Welcoming 2017

Looking back over the past year, I thought I’d start out with my resolutions for 2016. How well, or how poorly, did I do? Where do we go from here?

Here’s an excerpt from last year’s New Year’s post:

Last week, I found this idea: a “7 x 2016”, a prompt for making wishes become goals instead of ‘traditional’ resolutions. I really liked that idea, so here goes mine, with a couple additions:

Learn how to.….. speak in medical Spanish. Back in high school and even college, I was pretty good in speaking Spanish with native speakers. However, it’s true that what you don’t use, you lose. I’ve bought a guide and have already conquered the first chapter. Here’s hoping for better communication with some of my future patients. This one has been a success, in some ways. One of the perks of being a medical student is that sometimes we are offered discounts on this… like Rosetta Stone. Our class got a deal on the Spanish set, and I jumped at the chance to use a program to increase my skills. I’m still not done with the program or with the Medical Spanish text I bought, but every little step is a victory so I’m calling it a win.

Start……. My Year of Kindness. One thing I’ve been noticing lately is a genuine lack of kindness in our community. I’ve got a few ideas on what to target for each month, and I’m really hoping this new venture is a success. More on that soon. This was also a success, and one that I am very proud of. In January of last year I pioneered a project christened My New Kentucky Home that served the refugee and new immigrant populations of my city, and it was a smashing success. What a way to kick off a year of Kindness!

Stop…… Doubting myself. I do it all the time. It’s a hard habit to break, but I realize what a detriment it is to my psyche and my performance as a student, wife, and mom. There is no room for it anymore in this new year. I have gotten better at this. It is a very slow process, but I’m gaining more optimism by the day. It’s so easy to give up on some things because they seem so daunting. Slowing changing that inner voice has helped my life in a big way.

Travel to.….. This one is my favorite, I think. While I feel like I am overdue for a visit to somewhere outside the USA. It’s been almost 5 years since we went to the Caribbean. However, I think that adventure might still be awhile off. This year, we’re planning on a post-third year pre-Step 2 studying family vacation to Washington, DC and Virginia Beach–three new states for me and the Ladybug’s first trip to a beach. Much slower-paced than we’re used to, but that’s ok! Making memories with my family is a priority this year. We made a ton of memories on that trip to DC and Virginia Beach! The little one had a blast too, so I think another beach vacation is in the cards for 2017.

Find…. Two half-marathons to run this year. With rotations, it’s not like I can just pick which ones to do this far ahead of time, so I’m wondering if I should skip the local half-marathon in April (during my OB/GYN rotation… just watch my week of nights in L&D be the same time as the race) and plan for one in summer and another in the fall. Any suggestions for fun ones to run? As it turned out, the local half marathon WAS during my two weeks of Labor and Delivery, when I was working intense hours at an intense pace. So, this goal was a flop. I failed. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t gain something along the way. I was much likely to be found at the gym this year, even if I didn’t get to run in those races that I hoped for. I no longer hate the gym. I no longer feel that it is a chore to go, but instead I actually look forward to going. Baby steps! My most consistent part of the year was probably during Step 2 studying, since I would get in a run before sitting down to study as part of my daily routine.

Try…… New restaurants in our area. Since there is a great probability that we just may not be living here after The Match, I’ve insisted that instead of always going to the same places (which I love, honestly), that we try some new places that are unique to the Louisville area. We’ve asked friends of ours to go with us to a new restaurant once a month. I’m really excited for this new Double-Date Night! This was also a major fail. Between my schedule, the Handsome’s long hours at work, and conflicting schedules with friends, this one did not get off the ground. However, we still have high hopes for 2017 and adding more friends to the mix.

Be more……. Girly. Since being in med school, I quit dressing nice for class/school in general unless it was absolutely necessary. Then once I became a mom, I put myself last on the list of people to care for. I love dresses but don’t think they look right on me. Since losing so much weight, the brand-new clothes I bought for rotations in July already don’t fit me, which is a blessing and a curse. I hope to actually acquire some style this year, and maybe even keep my nails painted and try new lipstick or something. So this one is a win for me too. This has been the first year in a long time where I actually took care of myself. Taking pride in my appearance wasn’t on the radar before because I was simply trying to survive, and spending time on myself didn’t feel like it had good return on investment. However, now I am feeling better about myself (it’s all part of changing that inner dialog!).

And then two I added to make my own “9 x 2016”:

Less….. Screen time/wasted time on my phone. I wonder how much efficient I would be if I transferred all of my phone time to work time. Not that it’s bad to focus on something outside of medicine for awhile, but I find that I scroll through all the social media apps when I’m bored and spend much more time on them then I intend. There was good and bad to this one. I was much better about staying off of Social Media during my dedicated study time for Step 2 CK, but outside of that, I STILL pay far too much attention to my phone.

More…… Memories/Playtime with my kiddo and hubby. The Ladybug loves for momma to come home and do nothing but play until it’s her bedtime… which sometimes eats up a large amount of my study time, and sometimes makes me worry that I’m not a good medical student. However, I don’t think this is time wasted (such as when I’m on my phone). I always, always, always make sure that I tell her that I am happy to see her and that I love her as soon as I pick her up each day. I want to soak up all of this sweet toddler time as I can. This one was definitely a win. 4th year has aided in my ability to make more special moments with my family, since I’ve had much more ‘free time’ this year than in the previous three years. Every opportunity I get to pick up the little one early from daycare to take a surprise visit to the park, I take. It has been amazing and so sweet.

So what does that leave for 2017? 2016 was my best year yet for sticking to my goals throughout the year. Previously, my ‘resolutions’ were usually broken by the first few weeks of the new year. This year’s successes are making me much more optimistic for 2017 and beyond. 2017 has the potential to be the best year yet with so many new adventures on the horizon: my brother is getting married in the spring, I graduate in May, we will be purchasing our first home before the start of residency, and I will finally get my MD and start training to become a pediatrician. Many new things were introduced into my life this year, which were unexpected and totally outside of my 9×2016 list. I have started meditating using the Calm app (which I love!), increasing my yoga practice, and becoming minimalist. These were things I never saw coming but I am so glad I found them/they found me and my family, and I fully intend to keep them throughout 2017.

My 9×2017:

Learn:… Spanish. This is just a continuance, and still something that is very important to me. It has already helped me form greater bonds with my patients and their families just by saying the phrases that I do know, and acknowledging that I still have more to learn but I am TRYING.

Start: Racing. I made good strides of going to the gym more frequently and PR’ing my times, but I want to bite the bullet and actually race this year. I’ve already signed up for a local series of races where I can build up my distance.

Stop: Feeling guilty for not knowing everything. So much of medical school is realizing just how much I STILL DO NOT KNOW even when I am killing myself with studying. It is OK that I do not know everything. There is an opportunity to learn each day, and I plan on fully taking advantage of that and asking more questions… all of which will make me a better physician.

Travel to: We have several plans for travel this year, with the first adventure being next week. I could go on and on about this one, but for now I will just say there will be hiking and sunshine and a few new states/possibly countries.

Find: The right program, the right home, the right mentors. Some of these are time-dependent, but there will be a lot of work to do come Match Day (3/17).

Try: New restaurants (a continuance of our goal for last year) along with new foods! As part of interview season this year, we get a lot of dinners out with residents in all of these new cities and I’ve made it a secondary goal to try meals I would ordinarily never try. From butternut squash ravioli to my first taste of Indian food (which I LOVED!), it’s been a good idea to branch out and try new cuisines/flavors.

Be more: Of an advocate. One of the things I love most is projects, especially those that help people. I do not have much experience on the political side of things, but as I start residency it is increasingly important to me that I learn how to fight for my patients, their families, and their needs. Learning this skill is one of the things I am most looking forward to in residency, in my new role. How exactly do I plan to do that? First of all, I’ve been interviewing at programs that excel in advocacy. There are other opportunities for training through local and away electives. I’ve also been looking for great mentors. No matter where I end up Matching, I will have a solid foundation to help me with that endeavor.

Less: Screen time. This one is a hard one to break (I mean, I’m blogging right now, so….), but I realize that especially with screen time, less is more.

More: Meditation, exercise, relaxation, reflection, minimalism. All of these things, to me, go together hand-in-hand. What I haven’t been doing much of lately is reflecting and writing about how these things have helped change our lives for the better.

I am looking forward to a 2017 full of adventures and memories. What are your goals for the new year? What big adventures are on your heart and mind? Share with me! Let’s encourage each other to make 2017 the best year yet!

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It’s Not Every Day You Get to Meet One of Your Heroes

Dr. Chuck is one of my heroes; he’s also the founder of Timmy Global Health, headquartered here in Indy. I took a long lunch a few weeks ago to go meet him at a talk he was giving on campus.

The passion this guy has is incredible. It’s not just smoke and mirrors. If there was ever one organization I could get behind, it’s this one. He started this organization in a closet after meeting Mother Teresa in Calcutta, and falling in love with the kiddos. (Not that I could relate at all, there.)

He’s also full of quotable quotes, too. Here’s a few of my favorites.

“I’m often asked, how do I survive the kids? So much of what we chase, we find out is not so important when you see these sick kids dying.”

“I give half my salary to my organization. See those kids? Those are my dependents.”

“Money is not the most important thing. It’s just the most limiting.”

“Live up to your promises.”

“Unless you allow your heart to be broken–unless you allow your heart to be cleaved–how can you possibly wrap it all around this?”

“I don’t play second fiddle to anyone unless the other person is as passionate as I am.”

“I believe that we are not humans on a spiritual journey, we are spirits on a human journey.”

“My mom thinks I’m a Roman Catholic… With my job, I’m a Roaming Catholic…. But if mom asks, I’m a Roman Catholic!”

“Be flexible, considerate, and have a sense of humor.”

“That’s an empty hold you cannot fill with money. Or things.”

“I find it hard to stay hopeful when I see so much wealth and health. The importance over wealth. Kids in accidents where they might be paralyzed, are up and running, screaming, happy, and the parents complain about the size of the flat-screen in the room.”

“You need some rainfall and some sunshine.”

“Culture shock isn’t when you arrive. It’s when you come home. That’s the hard part.”

“My review of the hospital we built came back. ‘Spartan at best,’ it said. I said, ‘Thank you!’ We’re not putting money into things that do not matter.”

“I’m human. I see a problem and I bitch about it. I try to limit my complaining and increase my work to solve the problems.”

“Do you see the smiles on those kids’ faces? Those smiles do not look hopeless or helpless to me.”

“There is nothing more beautiful than a dirty, snot-nosed kid.” (I so totally agree!!)

“When it’s all said and done, I want to be wrung out.”

“Work until you’re done. But, you’re never done.”

“A desperate mother will not care about the data. Will her child live? Your presence gives her hope.”

“When you’re in the right place at the right time for the right reasons–that’s where the magic happens.”

I left feeling inspired. I wish I could bottle that feeling and save it for later, since I know there are tough days ahead. (And, of course, my inspiration was depleted fairly quickly with the awfulness that was Flow last week.)

If all things go according to plan, I hope to be in Honduras by next March; and maybe if I can fund-raise enough, maybe meet up with this group too. The school I have decided on has an amazing global health program, and also offers a dual degree with an MPH. After thinking it over, I’ve decided I want to participate; I’m probably crazy to think I can be a med student and a grad student at the same time, but after talking to some current students who love being in the dual degree program, I think I’ll be just fine. Since no one knows what will happen with our health care system in the future, it might be helpful to have an extra skill set. That’s at least my thought for now. And of course, because I can think of nothing else I would rather do than make a difference for some of those snot-nosed kids I haven’t even met yet. May God guide my footsteps there.

Life After the Acceptance

Since the day I received my acceptance letter, things have been a blur. I’ve had three more interviews since then, and have made a short trip to the US/Canada border. Not to mention getting sick, which resulted in a 2am run to the Emergency Department and a day off work at home in bed alternating between reading a new book and sleeping the day away.

I have been putting together my lists. Yep, me & my lists. It must be my coping mechanism. Things to do before class begins; things to discard before the move; people to see; books to read; info to remember farther down the line.
I’ve read consumer reviews on stethoscopes. I’ve scoured hospital web sites to see what Boards scores I need to potentially land a residency there. I’ve compiled several lists of crock pot meals that just might ensure that David and I don’t starve for the four years I’ll be in school.

Getting ahead of myself? Maybe. Probably. But I am nothing if not a planner and an information junkie.  I’ve always believed in being prepared, if not over-prepared.

There is, however, one thing more important to me than all of the rest when it comes to preparing to enter medical school: making sure David knows how much I love him.  My family understands that I have worked for over a decade to finally be in this position; as our third anniversary approaches, I wonder if he regrets what he got himself into! It is my hope to use these several months before school starts to make sure he knows he is loved before we enter this beast known as medical school. That is the priority.

I absolutely could not do this without him. I know without a doubt that this is why the previous attempts were unsuccessful. While it sounds so phony and cliche’, I know I fully became my true self when I welcomed him into my life. This is why I did not hesitate to change my name once we were married. Much like in the Bible, where  a significant life experience changed the essence of the person and was followed by a name change: Sarai to Sarah, Abram to Abraham, among others.
I know that this new journey will change me in ways I cannot even begin to fathom right now. How could it not? Just thinking of my first real rite of passage is already giving me nightmares: dissecting a cadaver. I am excited for the opportunity to learn in a way that is reserved for only those entrusted with the task, but the thought of cutting a person with an inexperienced hand makes me nervous and I know it will undoubtedly change me.

I know all of this will be hard on David too. I’m afraid he will be lonely, or feel neglected. I’m afraid he’ll think he lost the girl he married, who loves him more than she can even put into words or actions.

On that note, the Yellowstone trip planning has been going well. We’ve been breaking in our hiking boots and marking trails we want to hike. I am looking forward to this trip so anxiously! I can think of nothing more enjoyable than 2 weeks  in God’s own creation with just my husband before life becomes unrecognizable from what it is now, quite possibly our last trip together away before another name change, this time to the title of “Doctor.” Quality time together, making memories together, is my goal for the next 9 months.

This still does not feel real. I’ve read the acceptance letter over and over, checking to make sure the words do not rearrange themselves, indicating the school made a mistake. After all of this time, it is finally real. I am still in disbelief. There has been such a huge weight lifted from me. It is beyond wonderful  to finally have the chance to start the life I’ve wanted for so long. No more waiting. No more self doubt. No more guilt of putting David through (this part of) this awful process. (Although I’m sure there will be lots of guilt-ridden days to come….)

Here is where I know David will be my anchor. I know he will not let me stray from him or Him during this marathon that is more like a gauntlet. That is why I chose him as my husband.

For the most part,  it has been a time of happiness. There has been one disappointment. Some people are dead set on stifling others’ happiness and injecting their own wants and wishes into our lives. As long as David is okay with the schools that have offered me an acceptance, I don’t much care about the mutterings from elsewhere. Some people have absolutely no clue what it has taken for me to get to this point, going through this process repeatedly, and there is just no sense in wasting time trying to explain something they will never understand.

But for now, we will focus on the positives. There are plenty of other things to think of, and much happiness to celebrate. For instance, loving on my amazing husband! 😉

Goodnight!

Romans 8:28: And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.