The Great American Family Road Trip [2017]: Day 9

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Chocolate cake for breakfast.

Is there any other way to celebrate your four-year-old’s birthday on the road?

For months, my excitement had been building for this special day. My husband and I even purchased two books a month ago and wrapped them for our little guy.

And as we stood singing “Happy Birthday” off-key at 7 a.m., I couldn’t shake a feeling.

Today will be memorable for all.

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The Scientist

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“I think you should consider medical school.”

I was 26 at the time and only two months from finishing my second graduate degree. But, still, my advisor’s words were tempting. And, let’s be honest, coast has never been a word in my vocabulary.

In that moment, I saw two paths my life could take. In the first, I could work hard and sacrifice for a dream job in obstetrics and gynecology. Or I could make my way back into the classroom – likely to teach language arts (the field where my initial training occurred).

For many days, life begged the question: Science or the arts?

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A Sticky Catharsis

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It all started with a hoodie and my son’s unyielding refusal to remove it from his head. The day, which began like so many others, quickly evolved into a battle of wills. With our son we have learned that attitudes and physical discomfort go hand-in-hand, but, at least in this case, there was no external sign of illness.

We made his final preparations for preschool and silently offered a prayer for his teachers.

[Interlude]

As soon as I pulled into our garage after school that day, my son dashed to the backyard, grabbed the largest stick he could hold, and began hitting a nearby tree with all of the force his svelte body could muster. His hoodie may have been the color of ashes, but there was clearly a fire burning within my child.

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The Education of a Vaccine Skeptic

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As a child, I viewed shots as necessary evils. Other than the initial sting, I didn’t much mind being inoculated and trusted that whoever required it must have done so for a reason. Because I had never gotten seriously ill and, unlike so many that I knew, had managed to dodge the dangerous bullet of HPV in college (I attended before a vaccine was available), my beliefs in young adulthood evolved to view vaccines as more inconvenient than beneficial. I also had not yet seen the world and the devastation that preventable infectious diseases can cause. In a word, I was naïve.

So naïve, in fact, that I began my master’s degree in public health with the idea that I would somehow uncover the ugly truth behind vaccines. Isn’t there always something exciting about trying to prove “the system” wrong? Well, as it turns out, sometimes the more you know, the more you find that you are wrong.

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