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Stone Turtle Health Blog

Gratitude Posts

October 8, 2015

Gratitude and acknowledgement. I'm seeing an uptick in these types of posts on social media and it's not because I'm following more hippy-dippy accounts, either. As community members, people are reaching out to help one another and are getting recognized. Maybe the actual helping hasn't increased but having a forum to sing someone's praises certainly makes it seem that way. My feeds are filled with friends, neighbors, and family members showing gratitude for gestures, gifts and for simple pleasures in daily life. It's a trend I wholeheartedly support, not just because it's "nice" or "sweet" to acknowledge someone for their work, but also because it's good for US to do so. Connections with an extended support network have been shown to improve mental health and illness outcomes in study after stduy. Community makes us healthier and recognizing other people's contributions to our community makes the ties that bind that much tighter. 

Tomorrow, my son turns one year old. Last year, at this time, we went through a terrifying journey and I want to express my gratitude for everyone who wa a part of it. First, my family, who helps in many, many ways from stocking his closet and sending home toys, covering some of my childcare needs to allow me to keep the clinic running and just holding him for me so I can get a hot meal or a drama-free trip to the bathroom. My long-time and new friends who've shared laughs and tears as we went from the NICU to home and I tried to figure out how to juggle everything. My patients and office mates who have been so understanding of my mommy brain and have welcomed CJ into the clinic family with open arms and occasional smiles of commiseration aimed in my direction. The doctors who covered for me while I wrestled with the heavy fog of early motherhood, shuttling back and forth to the NICU for 70 days, not wanting to get out of bed until it was time to go and see him. My colleagues who helped me figure out how to balance (-ish) life with a baby and a clinic. Our community in general, via Faccebook, that has shown me how deeply the need to connect lives in each of us. Women I never knew drove me back and forth to the NICU to see CJ for the first few weeks. Families hand down clothes and toys and we, in turn, pass them on to new babies that come along. Ballard is NOT the big city, it's a small town full of folks who are maybe trying out this "neighbor" thing for the first time, or they want things to be like when they were a kid and they realize the importance of connection in reaching that goal. 

His sitters. Oh, bless the young women and their moms who have covered my ass so many times and whose families have absorbed him into their midst, so he can have a mini-vacation from me, complete with older brothers and sisters. The initial fear of handing over my son to someone who looked barely big enough to lift him has been far outstripped by their impressive growth as caregivers and young women. It's a privilege to be a part of their lives and to watch them gain competence and enthusiasm, and to see CJ bond and build relationships with them. 

Thank you, everyone, for making this the BEST year of my life.

Happy New Year!

January 5, 2015

Wow! It's been SUCH a long time since I last posted and there is a reason for that. In October, I gave birth to my son, abput 3 months ahead of time. The intervening months have been a scramble of daily hospital visits, bringing on two doctors to cover for my mandated absence. and runnnig things behind the scenes. I have been incredibly fortunate to have Dr. Christine Cirovic and Dr. Madison Fandel caring for my patients while I was gone. Dr. Cirovic is remaining in the office, starting her own practice, in January and Dr. Fandel will hopefully continue to cover on occasion. Both very impressive new doctors that I look forward to watching grow and thrive in their own practices. 

First of all, the amount of gratitude that I have towards the staff at Ballard Swedish and Swedish First Hill knows no bounds. The Ballard folks took a very scary situation and made everything come out in the best possible way. At First Hill, the NICU and later the Intermediate Care Unit and Pediatric Special Care Unit folks were very compassionate and understanding. My son was there for exactly 10 weeks and I spent most of my time with him. The staff helped answer my questions, soothe my fears, and get me set up for a successful transition home before Christmas. A lot of their work, especiallly the paarent outreach program, is supported by the March of Dimes, which works to end polio, birth defects, and premature births worldwide. 

Secondly, my family, friends, neighbors and patients who took the time to visit, send food, give rides, or just check in with me deserve a big hug and many thanks. Without a strong support system, being a single parent is difficult enough, but being a single parent whose child is in the hospital is just the worst! Thank you to all of you for keeping me sane and not letting me stay in bed all day (most days). 

Finally, I'd like to remind everyone that, as this is the start of a new year, this is also the beginning of a new leg of our journey together towards health. Resolutions are not so easily sustained but slow, steady improvement can lead to a lifetime of difference.  As we ease into 2015, our office will be implementing electronic medical records, which we hope will be more of a blessing than a curse. On occasion, my son may be in the office, as childcare schedules never go the way they're planned, and I consider it my own good luck to be able to bring him in when needed. From my perspective, anything other than another hospital stay is a good thing. I ask for understanding and patience in both of these areas from my patients, whose own families I love to see often. We would love to see you in the office in the coming year and I hope to continue to provide care for my friends and neighbors for a long tmie to come!

Happy New Year 2015!

Dr. Katie Baker

Band of Brothers (and Sisters)

September 29, 2013

I'm a big fan of Kid President. This kid stands for positive change, "being awesome" and "more dance parties". His partnership with local actor Rainn Wilson, of "The Office" and Soul Pancake is a bright light in an often-cynical and sad world I think the message that they are sharing is important. I LOVE dance parties! I want to be awesome!

Last month, I did an awesome thing. Via Twitter, I thanked Anthony Shears, a local recording artist living in L.A., for a beautiful song he had written about domestic violence. He did an awesome thing- he replied. Our dialogue, such as it was, transferred from Twitter to Facebook, to phone & email. We dreamed about what we could do to REALLY make a positive change in the lives of children touched by domestic violence or in difficult home situations. Anthony spent a lot of his childhood at the Ballard Boys & Girls Club. He tells me there were some days where most of his meals came from there. The folks at the Ballard Boys & Girls Club helped keep Anthony, his brother and their friends off the streets by providing them a safe place where they could build healthy relationships and stay out of trouble. Mentors at the Club gave the boys opportunites to play sports and support to succeed in school. Anthony went on to attend Dartmouth and work in L.A. with some legendary recording artists; Norris is an Olympic athlete. They want to give back.

My own work with children spans 20 years, in various areas such as medicine, social work, teaching, and volunteering. I believe that if we support children who need it the most, we benefit ourselves through building a strong community. Another generation will be raised up with the values that we treasure. Values like integrity, honesty, a strong work ethic, creativity, and a sense of community are supported at Boys & Girls Clubs. 

Working with Anthony, Norris, and a team of amazing volunteers, we are designing the first annual "Field of Our Dreams Celebrity Softball Tournament" to benefit the Ballard & Wallingford Boys & Girls Clubs. Money raised will help to re-surface the softball field and provide scholarship funds to the 70% of children that rely on assistance to be a part of the Clubs. Scheduled for May 4 at B.F. Day Playfield, the softball game will have local celebrities and athletes and live performances. This event can't happen without volunteers- let us know if you'd like to help!

Our first step: The upcoming Ballard Boys & Girls Club Auction to begin the fundraising for the field, held October 25th at 5:30 with both silent and live auctions. More information can be found here, as well as tickets ($45, including free childcare and a salmon dinner)

Dance moves

May 24, 2013

 

Music, for one reason or another, has always been an integral part of my daily life. I meet people who can have music in the background at dinner or a barbecue, but how can you focus on anything without reveling in the songs, the lyrics and melodies changing you into whoever you were, wherever you heard that song for the first time?

Odd, this, but every few months or so, I'll just cling to some music, one particular artist or one song covered by many, as I use it to process whatever is happening in my life. Last spring, I was drawn to Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". Life was not good. Love was not good. Love ended in brokenness.  Suffice to say, I survived and that song (although on repeat for a few, wallowing months) stopped being so personal. I was bright and shiny and life was beautiful again. Showtunes, old school R&B, anything that was sunshine and hope and the rush from dancing at home on my lunch break or after work, became preferred again.

What I've been feeling lately is spring and summer and hip-shaking solo dance parties. I've been moving through the world, walking for miles on my lunch break. The only trouble is trying to keep from dancing in the streets to the beats in my ears.  Right now, I'm grooving to "Fugees Radio" on Pandora, which I've filled with my own personal blend of 80's & 90's rap & hip-hop (memories from middle school through college) and today's new discoveries. For a few songs, I'm no longer staring 40 (well, ok, 36) in its exhausted eyes, I'm back in middle school, before the self consciousness, before any aches and pains, when we all danced in tight circles in the gym, trying to pick up new moves.

Which brings me to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis's "The Heist", only the second album I've purchased on my iPhone (the other being Johnny Cash's "Unchained", if you must get all the details of my "diverse" music tastes). There's that resonance again. I will warn you that there's cursing, so it's not something to spring on your kids without listening first. But, as an adult, I would definitely recommend you give it a listen. Listen to the words...

"My, Oh, My" makes me tear up at the loss of Dave Niehaus a few years back, remembering how I couldn't get my mom to get out of the car and come in for dinner until the M's game she'd been listening to all the way home from work was over. "Can't Hold Us" had me freak out,  dancing with a classmate in my improv class, "Thrift Shop" has its own dance routine worked out at home (with or without my vacuum cleaner),  "Victory Lap" and "Ten Thousand Hours", about the journeyman process to getting good at what you are passionate about rings true for me every day I step in my clinic, especially those times when I wonder what the heck I'm doing and when I should know enough to give up and let it crumble versus buckling down and riding out the rough spots. "Same Love" is thrilling to me now that marriage equality is a reality in our state, in so many other states and countries. How principled, how upright to stand up for this belief in equality in a genre that routinely diminishes and demonizes those who love people of the same gender, especially before it was the law to allow everyone the freedom to marry. I am so happy that all my friends, gay or straight, can choose to live the way they want to live with the partners that they love. 

But, oh, the heartbreak on "Starting Over", his follow up to "Otherside" makes me cry every time. I want to punch a hole in something when I think about addiction and the people I love that struggle with it. I hate that these are the stories that pretty much everyone has, that there's a saboteur in so many brains.. that this disease called addiction waits patiently for so many people to have a moment of weakness. The closing line is exactly what I want to hear: "If I can be an example of getting sober, then I can be an example of starting over..."

Macklemore's willingness to share his own struggles, his openness about what he's gone through and about his beliefs, and his positive attitude as reflected in his work are all inspiring to me. I became a doctor to make a difference in someone's life, to provide caring and healing for the people in my community who need it, to help build a stronger Seattle, a stronger and better world. He's made such a name for himself as an independent artist- that, too, I admire. The hard work and heartbreak, the two steps forward, one step back process of getting recognition, especially without the backing of a large corporation. If I could say anything to him, it would be "Well done. Keep making a positive change. Share your message with as many people as possible. You are a force for good. You matter and you have a chance to change so much. Keep moving. " I realize as I write this, these are the words we should say to everyone.

So, I guess this post is just a mash note to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, but it's also for everyone I see making a choice every day to make a positive difference in the world, to reach out and connect with people around them, to stand up for the changes they want to see happen. Yeah, "The Heist" hits me. It's beautiful. You should listen to it. And you should dance.

 

Dream a Little Dream

January 11, 2013

My friend and inspiration, the comedian & musician Greg Behrendt (@gregbehrendt on Twitter) has always been someone I admired. I used to skip Chemistry class as an undergrad in order to watch his stand up specials on Comedy Central (don't worry, I passed and took 2 more years of Chem). Beyond his original voice and his incredibly spot-on sense of humor which I enjoyed a great deal, he seemed very relatable. very much a guy next door finding humor in everyday life. This was in the mid 90's and I had free cable and my own room for the first time in my life. Both were exhilarating!

Fast forward a few years: Greg goes to work on the set of "Sex and the City" and co-writes a book that a few people seem to enjoy called "He's Just Not That Into You", which gets made into a movie. He goes on Oprah, gets a talk show, and slowly stops doing what he loves. He fell off my radar for awhile, what with school and starting my first job, going back to school, and starting my career as a doctor.

Then, one day, I was listening to a local podcast, The Marty Riemer Show, that was broadcasting interviews from Bumbershoot. Marty & Jodi Brothers were talking to comedians. I'm a comedy nerd. I listened every day and heard Greg, Marc Maron, Jimmy Pardo, and others, all with their own podcasts. Greg was as charming as ever and talked about a little podcast project he was working on with his best friend, Dave Anthony, called Walking The Room. A warning: this podcast is both charming and vile. Definitely not safe for work and definitely full of gems that have actually made me fall down when listening to it on my lunchtime walks. Greg enjoys a short pant, a cardigan, and designing clothes. Somewhere in there, he began taking guitar lessons from a friend, Mike Eisenstein (formerly of Letters To Cleo, on Twitter as @USAMike). They formed a band.

Because of the podcast, I eventually got the opportunity to see Greg perform live and to meet him. As awesome as it was to do that, it was even cooler to find out that he was even more excited to meet me! We've hung out together at various podcast-related events and correspond on occasion. And he is the most encouraging person I know, bar none. As busy as he is, he always takes time to support his friends who are just starting out, or trying a new side-project. He's just good people.

So, this year, he had a bit of a mid-life crisis (which means he'll have to live to 100), had some emotional ups and downs. And he hasn't been shy about getting some help for this and talking about it. In fact, in speaking about it on his podcast, he's inspired a few of my friends around the world to seek therapy as well, which has been life- changing, even life-saving, for them. 

And what came of his therapy? This dream: to take his band, The Reigning Monarchs and, over the course of this year, create a second LP, promote the album, tour the U.S. and film it all for a documentary about "old men living their dreams". Funding is all that stands in the way. For awhile. 

The band started an IndieGoGo fundraising campaign and Greg put the word out to his fans and friends. The word spread. Their goal was $10,000 to record an album. Fans, friends, and family donated, tweeted about it, posted on Facebook and Google Plus. Everyone seemed invested in making someone else's dream come true. But, very specifically, the dream of a certain someone else who has supported them each individually with words of encouragement, enthusiasm, occasionally with connections to other folks who can help, and with an honest belief in them and their dreams, an honest concern for them and their lives.

Tonight, with 8 hours left in the fundraising, they have raised almost $26,000. They will use this money to create and produce the album, hire a publicist to promote it and book their tour, pay for tour travel expenses, and begin filming the documentary. And the day ain't over yet. 

 

Legacies

November 29, 2011

I had the wonderful experience of going to a musician's memorial the other night. Dave Conant, a mentor to my partner and a friend to my partner's family, passed away ten years ago. His daughter, widow, and friends decided to hold a wild night of music and memories in his honor, providing a large part of Seattle's music scene an opportunity for remembrance and celebration of his life at Hale's Palladium, the venue for the local Moisture Festival. I only knew a very few people and was initially uncomfortable to be the odd man out, but quickly found myself enjoying the music and feelings of camaraderie I found there. It was a very touching tribute, telling me as much about his friends and family as it did about the man himself.

Last night, my partner and I got to talking about what he wanted to pass on to his son. I was thinking in terms of tangibles and he meant values and lessons. This led us to a discussion about parenting, me questioning the best ways to pass on lessons to kids at different stages of development, what values are important to pass on and how to get the message across. These kinds of discussions are ones I cherish the most with my partner; I learn more about him and come to respect him even more each time we talk about serious issues because of his thoughtful and thought-provoking musings. He had recently watched Pearl Jam's documentary "20" and came away with the idea that we, as parents, try to instill a set of "guard rails" to help our kids survive and thrive in society, but it's the kids who push against the guard rails at an early age that become breakout stars in their field.

I look around and see so many parents struggling for the fine line between being overly permissive and being resented by their kids by being too strict. I struggle with my own experiences with finding my niche in our combined family, developing a relationship with my partner's son is on my mind a lot. I love him to pieces, I want to be of support to him as he grows into a young man, I have the best intentions. Hell, I even have a degree in Human Development (with a focus on early child development) and a minor in Psychology and some of the time, it doesn't help a damn bit because I'm fumbling in the dark when it comes to our interactions. It's not my responsibility to raise him, to teach him my values. I understand that, but I also believe that as a human being I have a responsibility to be a good role model for any child in my life, be they family, friend, or patient. I feel honored that I have an opportunity to share experiences with some pretty special young people and I want to be a positive influence, something that helps them as they grow and learn to be good people.

Growing up, I thought my parents and grandparents knew everything there was to know about raising kids. I never questioned whether I was loved, I never was abused, I rarely even THOUGHT about disobeying them (though it's true that if there wasn't an explicit rule for a given situation, I might be found carving my initials in the bathroom door and blaming my sister for framing me). Now, I find myself missing my deceased grandfather because I feel he would be better able to get a handle on things in our house, he would know what to do to restore order. Or questioning my mother at dinner the other week, trying to find out what her secret was, how she got the three of us girls to do what she said almost every time just by lowering her voice and narrowing her eyes. How my father could tell us we were going to do chores and we just DID them. I never resented them and never questioned that they were doing the right thing, but I find myself envying them sometimes. How will I ever get a two-year old to put on clothes that are appropriate for the given weather? How will I keep a ten-year old from starving to death when he won't eat vegetables or food that doesn't come from a box? And, dear lord, what in the world can I do when my kids get old enough to date, to drive, to sneak out at night, to have SEX?!? What kinds of values can I instill in them that will keep them alive, happy, and successful in whatever way they define? How will I prepare them, share the best things that I've learned with them to help them in their lives?

Maybe it's too soon to be worrying about these things, without a child of my own yet, but I think it's good to have these discussions with myself, and with my family and friends, to continuously develop ways to live a life consistent with my values so that I can honestly say when I leave this world that the kids in my life knew who I was and what I stood for and that I made a positive difference in their lives.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

March 9, 2011

Today, I had a great day. I got to do something small that I hope will make a big difference for someone in my community.

Back in January, I decided to donate $10 to the Ballard Food Bank for every new patient that month. I met the Food Bank's Executive Director, Nancy McKinney, at a Ballard Chamber of Commerce  After-Hours event last year and have been looking for an opportunity to help her organization as it continues to support members of the Ballard community, including some of my own patients.  I felt like it would be a great way to show my gratitude for my expanding business while helping a worthy community cause at the same time. The Ballard Food Bank distributed over 10.2 million pounds of food in 2010; over 27% of their recipients are elderly and over 14% are children. They do good work.

And they've recently moved. They're now in a beautiful and LARGE space on Leary Way, south of Market Street, in Ballard. The warehouse has been divided into an office/reception area, staff offices, a delivery area and a "shopping" area where clients can pick their food as if they were shopping in a grocery store. Clients are allotted a certain amount of groceries, depending upon the size of their family, and can shop once/week for fresh fruits and veggies, unlimited bread, canned goods, and even flowers (on occasion). This new design allows clients to have more control over the food they are given (instead of just getting a basket that someone else has prepared).

The core volunteers are friendly and helpful and the food bank is always in need of more. Peggy Bailey is the Volunteer Coordinator. She works with groups and individuals who want to help, in order to fill gaps in the schedule and support the core folks who are there on a regular basis. On our visit, we met a volunteer who is there 3 days a week! Now THAT'S dedication to your community!

After a quick tour and some photos, we were on our way back to the office. I'm so glad we got a chance to visit and I look forward to finding more opportunities to help this GREAT organization.

 Times are tight for a lot of folks right now, but if you've got some spare cans, spare time, or a little bit extra in your paycheck that you want to put to good use- please consider the Ballard Food Bank- Neighbors Helping Neighbors.

Food bank with Nancy McKinney.jpg (866.71 kb)

New Year, New Dreams!

December 29, 2010

It's time to take a leap! The New Year is upon us and it's time for change, expanding into our dreams and reaching for success In that vein, I am curtailing my hours in Bellevue and expanding them here in Ballard. In addition to my normal full days on Tuesday and Thursday and my half-day on Saturday, I will be in the office on Fridays from 9am-1 pm.

Because of my desire to continue to serve the community that I live in, these expanded hours come at the same time as a new promotion that we are offering at Stone Turtle Health in the month of January. For every new patient visit in January, I am donating $10 to the Ballard Food Bank, a local non-profit that has been serving Ballard families since the mid-1970's. I am a strong believer in the healing power of food and support their mission wholeheartedly as they provide sustenance to local families in need. If you are a current patient, please pass on the word to your friends and family to increase our donations in the month of January.

February will see Stone Turtle Health celebrating its third anniversary in business, and our second anniversary in the Ballard Wellness Clinic. Look for more blog posts about reflections on an anniversary and February anniversary specials soon!

Wishing you and yours a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Dr. Katie Baker

Tis The Season

December 1, 2010

So many families celebrate holidays this winter, whether it's Thanksgiving, Ramadan, Hanukkah, Christmas, Beltaine, or New Year's Eve. There's a deeply entrenched need to celebrate the good fortune of the past year, express gratitude and love for our family and friends, and shout out into the darkness that there will be a day when the sun returns with life. And there are as many ways to celebrate as there are families and individuals. Many people have a large traditional family gathering; some forgo the hoopla as they use winter as a time to reflect on their past year and their coming one, whether through formal New Year's Resolutions or through their chosen religious or spiritual practices.

In our family, Christmas was celebrated at no fewer than 5 houses, due to divorce and extended family celebrations. As exciting and energizing as the constant whirlwind of holidays with lots of cousins, even more presents, and even MORE treats, it was also quite a hassle for our parents to spend the majority of the holiday driving to the next place. As a teenager, holidays held the promise of getting to see family members I had a special connection with but were also the cause of much sighing and eye-rolling, and not a few tears as I struggled with an awkward adolescence and never seemed to be able to buy the right thing, dress the right way, or say the proper words. As a young adult, in school for an eternity, I was never able to afford the gifts I wanted to give. Rarely did Christmas measure up to the memories of my childhood (when, of course, my parents did the shopping, everyone else did the cooking, scheduling, cleaning, and party preparations). Lately, holidays seem to be about running through the stores at the last minute to cross another item off of my gift list, fighting traffic, and trying to make sure I can spend time with family and still see enough patients to make the January rent.

I'm fortunate in so many ways. To have my beautiful family, my beautiful clinic, wonderful friends and mentors who support me throughout the ugly business of birthing a dream is such a gift. I now, like many people before me, have lost friends and family who meant so much to me. Not only do I miss them every day, but their loss gives me another reminder that what I have is so precious. The past few years have been rough, but at least I'm still around to celebrate. This year, I'm planning to immerse myself in family (hold the politics & religion, please), show each of my friends how much they mean to me, not with gifts necessarily but by striving to be fully present with them and letting how much I cherish them shine through, and take some time to assess the past year both professionally and personally so that next year can be even better. What do you do for the holidays? Do you enjoy it? If not, what would you rather be doing and why?

A few links I've picked up along the way..

August 5, 2010

40+ Children's over-the-counter medications recalled News story. Manufacturer website here. Updated 05/01/10)

http://health.yahoo.net/experts/eatthis/worst-kids-meals The worst chain restaurant kids' meals, from the editor-in-chief of Men's Health and Women's Health magazines.

http://www.pccnaturalmarkets.com/pcc/videos/savory-goat-cheese-and-heirloom-tomato-tart A GREAT recipe for summertime

And my dear friend, Loretta's blog on jobhunting at 40. http://lorettalee-penington.blogspot.com/2010/08/perception-is-cruel-mistress-when-on.html?spref=fb