Who knew Monday’s outing with mum and the finale of Downton Abbey would be little blips compared to what Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday had planned for me?

On Monday night (home from a perfect Delawarean teatime) I buckled down to study CT scans, barium swallows, sonography, and even what an X ray of an egg looks like.

On Tuesday my mind was a swirl of shades of gray. I felt uneasy all morning. Doom was on the horizon. I knew it. The quiz was at 4 pm. By noon I was a nervous wreck. All I could think about was a nightmare I’d had – which isn’t worth getting into, but it was awful. At 2 pm I got a call from Mom during a lecture. Grandmom had passed away. Suddenly I felt better – as if an enormous tension was released. (weird response, I know). I left lecture, told my professor what had happened, and was allowed postpone the quiz to Wednesday morning.

My grandmother and I were close. I think she was psychic, at least concerning my love life. (When YC came to visit I made sure he met her. Poor YC didn’t realize I was actually introducing him to my fortune teller…) Anyway, everyone grieves differently. I found comfort on the internet. Here’s the facebook post I wrote Tuesday night:

My grandmom (Lillian) passed away today. She was 97, and died in her sleep in her own home. I usually think of her as an old woman – more adult than I could ever be. Lately, though, I’ve imagined the Lillians I never met: a little sister, a teenager living in the depression, a girl scout at camp, a newlywed wife, a kindergarten teacher, a mom raising 4 children in West Philly during the 60’s, a mother-in-law to my father before he was a father, a widow after decades of marriage… and all the other Lillians who are packaged and preserved in family stories and photos. I like to think that, if she were my age, we would have been close friends. Then I remember that we WERE close friends. Anyway, Lillian, I’m really going to miss you.

Wednesday morning I answered 25 questions about how to look at the body. Then I took a subway to a bus to a train to a car to my home in Delaware. Alan (my brother) flew in from Saint Louis that afternoon. Dad got home in the evening. We ordered pizza, and ate dinner together as a family, which hadn’t happened since 2011.

Thursday morning we piled into the Plotzker car to drive to Philadelphia for the funeral. We arrived at the funeral home by 10. My aunts and uncles were there. A few cousins came, and family friends. The service started at 11; it was 20 minutes of sweet nostalgia – resurrecting my grandparents’ marriage, comparing Grandmom to the sabbath bride, praising the success of her children who are her ultimate legacy. After the service, a caravan of us drove to the cemetery. I put a shovel of dirt on her casket alongside my mother’s pile of dirt. She’s buried next to my granddad, Morton. It was bittersweet to see them together again.

We went back to her house. I helped set up the food. People trickled in and out to offer condolences. It almost felt like Thanksgiving. Eventually I reverted to my childhood tendency of snooping around the second floor while the adults ate and talked in the living room. I found a shoebox of photos on Grandmom’s desk. The pictures were disordered. They spanned 1905 to 2000.  Here’s one of her when she was 25 – about a year before she got married.

photo (7)

(Apparently, it was my grandfather’s favorite photo of her. She was cute, huh?)

The sun started to set. I had to go back to New York. Dad drove me to 30th street station, and I boarded the bus at 6. Last night I tried to watch a tutorial on the liver when I got home, but inevitably ended up watching an old episode of Downton Abbey – the one where a Turkish diplomat seduces lady Mary and then dies in her bed.

As for Freedom, which I haven’t mentioned yet…. My roommates and I invented a holiday called Freedom Day. It’s today. On Freedom Day you can free yourself from whatever you want. We’d scheduled a party to celebrate. Initially it seemed wrong to have a party so close to my grandmother’s death. But, I decided seeing friends would be good for me, and also an opportunity for me to celebrate her life by telling my friends her stories. Once someone told me that telling stories about the deceased sets them free. I like to think that’s true.


Tea Report:

February 19, 2013

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It’s been 48 hours of radiology straight. ish. I reviewed the chest, and part of the abdomen. Also, my room is tidier than it’s been in a while. Coincidence?

I’m taking a brief study break to go to Delaware to have tea with my mother. We are celebrating 1) Valentines Day and 2) the season finale of Downton Abbey. Keep in mind, this is not some peasantry affair; no Starbucks or that nonsense. We’ll be in a proper tea room. There will be tea sandwiches, followed by scones and cream, and then a multi-tered tray of little pastries, all underscored with a pot of tea for each of us. I hope they have Russian Caravan . The first time we went to tea I was ten. It was at the Hotel DuPont, and I think I wore a dress with ruffles (probably half against my will). I put 10 teaspoons of sugar into my cup, and then fell asleep at the table. Since then, Mom and I have gotten older, the tea less sweetened for me each year, I’ve managed to stay awake every time, and I’m old enough to not wear ruffles if I don’t want to. A few years ago our favorite place closed, so now we have to drive 30 minutes to Glasgow, Delaware for the next best tea room in the state.  Worth it.

Between now and teatime I’ll ride a subway to a bus, then a train, and then watching more tutorials about abdominal radiology tonight. It’s been over 2 years since I’ve had a proper medical school quiz (or a proper teatime). By Tuesday Downton Abbey will be finished for the season, I’ll have taken my quiz, and maybe my thirst for tea will finally be quenched.

Next stop: Wilmington.


A month, categorically

February 15, 2013

It’s been four weeks since I’ve written. A lot has happened, and there’s a lot about to happen, and frankly the idea of blogging everything is a little daunting. But – lucky for you, my beautiful reader – I just drank a stiff cup of coffee. Plus it’s Friday and I don’t feel like studying. You know what that means: a really long blog post. 

Lately I’ve learned to be systematic about things. In radiology (my current rotation) we look at every image in the same order, as if we were visually reciting the alphabet of the body. Now, with a month’s worth of material to cover in one post, it seems appropriate to write things methodically. Let’s go by topic, shall we?

HEALTH: Not much to report. Air is coming into and out of my lungs. Blood into and out of my heart. No fevers, weight loss, rashes, or broken bones. I got new glasses that are too expensive. I tell myself it’s better than not having the option to see the world crisp and clear. That said, to all my nearsighted homeboys & ladyfriends, sometimes the world looks amazing when it’s fuzzy. Am I right?

OCCUPATION: Med School. I’m still in it. 3.5 more months to graduation. When we last left off I was writing a paper about cholera in the industrial revolution for my history of medicine class. That’s done now. If anyone wants to get a drink and chat about the controversies between Chadwick’s sanitation policies vs. the ideologies of Virchow and Farr, I am so down for that. Besides writing last month, there was a moment (week) when I wasn’t sure if I [c/sh/w]ould be a doctor. I talked to my mom & dad for a few hours… By “mom & dad” I mean them, my roommates, Tonya, Liz, Jess, Krystal, Alex, Naz, Nick, Aileen, Claire, Suzi, Joanie and probably a few other people who generously listened.  Thanks to everyone. Anyhow, in the end I ranked my residency programs, and certified my list. It looks like I’m going to be a doctor… or at least give it a real shot. We find out where on March 15th. STAY TUNED. Other things that have occupied my time include having a fantastic birthday party, and realizing what it means to be 30. (I.e. an adult, but not old yet).

EDUCATION: Did you know there are actually 2000 Shades of Gray? Luckily radiologists have narrowed it down to 4 – air, fat, soft tissue and bone. What else is there, really? Last week we learned how to read chest X-rays. This week we’re studying the abdomen, a bit of neurological imaging, and some musculoskeletal pathology. Combine that with my two online classes about 1) clinical research, and 2) How Doctors Think, and I’m actually kinda busy… Outside of school, I’m learning about Buddhist views of fearlessness (yay ID Project!). Finally, on my birthday I reflected on what I learned from my twenties. Here are a few things I figured out.

1) How to be happy by myself 
2) How to meditate regularly 
3) How to tell when I’ve had enough to drink for one night. 
4) How to not take things personally. 

It took me a decade, but that’s not bad. Hopefully chest X-rays won’t take as long, since I have a quiz next Tuesday.

RELATIONSHIPS: (The good stuff) Valentines Day was yesterday. I didn’t get to say “I love you” to everyone I love. I definitely tried. There are a lot of you out there. I might as well take this categorical opportunity to mention that I’m dating someone.  Now I know I need a little over 6 months before I’m willing to admit to having a boyfriend on the internet. In the interest of anonymity we’ll call him YC. I don’t want to disclose too much. Even for a blog, this stuff is kind of personal. I’ll just say: he likes science a lot, his sense of humor is dark, and he lives in Australia… What’s a hemisphere or a fifteen hour time difference matter when there’s Skype? And Viber? and What’s App? and Gchat? Well. It matters a little. I’m going to visit YC in April. Twenty-six hours on a plane to go on a date with this guy. (Worth it). Other relationship stuff: Shout out to my new friend Amanda, who I met on Craigslist. Also, shout out to Jonthon, who I met in Burma when he lived in Indonesia and I lived in Hanoi — now we’re taking on New York City together. Finally, a very warm welcome to new Brooklynite (and my fellow Luce Scholar) – Chris Magoon! Can’t wait to see you in the neighborhood!

I think that about covers all the bases for now. Did I leave anything out? If yes, feel free to leave comments or questions. I ought to get back to radiology. If anyone is curious how to interpret a sonogram of a kidney, I’ll get back to you in a week. (Study interruptions welcome — text/email/phone calls/hand written letters/visitors. Thanks in advance)


The trouble with writing.

January 17, 2013

Life is on a weird rhythm. Working at home for a month is a dream and a nightmare come true.

Once I spent a summer writing. I wanted to write a memoir – my great ambitious masterpiece – with 21 years of wisdom under my belt. It amounted to 60 pages and a lot of g-chatting. I decided I wasn’t ready to write a book.

Now, with 9 more years of wisdom, I have one month to relive my life as a writer. Except, instead of tackling the lessons learned from working at a syringe exchange, I’m writing about cholera. So far it’s amounted to a few outlines about the sanitation movement during the industrial revolution, and some long emails to my boyfriend. I’ve also convinced myself to eat more fruits and vegetables. I guess that’s productive. (Get it…? Produce? Productive?). And, I’ve rekindled a relationship with craigslist — a dangerous love story, dating back to 2005.

Apparently a desk in an empty apartment is all I need to appreciate a good cafe. Yesterday I went from Harlem to the NY public library to the Ace Hotel. Today is Brooklyn bound: Sit and Wonder Cafe, then probably the Brooklyn Public Library once my coffee is done.

I’m trying to find ways to punctuate my days. Next week I have a date to go to  Uniqlo with Adriana on Monday. Tuesday I have an eye doctor appointment. Wednesday my board scores come in (eep). Thursday I have a meeting to discuss my rank list for residency interviews, and then the week is finally over on Friday. Oh. And I turn thirty next week. New York readers, care to celebrate with me?

I used to wonder if I could make it as a writer. The difficulty isn’t simply finding places to publish, or things to say. After all, here we all are on the internet, and my incessant internal monologue babbles faster than I can type. The real problem is finding ways not to write. Well. I’m working on it.

Reader, if you want to gchat, I’ll be online all day. Any interruption from cholera is more than welcome.


Asheville is as charming in January as it is in November. A second look at a hospital is basically a second date. You wonder things. Questions have to be asked delicately, because you already know you like them.

I don’t have much experience with second dates in relationships. I have experience with second months, second years, even second break ups. The only second date I’ve been on involved a motorbike ride over a bridge, and ended in a tree house.

As for questions, I tried to weave them into everyday conversation… “So, how is it doing elective abortions in the south?” “So, how hard was it for your partner to find a job here?” “So, are all the residents married already?” “So, is it true Andy MacDowell lives nearby?”

This second date ended in an antique store, the morning before my flight. I hung out with the store owner’s 4 year old son. We talked about Winnie the Pooh, I taught him how to do a backwards summersault, and he told me all about monster trucks. Then he asked, “Are you a boy or a girl?” Shout out to Trent (even though you can’t read yet) for reminding me to be straight forward with my questions.

I’m back at my little lovely desk now. Did you know that the cholera outbreak in 1832 was a catalyst for major sanitation reforms in Philadelphia?

In other education matters, tonight is my first class on Buddhism and fearlessness. For those of you in NYC, if you haven’t heard of the Interdependence Project, check out their website. And, darling reader, if you want to tag along one Monday night I would love to see you in person. : )

NC, Blue Sky, and Yellow

January 10, 2013

I’ve landed. Hello from a Barnes and Noble in Biltmore Park, Asheville North Carolina. For you regular readers, you might remember this mountain town from back in November, back when I was green to the interview experience…. so long long ago. Now – a seasoned(?)/ mature(?)/ expert (?) applicant – well, I’m here to take a second look. So far, their Barnes and Noble is lovely, and the sky is blue. Could this be my Barnes and Noble next year? My blue sky in January?

To commemorate a potential future I bought a planner. It’s the old fashioned kind: monthly calendars in the front pages, a fat weekly section in the middle, and a designated place for “notes” in the back. It’s bright yellow, and says “2013” in gold letters in the top right corner. Classy, no?

There are also maps at the end. Maybe I can use them convince myself that New York and Asheville are really only 1.5 inches apart.

me map


3 posts at once

January 9, 2013

post it 1 post it 2 post it 3

2013, epidemix, tomorrow

January 8, 2013

2012 ended with 9 hours of multiple choices, 2 giant cracked mirrors left on the sidewalk, and  a strange nesting period that has continued into 2013. My living room has framed maps hanging on the wall, and curtains. There’s an uncracked mirror in my bedroom. Last night a desk arrived.

Here’s where I am right now:

photo (7)

It’s nice to have a place to sit. The last desk I had was in college. It was used for laundry. I did my work on the floor, my laptop on an upside-down crate. I decided desks were useless. After that, I lived a deskless existence. I wrote at kitchen tables, on my lap, in libraries, diners, bars, cafes, sometimes in a bathroom when that was the only room with a lock on it. In Vietnam I wrote on a folding table in my room, which I wouldn’t consider a desk so much as a side table.

Anyway, here I am. In my nest. An old sewing table has been reincarnated into my work space. It feels good. Little. Efficient.  I’m writing a paper about epidemics in Philadelphia. That’s for school (no kidding). Did you know the first time the American government consulted doctors for public health advice was in 1793, during the yellow fever epidemic?

I’ll also be blogging more – from my new desk. I have a month to myself to sit around and think about epidemics in Philly. Stay tuned, reader… I know you’re as curious as I am about the effect cholera had on social change for Irish immigrants.

Speaking of non-sequitors. HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Aunt Sarah and Uncle Eddie! Much love to you both.

As for what the future holds: tomorrow is my last residency interview. Thursday it’s back to Asheville for a second look at the hospital that does water births, and the Blue Ridge mountains. Then I’m home this weekend… in time to watch cartoons from the 80’s in a movie theater in Williamsburg. Reader, if you’re in brooklyn, care to join?

Oh yeah. Happy New Year.



The Mayan calendar is over.

New Orleans, San Francisco, and even Philadelphia are in the past (and maybe the future). While I was away I thought a lot about home, trust, and all the multiple choices that bring them into reality.

Anyway. I’m back in Brooklyn. Me. My laptop. Practice questions. Between now and 2013 this blog will be more silent than usual (maybe). I’ve promised myself to forego writing essays/stories/blogposts/poems until after my exam on the 29th. I want a study break already.  Reader, please send me good music. I need it.