Routines, amended

Last week our family got a new puppy. We had talked about this for a very long time- years in fact. One of my major reasons for holding out so long was that I knew it would be a lot of work. A big change. But, we finally felt we were ready.

You know how people tell you that having a baby will completely change your life and rock your world, and you nod and say that you know and that you’re ready, but that you can’t really know and then it happens and you’re suddenly thinking “oh, that’s what they meant”? Well, it turns out getting a puppy is sort of a milder version of that. You can prepare, and buy supplies, and read about house training, but until you’re actually in it, you can’t know.

Well, now we know. Adding a puppy to our lives is an amazing mix of love and fun (seeing her with my son completely melts my heart) and a serious dose of chaos. She’s a fluffy tornado of affection and activity who requires constant supervision until she suddenly collapses asleep on the floor and we all take a breath until the next round. Hmm, this does sound a lot like having a baby.

Any change, even a joyful one, can present challenges. I, for one, am a creature of habit. I love my routines. My early morning workout session before the rest of the house is awake. My coffee and audio book on the morning commute. Reading to my son at bedtime. These routines approach the sacred for me. And there is decent evidence that sticking to certain routines can be very healthy and productive. Yet, there are times we must be flexible. This is one of those chapters.

So, I’m trying to open my mind to the possibility of amended routines. I’m thinking about how these new routines might even be better than the ones I had before. Initially I was sort of resenting the amount of time I was standing around outside waiting for the puppy to do her business, until I realized that I was standing around outside. I’ve seen a few beautiful sunrises that I would otherwise have missed. I’ve heard the morning birds. I’ve noticed things in our yard that I have never seen before. I’ve started taking a book outside with me and appreciating the extra reading time. I may not reach this level of acceptance at midnight, but it is working well the rest of the time.

So, maybe I’ll have a morning workout buddy who sometimes wants to join in on the yoga mat or chew on the weights (not happening, ma’am), but I’m still out there doing it. I may never sincerely enjoy house training, but I’ll take the trade-off of unconditional love that our little puppy is already sharing over my strict routines any day of the week. Just remind me of that around midnight. I’ll be standing around outside.

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The calm between the storms. 🙂



Until very recently I was among the nearly three-quarters of American smartphone owners who sleep with their phone next to their bed. I routinely spent a fair amount of time scrolling just prior to sleep. This, despite recommending to parents at least weekly in clinic that they get their child’s gadgets out of their bedroom if they wanted to increase sleep quality and quantity.

For about a year now (okay, let’s be honest, at least two) I’ve been telling myself I needed to make a change. I wanted more peaceful thoughts running through my head when I closed my eyes each night; instead of the myriad news stories that Facebook put in front of me, or the work email that I just couldn’t shake. I wanted to control my phone instead of it controlling me. I had done pretty well with this in other ways- taking periodic digital sabbaths and gradually decreasing my overall screen time by tracking it.

But taking this final step was elusive. I had an excuse. A rationalization. A road block. The thought that runs through your head when you know you need to make a change, but cannot do it, and so convince yourself that it makes sense to maintain the status quo. In this case? I didn’t have an alarm clock. I really needed my phone to be my alarm clock.

Then my son got a tablet for Christmas. I had pretty mixed feelings about this but it is a fairly simple model that he uses for homework (and of course his “videos”). We set up some screen time rules around its use and one of those rules is that the tablet has a bedtime. It charges in a docking station in the family room. Here I was, telling my son that his tablet had a bedtime but I couldn’t give my phone the same.

So I bought an alarm clock. Ten dollars later and I am free. It’s been almost two months since my phone joined the tablet at its docking station each evening and, wow, I’m never going back. Better sleep. Peace of mind. More reading. Less parental guilt. And no more excuses.

A Letter to my Younger Self, on the Eve of my 40th Birthday


Dear Heidi,

First off, let’s get one thing straight. Forty years old is very, very young. Really, it is. You won’t believe how young 40 is.

Now that we have that basic truth out of the way, let me tell you some things I wish you had known a little earlier in life.

Pinot noir and gouda are both excellent.

Laugh more. Don’t take everything so seriously.

Getting pregnant and having a baby is a miracle. Never take it for granted.

Eat a little dark chocolate most days. It is delicious and is also apparently good for you. Win, win. Don’t eat very many other sweets. You don’t like them much anyway.

Trust your gut.

Being a mom is the most amazing thing you’ll ever do. Hands down. Cliche, but true. And the kid– wow. Just wait til you meet him.

There will be a day when you think coffee tastes better without cream and sugar. Crazy, I know.

You can’t go home again. Or, maybe you can, but it is a very long and winding road.

You’re wearing the wrong bra size (along with the majority of women). Go get fitted and spend some money on high-quality bras. Totally worth it.

Most people are so busy worrying about their own lives that they are not paying much attention to you. Don’t worry so much about what people think.

Wear sunscreen and sunglasses.

Primary care for vulnerable kids is not the most glamorous part of medicine. No matter. Do not doubt your decision. This is your calling.

Lift some weights. You’ll love it. I’m not kidding.

You’ll make mistakes- in medicine and in life. Try your best to learn from them and move on. Don’t beat yourself up. You are still not very good at this.

Be kind. Be yourself. Love deeply. Let the rest fall away.


Last July I left the Bay Area after living there for ten years. This summer, I returned to visit for the first time. I found myself awash in thoughts of “home”. Here I was, in a place that never truly felt like what I conceptualized as home while I lived there, and yet I felt nostalgic. The familiar streets. The old haunts. The place where I became a mom and pediatrician. The people. It’s the people. My people. The friends who became family. The people around whom you can be completely yourself without a second thought. Is that what “home” is?


Yet, home is also now Dallas. Of course it is. Home is where my husband and son are. It is where my job is. It is where, after a year, we are starting to build a community and already have dear friends. It’s just not quite as worn-in yet. Not quite as easy and comfortable. It still requires a GPS. But it’s “home”, right?


Because, deep down, in a way I didn’t fully appreciate prior to spending a decade moving around, home is also where I spent my childhood. Wisconsin. Home is where my family is. Where I grew into the person I am. Where I have lifelong friends who just know me. Where the way things are done is expected and familiar. At least that’s how I imagine it. Perhaps it is a nostalgic lens. If I lived there now would it feel the same? After all of this time, would the glove still fit?


And that’s when I start wishing for a teleporter. Because home is, of course, all of these. And while there is a twinge of envy for those who have all of these homes in one place, I wouldn’t change a thing. Each of these “homes” is now weaved together into the fabric of my life.

They say you can’t go home again. But maybe you already are.