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December 9, 2004 |

Post to the Host:
I'm a medical resident, which means I spend eighty hours a week or so in a hospital dealing with a lot of human tragedy and sometimes, people at their worst. After spending hours admitting patients from the emergency room, I find that, unlike some of my colleagues, I can't just run up to the callroom and lay my head down on the pillow for a few winks before the next call. I have to "decompress" — and I do this by going up to our small residents' office, which is on the 8th floor of the hospital, spending a few moments staring out the window at all the twinkling lights of the entire sprawl that is Los Angeles, and then, I sit down at the computer and type, "www.prairiehome.org". The first thing I do is scroll down to "The View from Mrs. Sundberg's Window". If I've had to give bad news, I often have a queasy, heavy feeling in my stomach, and reading about Mrs. Sundberg listening to your show somehow makes me feel better. She sounds like such a wonderful person. Is she a professional writer? Or at least a former English major? Please express my gratitude towards her for giving me hope about people, and making me a more thoughtful doctor.

Agnes Chen
Los Angeles

Agnes, your kind letter was forwarded to Mrs. Sundberg, whose response is below…

Dear Agnes,
I received your e-mail the other day while in the middle of a double batch of stollen, a Christmas bread I make in rather manic waves around this time of year to give to people I care for. As I read your words that dang oven buzzer went off so I was running back and forth between the kitchen and my desk and managed to trip on a string of lights dangling off the lowest branch of the tree. I nearly knocked the whole shebang over, but didn't and had only a few ornaments to hang and some water to wipe up. I was able at last to read your letter in one sitting and I will say there were tears. It's a blessed moment to find a good listener in the crowd, and even better when a conversation springs up. Your work sounds like a real mix of sadness and beauty, and I imagine you could define "tired" better than most of us on the planet. You know, I've never been to Los Angeles but I'm putting it on my list. When I look out my window I see a bunch of pine trees and snow and an occasional squirrel. And then there's the floodlight from the neighbor's backyard which is a real problem for Mr. Sundberg but that's another story. Anyway, I think a sprinkle of city lights would do me some good. I don't know that I could tell you what I do to decompress but I'm thinking that just being in my kitchen with flour on my hands does the trick. That and tucking in the kids and writing letters. I love to write and have since I got bored riding in the way back of our brown station wagon on a trip through Wisconsin when I was about eight. I wrote a letter to my grandmother on an A&W root beer stand napkin and mailed it to her from a corner mailbox in Hayward. Well, anyway. I could go on and on but there's laundry to fold and the kids have field trips to the opera and the Science Museum tomorrow so there are bag lunches to get ready. Agnes, if you lived nearby you'd be my doctor. Because you know the importance of "decompression," and because you use words like "twinkling" and "gratitude" while working eighty hour weeks.

Mrs. Sundberg

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