Knit vs. Crochet

The ongoing drama(?) of a girl torn between two obsessions with too little time.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Goodbye to an old friend.

This past weekend we had to put down Cindy, our cat of 15+ years. She was the first (and only) pet our family ever had.

I know that only children are supposed to cry when the family pet dies, but I've loved that cat since I was 12 years old. She was with us through 4 moves, high school, college, medical school. When I came home, she was part of what "home" meant...a furry, orange, often-grumpy constant.

She was an outdoor cat through and through. She was a bit of a menace to the birds in her younger years, and more recently she would follow my parents around the neighborhood for their evening walks. When they stopped in at neighbors' for a chat, she'd wait outside for them, then rejoin them on the walk when they emerged. She was grumpy, but she knew who her peoples were.

I remember about 6 years ago, when I was living in NYC after undergrad, sitting in a knitting shop on 14th st when I got a phone call from my mother. (Unexpected, since we've never been big for phone conversations.) Her news was that Cindy was sick, and they didn't know why...she was unable to eat or drink anything without vomiting for a few days, and they'd taken her to multiple vets without any answers. They were thinking about exploratory surgery, or endoscopy, or putting her down (always on the list of options with non-humans, of course). I burst into tears (incidentally, my first and only public cry in NY) and said I'd write the $1200 check for the endoscopy. It turned out she had just eaten a piece of grass that somehow lodged itself in her nasopharynx, causing irritation that was preventing her from eating. It was such a relief that it was nothing serious. My parents, with perverse humor, saved the offending (expensive) piece of grass for me to see when I came home next.

Damn expensive cat.

This time, though, was different. She lost her vision, stopped being really mobile. The vet said there wasn't much to be done. It was so quick, her decline...just a few weeks.

It was so strange, and surreal, to see her lying in the little white cardboard coffin. I know people say that the dead look like they are sleeping, but I haven't found that to be true in much of my experience (as a pathology resident, I've had a lot). But for her, whether it was the way she was lying, or my own emotional attachment, she for all the world looked curled up for a nap.

And as sentimental and irrational the thought is, it just kills me, the idea that our sweet, warm, furry, purring, sleeping cat is in the cold ground, never to be warm again. I'm having trouble with my goodbye.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Residency: The Excitement

While the title of this post was meant to evoke the adrenaline-pumping thrill of a summer blockbuster, I have to admit that the thrills of residency have been of a much more...erm...humbling and exhausting variety. Nonetheless, there have been highlights:

-learning that very little in medical school prepared me to make diagnoses on slides.
-despite the above, getting more cases right than wrong...for the most part

-discovering that even though you're not in a clinical specialty for residency, that you can still hit 75 hours on surg path
-...but your clinical colleagues will still express shock and surprise at seeing you in the hospital at either 7AM or 7PM
-...even though you're pretty much there at those times every day

-having one of "my" thoracic cases on the national news
-...and, prompted by the above case, hearing a story from your attending about the time he had to scope a resident to remove a chunk of Dorito lodged in her bronchus
-...not eating a dorito since

-finding out that we have $7 to spend at the cafeteria for dinner on call. the downside to this is that...A) your dinner is from the hospital caf B) you're staying late enough that you need to eat dinner at the hospital

-husband finding a stray kitten on his jobsite, making our household one where cats outnumber people, and that much closer to crazy-cat-people-dom.

-seeing my platelets through an electron microscope (as a control)--just today, actually!

I'm not sure what my point is...maybe that, despite the often-long hours and sense that the pile of information I need to know is unconquerably enormous, that it's somehow still be doing, finally, and enjoying, the work of my chosen career--rather than playing at different roles as a student, wondering if they'll fit, as I have all my life.

Actually getting paid something for my slave labor is nice too.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Watermelon time!

In this last week before residency starts, I've been trying to eke out every drop of lazy-summer goodness out of my days, and have been enlisting the help of watermelon to do so...what better summer fruit? You can't bring a watermelon to work as you would an just screams out "party on the back deck!"
So, in tribute to my watermelon kick, I present to you two watermelon...err, creations:

Frozen Watermelon Mojito
I bought a bottle of Bacardi Grand Melon and kept making watermelon mojitos with it (like anyone with mint in their garden, I need lots of ways to use up the rampaging beast of a plant) I noticed in my online recipe browsing that there were some frozen watermelon cocktails, we are. Freshly squeezed limes, muddled mint, simple syrup, and a mix of frozen and unfrozen watermelon chunks. Add rum if desired.

My first-ever completed cross stitch, incorporating both the goodness of watermelon and the juvenile-ness of, well, me. I stitched the watermelons while listening to A) seemingly endless online orientation training powerpoint clips and B) WNYC's radiolab podcast. I have to say, overall I think I'll still stick to knitting, as it's something I can do without taking my eyes off the TV screen, but cross stitch does have the benefit of being much more compact (great for tucking into one's bag for interminable flight delays that happen pretty much all the time now.)
Did I just blog about the benefits of knitting vs. cross-stitch?
What on EARTH am I doing to do with myself when I'm ACTUALLY 80 years old?

Friday, June 05, 2009

Birth-month wrap-up

Recently I've noticed a trend of my friends jokingly referring to the month that their birthday falls into as their birth-month, and celebrating accordingly. My birthday falls in early May, and I realize (now that it's June) that it was perhaps the BEST. BIRTH. MONTH. EVER. (Since the one, I suppose, during which I was actually born.)

To start the month, I went on a 10-day trip to Italy by myself--the first time in Italy (my first time in Europe, truth be told) and the first time traveling overseas alone. As a "petite" (read: scrawny) female, I approached the idea of traveling solo with a little nervousness mixed in with my excitement, but I figured--hey, I've lived in Shanghai, Chicago, and NYC--I can handle a little jaunt to a Western country where they're used to tourists and practically everyone in the cities speaks a little english. I packed light and visited the tourist circuit of Milan, Venice, Florence, and Rome.

It was, without a doubt, the nicest thing I've ever done for myself.

I spent time (in near-equal portions) running like crazy through all the tourist highlights (the Piazza San Marco, Michelangelo's David, the Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum...the list of famous stuff goes on) and relaxing with a glass of wine/scoop of gelato and doing nothing. Being alone was beautiful--if I wanted to sit and admire The Birth of Venus for half an hour, I could. If I wanted to zip through the myriad treasures of the Vatican Museums intoning "boring, boring" in my head, I could. The downside was not to be able to share all the beauty, humor, and deliciousness with my SO, who I heartlessly ditched at home.

From the top: Rigatoni alla' amatriciana at Osteria da Nerone right by the Collosseum. Salute in Venice, Giro d'Italia banner in foreground. Trevi Fountain in Rome by night. Sunset over the Arno in Florence

Almost immediately after I returned from my trip, I graduated from medical school--an affair that took up a long weekend and involved several hours of wearing a hot, stuffy, poorly-dry-cleaned rental gown and a ridiculous hat. Nonetheless, it was exciting and gratifying to finally get that diploma--after all these years of hard work, sleep deprivation, and stress--I'm now Sara, M.D.! (Dr. Sara, if you prefer.) Not that the hard work, sleep deprivation, and stress will be ending with the diploma by any means...

Then, to cap off BEST.BIRTH.MONTH.EVER. I went off with my fiance and select portions of both our families down to St. Lucia and got married. Our wedding went off without a hitch, both families seemed to have a good time, and then we sent them home and had a fantastic honeymoon. We did a little scuba diving, flipped a catamaran, and climbed a 2,600 ft mountain (though really we only climbed 2,000 ft of it, as the climb started at 600 ft above sea level). And I ate foie gras twice. Basically, the perfect way to end 7+ years of living in (delightful) sin and start a legally-sanctioned cohabitation together.

From the top: Gros piton (which we climbed) as seen from the beach at Jalousie. Wedding shot. Marigot Bay at sunset. The Pitons.

Monday, March 16, 2009


...and I don't mean Airway Breathing Circulation.
Tired of thinking about important things like where I will be next year, financial solvency with 6 figures of student loan debt, and the practice of humanistic medicine in a non-patient-care-oriented specialty.
Time for some narcissism!

A - Age: 25

B - Bed size: Queen

C - Chore you hate: Cleaning the bathroom. I wish those cute-yet-oh-so-tough-on-grime cartoon scrubbing bubbles would actually appear out of the can to make my life easier.

D - Day of the Week: It's a tie between Friday and Saturday--Friday for the anticipation, Saturday for the sleeping in.

E - Essential start to your day item: COFFEE. And not that mop-water they like to make at gas stations in the south.

F - Favorite actor(s): I more have favorite movies than favorite actors, but a few...Ed Norton, Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Tony Leung, Faye Wong

G - Gold or Silver: Depends on the outfit.

H - Height: 5'5" on a good day. They tried to tell me I was 5' 4 and a quarter last time I was at the doc's, but I refuse to let them take that 3/4" from me!!!

I - Instruments you play(ed): Piano

J - Job title: Medical Student (soon to be PGY-1!!!)

K - Kid(s): For me this should be Kat(s): Mei and Milo

L - Living arrangements: In sin (for about another two months, then it'll be legit in the eyes of god and man) on our compound, the Copperhead Ranch.

M - Mom's name: Huamei

N - Nicknames: S, Sarfa

O - Overnight hospital stay other than birth: Stupid copperhead bite, stayed for study and for them to watch me for DIC.

P - Pet Peeve: Classmates who ask too many questions during lecture on topics which are clearly A) only pertinent to their specific situation B) designed to demonstrate their knowledge of a given field

Q - Quotes you like: Hmm, none off the top of my head... Ralph Waldo Emerson - "A man is what he thinks about all day long."

R - Right or left handed: Right

S - Sex - None of your dang business. I mean...I'm female.

T - Time you wake up: An hour before I have to be at work.

V - Vegetable you dislike: Lima beans...but really beans of all kinds.

W - Ways you run late: 1) Too sleepy, moving too slowly 2) Cat disaster 3) Nothing to wear

X - X-rays you've had done: Chest, that's about it. But I've had a bunch of MRIs for studies, so I have proof that I've got brains for brains, rather than another option.

Y - Yummy food you make (made): Haven't made anything truly decent in a while, but as long as I have my non-stick wok I can always whip up a stir fry or some noodles. (So azn...)

Z - Zodiac: Taurus, which is a convenient excuse for my bull-headedness.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Only two months away from my medical school graduation. I somehow feel obligated to write, but I’m not sure that I’m capable anymore of putting my thoughts, my emotions to paper (or screen).
Our exit course has been so centered around the doctor-patient relationship, the on-call scenarios, preparing us for the trauma of intern year. And I, who will not be starting an intern year in July, feel left out.
Perhaps it’s just the beginning of a lifetime of feeling “left-out”. On the periphery of the human drama and tragedy and wonder—the sound and the fury that drew me to medicine even before I knew (could know) exactly what it entailed. To not feel those depths of emotion, to cry over the frustration of the alcoholic patient who left AMA (whose parents showed me the glamour-shots “before alcohol” picture in the hallway in front of her room, who I assured we would do all we could).
I think it's for the best.

Friday, February 06, 2009

From the far side of the world, in my hometown

Nothing like being in a foreign country to make one pick up blogging again. In this case, I'm in what should best be termed a quasi-foreign country. After all, I was born right here in Shanghai.
Nonetheless, having grown up and received my education from K on up in the States, I'm more American than Chinese. I can't read or write much of anything, and while I'm fluent in basic conversational Mandarin, complex phrases and humorous wordplay usually escape me. This is part of why I wanted to spend this month studying abroad here--improving my language skills and doing a cardiology rotation just because I think my cardiology skills could use a little honing too.
It's the end of my first week on the wards, and so far it's been fairly rewarding--there are two large teams of attendings, residents and interns (medical students) and everyone's been pretty friendly and interested in helping me out--my medical chinese is almost nonexistent, so it's taken all of my effort to follow what's going on with patients on rounds.
Fortunately, through a combination of improving language skills and guesswork (when the attending percusses the heart borders, feels for ankle edema, and asks the patient for their daily weights, it's easy to guess their diagnosis even without knowing the chinese phrase for heart failure--xin li shuai jie, if you're curious) I've been able to understand the general gist, if not the finer points, of the bedside discussions.
The most frustrating part of the trip so far has been how difficult it's been to find good internet access around the city--either I have to suffer through dark, smoky web bars filled with gamers or pay 100 RMB for wireless at Starbucks, essentially. I finally gave in (only took a week) and shelled out the ridiculous amount of money they wanted to get ADSL installed at the apartment. And now I'm enjoying it sooooo much.
It's not that I can't live without internet so much as--well, everyone else in Shanghai has it, and I've got two manuscripts to write and a lot of residency e-mail correspondence/match stuff to do online. Yep. lots of important things to do online. Which is why I'm blogging.