Book review, and “the Roosevelts”

Has anyone been watching the new Ken Burns documentary on the Roosevelts (find more info about the show here.)? So far, it’s fantastic. I expected to be more interested in FDR since he was a hero to my great grandmother, and I’ve learned from research, a distant cousin to our family (sixth cousin!), though on the Delano side, not Roosevelt. Theodore Roosevelt is HILARIOUS. I had no idea he was such a dynamo, and such an interesting person, though I had mixed feelings on the part about his first wife dying and his time in the Badlands. I can’t imagine having your spouse and mother die the same day, and then compounding the tragedy by essentially abandoning your daughter during a crucial time for bonding and development to cope with your grief on your own as a cowboy at your ranch a long way away. I felt like his problems with his daughter, Alice Roosevelt, probably had a lot to do with this time in their lives. I’m reading the new Scotland Street book by Alexander McCall Smith, one of my favorite authors. He’s a medical ethicist, attorney and author, and each book is such a self-contained jewel of joy, laughter, observation and almost always some ethical dilemma. This book is really, really funny- laugh out loud funny. I’ll post more about it when I’m done. I think next on my list is the Kristin Lavransdatter series from Norway. I had noticed these when I worked at Barnes and Noble a long time ago, and was interested in them at that time, but forgot about them. I follow the Maybe Matilda blog, and the author of that blog on Goodreads, and when she mentioned them, I suddenly remembered them. I have some old genealogical links to Norway, and ever since I have been reading books about that area, am suddenly unhealthily interested in that part of the world. Which is funny, since I hate snow. What are you reading?

My current knitting project

My current project!

I’m working on my first knitting project on circular needles. I’m wondering if they’re normally so stiff and hard to work with?! In any case, the lovely scarf about was designed by Pam Powers (find the pattern at  , and I’m doing mine in a dove grey. I’m pretty excited. I’m hoping it won’t be above my head but my mother can help me if I get stuck. :) So far, I only have half the casting on done, but you have to start somewhere.

I am knitting obsessed. It’s so relaxing and some of the patterns out there are beautiful. I only have 3 other things in my queue right now…

Genealogy and Patrick Rowland

I can’t remember how I fell in love with genealogy. It was probably being lured by an ad, but it immediately was so intriguing and natural for me, that I forgot I had ever NOT done it. Part of it may be that I’ve found some interesting relatives- Mayflower descendants, a women arrested as a witch at the Salem witch trials, a relative at Gettysburg…But I think part of my love for ancestry has to do with my work in psychiatry. Those of us working on living the examined life at some point try to understand the context of our lives.  I heard it said recently that genealogy helps you fill in blanks in your life that you didn’t even know existed. I agree. Genealogy is one way to gain context for your life.

For instance, I have a relative who left his wife and children, never to be seen again. Certainly a terrible thing to do, and I believe likely had long lasting effects on the generations afterward. But it gives me some context when I also know that he was part of a broken home, his parents died early in his life, and he and his mother were sequentially left with their grandparents when their mothers married. Three generations of women before him all appeared to have children out of wedlock when that really meant something. That gives me more perspective- it doesn’t excuse the sad action he took, but it makes me understand this more deeply. This is something I would never have understood without genealogy.

Genealogy has put my husband in touch with a whole side of the family he didn’t know, that live just 45 minutes away from where we currently live by whim of the military. He has a nice, friendly new cousin he never new existed. What a gift!

My current project is my husband’s great, great grandfather, Patrick Rowland/Roland. He emigrated from County Galway, Ireland, at an unknown time. Around 1868, I find him first living in San Francisco, working as a tailor at Quincy and Company. I’m unsure if he married before getting to San Francisco, or after, but he and his wife Bridget, lived mostly in San Francisco with a short foray into Mendocino for a few years, until he died in 1912 in San Francisco. I believe I found him in a census in England in 1851, before coming to America, working as a tailor in Everton, England, though I’m not positive. Last night, I found a Patrick Roland (another spelling he used) born the same year, working as a tailor in  Columbia, California in 1860. Did he go to Columbia first, hoping to make his fortune in the Gold Rush? If it was him, why did he move?  Why did he leave County Galway in the first place, and who was his family? I’m looking for those answers! I’ve also made some progress using the DNA testing- that’s how we found lost family on both sides, which has been a great experience, though I’m still learning about what I can do with this testing.

I’ve also learned a lot about specific areas and times, in order to research an ancestor. I was astonished to see the number of murders in Columbia when Patrick Rowland may have lived there, by reading through all the old newspapers of the time. Maybe he moved to avoid the crime! There were other Patrick Rowlands living in the same area at the time, even within a few blocks of each other in San Francisco, nearly the same age! One met his unfortunate end by having his head crushed by a cart wheel, the other, alcoholism.  Even the census occupations are interesting- gold miner, coal dealer, etc. I’m learning so much about the world that surrounded our ancestors that I never even thought about! If you’re thinking about looking into your family history- I encourage you to start! I think you’ll find it an invaluable foray.

Mindfulness: finding a sunset in the dust

This morning, driving to work in the Central Valley of California, it was initially a gray, dreary day. The sun was uncharacteristically hidden behind patchy clouds, and the light doesn’t yet have the diffuse quality that reminds me that early Fall is coming. The ground is very parched, with only occasional brush in a washed-out sage breaking the relentless tan of the desert. I was thinking about the report due first thing in the morning that I had forgotten to do this weekend, and all the patients ahead for me that day.

All of a sudden, the sun conquered the cloud obscuring it, and the most beautiful, soft, honey colored rays illuminated the previously sad desert landscape. The warm light made the beige of the desiccated soil glisten gold and peaches, and the sage brush a turquoise. The sky appeared periwinkle from the reflection.

It made me think about an important lesson that the providers in our clinic are trying to teach our patients: being mindful of the present moment can help your mood and change the way you think about your life. Studies show that mindfulness can be helpful for anxiety and depression (see study here). One practitioner of mindfulness that I greatly admire is named Thich Nhat Hanh, and he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King. He advocates using every day activities to bring mindfulness and peace to one’s life, including breathing and walking:

“Wherever we walk, we can practice meditation. This means that we know that we are walking. We walk just for walking. We walk with freedom and solidity, no longer in a hurry. We are present with each step. And when we wish to talk we stop our movement and give our full attention to the other person, to our words and to listening.


Walking in this way should not be a privilege. We should be able to do it in every moment. Look around and see how vast life is, the trees, the white clouds, the limitless sky. Listen to the birds. Feel the fresh breeze. Life is all around and we are alive and healthy and capable of walking in peace.

Let us walk as a free person and feel our steps get lighter. Let us enjoy every step we make. Each step is nourishing and healing. As we walk, imprint our gratitude and our love on the earth.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

One patient that I had been working with for some time on anxiety and depression told me that he had learned that mindfulness had helped him realize that the dust in the polluted air of the Central Valley was what made the beautiful sunsets here possible. 

This morning in the sparkling light of the desert, I thought about my patient’s wise words, breathed in, and appreciated the beauty before me. 

To learn more about Thich Nhat Hanh, see his website here.529233_3831955314109_1121284209_n




Grieving the loss of The Long Way Home

I just finished the book, The Long Way Home by Louise Penny. I’d been waiting for this book to come out, since the Armand Gamache series is one of my favorites, and the last one was so great, and I enjoyed it so much, I actually worried about finishing it because I was afraid she might kill off the character!  (Note: spoilers ahead) Fortunately, she didn’t and the latest book is fantastic. There was something so poignant about seeking some one who is lost to you, feeling wistful and wishing you had done something differently, to looking back at your life and wishing it were different. I think that’s a lot of what I hear during the day in my job in psychiatry. The language is so thoughtful, and I always end up highlighting quotes in these books, which take place in a fictional town, Three Pines, near Montreal. One character, Clara, made the difficult decision of a trial separation between she and her husband, who was unable to cope with her being the more famous artist, and the psychologist in the town, Myrna, points out that jealousy

“it’s like drinking acid,” said Myrna, “and expecting the other to die.”


However, at the end of the separation, her husband, Peter Morrow, is still missing. She asks Gamache to help her find him. She had hoped that he would return at the end of the year, and that the time would have been enough for him to find his own happiness.

“It’s a dying father’s prayer for his young son.” She thought for a moment, remembering. Then she recited, “I’ll pray that you grow up a brave man in a brave country. I will pray you find a way to be useful.”

I won’t wreck the book for you, but I have this sense of loss now that I’ve finished the book- both because of the ending, and because it will be a few years until I get to visit the town of Three Pines again!

Find the NYT review here

Get the book here.

Changing directions

I’ve been thinking over the last few weeks about this blog, and what I want from it. It initially started as a way for me to try to connect with other new working mothers, to decide what my place in the world was, because there were so many changes in my life at the time, all within a few years- divorce and the inevitable changing identities/moving/moving on, figuring out things on my own by buying my own house, dating, graduating from residency to be an attending psychiatrist, getting married again, starting a family, moving across country…While connecting with working mothers is always good, I’ve been thinking that I’d like to use my blog to connect with others that are interested in some of the same things as me. I’ve been reading some magazines about art journals and blogs, by Stampington and Company- in particular, Artful Blogging, and have been inspired by them. I’ll definitely need to work on my photography! I’ve also been inspired by the blogs Life in GraceMaybe Matilda, and House of Humble, and would like to consider something that reminds me of the way I feel when I read these blogs- awed by the emotional depth, courage and faith of Edie Wadsworth (can’t wait for her book!), amused by the humor and inspired by the style and practicality of Rachel Brown, and IN LOVE with the lifestyle and writing of Katie and Reuben.

So, let’s talk about knitting, genealogy, books, and life. I know, weird. I’ve lost you. The Rome trip and photos that were on my blog before were a lot more fun. Probably so. But Rome isn’t a reality with a two year old and a nine-month old right now.  And living my day to day life in a way that is fulfilling and connects with others is my goal these days.

I’ve been learning how to knit for the last year, but have been picking up the pace more recently. I finished a new scarf for Nate, my husband, and am starting work on this Pam Powers ruched scarf in a soft gray wool for myself. I’m a little worried about messing it up (Mom, help!) but figure that I can frog it if needed. I’ll post photos of the scarf for Nate after I block it and make him model it for me. I have a account if anyone is interested in connecting. My user name is lisayoung57.

I’m reading Louise Penny’s new book, The Long Way Home. The Armand Gamache series is AMAZING. She keeps getting better and better, and I actually was afraid to finish the last book for fear she might kill off the main character, Gamache. Don’t read the next line if you hate spoilers! Fortunately, she didn’t, but I’m already grieving that I’m 11% through the book on my Kindle and I know the book will end, and it will take two more years for the next book. The language is so beautiful, and I love the characters. Plus, now I want to visit Quebec in the worst way, like I want to visit freezing cold Ystad to see where Henning Mankell’s Wallander series is set. My poor husband, right?! Hurry up and write the next book, Ms. Penny! And don’t kill off Gamache (please)!

Anyway, thanks for bearing with me. The next posts will be more focused, I swear. Well, at least as focused as I ever get. I’ll have some changes to the blog format in the coming weeks to make the posts easier to sort out in terms of subject matter.


How did my baby get to be 7.5 months old already?!

It seems like yesterday that Marcus was born, and now, he’s started to stand. He already doesn’t want our help, and pushes my hand away when I try to help keep him from falling on his butt. He holds on to us, pulls himself up, and then lets go slowly with one hand, then tries to let go with the other hand to do it himself. He’s so proud and delighted with his accomplishments and so am I. On the other hand, it makes me a little sad how quickly time goes by and how quickly my little boy is growing up. Soon he won’t let me give him huge hugs and kisses (even though I’ll probably still do it anyway)…

Sad and happy times

Nate picked up Godiva’s ashes at the vet, and they had made a paw print for us. It kind of makes me sad, but I’m happy to have some remembrance of my best dog. Nate wants to get a dog when Marcus is older, and I’m sure I’ll be okay with it at that point, but I’m still grieving.

On a happier note, Marcus is showing more and more personality. He laughs these enormous loud belly laughs, and likes very certain things- rough housing with dad, going on walks, milk- and dislikes very specific things- solid food in general, standing still, going to bed, and napping. In fact, he doesn’t really nap. Ack. Finally, though, being a mom is a great experience. I used to feel really guilty because all I could think about is how exhausted I was, and holy crap, doesn’t this kid stop crying ever? But eventually he stopped the 24/7 crying, and now seeing the baby first thing in the morning and when I pick him up from daycare is the best feeling. No matter how difficult my patients have been that day (and trust me that sometimes they are extremely difficult), I forget everything else when I see my smiling boy. We’re thinking about whether we want a second baby or not -what if Marcus IS the easy baby?!?- but I had so many health complications, we’re really cautious. Also, we still don’t know what’s going on right now with the liver/bile duct/gall bladder issues- I’m still undergoing testing. I know we can travel more and so on with one child, but I remember being lonely as an only child as well. We’ll see.

I’m looking forward to the weekend…Friday I’m giving a talk for the pre-health club at Nate’s community college about what it’s like to be a physician/navy psychiatrist…I can’t believe anyone wants me to influence young people. I’m also working on Umberto Eco’s new book but it’s slow going and I think my kindle library lending period is going to run out before I finish. In fact, I KNOW I won’t finish in time. Do you feel guilty when you start a book and don’t finish?

The hardest day- letting my best friend go

This was Godiva today.
This was Godiva about 7 or 8 years ago, when he was 5 or 6.
Today was the saddest day, maybe one of the saddest days of my life. It seems ridiculous, because I’ve experienced a lot of death in my life, more than most people. I’ve had people I cared about die, helped people die dignified death in hospice, sat with patients when they decided enough was enough, and had feeding tubes pulled, watched patients die and their families grieve, and helped young men try to redefine their lives after terrible injury in war. This was a dog. But he was my dog, and I loved him. He helped me through a really awful depression, weather a divorce, tried to protect me at times, and when Nate and my son, Marcus was born, he tried to watch over him, even as an old, tired dog, in some pain. I agonized over this decision- he was in some pain, which we had mostly controlled with pain medication. He had a spinal tumor, and had trouble walking, and sometimes he would fall down, and be incontinent- and then be deeply ashamed afterward. He was confused sometimes, and wandered around at night. But I still wonder- if I had been old and sick, would he have euthanized me? I worry that I made the wrong decision for my old friend. I have never really known what I believe in terms of religion, but hope he is somewhere better.
I got him from the pound in Woodland in May 1999. They told me he was an adult dog at 40 lbs, but I realized soon that he was only about 12 weeks old at most, and he grew to be 80 lbs. He had been abused, and someone had cut his tail off at a vertebrae with clippers, and he already had some scars, even as a puppy. But he quickly grew into the loving, affectionate, gentle dog that he was his whole life. He learned a lot of tricks, including, “get your butt out of my face” which  meant he would get up, and turn around with an enormous sigh, so his head was facing me, instead of his butt. He never begged at the table, and learned that folding your napkin meant that we were done eating and he could come solicit pets and scratches under the chin. He didn’t climb on furniture, and mostly didn’t bark (until this year, when we moved back to California and he got confused). He loved to hike with us, and wade in streams, but couldn’t swim very well. He drove cross country with me twice.
Friday, we went to the Vet and talked to her about Godiva. She agreed that he seemed like he was suffering, and I made the difficult decision to let him go. We gave him special treats all week, and this morning, a special treat. At two o’clock Nate had to give him tramadol to sedate him so he wouldn’t be scared. Unfortunately, he was not sedated, since his tolerance was so high after taking pain medication. I gave him more treats, groomed him for the last time, and spent a few hours petting him and telling him how much he had meant to me all his life. We took him to the vet, and they took us in a special room. He was scared and fell over, and then huddled next to my legs. I petted him while they gave him an injection of barbituates, and in seconds, before they were even done injecting the medication, he was gone. I sat with him and petted him for a while, and he seemed like he was sleeping. It was awful. The whole time, I wondered, did I do the right thing? I left him there, but kept his collar and tags. They’re doing a special cremation for us, and we’re planning to go for a hike and spread his ashes doing what he liked best in the whole world.
 I already really miss my buddy. I looked at all his toys, his bed, and his bowls, and feel overwhelmed by them. We love you Godiva.

Teething- every two months?! Put me out of my misery, now, please!

I had no idea teething was going to be so painful- for Nate and I, not the baby. We had THREE days of sleeping through the night (8 pm to 2 or 3 am, then back to sleep until it’s time to wake up to get dressed for day care), and then this awful tooth poked through his bottom gumline. I can’t see it because he won’t let me, but I can feel a sharp little nub there, and he’s chewing on me when I feed him. The only thing that makes him happy is walking with him (mostly through Target or dangling nearly upside down while Nate walks through the house), driving in the car with the sunroof open, or about the first 30 seconds of playing. Then, baby break-down. We drove today, despite the weather consisting of frank rain and some sprinkling, and as long as it wasn’t pouring, we had the sunroof down. I swear, this baby rules the house.

And then tomorrow, back to work. I’m working on developing that thick skin, and making a lasting contribution while I’m here- but at the same time, I wonder, isn’t it ok to do a good job for the patients and do my best at the admin stuff, and then just go home for the day? I keep hearing the last guy had to be told to eat lunch, to go home at the end of the day (late) and came in on weekends. What could he possibly be doing on weekends? I’m done with all my notes, and caught up with email, and working on projects in the down time. What else should I be doing?

Wednesday is going to be awful. That’s when our appointment to put Godiva to sleep is scheduled. I always dreaded this day, and now it’s come. I wonder if I’ll have the courage to have a dog again. I know that all life is change, and he is JUST a dog. But he’s a great dog, and one I’ve loved for almost 14 years…Better go, so I can make him some bacon to put in his dog bowl tonight. We’re giving him something special every day until then.