Product Review- R & F

I wanted R & F to work for my skin. I wanted to have smooth, beautiful, wrinkle free skin; I wanted to look like the last several years of no sleep, high stress, and lack of self-care never happened. I was so excited about the super-hyped products, and here’s what happened: some products were great, some were good, some were bad, and some were ugly.

The Great: Lash Boost

This one is my favorite of all of the products. I did notice a difference in just the 5 weeks that I had the products- and they recommend 8-12 weeks of use to see peak results.

Before:

After:

Lash boost was easy to apply, didn’t burn, and I didn’t notice any of the ill effects some have felt (eyelid discoloration, sensitivity/burning/itching). I only used it every other day or every third day, because I knew I would probably be very sensitive to it. It does have lash conditioners in it, too, like biotin.

However, it is expensive (all of the products with R & F are expensive, in my opinion). The active ingredient is somewhat hidden; it has a prostaglandin, like Latisse (Bimatoprost- Rx only). The company has come under fire for not openly disclosing this active ingredient, and a some do experience a sensitivity reaction.

The Good: Lip Renewing Serum

This one is another favorite! It comes in a silver capsule; you snip the end off of the capsule and it layers shea butter, peptides, and vitamin E on your lips. A major upgrade from the Vaseline I was using prior (though I believe Vaseline has its beauty uses!)

The Bad: Soothe Regimen

I knew my skin was sensitive. I wanted to use all of the anti-aging products, but I knew I should start gentle. These products I used throughout my 5 week trial, and hoped they would calm my skin, but I had an allergic reaction to Soothe. I had only been using Soothe, no other products, at the time of the pictures, and I broke out in a fine itchy hivey-like rash on my face, especially along the jaw line.

The Ugly: The Retinols

Now, many people do really well with Retinols. They work well for fine wrinkles, but can cause sensitivity reactions such as photosensitivity, redness, dryness of skin. I had a severe reaction to the products containing retinol. I had burning and peeling of my face and skin around my eyes, and though I tried to hide it with make up, but because my skin was peeling, the make up couldn’t stick to my skin and it culminated in a very unsatisfactory result. My skin hurt and was tight, like I’d had a bad sunburn. My eyes were so red and painful, I had to invest in some anti-allergy eye drops and put hydrocortisone on my face. I unfortunately didn’t take many pictures, but you can see how puffy and tired I look (even with make up), still even a week after stopping all of the R & F products:

Because of the severe allergic reactions to most of the products I’d tried, I decided I couldn’t sell the products, let alone use them.

Overall Rating: C-, for price and inadequate labelling for possible sensitivity reactions. I expected more from a pair of physicians, who understand this about the active ingredients in their products.

Posted in Beauty, Blog | Leave a comment

Color Outside the Lines

In the healthcare field, there are many unspoken expectations. We are often expected to look, act, or be a certain way, or do certain things. Falling outside of the patients’ typical expectations can have serious consequences; particularly since healthcare is largely based on patient satisfaction scores. Though many patients feel friendly towards me, I do realize that there is a significant amount of time in each visit answering questions such as, “How do you know?” when I give a new diagnosis or treatment plan, or “What makes you think…” or my personal favorite, “…you just look too young.”

As a personal sociological project over the years, I’ve discovered some patterns. People seem to “trust” me more (measured by the length of time I have to spend explaining my thought process, which translates to actual appointment length) when my hair is unhighlighted, I wear black or dark clothes, have little make up, and wear glasses. When I dress and look more similar to what they expect, my appointment times are shorter, I am more efficient.

By contrast, my hubby is not routinely asked “how do you know?” or questions of validity. He looks very much like the stereotypical healthcare provider. In fact, since I started in healthcare, my male counterparts have all had shorter appointment times and most do not endure the questions of validity. However, the data suggests that women are “better” providers, which is suspected to be secondary to longer appointment times, better patient satisfaction, longer explanations, and higher emotional intelligence.

This doesn’t translate into better salaries for female physicians, though, which is still stagnating at 25-30% lower than our male counterparts.

I suspect, though that these unconscious biases lead to an additional “weight” carried by female providers- we’ll call it the “Burden of Proof:” prove to the patients, administration, and partners that we are, in fact, valid and good providers. Does this mean that I cannot look the way I want to look, simply because of patient perception? Though administrators might like that, I refuse to let it dictate my life. Awareness of our own internal biases is the first step to pushing past the bias and becoming self-actualized- as individuals, and as a society. As physicians burn out at an alarming rate, patients with ageist, sexist, racist perceptions of providers will find that there will be fewer that fit their “ideals” as time progresses. Meanwhile, I refuse to make myself less sparkly to fit someone else’s ideal.

Just as I’ve heard so many times from previous interactions from patients, families, friends, as they sum up their inherent distrust: “I’m just not buying it.”

My response: “I’m not selling anything.” And truly, I am not selling a diagnosis or treatment protocol. No, I am not in the pocket of a pharmaceutical company. I didn’t just graduate from school yesterday. I am not 22. I do not own stock in drugs or drug companies. I do not get kickbacks. And honestly, when people insinuate all of these things, it not only illustrates their distrust, but it also drives a wedge in the patient-physician relationship. I hope if you are that patient who has said these things- think twice before disrespecting your caretakers with some of these insinuations, as it really only serves to harm your relationship with your physician. Or better yet, think twice about why you’re seeking advice from a doctor in the first place, if you don’t trust doctors or medicine or science.

It is death by a thousand cuts, enduring so many little slights, year after year. As physicians burn out at an alarming rate and leave medicine, there will be (and already is) a stark physician shortage.

Posted in Blog | Leave a comment

Side Hustles

Nothing replenishes a tired soul like art! I’ve been getting caught up on some baking crafts lately- things I’ve had earmarked to do for well over a year. I was always able to find an excuse not to do the projects I wanted- whether it was jewelry, cookies, cake, DIY projects at home, painting- I can make an excuse to put myself on the back burner anytime. Literally someone else always needs me. You know what? I need me, too.

So, I carved out a little time here and a few minutes there. Here’s what we have so far!

Butterfly Sugar Cookies

Easter cookie assortment!!

Watercolor Painted Bunny Cookies

Momofuku Milk Bar Carrot Cake

Ruby Red Blackwell Shattered Ceilings Necklace

Momofuku Milk Bar Birthday Cake

WASC cake with Rosette Buttercream

Aqua Shattered Ceilings Necklace

Pink Shattered Ceilings Necklace

I have lots of creative projects, DIY videos, and fun & feminine girly product reviews, so stay tuned 😘😘😘

Posted in Blog | Leave a comment

Breaking the Silence

What a week we’ve had.

Last weekend, one of the most dear and most cherished people in my life threatened suicide.  This beautiful person had a date, a plan, and a rationalization…everyone’s lives would be better without them (I realize not grammatically correct, but I will respect their privacy).  This gorgeous, successful, loving person has it all, or so it seems: a successful and busy career as a great physician, a truly happy marriage with a loving spouse, wonderful children, a beautiful home, a flossy car, fancy vacations…the list goes on.  On the surface, this person has the absolute definition of a perfect life.  On the outside looking in, there could be nothing in the world wrong for this person.

Yet, beneath the veneer of those Insta-worthy pictures, a storm rages.  Self-doubt, insecurity, Imposter Syndrome, Depression, and loneliness are a few of the invisible demons.  We spoke for a very long time, and we managed to talk through the storm, to see the rainbow on the other side.  This beautiful human still lives.

In the handful of days since those heavy and heart-wrenching conversations, I have now lost a mentor (also a physician, writer, and artist), a style maven (her style strikingly similar to my own), and a foodie/wine icon (who inspired me think of new food as an opportunity, he was cantankerous but fabulous)- all purportedly due to suicide.  Each one had been an inspiration to me, and they are gone.

My heart breaks.

What can be done?  As I think of these four people, they are have something in common: by all appearances, they seem successful, are/were wealthy, well-established, had families; the world has been shocked by these suicides.  We do believe these “things” are enough to make us happy.  We assume that successful people are happy, but this is not always true.  They were likely depressed (but maybe still high functioning) before they were successful- and unless it is addressed, they are likely to remain or return to depression after the sheen of the successful life wears off.  The old internal monologues resurface.

If we are waging a war against suicide- we are losing it, in my opinion, because we aren’t fully acknowledging the problem.  We aren’t acknowledging the depression- we hide it.  We aren’t reaching out to hold these people as a community.  We shun those with mental illness.  But, if we’re being honest, we all are or could be in their shoes.

Posted in Blog | Leave a comment

True Friends

On Sunday afternoon while my kids nap, I take a few moments to look at my week ahead.  I already know I’m going to be grateful to get to Friday- and it’s still Sunday afternoon.  In fact, I can get so wrapped up in the upcoming week, that I forget to enjoy the here and now.  I still have several more hours of weekend time, but my mind is already jumping ahead to Monday.

Friday is a big day; hubby and I are supposed to hear some rather large news on Friday (could be good or bad).  If you pray, please pray for this news on Friday (or rather, our acceptance of whatever the news is).  I’m shaking in my boots, and I don’t consider myself generally easily ruffled (unless it’s a scary movie).

I am thankful to have friends and family, and I try to distract myself by thinking of a recent (fabulous) trip to Texas to see my BFF.  I hadn’t been back to Texas in years, and it was wonderful and therapeutic to see her.  We enjoyed shopping, eating, drinking, and all kinds of girly fun- which I don’t usually get with my house full of boys.  I didn’t realize how much I’d missed her- and also that side of myself.  I need to find more of myself in my day to day.

Thinking about my days, though- I realize that very little of my day is actually mine.  From the moment I wake up, to getting to work, to getting home and doing the dinner/bath/bedtime routine, and working in exercise and hubby time…there is nothing left over for me.  Not only that- but there is the paradox of the working parent: viewed as lazy at work (usually because of having to leave at a certain time to pick up kids/family duties), and viewed as a sub-par parent (the guilt of being away from your kids all day).  The working parent can not win this paradox- and I’ve seen and felt both sides.  My hubby feels this paradox, too- it is not even reserved just for women.  All of this can leave someone feeling very…lost.

I guarantee it is happening to a working parent you know, if you aren’t already that working parent.  This is where our friends come in- our tribe- to put a stop to the madness.  They are little mini-vacations in every text, call, or hug.  A reminder that we are loved, noticed, cherished.

To all of my true friends- thank you.  From the bottom of my heart. My next goal is to make myself my own true friend, too.

Some people make   Your laugh a little louder   Your smile a little brighter   And your life a little better

 

Posted in Blog | Leave a comment

The Storm

Every Monday morning, I find myself in a countdown to the weekend- the Monday through Friday rat race that we find ourselves locked into.  No matter how many obstacles the week may hold, we tell ourselves to “Push through” to the end.

We create a plan for success.  We set our alarms the night before, so that we wake up in plenty of time to get out of the door.  We might have already laid our clothes out, meal-prepped for the week ahead, or rehearsed that presentation for the 4th time.  We prep ourselves in any conceivable way, to ensure our success.

Then, the unexpected happens- and you know what it is.  Like a big hairy green monster, something unexpected uproots our carefully laid plans, tears it into a thousand pieces, and blows them away like dandelion fluff.  Some days, this unexpected thing almost seems like it was purposefully planted there, just to make our day more difficult.  Sometimes, it’s a string of unexpected things; other times, it’s just one very big unexpected thing.

Does anyone else feel it?  Something big and unexpected is coming.  The air feels different, like when you can smell the rain before a spring storm, taste the dust before a dust storm, or see the sky turn that sickly shade of bluish-green before a hail storm.

Our next move is the most important.  Do we:

a) Batten down the hatches- hide in a protected spot out of the storm’s path?

b) Run- try to outrun or avoid the storm altogether?

c)  Stand still- observe the storm: feel the raw energy of the rain drops as they pelt your skin and soak your clothes, allow your coiffed hair to become unpinned, and watch the powerful beauty of the storm?  Do you simply observe or do you become the storm?

d) Get so caught up in the rat race that you have unknowingly ignored all the signs of the storm, and now are caught off guard, unprepared, in the middle of a flooding highway?

At different points in our lives, we have been in every single circumstance.  In fact, we are sometimes in every circumstance within the same week.  There are many times in our lives when the storm can be completely overwhelming, times when we unknowingly outrun or avoid a storm, and times when the “storm” turned out to be just a sprinkle or two.

If every week feels like a new storm, you’re burning out- if you’re not already burned out.  We weren’t meant to live in a constant state of panic, to constantly feel as though we need to run/prepare/hide/avoid.  It may be time to re-evaluate your week.  If every week is a push to the weekend, with very little sparkle during the week, it’s time to re-evaluate.

What is “the end” we are trying to reach?  In this case, “the end” is the weekend- a time to relax, let our hair down, be ourselves without rushing here and there and everywhere.  Anyone ever notice that when a storm comes up on a weekend, it’s not such a big deal?  We have the bandwidth to handle the unexpected on the weekend- the flexibility.  It’s glorious.  A mini vacation, of sorts (except with laundry, dishes, and cooking)- a time for our minds to readjust.

Finding ways to inject more flexibility during the week- whether it’s committing to fewer school/work/extracurricular activities to allow flexible timing, or perhaps adding yoga/meditation to increase our mental flexibility- makes the week easier to get through.

Though my career choice is all about delayed gratification- 12+ years of delayed gratification- I am not alone in realizing that it’s healthy to have a little bit of gratification (or sparkle) to each day, so that we are flexible enough to handle the “storms” when they come our way.

Inspirational quotes and sayings about summer: “Rise above the storm and you will find the sunshine.” -Mario Fernández

Posted in Blog | Leave a comment

The Business of Medicine

I believe moderation is the key to a healthy, well-balanced life.  Though medicine is a field that touts moderation for our patients, it paradoxically demands excessivity from our physicians- leading to depression, poor work-life balance, frustration, suicide, and burnout.

The relatively more recent increase in employed practices (i.e., owned by a corporation or hospital) means a loss of autonomy for physicians, complete with the “pressure to increase production.”  Protests made by physicians stating that patients cannot be distilled into “production units” are met with consistent pressures to see more patients in less time, double book, and increase the work day.

Many physicians are fed up.  Our work is undervalued, our time becomes less precious, our patients are given less time.  The tides are starting to change; physicians are beginning to speak up in larger numbers (which makes us harder to ignore), but it will take a movement before they listen.  Patient care quality is always more important than quantity.

I have met many physicians who are burned out, spoken with many young people disinterested in medicine, and see the longevity of my field shrinking.  We have got to continue to demand work-life balance, more time with our patients, and improve the quality of life for our colleagues.  The fact that we face a dire physician shortage upcoming dictates that we must start to improve the field now, so that we can attract and retain future physicians to the field.

I strongly believe that this includes improving maternity leave policies, pumping locations and availability, childcare coordination, and acceptance of females in the workplace.  It has been a “boy’s club” of sorts since the institution of the field, yet 2017 was the first year female students outnumbered male students matriculating into medical school.  As a field, we need to start listening to our female colleagues now, to understand what challenges must be overcome in the future for these upcoming female medical students.

We need to unionize; I am under the impression that physicians are not able to unionize in the political sense, but in the sense of coming together to improve quality of life for all physicians.

After all, for many fields, “It’s not personal; it’s business.”  Medicine, however, is inherently personal; we need to change the culture.  We need to advocate for ourselves, which is something not all physicians do well (very much including myself).  There are many CME offerings regarding the business of medicine; I believe this should be taught in medical school and all the way through residency.  If we are to win this game, we first need to learn the rules.

Next, we need to treat each other respectfully, from medical students to attendings, and everything in between.  This is a huge cultural change, but necessary if we expect to retain people in this field.  From my own experience, I can say that a young, blonde female physician never stops fighting for respect- true also for minority physicians (regardless of gender).  If we don’t treat each other with respect, how do we expect our patients and administration to respect us?

Finally (but not lastly), we need to demand quality patient care be rewarded.  I’m not talking about Press-Ganey scores (or other customer-satisfaction surveys), which are easily invalidated.  What I mean is specifically good patient care- which should be determined by us, the physicians.  We need to set the standards for measurement of quality in our field, rather than allowing non-clinical administrators to determine how to define what we do.

Let’s take medicine back.

Posted in Blog | Leave a comment

Through the Eyes of a Child

As a child, I frequently thought that I was an absolutely unremarkable person.  I am a middle child in my original family, which means that I was not necessarily remarkable in my birth order or in my point of view of life.  I was naive and idealistic; I was introverted in social situations but outspoken in small group settings.  I was shy but had courage in my convictions, even at an early age (probably to the dismay of my siblings, lol).

Now having my own children, I can see the reckless abandon with which they live their lives.  They are each incredibly remarkable in and of themselves; they truly are individuals.  They surprise me with their innocent and beautiful views of the world, and they remind me of the things that were important to me as a child.

Some of those things I still do, but many I’ve let go (mostly due to lack of time and effort):

1. I loved wearing pink.  It is, in my eyes, the most cheerful color in the world.  Then, I loved all forms of pink.  Now, I really love a blush pink; not too “bubble gum,” which conjures almost a cloyingly sweet reaction from some.  Rather, the blush is more subtle.  I would love to paint a room in my house Magnolia Rose.  Unfortunately, in a house full of boys, I haven’t carved out a space that is just mine.

2. I had large swaths of time to read- for pleasure, not limited to studying only.  I have read mountains of texts, literature, and articles in recent years, but reading for pleasure is a rare occurrence.  Yet, it was such a beautiful way to escape from reality, even for just a small while.

3. Prayer/meditation- I used to watch the sunset in the painted desert sky, or watch the stars twinkle over the lake.  There was something very grounding about this, something that brought peace and order to my days.  The sunset had always brought a sense of peace to my days, until I suffered from Post Partum Depression.  Suddenly, this symbol of the end of yet another day felt like I had not accomplished enough, that the day had slipped quite through my fingers.

4.  I allowed myself creative and athletic time.  In school, we had “Art class,” which was always one of my favorite times of day- I could forget everything but the canvas.  “Gym class” was a little harder, since I was very self-conscious, was always picked last for any team sport, and frankly, I looked a little different, being taller than my other classmates (so awkward).  In college, I finished almost all of my required courses in the first semester of my senior year.  The second semester I filled with classes and I wanted to take, but felt there wasn’t time: pottery, particularly, but also racquetball and athletics. I had a blast, even in the athletics class- and began walking regularly with my roommates.  In med school/residency, there were not classes for these things; so I did various things over that timeframe: I played volleyball for a short stint (I was again, one of the worst on the team), I ran a half marathon, I painted at a wine/painting studio.

Here is my theory: when we are children, we are the purest form of self.  I believe that those years are useful to help teach us about ourselves, about our core beliefs and values.  Thus, for those of us who are burning out and exhausted, perhaps it is time to rediscover our truest sense of self, and rediscover our inner child.  Look for those clues, those things that still call to us, even after all this time.

In the spirit of this theory, I sat with my older child yesterday and watched the sunset over the mountains.  It was gorgeous, as if the skyline was on fire.  There was a sense of beautiful poetry with my son watching the sunset, just as I had many years ago.  We both sat in awe of the beauty before us, not speaking (much) but absorbing.

The world demands every minute of our time, but we need to take back the control of how we choose to spend that time.  Look for the clues from your childhood, take your younger self by the hand, and follow your heart.

Posted in Blog | Leave a comment

Authenticity

Somewhere along the way, I lost myself.  I felt that I needed to change so that I could “fit in” with the culture of medicine.  On my first day of residency, I showed up in pink heels, a skirt, and a pink blouse.  My hair was curled, my make-up was done.  I felt excitement and nervousness, and wanted to appear both feminine and professional.  I resolutely refused to change my appearance to one of the more “acceptable” uniforms: boxy scrubs or black pants and a button down shirt.  I had always believed that dressing for success was real, and that even if I was nervous about my first day- my professional appearance might help to bolster my nerves.

Rather than being seen as a prepared professional, though, my appearance garnered the wrong kind of attention.   Some of my male colleagues stared at me, and some even commented on my “nice legs.” Hospital staff whispered behind my back, and bolder nurses told me where I could find scrubs.  Patient after patient told me that I didn’t “look like a doctor.”  The attending asked me to bring coffee, while the rest of the residents went to table rounds to discuss patients.  At then end of my day, my attending told me I had not picked the right career, that I was not cut out for neurology.

Defeated, I went home.  I knew what I needed to do: I replaced my pink blouses with scrubs, I stopped highlighting and curling my hair, and I traded my high heels for (gulp) crocs.

Looking back, I can see that the prejudice didn’t stop, despite my wardrobe change.  A surgeon told me that not only was I not cut out to be a physician, but women in general shouldn’t be in medicine- or drive.  He told me that women were a waste of medical school seats- that we couldn’t compare to our male colleagues, since most of us took maternity leave and then exited the workforce or only returned part-time. A different male attending told me to “stop reading about lipgloss,” while my male co-residents played x-box in the physician’s lounge.

I had caught the eye of a few males, and had been outrageously hit on at work; there were unprofessional texts about watching or touching me, “accidental” bumping into my boobs or butt, and unwanted prying into my personal life, like “Do you have a boyfriend?” type questions.  It was obvious sexual harrassment,  but I was at a distinct disadvantage- I was just a resident.  These men were my superiors- my career was at stake.  I had proof of my would-be allegations, but I knew I would face retribution if I brought it forward.  I was furious and appalled, seeing that there was very little protection in place for this kind of harassment in medicine.  Already being told by a few attendings that I was not cut out for medicine, I was afraid to bring forward these men, knowing that they had power to end my career.

My husband and I had our first baby in residency, and when I was pregnant, a lot of the harassment stopped- for a while.  When I returned, it had changed flavors somewhat: I was not given time to pump for my newborn and comments were made about how inconvenient my leave had been for my male colleagues (one even jokingly declared that no one else was allowed to take maternity leave).

As a female physician in training, I realized that if I wasn’t being unfairly sexualized for my appearance, I was seen as an occupational hazard for reproducing (a very distinctly female rite of passage).

When I graduated, I ruminated on the fact that I had shown all of them wrong- I had made it.  And for a while, that was enough.  For a while, I luxuriated in the fact that I was no longer a resident- I was an attending; I was the boss.  It’s been some years since that graduation, but it is no longer enough to simply have graduated, knowing that there are women in medicine still suffering like I did.

However, even as an attending, even as the boss- I still am told that I don’t “look like a doctor.”  Patients ask when the doctor is going to come in, even after introducing myself.  Staff still asked when my attending was going to round, or ask which doctor I am working with- and refused to look at, or maybe ignore, the fact that my badge and coat both state my name and credentials.  I have been bullied by a male surgeon who inappropriately cancelled a stroke alert: “Young lady, I have been in this field for over twenty years.  I trained at Johns Hopkins.  I will decide when the stroke alert is called on my patients,” and my CMO (at the time) did nothing to correct him or support appropriate stroke alerts.

I gave up- I burned out.  I became jaded and sad.

But after thinking about the difficulties and iniquities of my path, I realize this: if we are doing nothing to teach our female students and residents how to present and protect themselves, we are doing them- our future- a disservice.  I will not change who I am or what I look like for this job; it’s not worth that self-sacrifice.  If I am not actively doing what I can to change the toxic and sexist culture of medicine, it was all for nothing.

Posted in Blog | Leave a comment

Blackwell Beauty

I love the spa.  I really, really love the spa.

There is something magical about the relaxing music, hot tea, snacks, magazines, and (of course) the Piece de Resistance: mani/pedi, massage, scrub!

When I was pregnant, I looked for creams and lotions with as few added ingredients as possible, knowing that it was best to limit certain chemical exposures during pregnancy.  I fell in love with Lush, but my favorite face scrub, Let The Good Times Roll, was about $32 for just over 8 ounces.  I knew I could do better than that at home, and I could control the quality of the ingredients.  But who has the time to create a line of beauty products??

Well, I decided to make the time, and I haven’t looked back.  I realized there may be other women who are looking for the exact same thing, and I hope this can be helpful!

Blackwell Beauty Butter Bars:

 

Blackwell Beauty Body Scrubs:

 

Remember to take some time to love your body this week.  After all, it is a temple.

 

1 Corinthians 6:19 - Verse of the Day 6/26/14 - Whats in the Bible "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own."

With the turning back into rags after midnight....

In the near future, I hope to create a video tutorial to make your own scrub at home, for any who may be interested!

 

xoxo

Lauren

Posted in Blog | 1 Comment