The Fairy Godmother


As a kid we would make a trip every other year to Chicago to visit my Polish grandmother.

The thing that I loved the most, aside from the buttery sauerkraut pierogis and big bear hugs, was Colleen Moore’s fairy castle at the Museum of Science and Industry.

Every single trip I had to circle that thing over and over again. Sometimes I would just stop and stare, taking in all of the intricate details:

Marble bathrooms with running water. The weeping willow that actually cried and the rock-a-bye-baby crib. Tiny books of fairy tales. Gilded beds.


I had this dream that I was really adopted. These other people could not possibly be my family. Someday I would find out that I was really a rich princess and then I would buy this very same dollhouse.

One day I realized that I really wasn’t a princess. My real parents weren’t coming for me.


So I decided to make my own dollhouse.

I used cardboard boxes from the local wholesale club, adding on rooms with each trip. I used the plastic from package “windows” to make the glass of windows. Tubing from broken squirt guns made plumbing. Curtains and linens were cut from fabric scraps. I used old tinfoil for mirrors. I constructed furniture from left over cardboard.

Before long I had a mansion that rivaled the fairy tale castle, complete with a pool on the roof.

Fast forward…

My daughter wants a dollhouse.

I can afford to get her a fabulous one, with tiny furniture and a working doorbell. I want so desperately to give her everything her heart desires…

…and yet I also want her to learn to how to make her own dreams come true.

So no dollhouse. For now.

The Enchanted Forest


As a mom I have discovered that Santa holds sway only between Thanksgiving and New Years.

The Tooth Fairy picks up lost teeth. She doesn’t care if the tooth resided in the mouth of a good kid or a bad kid. The reimbursement is the same according to my son. Apparently the kids at school have told him the going rate is $20. Rich Tooth Fairy.

I hate her.

The Great Pumpkin is a myth, I am told.

God loves us no matter what.

The Easter Bunny is good for a couple of weeks.

My scary face, apparently, is not all that scary.

So what is a mom to do when she needs to blackmail her kids into submission?

Invent a fairy!

My kids are obsessed with their birthdays. It is a topic of conversation year round: planning the party theme, changing the party theme, listing present wishes, discussing cake flavors and wardrobe, etc.

Sooooo… the Birthday Fairy was invented!

The Birthday Fairy brings your single birthday present from the Enchanted Forest. She sees all. She knows all.

And you can bet she does not give presents to bad little boys or girls.

I love, love, love the Birthday Fairy!

Fear of the Unknown

cambodia2 165

“Draw a clock face for me. Put the numbers on it and then I will tell you what time to make it.”

But all I can do is try to write the word: C-L-O…. I cannot even remember how to spell it. I give up.

“Can you count backwards from 100 by sevens?”

No. I never was any good at math.

“Well then, try to spell the word WORLD backwards…”

I can’t. I never was any good at spelling.

“I want you to remember three words for me: Ball, pen, chair. Repeat them back.”

What words did you say? I can’t remember.

“Where are we?”

What do you mean? We are here!

“Where is here?”

I laugh. We are just here!

“What town is this?”

I don’t know.

“In what state do you live?”

I don’t know that.

“What country?”

I was never any good at geography.

“What is the date?”

I haven’t the foggiest. I don’t pay attention to that.

“Do you know the year?”


“Do you know what season we are in?”

Stop asking me stupid questions!

“Write me a sentence.”

What kind of sentence?

“Any kind you like.”

I hold the pencil but no words come and the blank page just stares back at me accusingly. Fear is in my throat making it hard to swallow. Tears sting my eyes.

Something is wrong but I don’t know what.

What is happening to me?

There are whispers outside the exam room. I catch snippets: … car keys… no driving… might burn house… oven… never alone…

I want to run. But where? Where am I? Where is home?

What is wrong with me?

Who are you?

The Booger Man


The man sitting on the exam table rubbed his finger slowly across his nose as he listened to me talking about his cholesterol and 10 year cardiovascular risk.

Why does he keep doing that?

I quickly rubbed my finger across my own nostrils.

Is there a hair sticking out? It has been a while since I last trimmed my nose hair…

He did it again.

Is he trying to tell me something?

I rub again. This time harder.

Oh my gosh! I have a nose booger. One of those dry crusties. I can feel it stuck inside my nose. What if it comes loose?

I try not to breath hard. I don’t want to dislodge it.

Then he rubs his nose again!

I rub my nose.

He touches his gingerly, circling each nostril.

Oh, lord help me! It IS hanging out isn’t it?

I twitch my nose.

He twitches his nose.

He looks hard at me.

“Doc. Is there something hanging out of my nose? You keep rubbing yours. Are you trying to tell me something?”

In Point of Fact…

Cambodia 061

“Doc, I don’t think you are going to be able to get it.”

I looked up from my search.

“Why is that?”

“Because I have to use one on my dick.”

“Well. That may pose a problem. I am not going to be using your penis.”

I searched for a few minutes.

There was a promising spot on his foot and after cleansing the area with alcohol, I pushed the needle into the vein then popped the vacutainer on. Blood. Dark red blood flowed.


I can still draw blood on difficult patients….

…but now he knows where to shoot up next.

Living Among the Dead


“I’m not afraid of death; but dying scares the hell out of me.” – Jack Cleary

I love photographing cemeteries. Kinda creepy, I know.

I find it comforting to think that someone someday, maybe a hundred years after I die, may stumble upon my grave and spend a few minutes wondering who I was.

The Debt Whore


I had my first pelvic exam at MEPS (Military Entrance Processing). I was applying to the US Navy so I could get them to pay for med school. Aquiring a $120,000 debt was a terribly frightening proposition for a girl… as opposed to missile launchers and hand grenades.

Just before, I had stripped down to my underwear in a room with a dozen other women and performed the “duck walk” and other maneuvers as a woman barked orders and scowled at us.

I had always loathed how I looked naked and I worked hard to make sure NO ONE saw me fully unclothed. EVER. Now I had to parade around in front of a room full of other people while only in my skivvies? Hell, I hadn’t even dressed in my good panties! Had I known…

For the pelvic exam I was taken to another room and told I had to strip down completely naked then lie down on a cold, bare metal table.

I had a tiny paper “gown” that was open to the front but it must have been made for a twelve year old because it gaped widely.

Really, what was the point?

My vitals were taken.

“Never done this before, huh?” the female tech said as she raised a single eyebrow.

No. No I have not.

I shrugged, trying my best to appear unruffled.

Then, the physician walked in. He was a stooped over elderly fellow who, I kid you not, was walking with the assistance of a quad cane. He appeared to be in his 80’s. I had not prepared for this.

The exam HURT like hell. When he was done, he had me sit up so he could listen to my heart and lungs.

Who the hell does it in that order?!?!?

As I sat up, all I could think about was the lingering pain from the prior violation and the squilchy feeling of the lubrication between my legs.

“I need for you to take off the gown completely now.”

“What?” I hoped I had not heard him correctly.

“Gown. Off.” He was irritated.

I complied.

His resting hand shook a bit with a pill rolling tremor as the other moved the stethoscope around on my now naked torso. At the time I did not realize that it must have been Parkinson’s disease.

“Nervous?” He raised a single eyebrow.

“Yes,” I whispered.

“Alright. You may dress now.”

And then he was gone, shuffling gait, quad cane, and all.

Two weeks later, I received a call from the recruiter:



Tachycardia. My heart rate had been running over 100.

That was the end of the Navy…

The Professional Patient


“Alright, Mr. Smith. I am going to need to have you drop your drawers and bend over with your elbows on the table.” I was using my perky voice.

I placed a box of Kleenex down apologetically on the exam table in front of him.

“You are going to do what?” He stared incredulously at me. He was an older man with a receding hairline and an uncanny resemblance to my father.

“I am here to check your prostate.” I tried to maintain the perky tone even though my hands shook and my palms sweated as I pulled on the latex gloves.

“Like hell you are.” His voice was raised and I could detect a hint of distress. He stepped menacingly toward the door.

Taken aback, I stood up quickly getting out of his way.

The shadow lurking in the corner stepped forward.

“Mr. Smith, if you do not allow this exam, you will not get paid the $25…”

He looked at the shadow.

Then at me.

Then back to the shadow.

“Fine,” he growled. In no time, his pants were down around his ankles.

It was then that I felt my first prostate…

Hindsight is Humiliating


“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Over the past several weeks I have made some interesting observations:

As Americans, our arrogance prevented us from being prepared for an inevitability. We deserved to look like fools. It is just terribly sad that pride has resulted in pain, suffering, and death.

As humans, fear overtakes our rational minds no matter which country or race we claim as our own.

And that, ladies and gents, is all she wrote.

At least for tonight.



This morning Deborah The Closet Monster (great blogger, check her out) referred me to an article she wrote as a guest on Dr. Greene entitled “Mommy vs. Mother”.

It, along with other posts I have seen over the past few months, got me thinking about how we react to the words mother vs. mom vs. mommy and what influences those very visceral feelings.

Growing up, my mother did not hug or kiss or say she loved me very often. When she ever DID say anything it was more, “I do love you…” as if she were trying to convince herself of this fact. She was not abusive per se, but because of her I have to make a concerted effort every day to physically love on my kids. I have to remember to tell them how much I love them. The words don’t come easy even though I feel the love.

The physician role is easy. I am in control because I have distance. As a parent, however, those kids have my heart wrapped up into such a knot that it hurts (in a good way) every time I look at them. I desperately want them to not feel as uncomfortable as I do about getting close to someone emotionally. So I work very hard to be a good role model for them.

As such, I don’t feel close to my mother. We have a complicated relationship and so to maintain a certain emotional distance, I only refer to her as “Mother.” I never call her mom, mamma, mommy…. only mother.

When I use the word “mommy” for someone, it is a complement of the highest degree. Anyone can be born into motherhood, but it takes a special someone to be a mommy, someone who can do more than just rear…. they nurture.

In posts that I have read, some women are offended by being called mommy. Some are offended when called mother. This is similar to the Ms. vs Mrs. debates. Each and every person has very valid reasons for feeling whichever way.

But you know what? No one can read minds. Herein lies the problem. It is inevitable that I and others will offend someone at some point.

Today, as I pondered this post, it made me think about my own mother quite a bit. I decided that I probably don’t give her enough credit. She struggled with the same emotional distance from her mother. In fact, she had a fairly miserable childhood so the fact that she was able to show love of any sort is somewhat of a miracle.

I love you, Mom.

My kids are starting to grow out of using the term “mommy” now and it makes me terribly sad. I think I will be fine eventually, though, so long as they just don’t start calling me “mother”!