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!

Interview Season in Pictures

The best year of medical school is the year you are accepted. The second best year is 4th year. Or so I was told four years ago. =)

Somehow it is already Christmas Break of my 4th year of medical school and in less than 5 months people will start calling me “Doctor” and I’m actually going to know how to do stuff and know things. It’s pretty unbelievable that after so many years of wanting to go to medical school and going through the process of applying to medical school four times and thinking it would never happen for me…. I am actually almost done. It doesn’t quite feel real.

I am very happy to report that the nightmares I was having back over the summer, before the ERAS residency application opened, were completely unfounded. I have more interviews than I know what to do with and the odds are in my favor that I will actually Match in March and will have my first job as a physician come next June/July. It’s been an incredible experience, if not time-consuming, alienating, and exhausting, but a necessary evil in the long run. I have met so many incredible people in the field of Pediatrics, and I feel so lucky to be going into the best specialty! (I may be a bit biased 😉 and I’m sure all of my colleagues in other fields feel the same way about their specialty.) I can’t wait to get started on my career but at the same time, I wish this year would slow down.

Over the past several months, my Instagram feed (@PagingDrAllie) has been flooded with snapshots of the interview trail. Because what else am I supposed to do when I’m going to new states, new cities, new places all by myself for nearly three months?

I purposefully do not share where I am interviewing. Not only for anonymity (which really, in having this blog, I’m probably not doing a very good job about that anyway), but I feel that sharing and bragging about those sorts of things is just in bad taste. A program that I am not thrilled with may be a friend’s top choice and they may not have received an interview invitation…. and I’m not the type of person who relishes in others’ despair. Below I’ve gathered some of my Instagram shots from my travels, with captions. I hope you enjoy a small taste of my life living out of a rental car!

One of the unexpected bonuses of traveling so much in November/December: all of the hotels and hospitals are wonderfully decorated for Christmas (and Hanakkuh, and others), which delights my soul in a particularly special way. There’s just something about twinkle lights that makes me deliciously happy.

 

This has been my view for so long that anything else almost seems foreign. After awhile, all of the hotels just blur together. There have been a couple that have really wow’d me in terms of the bedding. As a mom of a two-year-old, having a full night’s sleep, alone, without interruptions (or being kicked in the face) is a luxury beyond belief. Even so….. I do miss my own bed at home. Once I’m actually working, maybe we can investigate investing in a bigger bed that is as comfortable as this one was!

 

The bad thing about racing home, while driving alone, is that when you’re driving into a beautiful sunset, there is no one to share the experience with. Which means you pull over onto a safe pullout/shoulder and snap a few quick shots before getting back behind the wheel and trying to make up for those minutes.

I spent a week and a half in a new state to interview at several programs, thinking that would be best for my rental car and time. What I didn’t anticipate when I scheduled those interviews was how much I’d already be missing home and my kiddo, even that early in the interview season. So the Handsome came up with a brilliant scheme: instead of coming all the way home, I’d meet him and the Ladybug at the halfway point between home and the next interview to spend a weekend doing things she’d love like swimming in a heated pool and an excursion to the Children’s Museum there. So after my last interview of the week on a Friday, I raced to our rendezvous as quickly as I could to surprise the little one and when I came into the room….. she was already asleep. Figures.

Again, racing home (or to the next interview city) and I was alone with a great sunset.

This one, though, was on my way home for a weekend. This shot doesn’t do it justice, because it was seriously one of the most gorgeous displays I’ve ever seen.

This year, I’m taking a course that explores the marriage of Art with Medicine and Wellness. One of the stipulations of the course is that we make time to visit museums, aquariums, etc to help boost our wellness. The Georgia Aquarium is one of the very, very few aquariums to house Whale Sharks, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit when I was in Atlanta. I really wish I would have had more time there!

One morning right before I left home for the majority of three weeks straight. Foggy yet golden, I couldn’t help but snap a shot to remind me of home.

Thank you notes are the bane of my existence. I was raised to express gratitude where it is due, so I’ve always been a fan of handwritten notes. I had no idea that I would be writing 4, 5, or 6 or more per program, though. Mentors have pressed upon me that for Pediatrics, thank you notes are pretty important, so I should make sure each one is personalized because all of them may wind up in my file, and if they are verbatim alike, it could be a mark against me so….. I spend a lot of time writing these things.

In one city, I came into town a bit early to catch up with an old friend from college at a local coffee shop before dinner with the residents. I wanted the chance to walk the city to get a good feel for it, and as I made my way to the coffee shot, I happened to notice the sky. This shot doesn’t really capture the cotton-candy sky, but I still liked the way it turned out anyway.

I left one program just in time to sit at a coffee shop in a different city for an hour or two before meeting the residents of another program for dinner, so I took that time to compose more thank you notes.

Niagara Falls at dusk! 🙂

Probably one of my favorite shots. It doesn’t quite look real, and this is #nofilter.

There was one interview that was really, really far away. Luckily, the Handsome could go with me and we made the executive decision to take the Ladybug with us and stop over at the halfway point, Niagara Falls. She LOVED it, and I am so glad that we weren’t deterred from bringing her with us. The first thing she said was “Whoa!” which was quickly followed by, “Mommy! BIG WATER!” All three of us marked off a couple new states and this little one got to add a new country to her passport as well!

I never knew the northeast was so pretty, even in late autumn! One thing I didn’t get to take a photo of: while driving through the mountains I saw where a semi took out the biggest black bear I’ve ever seen. So sad!

On the very first morning where I was supposed to be traveling to an interview, I went out to our deck for some meditation before beginning the long drive. It was so peaceful until the small flock of geese came by to interrupt me. Not a bad way to start out an interview season, I think.

I am almost done with my interview season. Some of the advice I got from last year’s graduating class were to wrap up the interview season before Christmas break, but that didn’t work out for me. I’ve been on a ton already, but I still have 5 more in January, and I am really excited for those programs. I’ve been keeping a running “rank list” and my top 5 are very clear in my mind already, programs that I loved to pieces. I’m hoping a few of my last interviews also make it into that category.

One Week to Go!

I take Step 1 in one week. In all honesty, I will be so thankful to have it over with. Seven weeks in study isolation with my falling-apart copy of First Aid (minus my time spent on DIT videos… that’s social interaction, right?) have nearly driven me mad. Especially when we have had some gorgeous weather (so I’ve been told…) and I haven’t left my study area in that timeframe. When I do get a quick chance to run to the store, I feel like I don’t know how to interact with society….

I did take one day to get all of my paperwork done for the VA (I was hoping that my old VA paperwork would transfer from Indianapolis to Louisville, but I was out of luck there and had to redo all of it), even though I didn’t know if I would even be spending any time there on rotations, not having our schedules yet…. which turned out to be a good thing, because this week I got a very short list of my schedule for my first rotation! I will be starting my Internal Medicine rotation at the VA, two weeks on Cardiology and two weeks Infectious Disease! Those were my top choices for the elective month of my Internal Medicine rotation, so I’m pretty excited. The second month of my IM rotation is at University Hospital where I’ll be on wards (I’m not even 100% sure what that means). My first rotation starts one month from today! I’m really hoping for great experiences on this first rotation as a third year medical student, as I figure out how medicine works in a real setting, all day every day. How is it possible that my first two years went by so quickly?!

So that is a quick update from me. One week til Step 1, one week and two days until we celebrate a special girl’s first birthday, and less than 3 weeks until we take our longest family vacation ever. I cannot even tell you how excited I am that this is almost over and I get to spend some time with my family in the mountains again.

Back to studying. #CrunchTime #FinalPush #JustKeepSwimming

Day 1: No Reservations

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My alarm was set for 4am.

Who was I kidding?

At 4am, I turned off my alarm, thinking, ummm… No! And went back to bed. Knowing that Day 1 was going to be one of our longest days of the whole trip, and knowing that we were both exhausted from doing so much running during the previous four days, I went back to sleep.

At 6:30, I woke up again, and this time we both got moving.

By 7:30, we were packed & ready to go, and stopped for breakfast at Long’s Bakery.

Let me tell you about this little gem. The first time I ever heard of Long’s, my friend K was helping me move my half of our stuff into the apartment before the wedding, and she had attended UofI when she mentioned that Long’s makes the best. Donuts. EVER! Since then, Long’s has been on my To Do list.

Two years later: Holy crap! How have we not tried these before now?! They were amazing. We had chocolate covered chocolate cake, glazed, and (my favorite) sugar cinnamon cake. Holy crap. Best donuts ever! So for less than $6, we had breakfast for two days. They are open 5:30am-8:00pm every day; and it’s a good thing they are not on my route to work.

Today being our long day, we had a lot of road to cover. In short:

Illinois: lots of construction cones, no workers
Iowa: lots of construction cones, workers present
Nebraska: not there long enough to have a summary (but, new state #1! Whoo-hoo!)
South Dakota: beautiful! I had no idea that SD was this pretty. I guess I had imagined it as being a lot like Illinois, Iowa, or even Kansas. Flat, corn, nothing to look at, that sort of thing. Kinda like home. I was pleasantly surprised–I love having my assumptions challenged. (New state #2!) Tall grasses rippled in the wind, making an ocean of waves. We did pass Laura Ingall Wilder’s home, which I thought was cool because I read all of her books a lifetime ago (being the dork that I am).

So far, what I loved about this part of the trip was that we had no set time or place to be anywhere. We could be as leisurely as we liked. The original goal was to make it to Omaha before calling it a day. We got there far too early to stop, so we pushed onward, hoping to make it to Sioux Falls.

Sioux Falls also came too soon. We stopped at a lovely little Mexican restaurant where the food was delicious and a good price. We stretched our legs by walking around the Scheels nearby before heading back out on the road again.

SD really impressed. With the big sky unobstructed by buildings or hills, we had front-row seats to one of the prettiest sunsets I have ever seen. It was a spectacular end to Day 1 of our road trip.

Our Great Escape

We leave in the morning for our 2013 vacation! I am so excited! There will be plenty of updates with pictures, so stay tuned while we go “get lost”!

Monday we got our first choice in living arrangements in Iowa (YAY!). Tuesday I finished my cousin’s bridal shower gift, which is being taken to the shower for me since we’ll be deep in the heart of Yellowstone’s caldera by then. Wednesday we packed and attempted to get ready for the trip and the move. Today I mailed my brother’s 21st birthday present (yep, we’re missing that too).

This week at work has been draining. In addition to regular lab stuff, we (not me) decided to run two sets of surgeries and two sets of Flow in the four days I was working. Let me tell you, this was SO MUCH FUN.

Today was an adventure. My boss’ wife was in a car accident yesterday afternoon (she’s fine; the car, not so much), so I was going to be on my own for the harvest in the morning, with backup from M. We decided to start at 9am. Starting at 9am generally means getting there 8am to help prep. M didn’t decide to show up until 9:15am and then acted like we had never done this experiment before, so I had the privilege of starting out my day grumpy, stressed, and fatigued. I’m not quite sure what her problem was today, but somehow she managed to screw up our timeframe even though we cut out 3hrs from our original protocol. It was definitely not our best day in lab, and this definitely wasn’t how I wanted to spend my last day working with M. I was not full of grace today, unfortunately. C’est la vie.

But, there is lots of good news. By God’s grace, my To Do list (including school stuff) before the trip is completely finished, which is nothing short of miraculous. I finished going through two books I needed for my manuscript, and they have been returned on time (by the skin of my teeth). And I’m working on a few other things that have great possibilities. (If you submit a piece for publication, and within 24h you have a connection request on LinkedIn by the Editor… is that a good sign, or kinda creepy?!)

I am so ready to leave this mess behind, not think about moving or med school, and just get lost in the mountains. I think I am most excited about seeing the stars a lot more clearly than we can see them here. We’ve been planning this trip for a year and a half.(Well, really, David’s done most of the planning.) Happy second wedding anniversary to us!

Are we there yet? 😉

Detour

Did you know that the route from Indianapolis to Chicago passes through Des Moines?

Neither did I.

I wasn’t exaggerating when I said this week hasn’t gone as planned. We’d been planning a long weekend in Chicago for months, since I hadn’t been since the sixth grade (besides a layover in O’hare on my way home from London), and David hadn’t been since a job in 2005. We were past due.

But lo and behold, we needed to make a “quick” trip to Des Moines; we learned this maybe 48 hours beforehand. So it was either cancel the already-paid-for Chicago trip, or take the extra day off work and leave after my appointment. The decision had to be made quickly, and it was a complete nightmare having to squeeze in everything in such short notice… And then having to schedule the physical and 6am blood draw only added to my stress.

Thankfully, everything went smoothly. Almost too smoothly. However, it’s done, we’re in Chicago, and I am dog-tired. All I want to do is sleep and be well-rested for a fun-filled day tomorrow.

Overwhelmed: Part Deux

This week has gone nothing like what I had planned. Am I surprised? No, not really. I finally gave my official notice at work, which makes me unbelievably sad. Although, that part hasn’t been too bad, just busier than normal.

I really should learn to just keep my mouth shut, or quit writing about it; but no, I’m far too stubborn. I thought I was overwhelmed during the first part of the week, but now… It’s worse, and only partially my own fault.

I had an appointment last week that was supposed to be a quick, one-and-done deal. No such luck. It did not go as planned–imagine that–and had to be rescheduled for this Thursday morning. Lovely.

I finally, finally made my physical appointment for school, after several weeks of going ‘Round-and-’round with employee Healy over paperwork. Last week, the new faculty and staff clinic opened on campus. Now, armed with my paperwork, I visited the clinic for what should have been a one-and-done visit, resulting in my paperwork being delivered on time to school.

No such luck.

I needed a titre drawn, and apparently they were not equipped to perform this simple procedure. So, I need to go to a lab for a blood draw that may take several days to produce results.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

I was beyond livid. Having to schedule yet another appointment when I’m going out of town, and needing to have it done soon enough to turn around and mail it in before I’m gone for 17 days pushed me over the edge from being mad to being downright angry.

Which, wouldn’t you know, prompted me to turn on the radio and immediately get slapped win something far more wise than myself.

Building 429’s song “We won’t be shaken”:

Whatever will come our way
Through fire or pouring rain
We won’t be shaken
No we won’t be shaken
Whatever tomorrow brings
Together will rise and sing
We won’t be shaken
No we won’t be shaken
Oooh ooh oh
Oooh ooh oh
Oooh ooh oh
No we won’t be shaken

Oh, I have so much more to learn. It really was just an annoyance, nothing more–and I shouldn’t have been so agitated.

Luckily for me, the lab was close to home, and I met them at the front door when they opened at 6:30am. So this morning I had blood drawn for two different appointments in two different settings for two totally different reasons.

And now we are finally on the road. I’m not sure how much more of this I can take.