Today, In a Nutshell… or Pages and Pages

Today has been an uberwacky sort of day. Here’s a little rundown of the highlights:

  1. Woke up. Late. (cuz I was up late coughing. It’s the end of a stinky virus)
  2. Scuzzled around like a madwoman and lead-footed it to work.
  3. Arrived to big banner announcing that the hospital is switching pager service providers, which means the stinging sensation deep in the ample belly of the gluteus maximus muscle will reach 10 out of 10 on the pain scale. Seriously… the task: every single pager used by every single person in the hospital needs to be collected and deactivated, and every single person must be issued a new pager, which must be programmed and updated in the paging system. All the while, making sure that everyone can be reached by SOME pager, since this is, you know, a hospital and sometimes sick people need stuff. As you might guess, this changeover is a recipe for disaster.
  4. Contemplated this process which made me cough until my head hurt.
  5. Entered the physician lounge, where lines were short, so I paged the doc I was about to take over for and suggested she come down to swap out her pager.
  6. Swapped out my pager and was given a shiny new one as they swiftly pulled the battery out of my old one, ripped the label off, and chucked it into a large box. I was told my long-range number had changed and would now be the hospital area code and pager prefix followed by “1123”
  7. Exclaimed, “I get the Fibonacci pager”
  8. Endured blank looks from pager swapper chicks.
  9. Marveled at my own geekiness.
  10. Was sent to another “station” to get my pager activated.
  11. Was told I was activated, received a test page, and congratulated myself on escaping the Great Pager Swap with minimal casualties.
  12. Flagged down the other doc when she arrived to switch out her pager. Bear in mind, she’d been working for over 24 hours. She gave the Pager Swapper Princesses the pediatric admit pager by mistake. (The pediatric admit pager is carried by the senior resident most of the time, but when the residents are unavailable because of lecture or rounds or whatever, we cover for pediatric admissions to the hospital.)
  13. Watched her eyes widen to improbable size when she realized her mistake, by which time the pediatric admit pager was de-batteried, stripped of all labels and chucked into the Big Box o’Pagers with no identifying marks.
  14. Assumed a cheery tone as I said, “No problem! All the pagers need to be swapped out anyway. So let’s just switch your old pager for a new peds admit pager.”
  15. Felt a steely burn as the Page Swapper Princess narrowed her eyes. “We can’t do that here. We can only accept physician pagers. All the other pagers are being swapped in a room in the basement.”
  16. Pointed out she had, in fact,  already accepted a non-physician pager. She was not swayed.
  17. Dragged the post-call doc into the basement (since pediatric hospitalists do not leave a fallen comrade on the field), on a quest for a room neither of us had ever heard of called “The Four Seasons”
  18. Exhausted practically every hallway and was preparing to check for Narnia-wardrobe type closets when we finally found the appropriate room.
  19. Explained the situation approximately 19 times and then waited while the Pager Swapper Queen and a swarm of drones attempted to sort out the pager perplexity.
  20. Finally got upstairs to our office about an hour behind schedule, where we ran into our education director with an interview candidate. He was glad to bump into us and informed us we couldn’t be paged. As in, AT ALL.
  21. Checked the system and, indeed, no pager listed.
  22. Called the operator for help. She tried to send me on another pilgrimage to the Pager Swapper Queen, but when I protested, she told me to hold on. After a few minutes of muffled murmurs, she came back on the line. “We did something,” she said. “Try it again.”
  23. Laughed until I coughed and then coughed until my head hurt.
  24. Practically fainted when Lo and behold and gloryosky, the pager worked.

In fact, it’s been going off merrily ever since.

So, um… Yay?

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Nutty Enough Already

So, today, I was making my way in darkness to work.  It is a long drive, even at 5:30 in the morning.  Usually I gratefully spend this time in my own head, thinking out plotlines or revision ideas.  But today was not one of those days.  Sliding through the darkness, my gaze focused where my headlights struck the bumper in front of me.

I found myself behind a pick-up truck for most of my commute today.  That, in and of itself is not remarkable, as I live far enough west of Chicago to be forced to crawl along the single lane highway behind oversized farm machines from time to time.  Trucks are the rule, rather than the exception, often slathered with bumper stickers stating “I Just Got a Gun for My Wife: Best Trade I Ever Made!” or “My Kid Beat Up Your Honor Student.”

Macho is definitely an In Thing in the rural area surrounding my ‘hood.  But this was the first time I’d seen it taken to this level…

Yes, that’s correct. This particular owner felt his truck required a swinging set of balls.

So, okay… this brings up a quirk I did NOT discuss during the Quirky Blog Chain last week.

When I’m driving behind a large truck or van, I get the sensation that I’m part of an elephant caravan.

The rear view of a semi looks vaguely like an elephant’s backside to me:

I know no one else has this problem but me, but there’s just no help for it.  That’s what I see (Please excuse the crudity of this model; I didn’t have time to build it to scale or to paint it):

For the record…

I do NOT need any attachments on trucks to make them look MORE like a giant animal in front of me.

And I do NOT need to wonder what, exactly elephant balls would look like anyway.

I’m just sayin’.

Back on the Chain Gang: What’s the Big Idea?

null My turn again for the Blog Chain posting! null

Today’s topic was started by the lovely Elana Johnson on Mindless Musings. The question before the group is “How do you get your ideas?”

I, for one, am big into “What if?”.

The inspiration for The Edge of Memory started out in a random way. It began as a tv commercial for an insurance company. I don’t watch much TV, although my husband often has it on while I’m doing other things, but the music from this commercial stuck with me so strongly that I googled it. The song turned out to be “Half-Acre” by a band called Hem.

The song is about your home being a touchstone, but the part of the lyrics that got wedged into my imagination was:

I am holding half an acre

Torn from a map of Michigan

And folded in this scrap of paper

Is the land I grew up in.

Half an acre is not very big– my yard and the yard next door. So I began thinking how a small piece of a detailed map would be practically meaningless out of context. And that led to conceptualizing a person who would need to find this out-of-context place. Why would that place be important to the character? And if it was so important, why wouldn’t she know about it already or remember it? null

To have a true attachment to the place, I felt like the character needed to have lived there for a good chunk of time. Of course, the longer she’d lived there, the stronger the connection, but also the less likely she wouldn’t already know about it. So then I had to reason why she wouldn’t remember a place where she’d lived. Using my medical background regarding plausible explanations for memory loss, I knew that I would have to give her a pretty traumatic background. That raised questions: Is it better or worse to remember something traumatic? Does the truth really “set you free”?

As a hospitalist pediatrician (an inpatient specialist), I see the sickest of sick kids. And many of the most striking cases I’ve handled have been for victims of abuse. I see patients who get very sick or die from brain, heart, or lung problems, from cancers, from serious infections. Every bad outcome is tragic in pediatrics, but the difference is that in cases of abuse the problem is purposely inflicted. And unlike the other sick patients who usually have a loving entourage of family and friends at the bedside, the victims of abuse are often alone. null

And of course, the effects of child abuse don’t stop once physical wounds are healed. They can suffer from prolonged psychological problems: depression, fear of intimacy, anger problems, substance abuse, eating disorders, and hosts of others. The future can seem grim for child abuse survivors, but I like to believe they can find their way to peace and happiness eventually.

So I resolved to write a story of survival and triumph. And entertain the snot out of the reader along the way, natch. null

Short answer… Overanalyzing song lyrics allowed me to tap into my medical experience and my mushy hopes for child abuse survivors. Then I made my story as interesting as I could. 😉

Okay Bloggy Peeps, I’m out. The Next Big Idea is over on Mary Lindsey’s site. Write on! null

Secret Confessions from a Pediatrician…

Whenever I see newborn rescue aprons, I want to try them on. Photobucket

And fully loaded, natch.Photobucket

They have these aprons in a lot of hospital nurseries (in case of fire or whatever else might require evacuation) to enable a staff member to rescue several babies at once. This is a smaller one than some I’ve seen, as it only seats four… two in front and two in back.

I’m not sure what the appeal is, exactly, but I really want to try them out. Or at least see someone try it live and in person.

How bad is that?

In Deep Smit: A New Blog Post Theme

Fridays often do not mean the start of party time for me. Like many in healthcare (and retail, real estate, publishing, and many other industries) the weekend doesn’t necessarily mean time off.

So I’ve decided since I can’t really get into the I’m-Thankful-Its-Friday mentality, I will instead embrace It’s Friday… I’m thankful.

Meaning every Friday, I intend to post something I am happy about or grateful for.

So, to start out the first blog post in this vein… what am I in deep smit with today?

Parents who vaccinate their children. On schedule, or as close to it as possible.

I love you guys!

With recent concerns over potential vaccine risks and with the public’s memory of many preventable infections fading, there have been more and more parents choosing not to vaccinate their kids.

50 years ago, kids routinely became gravely ill or died from infections that we hardly ever see anymore. We hardly ever see those diseases anymore BECAUSE we vaccinate.

We are in the midst of another measles outbreak. The disease is able to spread because without universal vaccination we are losing our herd immunity.

And it isn’t only the unvaccinated folks who are at risk.

With any vaccine, there will be a small percentage of “non-responders” who won’t have a strong enough response to be immune. They can get infected if they are exposed, even though they got their shots on schedule. Not to mention the folks on chemotherapy or with suppressed immune systems.

When parents choose not to vaccinate their kids, it isn’t only their own child’s health at risk.

I know it’s no fun to drag your kids in for check-ups and bring them home crabby and aching. So I’m so grateful for you super moms and dads doing the right thing for your kids and for everyone else’s.

So, gang… what are YOU in deep smit with today?

Welcome to My Boudoir… Care for an Informative Brochure?

Well, another mystery solved here on Trying To Do the Write Thing.

A couple of days ago, we received a UPS tag on our front door that they had attempted a delivery.

Neither my husband nor I had ordered anything. It isn’t our birthdays/anniversary. No friends or relations admitted to sending us surprises. We were stumped. And the tracking info on the slip wasn’t working.

But yesterday, UPS made it’s second attempt and my husband was able to accept the delivery.

Apparently, some poor misguided organization sent me a display of brochures under the impression that:

a). I would be willing to display them in my office.

b). I have an office to display them in.

c). The appropriate way to encourage me to display brochures is to send them anonymously to my home without my knowledge.

So, that’s funny enough. But it gets better.

I came home to discover that my husband had set up the display on my nightstand.

I love him.

Mommy Deerest or How NOT to Report an Emergency

Last night I officially had the crap scared out of me. I was working a shift when I received a call from my father.

“Your mother’s been in an accident,” he said. “She hit a deer. She’s bleeding but she doesn’t know from where.”

Needless to say, I was careening towards full-blown panic. I called my mom’s cell phone and talked to her for a few seconds before she was loaded into the ambulance. She sounded okay, which was reassuring, but I was still pretty freaked waiting to hear from the ER docs.

Once they’d checked her over, I was allowed to talk to her again. Turns out a deer tried to jump over her car as she traveled at 50 mph. The deer landed on her windshield and roof. It died instantly.

My mother was lucky, all things considered. She suffered a lot of superficial scrapes and bruises. She has a bad black eye from the roof collapsing on her.

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So, if you find yourself needing to make this sort of phone call try this, “Your mother’s been in an car accident. I just spoke to her and she’s awake and coherent. 911 was called already. She’d like you to call.”

Many thanks to those who offered support and well-wishes during the chaos yesterday.

What is it about me?

Do me a favor… buzz over to the “About Me” tab and take a peek at my picture.

Does it say, “Can I Help You?” in magic ink on my forehead or something?

For reasons I never understand, people gravitate to me when they have questions.  I do work in a service industry, but– trust me– I am often not the best bet for help when you’re trying to find something.

This morning, I was striding through the hospital lobby… labcoat, scrubs, stethoscope slung around my neck.  You get the picture.  And I got stopped by someone looking for the outpatient lab.  Never mind the two women sitting with hands folded at the big desk labeled “INFORMATION”.

I’m an inpatient specialist and a pediatrician.  I have not clue one where to send an adult patient for labwork.  So I had to apologize and direct this man to the folks at the desk four feet from where we stood (at least I knew where that was.  ).

Then I stopped at Walmart on my way home to buy a mailer envelope.  A woman approaches me to ask “If this is my section.”

I squint at her.  Despite the fact that this happens to me all the time, I still haven’t realized yet.  (I blame that on the 25-hour shift I just finished. )

“Don’t you work here?”

I look down at my windbreaker over my hospital scrubs and the car keys in my hand.  The sunglasses on my head slip down onto my face.  “Um… no.”

“Well, do you know if they have big packages of envelopes?”

Critical Choices: Making Every Word Count

Yesterday, my husband and I had dinner out.  As we perused the menu, we took in the evening’s entertainment, which was provided by two child-sized diners.

A little girl, about 3, in overalls, and her 5-year-old brother were careening in reckless circles from the dining room, through the bar and back again.

During the fourth lap, a booming male voice demanded attention.  “No more running!” he shouted.  “If I catch you running in here again, you’re in big trouble.”

The older kiddo grasped the spirit of the warning and slunk back to his seat.  About a minute later, though, the little girl came speeding around the corner into our section of the dining room again… skipping this time.

This appeals to me both as pediatrician regarding development of literal and figurative understanding, and as a writer in love with the power of precise words.

You go, girl.

Bite Me, John Denver.

John Denver is messing with me.

Or maybe the Universe is just laughing behind my back.

Let me preface this blog post by saying that I love my car. When my husband asked me what my dream car was last year, I told him an ’06 Hyundai Sonata. He said, “you’re kidding.” And I got my dream car.

My car has an MP3 player, which I also love. And so I have mega-mix MP3 disks with me at all times, on random. Over the last month or so, the weather in Chicagoland has been… how shall I say… craptastic.

The only nice days so far have been the ones where I’ve been lucky enough to work a 24-hour shift.

And recently, when the weather is at its most icky– such as just before the blizzard on Good Friday, or at 5 am this morning when I left for work in the cold drizzling gray– my MP3 player keeps picking “Sunshine on My Shoulders”.

“If I had a day that I could give you,

I’d give to you a day just like today.”

I just bet you would. Sadist.

I don’t need “Sunshine All The While”.

But a day or two would be great.

Fellow Pilgrims

Every morning when I work, I wake up before dawn, outside black as midnight. It is only the last couple of weeks when a thin pink line highlights the horizon by the time I pull out of my driveway and speed towards the east.

I have a long drive to the children’s hospital where I work. The landscape changes as I travel from the middle of cornfields to the middle of the city. The traffic is light as we all home towards Chicago. Over the months I have made this drive, I have become familiar with many of those who make this same journey.

We’ve never spoken. I’ve never seen their faces, not by the dim pre-dawn light.

But we are still connected by our combined path.

A cobalt pick-up truck, with oversized wheels, bears bumper stickers proclaiming support for George Bush and “I just got a gun for my wife– best trade I ever made!” Clearly, the driver and I have little in common. And yet without trying, we meet and travel together.

It is an odd camaraderie, but undeniable.

Open to Interpretation

I saw Juno last night with my husband and enjoyed it immensely.

The main character’s repeated questioning of “‘Sexually active’… what does that even mean?” reminded me of an incident during medical school.

During a rotation in the ER, one of the medical students I was working with saw a teenage girl who came in with abdominal pain. He asked if she was sexually active and she said she wasn’t, but he sent urine for a pregnancy test anyway.

When the test came back positive, he went to tell her the results. “I thought you said you weren’t sexually active,” he said to her.

“I’m not,” she insisted. “I pretty much just lie there.”

Words are such funny things. What is so clear to one person may be taken completely differently by someone else.

That is one of the things I really enjoy thinking about when I’m writing– considering how another character, with their own motives and experiences, will react to the same information differently.

I am looking forward to beginning editing in earnest and start making those careful word choices. I think I’m ready; it’s just been a bit nutty lately with my work schedule and the holidays.

But in the next week or so, I intend to really get down to it. 🙂

What’s in a Name?

I’ve been thinking a lot in the last few days about pen names.

I had planned that if my book were to be published, it would be under my professional name. I am starting to doubt that decision.

Given the subject matter of my novel, it is conceivable that I may generate some angry responses. I am not afraid of angry responses, however, it would be unwise for me to create any difficulties for my employer or the hospital at which I work.

What are the odds that:

  1. My book will actually be published
  2. My book will be well-enough read to cause a significant public response
  3. The responders will be ambitious enough to look up my place of work and attempt to contact me there.

My guess is… not very good odds. 🙂

But, I would hate to create any inconvenience for my work; I am very happy with my job.

Anybody with thoughts? popcorn.gif

I am thinking perhaps I will use my married name instead– to which my husband replies, “Oh, fine! Sic the crazies on my family!” teehee.gifsnort.gif

Happy Thansgiving Analog

I’m working a 24+ hour shift tomorrow, so we had our turkey dinner today instead.

With running around today and working tomorrow, I feel like I’m not doing what I should be with my writing. My head is 2 chapters ahead of my fingers, which is a little confusing.

I did manage to get through Chapter 24, so there’s that at least. 😉

Here’s to writing on the weekend!

O Come All Ye Chitties…

So I’ve ‘fessed up to my online community at large. 🙂

As of this moment, the folks (outside of the novel writing site) who know I am writing are:

  1. My Husband
  2. My Best Friend
  3. Chitties

Thank you, thank you, to everyone who has offered encouragement and support. It is deeply appreciated.

Any opinions on the book cover options would be appreciated (the “Covers” tab above) 😉 Which one would you pick up to find out what it was about?

Okay, I’m behind from working yesterday. Less blogging, more writing. *teehee*