Sonya’s Turquoise Projekt B Cardigan in Tulip Lace

Posted November 30th, 2010 in crafts, folio, inspiration by Mitsy

My friend Molly Ann who owns a lovely knitting store (projekt A) also makes beautiful yarn to sell there (projekt B). Each of these skeins is hand-dyed and unique. I had Sonya choose between two of them and she chose this one.

We wound the skein into a ball together. It’s a color of bluish green that’s hard to define. Partly turquoise, partly green like the Caribbean Sea. The color I imagine for a meadow high in the Swiss Alps. Or mermaid scales.

The perfect material for an airy cardigan. My first attempt to make holes intentionally while I knit these open diamond motifs throughout the piece.

So far, I’ve completed the back and part of a front panel, and I’d like to finish the cardigan by Christmas. Which should be easier, now that I’ve quit my job.

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Paint the Sky Red

Posted November 30th, 2010 in adventures, inspiration by Mitsy

23 weeks pregnant? Starting a stressful job in a foreign country? What was I thinking? Well, I was thinking about laying a foundation for my future, continuing along the road I’ve taken towards a career in medicine.

That’s the sensible, expected thing to do. It’s the modern, feminist thing to do. Work-life balance. Career woman slash supermom.


It was not the thing for me.

After one week, I offered my resignation to the McGill residency program.

Yes, I quit.

Luckily, I realized that I was going to be unhappy before throwing even more years working towards a career that ultimately leaves me dissatisfied.

Everyone was very, very nice about my withdrawal. My attending Dr. S wrote me an e-mail that I’ll save in my inbox for awhile:

I wanted to tell you that the whole rheumatology team really enjoyed your presence. You were only with us for 1 week but you made an impact on everyone (doctors, nurses, secretaries and patients). I truly enjoyed working with you.

Part of me is definitely sad. I’m good at being a doctor. I like talking to patients, figuring out diagnoses. And I genuinely feel fulfilled helping people. When I’m at the hospital, I give 100% of my energy and effort. That takes a lot of stamina, especially for a pregnant mama.

Over the weekend, I realized that I wasn’t physically or psychologically prepared to handle this. My body gave me subtle clues that it’s unhealthy for me to continue, even with the humane Canadian working conditions. 

I noticed feeling exhausted at the end of the day, not looking forward to getting up in the morning. I started to dread the binder of research articles I had to read. I noticed myself starting to complain. I didn’t have the energy to deal with Sonya’s tiredness at the end of the day. Playtime became an exercise in repetitive misery.

Drex and I talked and talked. I want my life to have purpose. But what is it?

Apart from ensuring the success of my family, what do I want for myself? Is it being a doctor?

Is it?

In what else have I invested myself for so many years? Why did I spend all those hours memorizing biochemical pathways and human anatomy? All those sleepless nights being on call?

What’s my alternative? What’s my fallback plan? To throw away a perfectly good, secure career? This is crossing the Rubicon. I realize that by giving up this opportunity, if I decide to go back to medicine, I’ll have to start all over again.

Yet knowing how way leads on to way / I doubted if I should ever come back.

— Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”

This blog and other writing projects this past year have certainly helped me work on developing my voice. I get practice with the process of giving life to my ideas through words. And that’s powerful.

I want to be a writer. But I feel scared.

What if I paint the sky red and people laugh at me?

Artists can color the sky red because they know it’s blue.  Those of us who aren’t artists must color things the way they really are or people might think we’re stupid.

— Jules Feiffer

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DIY Duct Tape Laptop Sleeve

Posted November 27th, 2010 in crafts by Mitsy

Do you have a new MacBook Air with high-resolution display, extended battery life, multi-touch trackpad, and all-flash storage? No?!

Well, me neither.

But Drex just got one to replace his stolen laptop, which was taken from the hair salon in our neighborhood last week while he was getting coiffed before TEDxMcGill. I haven’t actually even touched the new MacBook Air, but it looks beautiful. Sleek, slim, and silver.

Unfortunately, Drex couldn’t find a sleeve to protect his new 11-inch baby. On Friday, he decided to make a case himself.

Out of a mailer envelope with bubble-wrap interior and duct tape.

Envious of the ingenuity and design? (It’s known in our household as “drexpertise”). Want to make one for your laptop?

Well, guess what? Drex just started a blog and you can find out how he made it.

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This Week

Posted November 27th, 2010 in adventures, inspiration, montreal by Mitsy

So I started working at Montreal Children’s Hospital. I haven’t been “Dr. Ruths” for over a year. My mentors in rheumatology have been patient. Needless to say, the effort of trying to make a good impression this first week at work has been exhausting (and, I don’t think, entirely successful).

I kept asking question after question. What does that mean? How do I check for that again? What’s this medicine? How do I order an X-ray? Is this the right form? Excusez-moi, qu’est-ce vous avez dit?

Luckily, my mom and sister strategically came to visit for the week, which was especially fortunate, because Drex became sick on Monday. Luckily, we had four extra adult hands around the house. Very crucial during this transition.

Going to sleep every night, I can honestly say that I was totally spent. Every muscle, every neuron, every emotional fiber. It felt so good to lie down and be snuggled up next to Sonya, feeling my other baby daughter tumbling around inside the womb. Strange and beautiful.

Sonya passed a few restless nights this week. Daycare. Runny nose. She’s wanted to hold me close. We lie side by side, sharing the same pillow. She finds a notch just below my neck to cram her head and wraps one of her skinny arms around me. I can smell her. Aveeno lotion and baby breath. I find just as much comfort from her presence as she does from mine.

I’m so lucky to be her mommy. I think about her all day, and I feel so very happy to come home to our little family. Looking forward to a weekend together!

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Posted November 26th, 2010 in inspiration by Mitsy

I came across this story by Garrison Keillor in Real Simple magazine. If you’ve got some time, it’s worth reading in its entirety, but here’s an excerpt:

At the risk of sounding like Pastor Bob of Pigeon Knob, I have to say the best thing about Thanksgiving is the thankfulness part. It certainly isn’t your loud relatives and their embittered children, and it isn’t the weather (overcast, with a 50 percent chance of snow).

It is the sheer gratitude for the fact that you have somehow, once again, navigated the treacherous channels of life and avoided the greasy hand of death and have not thrown your savings down a rat hole or contracted an insect-borne disease so rare they plan to name it after you.

It’s an unjust world; mortality has us all by the tail; we live in a culture of complaint; and yet, as we all know, there is much to be grateful for—though we’re reluctant to say so, fearing it may sound smug or boastful.

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Slotted Building Discs

Posted November 23rd, 2010 in crafts, inspiration by Mitsy

A few days ago, Sonya and I had some down-time. We’d danced to the musical cube, built and knocked down towers of blocks, and climbed on and off the sofa many times. Then I remembered an idea I’d seen.

For the past few months, I’ve been following an inspiring stay-at-home-artist dad blog called Made by Joel. Joel Henriques posts different toys he makes for his kids. One of his simple, beautiful ideas were these slotted building discs. The circles have four notches cut into the side that can interlock, so you can put them together into little sculptures.

Sonya and I printed out Joel’s two templates, glued them onto thick green cardstock, and cut them out. That took about thirty minutes. Then I realized that not only was Sonya unable to interlock the discs, but she had no interest in watching me put them together, either.

Sonya kept snatching the circles from my hands and shaking her head no-no-no, and so I said something like, “Wait, Sonya, Mom is going to show you what to do with these.”

(Eventually, however, I had to give up my aspirations to build a replica of Damián Ortega’s tortilla sculpture which had inspired Joel).

But I’d actually been wrong. Sonya didn’t need me to show her what to do with the colorful circles we’d made. I needed to learn from my daughter, instead. There are actually many things to do with Joel’s slotted discs.

Sonya patiently taught me.

First, we could stack them like poker chips. Then we could slide them along the floor and press them like buttons. Once we had them arranged, we could stomp on the dots and have them stick to the bottom of our feet. Then we could spread them all around the living room, like magic medallions, to decorate our barren wooden floor.

I am not young enough to know everything.

— J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan

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Drex speaks at TEDxMcGill

Posted November 22nd, 2010 in adventures, inspiration, montreal by Mitsy

My husband was invited to be a speaker at TEDxMcGill on November 20th, an event modeled after the annual TED conferences which promote Ideas Worth Spreading (TED = Technology, Entertainment, Design).

Drex started his eighteen-minute talk with some pictures of Sonya. She immediately drew oohs and aahs from the crowd. But then Drex seized everyone’s attention with a very captivating discussion.

What do spoons, cancer cells, ancient roads, and social networks have in common?

Well, in a nutshell, we can learn a lot about an object, not just a simple object like a spoon, but even a very complex object like a biological or social network, based on just its structure. Drex spun a concise and compelling narrative based on his research. Yeah, I’m really proud! It’s been a busy weekend! My mom and sister arrived Saturday evening, too. And tomorrow is my first day of work! I excavated my stethoscope, packed my doctor’s bag, and carefully selected my outfit.

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Posted November 19th, 2010 in inspiration by Mitsy

On most days, I just wash my face and apply moisturizer, but when I want to feel fancy going to the supermarket with Sonya, I quickly put on mascara without even looking in the mirror.

In the November issue of Wired magazine, Patrick Di Justo writes about what’s inside mascara (specifically CoverGirl LashBlast Luxe Black Royale Mascara). I’ve never read such fascinating descriptions of chemical compounds. I wish he’d been the author of my organic chemistry textbook in college. I might’ve been more excited about hydrocarbons as a pre-med.

Here’s an awesomely vivid description of one of the ingredients, something unpronounceable called disteardimonium hectorite:

This molecule is like a squid with a nitrogen body and fatty oxygen tentacles. Hectorite, a powdery volcanic clay, coats the tentacles, giving them bulk and a positive charge. Since hair has a negative charge, the molecule sticks to lashes, making them seem thicker.

I can just picture this squid named Hector, who has comically big suction cups on his tentacles, living inside the mascara tube. Then I brush him onto my eyelashes and he holds on with his tentacles.

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The Toy Pit

Posted November 18th, 2010 in adventures by Mitsy

It’s like a Chuck E. Cheese ball pit of stuffed animals and plushie toys.

This playard, previously used as a Punishment Box after Major Offenses (like biting or hitting), has been transformed into a toy vault, which somewhat reminds me of the Scrooge McDuck money pit. Sonya takes her daily swim in consumerism and overabundance.

We play a game where we toss objects in and out of The Pit. A heartwarming observation: Sonya really seems to favor the soccer ball I made for her. It’s getting a bit misshapen from all the handling, so I think I might need to open a seam and stuff it more.

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If At First You Don’t Succeed…

Posted November 17th, 2010 in inspiration by Mitsy

At the larger metro stations, someone is usually distributing free copies of Montreal’s English newspaper The Gazette, so it’s almost like I have a daily subscription. Yesterday’s front page had the following Quote of the Day.

Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired.

— Jules Renard

I got back my test score from a resident in-training examination yesterday, too. All the residents took it a few months ago to assess how well we might do on the American Board of Pediatrics exam at the end of residency. We need to pass the exam to get a specialty license in pediatrics. I didn’t do as well on this practice test as I would have liked to do. I feel very disappointed with my performance.

I need to work harder, obviously. Cram one more thing at the end of each weary day. My goal is to cover five topics from my Intensive Review of Pediatrics book every evening before I go to sleep.

Over the past year, my brain has been rusting in Old MacDonald’s barn. But at least the engine is sputtering to life now. Ee-i-ee-i-oh geez, how will I learn all of this stuff again?

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