thinking, “What if I get injured again? Maybe I should only run 2 miles today.” My mental game is shot.

I completely underestimated the power of my brain to make me run.

The first 2 miles of every run are okay, but by mile three, my head starts telling me I can’t do it. What if I get injured again? What if I’m increasing my mileage too quickly? Was that a twinge in my foot? What if it’s starting again? Maybe running today is too soon, and I should wait another day or two…

So mile 3 is when my mental training has to start. I’m back to running past two lampposts, then walking to the next one. Writing down every workout, so that at the end of the month I can look back and remind myself what I could do, instead of what I’m afraid will happen.

I wonder where else in my life I am afraid of injury.  So afraid I can’t start.  Where else do I need to record my success in order to remind myself I can instead of believing I can’t?

It’s time to get my head out of the way.