Wednesday, May 28, 2014

(Working Women) - Steph, Acupuncturist & BurnCycle Instructor

Steph is another one of my good friends from growing up in West Linn. She and I first met in middle school, I think, riding the bus to Athey Creek together, and we always ran around with the same group of girlfriends. We also lived walking distance from each other, and I often spent mornings at her house eating parmesan toast or stealing Cheez-Its to catch a ride to high school with her mom, before we were old enough to get our driver's licenses. Aside from her perfectly white, straight teeth and beautifully wide smile, her other most striking characteristic is her friend-ness. This girl has more friends than anyone I've ever known. Men and women. Young and old. Nearby and far away. Seriously, she's been in, like, 27 weddings (that might have been a subtle - not so subtle now that I've had to point it out - reference to 27 Dresses, because Steph's celebrity doppelganger would definitely be Katherine Heigl). And it's because she's caring, loyal, asks questions, listens to the answers, has a great sense of humor, knows how to have fun (I'm always envious of her outdoor adventures and concert-goings), and she can get along with just about any type of person. She's just so real. Oh yeah, and she's kind of a badass, too. Seriously.

Steph and Adrienne.

Bio info - who are you, how old are you, where are you from, where do you live, what's your living/family situation, what are your hobbies, etc. Essentially, what's your story?
My name is Stephanie. I am a friend of Jo's from childhood, we grew up in West Linn together. Quite frankly, after reading Libba's bio, I considered throwing in the towel. Funny and successful. Who can follow that. This has been going on for years ...

I'm 32 years old, I live in Southeast Portland with my girlfriend, Adrienne. I grew up in West Linn, went to Oregon State University, and ended up moving back to Portland after college. I have an incredible community here, friends and family, and despite my best efforts to leave, I have stayed and I am convinced now that Portland is a pretty great city to live.

I'm an acupuncturist, a spin instructor, and am extremely passionate about health. I love to travel, especially internationally. I have always been an athlete, a tomboy, and loved anything related to sports since I could walk. I think I wore a baseball cap for a year straight at one point (sorry Mom). I rock climb, even though I have a fear of heights. I practice yoga so I don't hurt myself doing other activities. I feel more comfortable when I am listening to music. I love the outdoors, good coffee, good wine, and the sun.

Erin, brother Dave, Steph and Adrienne wedding crashing.

What is your current job/profession? What path did you take to get there? Any required schooling or training?

After OSU, I worked a corporate job for 2 years at a construction company, the typical 9-5 work schedule. It was a great experience, but it became clear very quickly it was not what I felt called to do. I wasn't inspired and knew it was not something I was passionate about. I felt like I was meant to be helping people in some capacity, but didn't know how. Some of my family members were getting acupuncture for allergies, and they recommended I give it a try. I started getting treatment for insomnia, anxiety, and back pain (sitting at a desk all day!). It changed my health, my life, and I knew I had found my calling. I immediately started thinking about quitting my job and going back to school. 

Treating low back and neck pain using the foot.

I received my Masters degree in Chinese medicine and acupuncture at the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine in Portland. They have a 3 or 4 year Masters program, depending on how little of a life you want to have! I finished in 3 years, and spent 6 weeks studying and working in hospitals in Nanjing, China after graduation. 

For my first year in practice, I had the opportunity to work with a breast surgeon specializing in treatment of breast cancer patients. After a year, I joined Acupuncture Northwest in North Portland, and currently practice there today.

To add a different element, I also instruct spin classes at BurnCycle in the Pearl District. Jessi Duley, owner of BurnCycle, is a friend since childhood as well. It all comes back around, doesn't it? When she started talking about starting a spin studio, I was all in. She brought the dream to a reality, and I jumped at the chance to try my hand at instructing. I now teach 5 classes a week. It is a creative outlet/second job/passion that allows me to reach people in a different way, and influence their health from a fitness perspective.

Steph & Will on the bike at BurnCycle.

What are the pros and cons of your current position?

Pros: Being self-employed allows you to create your own schedule, for the most part. I am my own boss, my own motivator, the creator of my own destiny, if you will. I love working with patients. I get to connect with people in a very deep way in a short amount of time, which seems to be rare these days. I am given the trust of people who have trouble trusting. I am told stories most people will never hear. And I get the opportunity to improve people's health with tiny needles, sometimes to the degree that they say their lives are changed by acupuncture. I am also very fortunate to work at an amazing clinic with amazing practitioners.

Cons: Acupuncture is a service industry, so that sometimes means working unconventional hours, or weekends. It is an alternative form of medicine, a luxury to many people, so our industry is very susceptible to the trends of the economy, as well as changes in health insurance. Building a patient base can be very stressful, and your income depends on it, so you can never stop marketing, meeting people, pushing yourself. It is hard to turn work "off" when you are self-employed.

Walk us through a typical day, week, or month ...

I work 4 days a week, Monday through Thursday at Acupuncture Northwest (I also worked Saturdays for about 3 years, but recently changed my schedule). Each day's schedule varies a little, some morning and some evening shifts. I see patients about 8 hours per day, 2-3 patients an hour. In the off-time during the day, I am either teaching at BurnCycle, or going to the climbing gym or a yoga class. Every day also involves patient charting, and some kind of research or administrative work for the clinic.

What is something about your job that other people might not know or expect?

Education is one of the biggest parts of my job! Not just for the patients, but for myself as a practitioner as well. Acupuncturists have to know so much more than just Chinese medicine. We often treat complex cases, a lot of chronic illness, and when a patient comes to you with a serious diagnosis, you have to know the ins and outs of their disease. You need to be fluent in most aspects of Western medicine, including pathology, anatomy and physiology. You also have to be up to date on current trends in medicine ... new supplements or medications, alternative treatments, diets, etc. People Google every health condition and you have to be as educated as they are!

Oh, and also, acupuncture does not hurt. It just doesn't. I know people are afraid of needles. Nobody likes a shot. This is not like a shot. I promise.

How much do you make? (Too forward?!? Probably. But let's be real, a large part of the reason we work is to make money - give us some deets about your income, as much as you feel comfortable sharing, whether specific to your personal salary, or generally speaking, as in, What Would Google Say).

I can tell you that I didn't pick this career for the easy money. Annual earnings for acupuncturists are so variable, based on experience, location, entrepreneurial ability, and many other factors. Honestly, there is great potential to make good money as an acupuncturist, under the right circumstances. I have been fortunate to experience large growth each year I have been in practice, and am very motivated to continue that trend.

Do you anticipate making any career changes in the next 5 to 10 years?

I will always practice acupuncture. It becomes more of a lifestyle, than just a career. The beauty of being an acupuncturist is that you can practice in multiple ways. I now work at an amazing clinic that I love and am deeply invested in. But in the next 10 years, hopefully I have a family, and things might look different in the way that I practice.

If you could have any other job in the world, what would it be?

I would be a wine distributor and importer in Europe. And I couldn't tell you for certain if it there are hints of dark cherry and leather in that Syrah blend.

If someone else was interested in your job, what piece of advice would you give them?

I would tell them that being an acupuncturist is about being 50% medical practitioner and 50% business person. Unless you work at a hospital or some other federally funded setting, you are SELLING yourself and what you do. It's a combination of being the compassionate caretaker and the savvy business owner. It is not for the faint of heart. It is an ego check EVERY day. But it is also incredibly rewarding and exciting to care for people in that way and watch your clinic grow.

What other jobs could you work with your education/training/experience?

My Chinese medicine training is pretty specific, but there are definitely opportunities to work in different aspects of the field. Acupuncturists can work in private clinic settings, hospitals, integrative care clinics, and in public service settings.

Steph's birthday BurnCycle ride.

How do you balance work life and home life?

Ha. There's a song by David Guetta, "Work Hard, Play Hard," that is running through my brain right now. Overall, I think I do a pretty good job at balancing work life and home life. I'm not sure what my friends and family would say ...

In truth, it is something I work at every day. It is such a big part of HEALTH, one we don't talk about as often as exercise and diet. I tend to thrive on the energy of others, so my default is to fill my schedule. But I try to incorporate time to rest and relax. My family keeps me grounded, my amazing brother and parents. I have learned the lesson over and over that you can't be everywhere at once, and wherever you are, it is important to be present. People can tell when you are not mentally with them, and that can be damaging to both your personal and work relationships. I strive to be intentional. But if you need someone to go to that concert with you ...

Adrienne & Steph at Smith Rock after a first multi-pitch climb.

Thanks, Steph! Click this link for more of the "Working Women" series.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

I've never thanked a veteran for his or her service.

By this I mean I've never said "Thank you for your service" to someone I know has served in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, or Coast Guard. Even though this is one of the first things you are instructed to adopt once employed at the VA - thank you for your service - I've still never found myself saying those exact words. And it's not that I don't recognize the particular sacrifice, especially of those who have been deployed and served on the front lines. It's not that I'm not grateful for their service. I'm particularly grateful to those men and women who helped found our independence and freedom. But I don't know that I am necessarily any more grateful for the service of our country's armed forces veterans than I am of this country's firefighters, teachers, community organizers, or mental health providers. And I don't go around generally thanking these professionals either. But maybe I should. Maybe we all should. Maybe we all should be telling more people "thank you" on a regular basis, demonstrating our awareness and appreciation for those individuals and groups who are contributing members of society. I'm sure there's a "paramedic recognition day" on the calendar somewhere, but it's certainly not a federal holiday.

And while I don't "thank" the veterans on my caseload for their service, I absolutely treat them with the utmost respect they deserve. Just as I would anyone. But particularly given the history of treatment of veterans in this country. Most of the people I work with, they have indeed "served" and made considerable sacrifices, likely ones that they couldn't or didn't necessarily anticipate. They probably imagined that they would be vulnerable to explosive devices, shoot guns, or even kill bad guys. But I bet they didn't realize that they would think of the injured Iraqi kid who had his face blown off every time they try to look at their own son. Or that they would no longer sleep in the same bed as their wives, because, well, because they have such tremendous difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, and if they do get any shut eye, they toss and turn so badly or snore so loudly they are made to sleep on the couch (did you know OIF/OEF veterans have an inordinately high rate of sleep apnea compared to their civilian peers?). I bet they didn't realize not only how many friends they might lose in battle, but how deeply this would affect them. How alone they would feel though amongst their family and friends, who just don't understand, knowing that some of their comrades are back overseas on night watch, or at home drunk and contemplating suicide, or had died while serving leaving behind a heartbroken family. Or what anxiety they would feel trying to re-acclimate to civilian life, to re-enter a world they once existed in but no longer feel they belong. Or that they would lose their leg during battle, considering themself "unlovable" and "broken," but still wish they could return to service on the frontlines because civilian life is "boring." Or the apathy - they couldn't imagine how little they might car about anything, their spouse, their children, their futures.

Memorial Day is not about thanking a veteran so much as remembering those who have lost their lives while serving. And it's a particularly interesting "political" holiday this year, amidst the headlines of the "growing VA scandal." I know my two cents ain't worth much, but I am proud to say that the veterans who are referrred to and followed by our polytrauma team at the Portland VA hospital get some of the best care I could imagine. Sure, they've often had to jump through more hoops than a circus dog, wait in lines longer than those for the Frozen ride at Disneyland, and fill out more paperwork than even a prospective VA employee. But once they're in, they are getting excellent treatment. They are asked questions and being truly listened to. They have respect. Professionals are collaborating to coordinate and optimize their care, from sleep studies to GI appointments to regular mental health care to applications for service dogs. Unfortunately, this does little to make up for the VA's past grievances, the trauma so many have sustained in the Middle East, or the current talk of veterans dying while waiting for appropriate healthcare. 

So maybe this Memorial Day, I won't only spend a few minutes honoring the service men and women who lost their lives while serving, but also thinking of my patients, many who lost themselves while serving - a death of a different kind, thanks in part to advances in science and medicine, but not in peacekeeping. And also about the system as a whole, and of those service men and women who are still living - still living and standing in line, waiting, waiting for the care that I sure hope they get before it's too late.

Friday, May 23, 2014

(26 Months) - 2 Years and 2 Months

26 months. Yup, still going strong with this monthly photo/update thing. I'll never get mine to look like the real bloggers (as seen here and here and here or here) - Patti, if you're reading this, we SO need a lesson in lighting. Or maybe shooting RAW? But regardless, I'm loving the chalkboard background for this year ...

The Bean is as much of a 2-year-old as ever. She's mostly sweet, but sassy too. She's working on her "listening" skills, like when I ask her to please leave her shoes on while we're in public. Or request she not touch my coffee. Or scream in the car. For the love of all things, please do not scream that high-pitched velociraptor squeal at the top of your lungs while I drive. Please. Pretty please?!? I'll give you a bar ...

She's still wearing undies like a champ, but is not without accidents. She still poops mostly in her diaper in the night/morning. She LOVES to pee outside - it never fails that if we're at the park she tells me "potty!" and is delighted to squat where the grass meets the trees. She still loves singing together, playing outside and at the park, lovin' on her babies, and we've recently started swimming more regularly with Beebee. She doesn't need any help on the playground equipment anymore, and seems less shy than in previous months.

I, of course, am more fascinated by her developing communication and cognition than anything else, so tend to keep notes about what she says more than what she does. Most days she reminds me of Yoda, funky syntax, and squat little body. The quotes are taken out of context - and don't include that adorable toddler girl voice or variable intonation - so don't read as funny or cute as they play out in real life. But they help me remember this time in her life nonetheless.

Francie's Deep Thoughts:

"Daddy farts sometimes."

"That man, sleepin'."

"No more talkin' mama daddy."

"Nice yoga, mama?" (with her head cocked to a 45 degree angle)

"Daddy pick up today. Mama get money." (that's her way of saying I'm headed to work)

Me: "Do you think the car smells a little funny?"
Her: "Like dog poop!"

"Nice day?" (head cocked to 45 degrees again)

Me, about her play wallet: "Whatcha got in there?"
Her: "Money."
Me: "What kind of money?"
Her: "Dog money."
Me: "Hmm, what's dog money?"
Her: "Um. Poop."

"Mama like see cuddle. Make heart so happy."

 "Daddy have boobies?"

"Francie bigger wear this belt."

"Some lotion on hands too?"

"Mama pick you up." (she still confuses pronouns, which can be, well, confusing)

"Please want Cheerios mama."

"Mama like Francie have boots."

"Beebee so happy swim Francie and Mama."

Me: "What did you do at school today?"
Her: "Um, nuthin'."

And a few favorite photos from this last month ...


Cutest. Smile. Ever.

Swimming - sans mama!

Salt n Straw.

She totally pulled one over on me. See how I have a tiny nub of a cone? That's her ice cream that she ate down to the quick, then asked me for a taste of mine. And promptly stole it. REFUSING to give it back.

Geode smashing with Beebee.


Handmade by Dee. The dress, not the kid.

Gus kisses.

Swinging irises.

These three.


Who's taller?

Boone's 1st birthday cake. The Bean was the only person he "shared" with (she stole it. seriously.).

B & Z

Uncle B and "Uncle Havah" visited last weekend, and it was another good excuse to pull out my nice camera and enjoy my new lens (the above pics are iPhone, the below are DSLR). Consider this a photo essay ...

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