First Day of School

Today was the first day of school for my two sons, and I could write a novel about all the feelings I have about that right now. For now, they’re both healthy and safe, and they even finished all their summer reading/summer work on time. (My older son was even eager to talk about Voltaire’s Candide with me, and I realized that it’s been, er, awhile since I read it. Maybe I need a refresher.)

At any rate, the first day of school always feels like a fresh start to me. I used to get new shoes and a new backpack for the first day of school, along with a new Trapper Keeper, new Crayola crayons, and new folders-with-two-pockets-and-prongs. And while I’m not the one going off to school today, I did pick up a few new highlighters and pens for my office. (My love of school supplies/office supplies will never die.)

But I’m lucky. I get lots of fresh starts–more than most people. As a writer, I get a fresh start every time that I start a new assignment, every time I interview a new expert, every time I open a blank document and stare at the screen. That could be intimidating. And at times, it has been intimidating. But it’s also an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to learn something new. It’s an opportunity to teach someone else something new. And it’s an opportunity to develop new connections. I’m so grateful for that.

So whether anyone in your household has a first day coming up or not, think about how you can create an opportunity for a fresh start, even a small one. You don’t even have to buy new pens or highlighters (although it can’t hurt).

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I’ve been busy!

Hi, everyone,

I’m been so busy with work recently (insert HOORAY! here) that I haven’t been updating this blog as regularly as I should.

Just wanted to let you all know that I’m enjoying my life as a freelance writer and content producer. Here are a few examples of my recent work:

Self-care for Physicians. This is an article that I wrote for a physician blog operated by Merritt Hawkins, the nationally recognized physician search firm. It’s always fascinating to talk to physicians and other healthcare professionals about the work that they do–and how they try to balance their own health and well being while giving their all to their patients.

Migraine Sufferers: 5 Reasons It May Be Time to See Your Doctor. People with migraines usually develop some coping strategies, along with perhaps a favorite treatment. But what do you do if there’s a shortage of your favorite medicine or your headaches start getting worse? I investigated for this article for Healthgrades.

Millennials Are Least Likely to Get the Flu Shot, According to a New Survey—What’s the Deal? Here’s a recent article I wrote for about a recent study that examined generational differences about getting a flu shot. It’s the time of year when people flinch when someone next to them sneezes or coughs–and maybe for good reason? Every healthcare expert I’ve ever interviewed about influenza has at least one story about one of their patients who died from flu-related complications.

Symptoms of endometriosis and how you can manage the pain. One of my favorite parts of my job is the amount of learning I get to do, and I learned so much about endometriosis from working on this article for Business Insider.

Let me know if you’d like to see more examples of my recent work. I aim to please, after all.



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Pictures of me

A few months ago, I had a new set of headshots taken. I don’t usually mind having my picture taken, but I don’t just love it, either. Like everyone else, I’m probably my own worst critic. I can always find the flaws–and I might be more likely to focus on the flaws and ignore the good qualities. (Is there anyone who looks at their own photo and says “Man, I look GREAT?”)

At any rate, my last set of headshots (which I actually loved) were nearly six years old, so I figured that it was time for an update. It helps to have a nice, patient photographer. It helps to wear one of my favorite colors, too.

Jennifer Larson_Headshot2_3-18 (2)

Jennifer Larson_Headshot3_3-18

Side note: yes, in the great tradition of Southern women everywhere (read: my grandmother), I will probably be going blonder as I get older. Stay tuned for the next set of headshots in a few years, and let’s compare.

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All I want for Christmas is…

It’s that time of year again!

The time of year when I start frantically scrambling to make sure that I’ve paid all my membership dues to all my professional associations. The time of year when I start wondering, “Hmmm, is this the year that I finally subscribe to Big Name Medical Journal That Costs Hundreds of Dollars for a Subscription?” The time of year when I start wondering if there’s anything else I need for a potential business deduction for 2017. The time of year when I think that I really should replace my aging iPhone with a newer one with a nice shiny reliable battery.

(Of course, with the current tax proposal before Congress, this may all become (sadly) irrelevant. But I digress.)

As I start to make my list of what I, as a freelance writer/editor, would like to, er, get myself for Christmas, I do want to note that I really am grateful. I’m lucky to get to do what I love for a living. As I told someone a few days ago, I literally learn something new every single day. How many people are able to say that?

Hope you all have a lovely holiday season!

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2017: And so it begins…

I always say this, but I always mean it: oh my goodness, it it really already a new year?

2016 had its ups and downs, but I’m not quite sure how it went by so quickly. Here’s hoping that 2017 will bring you many wonderful opportunities for happiness and success.

And just to get your year started off right, here’s a gratuitous photo of me with my family on Christmas Eve.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

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Presidents Day Anecdote

In honor of Presidents Day, I wanted to retell one of my favorite anecdotes.

When I was pregnant with my older son William in 2006, I was working as a reporter for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs. One morning, I covered an event at the big hospital in Rancho Mirage for high school students who were shadowing hospital employees for an internship-type program.

Given my third-trimester pregnancy state, I was moving a little more slowly than usual. So afterward, I was one of the last people to leave. As I walked out the door of the hospital alone, a genial-looking elderly gentleman walked toward me. He nodded, said “Good morning,” and passed by me, walking up the wide steps into the hospital. I smiled and nodded in return and kept walking.

A few steps later, I realized why he looked familiar. It was Gerald Ford.

(And it really was. We confirmed it. Because of course, I immediately went back to the newsroom and exclaimed, “I just saw Gerald Ford at the hospital!” And one of my colleagues called the former president’s spokesperson to see what was going on. Sure enough, he was going in for some tests. He was fine, at least for then.)

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Goodbye, farewell and amen

My last living grandparent died yesterday. My grandfather, or Grandaddy Bill, was just two days shy of his 98th birthday. He was a dear man, and we will all miss him.

I’ve written about him here a couple of times before, most notably when we moved him from his hometown of Vicksburg, MS, to Nashville, TN, to be closer to us. He lived here for about three-and-a-half years, and we saw him regularly.

Here’s a photo of a recent lunch we spent with him at the nursing home:

Family photo with Grandaddy Bill_November 2015

My grandfather was always a very dignified man. He was sturdy, stalwart. He could get things done.  He was reliable, calm, intelligent. He was the kind of person you trusted because he had always demonstrated trustworthiness.

These last few years, he began to shrink as his body aged. His voice was not as steady. His memory remained good for a long time, but over the last few months, he began to get confused. We all told ourselves that it was not unusual for a man his age to be in such a state. And it wasn’t.

And so, yesterday, he came to the end of his long, good life. We will miss him, but I am so grateful to have gotten the chance to have him in my life for so long. He knew both of his great grandsons–saw them regularly, in fact. And I am also grateful for that.

There’s a lot more I could tell you about Grandaddy Bill. How he was in the Army Corps of Engineers, how he served during two wars, how he was a huge railroad buff, how he read archaeology magazines, thick biographies and weighty nonfiction books up until about a year ago.  I could tell you about how he was married to my grandmother for 67 years.

But the important thing is that he loved us. And we loved him. And we are better people –luckier people–for that.

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My Summer Reading List

People are always asking for book recommendations on Facebook, especially in the summer with the prospect of beach reading ahead. I do it, too–usually with a disclaimer like “Yes, I’ve already read Gone Girl.”

This summer, I got the best list of book recommendations ever. I noted that I love a good novel but I also adore non-fiction, and people really outdid themselves with suggestions.

Here’s a partial list of some of the excellent books that I read this summer–and that I’ll recommend to you, particularly if you have a little unfulfilled med student in you, like I do:

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson [Yes, I got on a big Erik Larson kick. I’m also reading Isaac’s Storm right now.]

The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic–and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson

The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, the Epidemic that Shaped Our History by Molly Caldwell Crosby

The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

I read a few novels, too, but other than Anne Tyler’s excellent A Spool of Blue Thread, I’m struggling to pull the names out of my head at the moment. I feel like I should have kept a log, like the kids who participate in the public library’s summer reading program. Maybe I would have won a free ice cream sundae or something.

At any rate, even though summer is winding down, if you’re looking for a book to immerse yourself in, check these out.

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Happy 2015!

Happy New Year! It’s 2015, and I am making a concentrated effort to write 2015 on all my checks, files and other documents. As you probably know, that’s much harder to achieve than you think it’s going to be.

Speaking of 2015, if you have a minute, please check out my latest article on 7 Family Fitness Ideas for 2015.

That was a fun piece to write, by the way. It did make me wonder, however, if I’m really gutsy enough to ever take my kids stand-up paddleboarding. Well, given that one of my goals* for this year is to make sure that Andrew learns how to swim and William improves enough at swimming to lower my blood pressure, it will likely not happen for this family in 2015. Maybe in ’16.

*My main goal is to be more grateful. Which is very important to me but perhaps slightly less exciting than Andrew’s goal for 2015, which is to learn to climb a tree.

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The Joy of Small Stuff

Yesterday, my older son William taught his little brother Andrew how to play the classic game Uno.

Rain was starting to drizzle outside, and the kitchen was cozy. The boys plunked down at the kitchen table, while I made turkey sandwiches for lunch. William began to explain how to use a wild card, what the reverse card meant, and so on. Andrew listened gamely and studied the cards in front of him, although he insisted on leaving them all face-up in front of him, negating any suspense the game might have developed. They chattered cheerfully back and forth to each other as they flipped cards down.

There was no fighting or arguing. There was no tussling. There was no yelling, screaming, scratching, screeching, hollering, slapping, tripping, stomping, or smacking. It was one of those perfect soap-bubble kinds of brotherly love moments that I wanted to preserve forever. This quick photo that I snapped with my phone is about as close as I could get.

William and Andrew play Uno

Today in church, the Prayer of Thanksgiving included this series of lines:

“It is easy to be grateful for large things that shape our affairs and sway our lives, the looming miracles of grace that stop us cold in our tracks and shout the mercy of God. Let us know be thankful, too, for small graces that catch us unaware; that occur when we are too busy–or so we fancy–to pause and take notice; or are so subtle, and we so unfeeling, that we disregard them altogether; or so uncommon that we overlook them and miss the patch of heaven they possess.”

Small graces, like that game of Uno. Later that afternoon, there was, yes, some tussling and wrestling and screaming and screeching. There always has been, there always is, there always shall be. But those fleeting moments of harmony are just so delicious in their small perfection. While I sliced apples to put on the plates with the turkey sandwiches, my two children were happily enjoying each other’s company–and it was completely their own idea. I hadn’t asked them to play together. They just did. And I was lucky enough to be right there, seeing and listening. And being thankful. It didn’t matter that they fought later. There, at the kitchen table, there it was.

The Prayer of Thanksgiving noted that small blessings could be as simple as two friends meeting in the supermarket aisle or the smile from a child we don’t know. And then there was this line near the end:

“…[Because you came and lived among us, we know the magic of surprise blessings and the joy of small stuff.”

The Big Stuff matters, of course. It matters a lot. But ah, the small stuff. The Uno game. The perfect flavor of ice cream on a hot July night. Clean warm socks in January. The way that Andrew carefully kisses my nose when I ask him to give me hugs and kisses. The feeling of being completely immersed in a really good book. The soccer coach who gives a high-five to the kid on the other team when he scores a goal. The woman who hugged me when she ran into me at church and says, “I’m so glad to see you!” The heirloom tomatoes that my mom brought to my house a few nights ago.

The small stuff. It’s the stuff that you might miss if you blink. Or even if you do notice it, you might not remember it. It might seem insignificant when compared with larger events or situations. How can you stack up an Uno game against the loss of a job, or a loved one’s serious illness, or the pressures of work? Or even the big good stuff, like the marriage of two people who are so clearly thrilled to be legally hitched, or the birth of a long-awaited child, or a new job with a good paycheck and benefits?

I want to take more joy in the small stuff. I want to notice it and revel in it. I want it to become bigger than just “small stuff.” I want my memories to be chock-full of that small stuff, in fact. The Uno game. The moments that are so dear in their small perfection–or even their small joyful imperfection. I am grateful to have the opportunity to cherish the small stuff.

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