Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Archive for October, 2020

Sunday musings…10/25/2020: Dad’s Memorial

Sunday musings…

1 Anecdata. Anecdotes (stories) strung together as if they were objective data from a scientific study. Presently driving an inordinate amount of dialog on social media as well as more traditional information sources. 

Should be a word.

2 Disgust. Once again, the only word to describe my emotional response as I sit over my absentee ballot (we have voted this way for almost 10 years; I can’t predict my availability on any day whatsoever, let alone voting day). I felt exactly the same way 4 years ago. This is the best our two major parties can do? These two? Really? This is what I get to choose from? 


3 Simple. My daily life is rather public. By that I mean that I am directly interacting with multiple people who are not in my friendship circles, and through multiple venues I am placing who I am (professionally) in the public sphere. Part of my interaction each day is answering my patients when they ask me, quite sincerely, how I’m doing. My answer, at least up until a couple of weeks ago, was “OK enough”. 

No longer. 

Why? Well, it’s all about perspective, right? Even my original answer “OK enough” was about perspective. I had no real worries. I was employed and had work, my family and I were all healthy, and in many ways I was driving at least my own local bus routes. Still, I was obviously trying to convey a sense that it wasn’t really OK. Not really. My reality was a kind of different that was somehow less than OK. Objectively I could point to all of the really fun stuff Beth and I had planned to do to mark my 60th birthday and our 35th wedding Anniversary. I could reference how my speaking and consulting work had disappeared. 

But my seemingly diminished daily life led itself to the analysis that free time affords. In that respect it became very obvious that my life was not really diminished at all. It was not a small life in any respect. What it had become was simple. I had once again been living a simple life, one not unlike that which we enjoyed—truly enjoyed—when our children were school age. When our kids were K-12 I did pretty much what I do now: go to work, then go home. For some 15 or so years I did the barest minimum of professional travel necessary to maintain my medical license and not one minute or mile more. 

My industry buddies called it “D. White’s sabbatical”. 

There was nothing about my life that was small. Just like now. My life is simple. Straight forward. But it’s hardly small. I am surrounded by people who care about the minutes of my day in the same way they did 15 or 20 years ago. At work I do what I’m supposed to do, take care of each individual patient who sits in front of me. And then I go home. I go to the best place in the world. The place where who I am as cherished for no other reason than that: I am who I am. Simple, but hardly small. 

You could make a case that no life could possibly be larger.

4 Memorial. Today my family marked 5 years without my Dad. Today was the 5th annual mass held in memory of my Dad, Richard E. White. Dad passed away on October 10, 2015 at 8:30 in the evening. He died peacefully in the company of my Mom, one of my sisters, and a couple who had been among my parents’ closest, most loyal friends. My Dad was terrifically afraid to die. In a beautiful moment of grace, he was the only one in the room who didn’t know it was happening. 

My parents have been very observant Catholics forever. To mark my Dad’s passing Mom offered a mass each October and designated it a “must attend” performance for my siblings and me. “Your father would have wanted this.” Nonsense. My Mom wants this. My Dad would have been delighted if his offspring (and perhaps their offspring, his grandchildren) got together for a meal, maybe after playing a round of golf, perhaps one that included his favorite wine Chateauneuf du Pape. The mass thing is all about Mom. 

Still, I am sad that I am not there. 

Not guilty, mind you. No, the fact that each of us realizes that it’s all about Mom frees me from whatever guilt I may once have felt. We’re all a bit put out about the whole grand performance part of this. We all miss my Dad every single day. There’s no difference today. My brother was very eloquent as he expressed this. Yesterday was terrible because Dad wasn’t here. Last week, last month, last year. We miss Dad every day. Today is no different for us when it comes to missing Dad. We miss him every single day. 

So, no guilt, just sadness, because it would be nice to see my siblings and my Mom. Absent this whole pandemic thing I would have gotten on a plane, been all kinds of put out because of the rigidity of the experience, but on the plane nonetheless. I’m sad that I’m not. I’m sad because my Mom would have been happier if I’d been there. Sad because I really like being with my brother and my sisters. But in the end just as sad today as I was yesterday, and as I will be tomorrow, that my Dad is gone. Today is just the latest today that I will not hear his voice, feel his embrace, know that he would be there to do whatever a Dad needs to do for a son whenever he might need to do so.

No guilt because I’ve said again and again “I love you” to my, people including my Mom. I’ve done what my friend Bill has long counseled, saying what needs to be said long before there’s no one there to say it to. When my Dad’s day came, I had no peace to make; my Dad knew I loved him. But still, though I’ll have no peace to make or saying left unsaid, sad because today forces me to think about a day when I will miss both a Dad AND a Mom. 

It’s simple, really. Life is smaller when your Mom and Dad aren’t there to live it with you.

I’ll see you next week…

Sunday musings…10/18/2020

Sunday musings…

1 Schnorrer. Yiddish for “alligator arms”. 

2 Season. Lake season is officially over. 

3 Tub. Hot tub season has officially begun.

4 Virtual. It has now been 7 months since I’ve attended a meeting of any type in person. In the spring I just couldn’t make myself log in to our second biggest professional meeting of the year. In a typical year I can get all of the educational credits necessary to renew my license by attending only our 2 biggest meetings. Now I am reduced to just another WFH wonk wearing my screen goggles.

How do you full-time WFH warriors do it?

5 Nutrition. Again. Anyone who has spent any time reading my drivel knows that I have been on a 20-year quest searching for the optimal nutrition plan. One that would simultaneously fuel all of my pursuits and lead to some sort of health risk mitigation. Does such a thing exist? I’m not really ball that sure to tell you the truth. Still, since I have the freedom to explore the topic and a willing partner in Beth, why not?

At the enthusiastic suggestion of Lovely Daughter Megan, Beth and I watched a documentary called “Forks Over Knives”. Its thesis can be summed up as this: eating basically any food that emanates from an animal in any way is ultimately unhealthy. One of the issues I’ve confronted as I’ve been on my little nutrition quest is the challenge of separating science from belief. Indeed, each time I think about the whole “no animal” thing I harken back to a breakfast that John Brown shared with Randy and me in Ramona while visiting our friends the Martins. A couple also visiting were literally preaching at us once they saw our order arrive. They’d been vegan for years; their nutrition choices had long ago become a quasi-religion. 

Still, there is much to ponder about nutrition at a macro level. Especially if you, like me, have a number of probable inherited health risks. “Forks Over Knives” makes much of research that implies a marked increase in cancer risk from eating animal products (including dairy). As a (now casual) CrossFitter I’ve read an equal amount of studies that conclude pretty much exactly the opposite: eating diets high in animal protein and fat leads to a longer, healthier life. 

So, which is it?

In the end I certainly don’t know. Still, the most impactful article I’ve ever read about the effects of markedly different dietary patterns on an individual was in Outside Magazine so many years ago that it predates my CrossFit journey. The author ate using various diets (IIRC Keto, Vegan, Paleo, and Mediterranean). Since he was relatively young (40ish) he then tested stuff that was easily accessible: serum lipids and inflammatory markers. It’s been a really long time so I don’t recall which one was the winner, but I do remember that his numbers were pretty crappy on 3 of the diets, and superlative on the one. Is it possible to measure something without experimentation to come to the same conclusion? There are certainly lots of companies that would like to sell you a test of your genome, but at the moment the answer is no. The only way you can know is to experiment. 

What are we doing then? With Megan’s encouragement Beth and I are now about 2 months into what can be fairly called a pescatarian diet. We are eating primarily plant-based, but we are eating fish several times a week as well. Kinda Mediterranean I suppose. We are eating small amounts of cheese for flavor purposes, and I am also eating eggs on occasion. I am finding that I can combine this largely plant-based strategy with the knowledge that I’ve gained about insulin sensitivity over the course of the day. By over-weighting protein in the AM and carbs in the PM I have been sleeping better both objectively (tracker-based metrics) and subjectively (I wake up rested). 

Will it last? Meh, who knows? Life is short, and if we start to feel like we are missing something by not eating meat I’m sure we will return to our carnivorous ways. For the moment at least it’s been relatively easy. After all, we changed to a predominantly white wine lifestyle 5 years ago. If we can do that, well, this should be a snap! 

I’ll see you next week (send me your recipes)…

Love Language: Sunday musings…10/11/2020

Sunday musings…10/11/2020

1 Date. Anybody else notice that yesterday was 10/10/20? That’s gotta be a thing, right?

Should be a thing.

2 Verlaine. Name of a French poet. Now often used as an adjective to describe not just poetry but fine poetry. Cool name for a horse, don’t you think?

Here’s hoping the one we just added to the stable performs like fine poetry.

3 Map. “How did we ever find ourselves wherever in the ‘80’s?” Bill P, surgeon and muse.

At the moment I am riding shotgun as Beth drives us home from what stood in for dinner in Paris (our 35th Anniversary trip to France with Bill and Nancy got 2020’d). On the way to Cincinnati we took a grand total of 2 roads until we got to our exit. Two more roads and there we were, in our friends’ driveway. Pretty straightforward trip during any era, but one that required only a tiny bit of info to pull off. So, we just winged it, right? Went all 1985 on the navigation. 

Nah. We had Waze on the whole way. You know, just in case there was an accident, or construction, or whatever. 

At breakfast this morning we all marveled at how in the day we always ended up where we were headed, and usually did so without incident. Bill noted that modern GPS is much more effective with a little bit of knowledge about your trip beforehand. For example, even if the GPS tells you it’s faster to take the ferry across the lake to get to Burlington, in the winter just a little bit of local knowledge reminds you that the time of arrival doesn’t take into account the amount of time you have to wait for the spring thaw. 

There was something different, better in some ways, certainly more satisfying, when you had to pull out the map or the atlas and look at pictures of your options. And then make a call. Beth was brilliant back in the day at seeing the routes in her mind after turning a few pages in one of the maps we had piled under the front seats in our minivans. For sure you can “see” where you are on the dashboard screen or your phone, but there’s a bit more info, and certainly more of what one might call romance, in answering the “Mommy, where are we?” coming from the back seat with a map. 

“Right here, Honey!”

No great insight here. We’ll keep on using Waze and Maps apps of one sort or another, mostly because we can. Still, something is missing in the experience, even if it’s only the pleasure of watching Beth re-fold another map into its picture-perfect, just out of the wrapper, original self. 

4 Language. Specifically, “love language”: how someone expresses their love. It’s really not as simple as just saying “I love you”, although for sure there are plenty of people who can say that, and do say that, and get across the reality that they do, in fact, love you. When they say “I love you” it’s much, much more than a simple salutation; they are just flat out stating the fact out loud directly to you. More often is the case that the expression of love is couched in terms that you may not initially understand or hear as “I love you”.

The best example from my adult life was brought to my attention, like so many other really important things, when I expressed a frustration to Beth. Having moved hundreds of miles away from family we raised our kids without the benefit of having either set of parents there to offer “on the ground” insights when it was our turn as parents to hit a speed bump. Kids come preassembled without any instructions. I’ve never done anything more difficult than my part of raising our kids. 

Anyway, I was fried one time after a hard patch with our oldest. Nothing bad, really, just the hard work of raising a bright, strong-willed first born. “It never ends! How do we even know if we’re getting it right? How do we know if he knows how hard we are trying, how much we love him?” Into my hands plops the answer. “Strong Boys”, a book about how boys communicate, especially when they are young. It was always there. He always knew, and more than that he was always telling us, telling me. 

I just didn’t know the language. 

According to the “Strong Boys” author boys, and especially young boys, express their love by helping. “Let me get that” or “need me to hold something” is code for something that is pretty much the same as “I love you” from someone else. Our other two had their own way of saying it. My point isn’t so much about how to read your kids as it is to remind that “love language” can be very different in the different people who are in your life. Heck, sometimes letting YOU do the helping is precisely equal to your third-grade son holding the yard waste bag while you rake. 

In these fraught times it can seem as if we get altogether too much criticism and not enough love. That may actually be the case, of course. There has been a coarsening of social intercourse of all kinds. It is hard to detect whether there is that much more criticism coming our way by volume, or if that negativity is simply so much more blunt that it just feels like more. On top of that, if we somehow miss it when someone is telling how much they love us, well, that just makes the negative stuff sting all the much more. 

We’re all hurting a bit now. Sometimes, when we hurt, we might not hear someone else’s “love language”. It’s as if our pain, whatever its cause, makes it more difficult to translate “let me get that for you” into the “I love you” it’s meant to convey. But it’s there. It’s still there. Your people, family and friends, close colleagues who’ve always covered your 6, they’re all still there. They all still love you for all the reasons they’ve always loved you. Now, when we all need it the most, we are surrounded by people telling us how much they love and cherish us. 

To receive it we just have to keep our ears, and our hearts, open to their “love language”. 

I’ll see you next week…

Sunday musings…10/4/2020

Sunday musings…10/4/2020

1 2020’d. New term for something that was, or would have been wonderful, that was either destroyed or cancelled by the events of 2020. At the moment I am writing this Beth and I would have been dressing for an Anniversary dinner. 

In Paris. 

2 Tracker. Yup, I’m doing it again. Using a fitness tracker. Pretty much basic stuff at the moment. Pretty much because my fitness routine consists mainly of being dragged around at the other end of a leash by Sasha. In a “what the heck, why not?” kinda way I’m also sorta tracking my daily steps. When Sasha and I get together I am comfortably between 10 and 12,000.

To keep things in perspective: a 60 yo “Old Amish” male gets in between 14 and 18,000 without resorting to “walking”. 

3 Mixology. I love a good cocktail. Thankfully so does my wife, as do our children and their spouses. Beth’s sisters and their husbands have tastes that align pretty closely to ours; my siblings and their spouses favor wine, a spirit that has graced many (most?) of our dinner tables, at least our weekend dinner tables, since the early 1980’s. 

What I really love about cocktails, though, is the sense of adventure, of discovery, that can be a part of the experience. Finding a new cocktail, whether as the result of a purposeful search or happenstance, is much like stumbling upon buried treasure. For us it is also quite often an opportunity to experiment around the flavors contained in that discovery. Our most successful examples at Casa Blanco are the “Very Bad Decision”, a take on a Margarita, and the “Sideswiped”, our version of the classic Sidecar. 

At the moment I am playing around with a companion to “The Last Word”, a classic 1920’s creation that features gin. There’s a book in me about cocktails during the Pandemic with a working title “Drinking with John Starr” if I ever get off the schneid and start writing. I can see that effort bookended by “The Last Word” at the finish and something I’ll call “The First Shot” up front. 

I’ll let you know what I come up with. 

4 Genius. The brilliant, awkward, prickly version. Seems that particular sub-species is much more interesting, in fiction or real life, however maddening they might be. Whether a detective, doctor, lawyer, engineer/inventor or other sort in which a singular genius type of intellect might come in handy, it more often than not seems to be the case that a soaring intellectual gift comes wrapped in socially challenging packaging. Think Sherlock Holmes in comparison with, say, Harry Bosch (fictional characters chosen to spare the real life guilty). So much so that when you encounter a true genius who is normal, or at least relatively normal when interacting with their non-genius circle, it kinda stands out. 

Hardly prickly, the genius with whom I am closest is an around-the-bend rabid NFL fan. Just doesn’t fit the whole genius motif, and yet, there he is. 

Historically the non-genius world has most often given a wide berth to the prickly genius walking among us. And why not? My Dad’s cardiac surgeon (long deceased now) was a jerk. A complete a-hole. Yet his singular genius gave our family 30 bonus years with our patriarch. With the obvious exception of moral reprobates who apply their genius toward nefarious outcomes, or just as bad, the genius who mistakes that wide berth for a pass to abuse fellow travelers in any way, the world is eventually a better place for having even the most cranky and difficult geniuses come along. Indeed, in order to extend the lifespan of that benefit, we all come out for the better if something along the line of a “genius tender” in some way becomes attached to one of these “social disasters” waiting to happen. Stories abound of brilliant men and women who create new technology, find medical breakthroughs, or conjure heretofore unthinkable artistic beauty out of the same air that the rest of us just breath as we move along the glidepaths of life. And then they crash. 

But why? That fine line between genius and some sort of madness need not necessarily be crossed. What possesses them?

Why bring this up now? I’ve written before that I personally do not have the “genius gene”. No part of Mozart’s genetic magic lives within my chromosomes. Nor that of Watson or Crick, or even the remarkable French monk who came up with the recipes for green and yellow Chartreuse some 200+ years ago. No, rather than the “Mozart Gene” I was blessed with a kindlier, less envious version of the “Salieri Gene”. It is my singular gift to be able to identify true genius in another human, genius large or small, while almost instantaneously knowing that their genius was just beyond my reach. Similar to Salieri, who in many ways made Mozart financially secure, I find it quite easy to imagine how to capitalize on any number of genius-level discoveries and help them do so. Unlike Salieri, though, I would find no joy, no solace or respite, in the jealous destruction of a genius as Salieri was said to have ultimately done to Mozart. 

In our world today, indeed in circles very close to my closest circles, there have been geniuses, visionaries, who have shattered in spectacular fashion. Each incident seemed to me as altogether preventable. Even for the most difficult, the prickliest of geniuses. Why is this so? Or is it really so? Why does it seem as if so many of the most gifted among us have crashed and burned upon hills that are either too trivial to “die on” or so easily circumnavigated that it makes one wonder if the figurative self-immolation was somehow their desired outcome? Why do we not have more like Steve Jobs, who somehow find their way back, who return from whatever prompted them to self-destruct and once again grace us with the fruits of their genius?

Lots of questions. There’s no answer coming from these quarters I’m afraid. Like I said, the genius gene is in a deeper end of the gene pool than that into which I was born. I understand that which makes them prickly no better than what it is that allows them to discover stuff just before I start to even think about it. A couple of these folks are friendly acquaintances or friends of friends. Always just beyond any chance that I might have been either a Salieri or a tender, yet close enough to see both the detritus of the destruction and the collateral damage that ensued. What benefits, what joy might have come from their genius had they not crossed that line so completely that there was no coming back? 

Prickly or not, “saving” them can’t be as simple as having an NFL Red Zone subscription, can it? 

I’ll see you next week…

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