blank'/> A LITTLE BIT OF LACQUER: January 2015

January 28, 2015

Dreaming of Miami

Happy Wednesday! I hope you all are having great weeks and those of you who were in the path of Juno (the blizzard we just had) didn't get hit too hard! Here in Boston things certainly could have been worse, but we definitely got a ton of snow that will likely be hanging around for quite some time!

I figured now would be a good time to share some photos from our Miami trip - my last trip for residency interviews! That's right ya'll, I'm all done interviewing!! Yay! For most of my trips I stayed in cheap hotels close to the airport or flew in and out of town in the same day in an effort to save money (and spend as little time as possible away from Liv), but for this trip, I decided N and Liv would come with me and we'd stay right on the beach! Might as well make the best of it, right?

We stayed at the Hilton Cabana Miami Beach, and for us, I'm not sure we could have found a more perfect place! The location was really ideal, right on the beach (and close but not too close to the hustle and bustle of South Beach), with everything you could want on the property - both pools were beautiful, the restaurant had delicious food, prompt room service, and best of all when I stopped by in the morning before Liv and N woke up they would make my coffee in a to-go cup (for free) so I could walk out on the beach with it. Heavenly. A completely unexpected surprise was the amazing play area they had set out at the beach for kids - by the looks of the place on their website I was a little concerned it might not be the most kid friendly of places, but it totally was! I was able to set up camp on the beach right near the play area that was covered with umbrellas and full of beach toys - Liv and I both loved it! And N got to run on the beach, all he ever needs! 

The day of my interview N took Liv to the Seaquarium while I spent all day touring and interviewing at the hospital. It worked out wonderfully! And the best part was at the end of the day when I came outside, they were already there playing and Liv ran full speed to me and gave me the biggest hug! Talk about motivation for why I work so hard. 

January 23, 2015

Crime Fighting

N thinks I look like a "crime fighter" when I wear this coat. "Fighting some crime today?" he'll ask mockingly as I put it on. Guys never seem to get some of our fashion choices. And that's just fine! 

I didn't do much crime fighting, but we did run all around the park chasing Liv who is literally becoming the biggest goofball in the world and I couldn't be more proud. The girl is a ham.  

Pop Basic top c/o, jeans (similar here), Forever 21 coat (on sale here), Nike sneakers (on sale here), black beanie (similar here)

For anyone who needs a little feel-good video, check out Liv cracking up with N on the swings!
Hope everyone has a great weekend!!  

January 22, 2015

The Power of Mentorship

Me with some of my high school students I work with in one of many mentoring programs at Harvard Medical School. 

How many of you follow Humans of New York? It is one of my favorite pages for making the world feel a little less distant, for reminding me to always have empathy, and a constant reinforcement that you truly just never know what a person has been/is going through!

Today something really touching happened there - Brandon started a fund to send a predominantly black and hispanic classroom from one of the worst neighborhoods in the city to Harvard. A trip intended to expand their horizons beyond the neighborhood they know and the "occupations" they observe. Amazing! Of course there are those who are more negative, one person even commented, "That's just a waste of time, don't want to be rude but tbh these kids will never make it to any ivy league, let alone universities." 

People like this obviously don't matter, because within an hour of posting this Brandon had already raised an astonishing $130,000 for the cause. But I still want to address the naysayers (and inspire some of you, as many have asked for more of my "story") and let you know what mentoring can actually accomplish. 

I owe everything to mentoring. 

I grew up in a neighborhood full of gang bangers and drug dealers. My brother and I rode our bicycles around our tiny driveway in circles because our parents wouldn't let us ride on our street. I lost cousins to gang violence and thought that if I reached the age 18 still alive, not in jail, and without a baby, well that would be a cause for celebration. Because where we came from, not many people did. 

My parents were incredibly hard workers, and instilled in me an appreciation for hard work. I spent most of my time growing up with my grandparents, because my parents were always working. (Something I'm incredibly thankful for today - my grandparents couldn't speak any English, so living with them I became fluent in Spanish). But right around the time of adolescence, kids feel they have to prove themselves, and I wasn't immune to that. In school we'd get into fights or people would get jumped because of a look, or because a girl had long hair, or was pretty, or anything really. You didn't want to be the only one without someone having your back, so by freshman year of high school I had joined a gang. I was hanging out after school getting into trouble and nearly failing all of my classes. Except for biology. 

My biology teacher liked to show us things on the microscope, and as a visual learner, those things just sort of stuck with me even if I didn't do the homework. I aced a practical exam that many of the students had trouble with. My biology teacher pulled me aside and spoke with me regularly. "Laura, what are you doing? You're smart, you can make something of yourself! You could be a doctor if you wanted! None of these kids you're hanging with now care about your future or theirs - all they see is the right now." 

And he was right. In neighborhoods like ours, it's hard to think about the future, or to plan very far in advance and wait for delayed gratification. But his words stuck with me and I listened to him - I left those friends behind and immersed myself in school, especially science. I ended up with a full-tuition scholarship to Smith College - they offer one scholarship to a young woman from Springfield Public Schools, and through some act of fate that young woman was me. At Smith, I was recruited into a mentoring program called AEMES Scholars - Achieving Excellence in Math, Engineering, and Sciences. Through this program I got matched with a mentor and was paid to work in their lab doing research - research that I did all four years of college, that allowed me to travel to national meetings and present my work and eventually write and publish a first-author paper. My mentor believed in me and trusted me like no one else did. He networked for me, wrote letters of recommendation for me, stuck his neck out for me. And through the work he allowed me to do and the confidence I gained through that, I added more and more to my CV and eventually wound up here at Harvard Medical School.

Here at Harvard I have found more mentors. Women who have the careers I envision myself having, boss ladies who still take time during their breaks to call and check in on their kids, old men who've seen it all and then some. All of these mentors have molded me into the person I am today. 

I still see the news from back home now and then and hear about my old crew from my early high school days. They're living in the same projects and doing a whole lot of nothing; some of them are dead, many of them in prison, and some just fell off the map. And sometimes I feel guilty for "making it." Guilty for the luck I had in having a mentor, guilty because that so easily could have been me. I know how powerful a mentor can be, and because of that, I now serve as a mentor. It's my duty to try and bring up as many kids as I can with me. Because all they need to see is that the world is a bigger place than their hood, that people who look like them and came from places like them made lives for themselves, and most of all that people believe in them. If you're reading this and wondering if you can make it, know that you can, and I believe in you.

Anyway - man what is that, like 3 deep posts in a row!?! 
I promise tomorrow I'll post a regular old outfit post! ;)

January 21, 2015

On Losing a Doctor

I just got back from a meeting at my hospital, Brigham and Women's, talking with one my mentors about my plan for the next couple of months. But walking in the building, our hearts were heavy, a somber air filling the halls. Our conversation kept finding it's way back to one thing. Yesterday, a gentleman who had lost his mother back in November, asked to speak with a doctor. And when that doctor came in to talk with the man, he shot him twice, and then took his own life. That doctor, just 44 years old, lost his life yesterday.

I am not one to comment on current events or to frequently share anything that isn't positive or uplifting. But my heart is hurting so much right now. Yesterday we drove past the hospital as the situation was unfolding, unaware of what exactly was happening but aware that something was indeed happening - helicopters hovering above us and police cars surrounding the hospital only screamed it was something bad. I called daycare to make sure Liv was ok, we live and bring Liv to daycare only a few minutes walk from the hospital, and they were all fine, everyone was fine. But it's not fine.

In our meeting today my mentor, an incredibly accomplished physician in his seventies, kept saying "Why couldn't it have been me?" Apparently that was the talk amongst all of the older physicians there. They all understood something that perhaps those outside of medicine may not as easily realize; that at 44, you're finally starting your career. You've finally finished medical school and residency and fellowship and have practiced for a couple of years and are finally able to build up the actual job you want. At 44, you're just beginning.

I think what's hurting me most is learning about Dr. Davidson's family. He met his wife during training, similar to N and I. They were both surgeons. He had three young children and his wife is seven months pregnant with their fourth. He ran marathons, played in a band, and taught at Harvard, and saved lives during the day to later come home and play with his kids at night. My heart hurts so much for his wife and their children. I hope that they can make it through this tragedy and not lose their hope for humanity. I hope she can continue practicing as a surgeon if she so choose, and not look at her patients any differently. I hope her children will all have memories of their father as the hero that he was.

I'm still not sure why I'm writing this post. Maybe I also want to ensure those things for myself. I can't forget that despite this horrific tragedy, despite the fact that a doctor was murdered by a relative of a patient, despite the fact that a family was just torn apart, medicine is still a beautiful thing. To have the privilege to take care of individuals at their weakest and most vulnerable, to have them confide in us things that no one else may know, to take care of them, is all a privilege. And death happens. If there's one thing guaranteed in this life, it's death, for all of us and our patients. As physicians we can only attempt to delay that or make the life they do have a little more comfortable. That is our role, that is our privilege. And even when a sad and hurt individual turns on one of us, we won't start putting up walls, and watching our backs around our patients. We can't.

January 16, 2015

How to Juggle It All

I think this is the number question I get from my readers now. How do you juggle it all? How do you balance being a wife, mother, medical student/almost doctor, and blogger, and still manage to be happy? The short answer? I don't!

Let's clear that up a bit - I am happy almost all of the time when I remember to be grateful, and thankfully I have lots of reminders of just how blessed I am. But juggle it all? That's a concept we need to get out of our heads and redefine for ourselves. 

Let's start with one piece of wisdom one of my mentors shared with me early on - "You can have all the hats you want, but you can only wear one hat at a time." These wise words have only become truer through motherhood. When I'm in "doctor mode" that's what I'm doing, when I'm in "mom mode" all of my attention is on Liv. It's something I always have to work on, but I'm getting there. You see, in college, when I was balancing a full-time courseload, working as a residency advisor, medical assistant, kitchen dishwasher, and extracurriculars like basic science research and being the president of a minority pre-med group (and being in a relationship), it was all relatively simple - make lists of everything that needed to be done for every role I was in, and plug in times throughout the week alotted for each of them. With some scheduling and time management, it all could be done. 

Fast forward a few years, and "simply" scheduling isn't as easy anymore. Working in the hospital, at least as a medical student and resident, you don't have a set in stone schedule. Sure, you may work roughly 7-5, or 7-7, but for most of us, especially when on inpatient months, you're rotating through a call schedule with days that are dependent on how many patients you admit, how complicated they are, and how efficiently work can get done. With motherhood, well you moms know, naptime is never guaranteed, moods can never be predicted, and you sort of just have to go with the flow! My days of perfectly scheduled blocks of time for each task on my large to-do list are over for now. 

With letting go of my sanity-saving scheduling ways came a new way to get things done. I still keep a constantly updated to-do list for tasks that need completing, but I keep it on my phone so I can easily update it whenever I get the chance, and utilize it whenever I have free time. I am currently in love with the app "Do It (Tomorrow)" It's a wonderfully simple to-do list app that is as beautiful as it is functional, and really just works for my new scheduling and acceptance of things that can't get done today. It allows me to keep my list, cross off things as they are completed, or move them to tomorrow's to-do list (and will do so automatically if it wasn't completed). This little app has been key to my sanity! It has the only features I really need - namely, the ability to rearrange the order of my list (all I need to know priority), can sync with your desktop (which I rarely use but is nice), and it's pretty enough that I want to check it multiple times a day. 

{a make believe to-do list I created to show you how pretty the app is! this is the desktop view, the phone view splits up the pages so you can either look at today or tomorrow.}

Thankfully I'm not alone, and hopefully you aren't either. Having N, our parents, our friends, daycare and a back-up babysitter, that's our village, and there is absolutely no way I'd be doing any of this without them! 

We need to be kind to ourselves. Despite having less time and control over my time than I had pre-Liv, I don't feel like I've lost much of my productivity. I have certainly become a bit more of a "pressure makes diamonds" kind of worker and worked on things at the absolute last possible minute, but you make it work. I think that's the real message I've learned from motherhood and I hope to share with you all - you just make it work. Had you told me first year of medical school that I was going to have a child third year I would have laughed in your face and maybe cried a little on the inside and told you it was impossible. But you make it work. We rise to whatever the situation demands, and through this we achieve greatness. It's nice to be in a comfort zone, but we only grow by leaving that comfort zone and taking on the next challenge (or blessing, all of our challenges are really blessings). 

I hope this post can help those of you who feel like you're trying to juggle it all. One last piece of advice I can offer is to stop the comparison game! Especially with social media, it's so easy to see another mother or woman's instagram feed and think she has a perfect life! Don't compare your life and all the ups and downs to the little squares that make up someone's highlight reel! I know personally I just don't like sharing negative things on social media, for me it's a space for all my happy memories, but trust Liv throws tantrums and N and I fight and I get horrible breakouts and life is not always peachy, but man, life is still so good. It's all about perspective. Just wanted to share that with you so as we all tend to sometimes get wrapped up in that! I hope you all have wonderful weekends!

**Update** - two more kids and a real job as a resident physician later and I'm "juggling" more than ever, and happier than ever! Read more in this post.

January 13, 2015

Wardrobe Basics

One of the things I'm constantly working on is keeping things simple. It's so easy to be a collector - to buy and store, to add and add and fill up your plate. But I find that physical clutter (even if it's pretty clutter) just contributes to mental clutter! As they say, clear space = clear mind (or something like that). Especially for us living in such a small space, I'm always trying to go through and get rid of what we don't need or use, especially in the closet!

Many of you have sent me questions about how to build a wardrobe - so here it is - all the essentials for your closet and nothing else. I'll warn you guys - I am a sucker for neutrals - but one way to pare your wardrobe down the most is to keep everything in a similar color palette, this way everything can mix and match. One of the ways we get into trouble with having too much is needing each item in every color (of course that's fine if that's what makes you happy!) A lot of these basics will change depending on what type of climate you live in as well, so you may swap out an extra pair of jeans for jean shorts - lucky you! ;)

Nice t-shirts are essential for my wardrobe - you can dress them up by throwing a blazer or cardigan over, or keep them simple. You'll never go wrong with black, white, and black and white stripes. A sweater is a must here in New England (I tend to collect these, but then find myself wearing the same one repeatedly - so that's the essential one)! A cardigan will make any of your short sleeve shirts or sleeveless dresses appropriate. A gorgeous wrap top is a work-piece classic, and can be paired with a pencil skirt or pencil pants (my favorite cut of dress pants - they look best when they hit right at the ankle)! A sheath dress is another essential for the business clothes - I literally lived in my black sheath dress during the summer workdays! Jeans are of course my favorite, but like anything else in my closet, I gravitate towards the same couple - a skinny pair and a more relaxed fit will get you anywhere! And shoes - we can't forget about shoes. Keep it classic with black pumps and black pointy toe flats for the office or nights out, sneakers for casual days, and neutral sandals or boots depending on the weather! Finally, a belt to pull together any work look - skinny black is my favorite! 

All the links for the items in this post are within the text, or you can shop the post from the image links below! 

January 5, 2015

How to Achieve Your Goals

Happy New Year! I hope you all had restful holidays with your loved ones and are ready to take on a new year! 2014 was an amazing year, but no matter how amazing, it's always nice to set new goals and continue growing each year! What are your goals for this year? I've got a few myself, most are more small changes I can make in my daily life, but some are bigger projects I'd love to complete. 

If any of you also have some big goals this year, I hope this post can help you in achieving them! 

Image via Instagram @Sara_De and featured by @DarlingMagazine

1. Write them down: This sounds silly, but writing things down really does get them out and make them tangible. No longer are they dreams and ideas floating around in our mind, now they're in front of you. I like to write plans down in a journal and even continue writing and see where it takes me. Type out your goal or find a cute print that symbolizes it and get it printed - hang it somewhere where you will see it everyday.

2. Surround yourself with likeminded people: Nothing is more detrimental to a goal than having people constantly belittling it. Many of us will continue and succeed, in spite of such talk, and if you can do so bravo! But nothing is more cultivating than having people who are thinking about the same problems you are or working towards the same goals. These aren't cheerleaders, per say (although it's always nice to have them in your corner too) - these are people who you can talk with and bounce ideas of off, learn from, collaborate with. You are almost never alone in your goals - find likeminded people and link up however you can! Social media can be great for finding these people, as can good old fashioned networking. 

3. Break it up and set mini rough deadlines: Goals can seem scary. Especially when they're big, they can seem near impossible. One of my favorite quotes in high school was the classic by Lao Tzu "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" - back then the idea of becoming a doctor seemed so far away and would take so long and would basically be impossible. But I would think of that quote and just focus on the next step and now, well, you guys know how time flies! Breaking up your goal into smaller steps serves a couple of purposes - for one, it will allow you to plan your attack, and figure out what actually has to get done to reach your goal. Secondly, it will make the goal seem much less daunting - just focus on the next step, and then the next one, and then nothing will stop you. 

4. Be kind to yourself: I call all deadlines rough deadlines. Now some are rougher than others of course, but for the most part, if you don't accomplish something by the time you wanted, it's ok! The world won't end, you will have another chance tomorrow, or the next month. I mention this because we all have setbacks, or things that come up and require us to temporarily change our priorities, it's life after all. But we can't beat ourselves up over these things, be kind to yourself, and set a new deadline! No need to give up. 

5. Be ok with change - The final thing you have to remember when trying to achieve your goals is that sometimes goals change. Never be so stiff in your goals that you lose your ability to see new opportunity. I for one like to finish things, I'm obsessed with the checking off of checkboxes, so this was a lesson that was hard for me. But we really can't plan for everything, and because of that our goals don't always fit us. Our goals grow or change as we do, and we should be ok with that!

I'd love to hear what tips help you achieve your goals! We all have different things that work for us!
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