Spring!

Although the calendar says spring does not arrive for a few weeks, since the clocks have changed and we have had barely a hint of winter (2 nights of “frost” in December and rain last weekend), it’s spring as far as I’m concerned. Oh – and it was 80 degrees yesterday. I’ve previously written about how much I love this time of year – and 2014 is no different. While we don’t have the cold and dark winter that much of the country experiences, there is still something magical about how the garden just comes to life in early March. Everything is lush, green, and growing. It gives me hope and it makes me smile.

My “3 Words” for 2014 were Grow, Grace, and Gratitude. It has been a difficult start to the year, but the garden and I are both growing in wonderful ways. I am working hard at handling changes and challenges with grace. And I am constantly grateful for the wonderful people in my life.

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Mom and I planted the bulbs in late October. My amateur photography skills simply cannot capture the stunning display – but you get the idea.

“Gardening is an instrument of grace” – May Sarton – Journal of A Solitude

Pain and Light – Remembering a Friend

As many of you know, my friend and colleague was recently killed in a tragic accident. This has been a difficult two weeks – raw pain and grief alternating with the desire to fully embrace the beauty and joy that life has to offer.

My friend was a big teddy-bear kind of guy, and he was known as a joker and a prankster. In just a few minutes, he could coax a smile out of anyone. He had a huge heart, and all who came into contact with him felt his warmth and love. He truly embraced and appreciated life. And he was one of those rare people who would actuality state how rich his life was – he would say that often, and with a big smile on his face.

I miss my friend terribly. That pain will continue. But with the pain comes the memory of his smile and his light. And the pain is a reminder to us all – take time every day to feel the joy of being alive.

3 Words for 2014

I joined the “3 Words” club in 2012, with this New Years Day post, followed a few months later by an update. I loved the idea of starting the year with a few words, a mantra of sorts, that would inspire and motivate me. I’m not sure what happened in 2013 – I think I was still stuck on Resilience, Rejuvenation, and Serenity.

Those words are still important, but I’m ready to move forward. At the end of 2013,  I had the luxury of taking two weeks off over the holidays. Since I have not had a real vacation since 2009, this was much needed. I stayed put (easy to do – the temperature was close to 80 the whole time!) and I was able to clear my head, think and just BE. And (predictably), the ideas have been flowing. Many of the ideas are related to work, but delightfully, just as many are about ME. I will be returning to the office next week with some rejuvenation and serenity along for the ride. They will be welcome companions as I anticipate some challenges as well as some opportunities this year.

So here are my 3 words for 2014. This year, I’ve omitted the official definitions that I previously included, preferring to focus on what these words mean to me:

Grow – I have been pleasantly surprised how this past 2 weeks have allowed me to open my mind and release a side of myself, a creative side, that has been hidden for many years. I plan to nurture this new-found friend, and allow it to flourish and thrive. And of course, I plan to grow more delicious vegetables in my garden…

Grace – I know that I am in for some changes this year, both personally and professionally. Too often we have our heads set on a particular path that we think is the right one. But then life happens. If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past few years, it is that just because I want to be on a certain path, that doesn’t mean it’s the right one for me. I will work on being open to the opportunities that are in front of me, instead of stubbornly trying to push down the same road. I will work on being more open to change.  And I will try to have the faith that I will be in a good place, even if that place is not what I originally envisioned. I hope to exhibit and to truly feel grace under pressure.

Gratitude – I have so much to be thankful for, and will continue to express my gratitude, in my words and in my heart. Family, friends, colleagues, patients – there are so many wonderful, supportive people in my life. My circle continues to grow through on-line interactions. Taking the time to express the thanks that I feel is an essential component of growth, and of grace.

Hopefully all of this will lead to more serenity (still stuck in 2012…). And as I said previously, I do reserve the right to come up with more words, switch words, or develop another plan completely, but for now, this seems to be a good way to start the year. Happy New Year, everyone!

2013 – As seen through the garden

Yes – it’s time to assess 2013 – as seen through the garden…

The corn did well but got very buggy, so none will be planted this year. Also I’ve given up on cauliflower – the plants are huge and the heads always seem to bolt before they amount to much of anything. My sweet peppers were bitter 2 years in a row – done with them (not a fan of the hot ones). Tomatoes and cucumbers did not do as well as last year – apparently it is because our “June Gloom” lasted well into July, followed by the sweltering heat of August and September. But I can’t give up on those – yes – I will try again.

The eggplants thrived. And I had plenty of broccoli, sugar snap and snow peas, beets, carrots, Chinese red noodle beans, kale, and other greens. The butternut squash and the strawberries were absolutely delicious.

The sugar baby watermelons looked so adorable – but fried in the late summer sun. It’s ok – into the compost pile they went, hopefully to help out the next generation. But I couldn’t resist ordering another pack of seeds – one of these days, I WILL grow a watermelon! The rest of the seeds have also been ordered, and in a week or so I will be starting the tomato and eggplant seedlings inside, so they’re ready to go in the ground by March or April. So sorry for those of you that don’t see Spring until May or June…

Overall, it was a very good year – wishing you all a happy and healthy 2014!

Christmas Gifts

Look what I got!

Look what I got!

Just like a kid again (yes, that’s me!) this Christmas, I’m filled with the joy and wonder of the season. And just like a kid – it’s because of the many gifts I have received.

When I first delved into the world of social media, including this blog, Twitter, and Facebook, I had no idea where it would lead. The blog was meant to capture some of my more personal, non-medical thoughts, ideas, and inspirations. Twitter and Facebook posts started out as “medical” and are now a wonderful combination of personal and professional interactions. I had no idea that my life would be enriched beyond words by jumping into the online world.

The friendships that have developed are real and will be lasting. You all have opened me up to new points of view, have helped me find my voice in areas beyond medicine, and have helped me grow as a physician and as a person.

Thank you for these gifts – and wishing you all the joy and wonder of the Holiday Season.

Thoughts on Twitter, Community, and Loss

Today I had the privilege of attending a memorial service for a woman that I met only once. I initially got to know her on twitter. I attended the memorial service with 2 women who I also met on twitter.

Yes, twitter.

If you had asked me about twitter 2 years ago, I would have said that it was about celebrities talking about what they had for lunch. I wasn’t interested, and I certainly didn’t have the time. For various reasons I set up an account, started listening, and then started tweeting and interacting. And in doing so I stumbled upon the most remarkable community. Not just a group, and so much more than a chat – a real community. I got to know some incredible people. Online.  A common criticism of online interactions is that they are superficial and not “real”.  My experience has been the complete opposite. We’re drawn to each other on twitter due to common experiences and common goals. Those relationships and bonds are solid, made even more so when we have the opportunity to meet “in real life”. We are there for each other, during good times and bad, for better or worse. We are #FearlessFriends.

Donna Peach passed away due to metastatic breast cancer on March 26, 2013.  I initially got to know Donna her through her blog. She was a gifted writer, as well as a dancer and so much more.  One thing that was clear from her writing was that she loved life and everything about it. When we met approximately 2 months ago, even though she was suffering due to the progression of her disease, we were all struck by her beautiful smile and her incredible spirit. She touched us all – I made the comment after we met that it seemed like Donna had done a little bit of everything – and all of it with a huge smile on her face. Lori wrote about the meetup, capturing Donna’s spirit.  I would never have met Lori if it were not for twitter, and we live less than 10 miles apart. Carmen also accompanied us to the service today – another lovely addition to my life. Jody, Alicia, and too many more to mention. All because of twitter. They have touched me personally and professionally.  I cannot imagine my life without these women.

The tears we cried today at Donna’s service were real. The hugs we shared were real. The sentiments expressed today by those that knew her well were the same that Lori, Carmen and I expressed. Don’t let anyone tell you that online relationships are not real. Some of them are. I only knew Donna for a short time, but I am grateful for the interaction that we had. I will treasure the memories and will remember her spirit.

Rest in peace, Donna Peach.

2012 – Year In Review

Anyone who spends just a few minutes with me knows how important my garden is – it’s my inspiration, my therapist, and my friend. I’m still relatively new to gardening – just 2 years in – but I’m fortunate to be able to take advantage of the mild Southern California climate and a fair amount of beginner’s luck.

I am clearly a very amateur photographer (sorry a lot of the pictures are blurry) and since I changed computers halfway through the year many of them are also out of order. But the video makes me smile and I hope you enjoy it as well.

Happy New Year!

The music is “Celebration” by Jonathan Butler