Five Things Med School Has Taught Me (Spouse Edition)

I will never forget the first day of medical school three years ago. Not only because Matt came home and said “What on earth have I gotten myself into?” but because the spouses/significant others had their own orientation on how to adjust to life living with a med student and we all left thinking the same thing as Matt: “What on earth have we gotten ourselves into and how on earth are we going to survive the next four years?” Well, the countdown to graduation is on (244 days!) and the light at the end of the tunnel is slowly coming into view. We were told a great deal at orientation, truthfully many things that probably did more harm than good, but below are 5 things that I wish someone had told me when I agreed to come along on this crazy journey.

  1. Stop comparing yourself to all your friends who are buying houses, starting families, and who give the impression they have it all together.  Trust me. They usually don’t, and I feel your pain. There have been numerous occasions when I wish we owned a house instead of rented, our loans were getting paid off instead of accruing, and we felt comfortable planning a family now instead of waiting until residency when we feel a bit more stable both financially and emotionally. Those who aren’t on this journey have no idea how unstable our lives actually are, and guess what? That’s okay. It’s unrealistic for them to get it because they aren’t going through it. However, you will eventually get to a point when you can have the house you absolutely love instead of the tiny rental with the green walls and the bathroom in the dining room; you will eventually start paying off your loans because believe me when I say they aren’t going anywhere; and lastly, your children, if you decide to have them, will come when you’re ready. Some people feel comfortable having children in medical school. Matt and I don’t, and that is okay. Do what works for you right now because it won’t last forever. fullsizeoutput_36ab
  2. Get involved. Volunteer at a local humane society (insert shameless plug here and see cute animal photos below), find a church family, join a gym, or find a job. You will need the community and support of other people, especially during the first two years when your spouse/significant other is rarely home. The time spent with him or her when they are home will be treasured and appreciated, but make the time to do something other than wait for them to get home.

3. Figure out your financial situation early and stick to a budget. Matt and I lived on his loans for the first 8 months we were living here and it was hard. We came from a lifestyle where he was making $25 an hour, so suddenly having to figure out money was a real struggle. I’ve always been a relatively thrifty shopper, but having to actually budget was a challenge and something we still are figuring out. If you cannot afford to go out to dinner with friends, suggest eating at home instead and having a game night. Instead of drinks, buy a mix at Walmart and have them at home. Be realistic about your finances and know what you should and should not be spending money on. Unfortunately, you will face people who think that because your husband/wife will be a doctor, then you shouldn’t be worrying about money. That could not be farther from the truth. Now is the time when you need to come together and evaluate your financial situation so you know how to handle it when you are more stable down the road.

4. Take advantage of all opportunities for extra income. I was fortunate enough to obtain a job that not only do I enjoy, but gives us a cushion to sit on financially. It’s not a large cushion, but I’m thankful it’s there. However, I do not depend on my job and Matt’s student loans to meet all our needs; we simply cannot with how much med school costs and all the expenses around it (rotations, traveling, lodging, board exams, etc). Not only do I still print paper coupons (yes, I use electronic ones too), but I use my iPhone religiously with cash back and saving apps. What I earn each month in those apps pays for a couple tanks of gas, which makes paying the additional money each month to have a smartphone worthwhile. I’ve mentioned some of the apps briefly before (see thrifty living tab), but I cannot emphasize their important enough. Ibotta: Cash back app where you earn money on things you’re already buying whether it’s at Kroger, Target, Walmart, CVS, Kohl’s, a restaurant, and even convenience stores. Uploading the receipt takes a few extra minutes at the end of each shopping trip, but it’s worth it to earn a few extra bucks. My referral code if you’re interested is kiqiglb. Checkout 51 is another good cash back app, but the checks must be deposited at a physical bank; mobile deposit will not work since they’re Canadian checks. Saving Star, another cash back app, lets you cash out in PayPal after only earning $5, and that’s ridiculously easy if you grocery shop a lot. Shopkick is an awesome way to earn “kicks” and then redeem them for gift cards.  Super easy and lots of “kicks” can be earned just by scanning items in the store! Referral code is COOL049763 if you’re interested. Receipt Hog gives points just by uploading your receipts, which is something we all get after we grocery shop anyway. Might as well earn something from them! The Walmart Savings Catcher App scans other stores and gives you money on an e-gift card if a lower price is found. I also sell clothing and miscellaneous items on both Poshmark and Mercari, AND buy stuff online using Ebates, a site that puts a percentage of your purchase into an account and you get a check four times a year: Referral code is https://www.ebates.com/r/ALEKAN4?eeid=28187 if you’d like to join and get some money in your account right away. These sound like a lot of work, but I assure they’re not. Knowing how to make a little extra each month is a great way to either put some additional funds in savings or pay bills you otherwise wouldn’t be able to make.

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Top L to bottom R: Shopkick, Receipt Hog, Checkout 51, Saving Star, Ibotta 

5. Learn to be okay being alone. At orientation, we were told that 85% of couples in med school end in divorce. I’m not sure if it’s actually that high, but as a young couple not even married when this journey began (we were married two months later), that is not what any of us wanted to hear. You will be spending a lot of time alone the first two years (and when they’re gone for 4 months the last year on audition rotations), so it is important you find stuff to stay busy. Take up a new hobby. Walk your dogs. Volunteer. Call family back home or go visit them. Make new friends. Don’t stop the activities you want to do simply because your significant other isn’t around to share them with you. Believe me, when you are able to be together, you’ll appreciate it so much more. I know personally that dinnertime was (and still is) the roughest part of the day. I like to have dinner together and he would be at the school studying until 9pm more times than I can count. He wasn’t there that late because he wanted to, but rather his course load was intense and required hours of studying outside the classroom. Your significant other wants to be with you as much as you want to be with them, but please realize that it will get easier. I remember Matt telling me in the beginning that knowing I was struggling to be happy was causing him pain, which shouldn’t have happened. As his wife, his partner, and biggest supporter, I should have been there for him and encouraged him during this process; he already felt guilty enough for bringing me along on this crazy ride. As I learned to love myself more and gained confidence, I became happier and the ride got a little bit easier. Do I miss him while he’s on rotations? More than I can possibly say. However, I know this will end and I can confidently say that learning to be more independent is not a bad thing. When you’re okay, your significant other will be better as well.

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My faithful sidekicks throughout this adventure. 

I hope these five things help you in some way, whether your significant other is a med student, a law student, in the military, or simply works long hours. It will get easier, I promise you!

 

 

 

 

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My Mother, My Friend

Weekends. We love them, work all week praying they will come sooner, and then are bummed when they’re over. That is EXACTLY how I feel right now at 9pm knowing I need to be up at 6:30 tomorrow for work. My mom was able to visit this weekend for the first time since Christmas last year and it was seriously the most therapeutic time for the both of us. We are both battling situations beyond our control (the unpredictability of med school is draining and Lupus sucks, to put it bluntly) and spending a weekend together was the therapy that we needed to refresh our outlooks on life.

We ate lots of Chinese food. We baked cookies and proceeded to eat almost all of them within 12 hours. We went thrift shopping until the little bit of cash in my wallet was gone. We took our dogs to the humane society where they were adopted to show them off to the workers who so diligently loved and cared for them until they came to their forever homes. We did yardwork and for the first time I actually enjoyed it; thank you mom for buying me gardening gloves that fit and pruning shears I so desperately needed. We hiked 7+ miles and enjoyed views so beautiful that it’s hard to believe they were real. Most importantly, we laughed. When life hits and you get depressed to the point of simply going through the motions, it can be so hard to remember what happiness feels like.

Go outside. Breathe fresh air. Hug your cat, walk your dog, or do both if you have five pets like I do. Call a friend. Exercise. Take a bath. Hug a loved one. Do something that makes you smile. For me, seeing the struggles my mother endures daily as someone who suffers from Lupus makes me admire her even more. Spending time with her this weekend made us both smile again, and for that I’m eternally grateful.

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My mother, my friend.

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Formerly unwanted and now forever loved pups!

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They adore her too 🙂

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View from Blue Bend Recreation Area

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Mother’s Day 2017 Thoughts

Mother’s Day. It’s a special day honoring the women whose love and influence has shaped us into who we are today. This is my mother, the strongest woman I know. She is a business owner (shameless plug here), lover of the outdoors, and has taught me the importance of loving animals. She has always been the perfect balance of friend and mother, and if I can someday be half the mother she is, I’ll consider myself a good parent. I’m so grateful to have had her support over the years, including my MSW graduation THREE years ago today.

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Bottom line: Treasure the time you have with your mother, because only when you move away will you realize how much having her close by was so wonderful.

Mother’s Day can also be a very rough time for those who have either lost their mothers or desire to be one and it hasn’t happened yet. It is easy to feel alone when you’re scrolling Facebook and see everyone’s Mother’s Day posts. You know what?

You’re not alone.

There is someone else out struggling just like you are.

More often than not, someone has endured a hardship and kept silent about it.

Lastly, stop scrolling.

On this particular Mother’s Day, I was fortunate to be surrounded by my husband; my church family; lunch with neighbors who took us under their wing and act as surrogate parents; and my fur babies, all five of them.

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This dog has the good life.

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So content in her special spot.

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So many personalities in these felines.

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Until the time comes for me to be a mother, I will savor every moment of my fur baby motherhood and always cherish those who have made a difference in my life: My own mother, my grandmothers I lost too soon, and my mother-in-law. Thank you for all that you are to me. I love you.

Words to the Young

For my 28th birthday in February, my husband bought us tickets to see Florida Georgia Line, a country duo I have been obsessing over since “Cruise” blew up the radio in 2012. I finally got to experience my birthday present last night, and I must say: I haven’t felt that old in a very long time. The younger crowd didn’t know the lyrics to the Backstreet Boys covers, I was yawning by 8:30 (side note: The concert started at 7:00), and I kept wishing ear plugs would be readily available because my ears would not stop ringing. I also found myself wanting to look at some of the girls in the crowd and say, “Please keep your shirt down and your pants up. No one needs to see that.” Ten years ago, I would have never thought to say that to anyone. After all, I was only 18 at the time, which was roughly the same age most of the concert-goers appeared to be. Anyway, all day I have been thinking about things I want my future daughters to know, not just about themselves, but other people as well. They’ll be 18 one day and then 28 another, and it’s extremely important they keep some basic things in mind whatever age you are.

  1. Seriously. Keep your shirt down and your pants around your waist. I don’t care how if you are an “A” cup or a “D” cup: Keep them covered. Someday, your husband will be asking to see more of them, so save the show for marriage. Oh, and the super low waist pants that were so popular 15 years ago? They aren’t anymore. The high waisted mom jeans are back.
  2. Comfort really is key. I cannot tell you how many times I would laugh at my mom for telling me to bring different shoes, pack a jacket, and wear a comfy pair of pants. Now, her words of wisdom are all coming back, and I was extremely grateful to be in jeans, a casual shirt, and sneakers last night. Do you really think the woman who came out of the bathroom continuously adjusting her romper was comfortable? How about the 5 inch stilettos a girl wore while walking like The Hunchback of Notre Dame because she couldn’t stand up straight? You’ll thank me when you aren’t stumbling around barefoot in the parking garage at 11:30 at night, which yes, we did witness as well.
  3. Cake face is not flattering. I enjoy makeup as much as anyone else who semi knows how to properly apply it, and I do love that my features can be enhanced with some CC cream, eyeshadow, liner, and mascara. However, piling on loads and loads of foundation to the point where there are cracks in it is not flattering, on anyone. It’s okay to learn how to apply it; I’m 28 and still don’t know my undertones or what shade I am. However, do yourself a favor and go light on the makeup. Your skin will thank you when you get older, and you can go through your night not worrying if everything looks right. Trust me, you’re beautiful the way you are.
  4. Stop growing up so fast. I was a teenager once, and kudos to you for being one in today’s day in age. There is pressure from every angle to dress a certain way, have the best smartphone, and fit in with the crowd. You know what? Those who don’t pressure you are the ones worthy of your time, not the ones who want you to be someone you’re not. You will end up falling in love with yourself and be who you truly are, and when you do, I can’t wait to see the person you become.
  5.  Bring ear plugs to live music events. I cannot begin to tell you how important your hearing is, and don’t risk losing it by not bringing something as basic as ear plugs to a concert. If you wear your hair down, no one will even see them in your ears!

I am fairly certain that as time goes on, especially when my husband and I do have children, there will be other advice I want them to learn. My mother was a genius and taped motivational and inspirational quotes to my bedroom door as a teenager. Every time I opened it, I would be reminded of how loved I was and how I didn’t have to be anybody that I wasn’t. Does this mean I didn’t want to impress people? No, definitely not. I spent so much time worrying about what jeans to wear with what shirt that looking back, I realize that things would have been simpler if I had just had a smaller wardrobe.

In all seriousness, I wouldn’t want to be a teenager today. Heck, I struggle enough as an adult who is closer to 30 than her mid-20’s. Social media is much stronger now than it was even 10 years ago when I was 18, and teenagers are hit with pressure to post the perfect Instagram photo or catch that perfect Snapchat. It is okay to not conform to what everyone else is doing and simply be yourself. After all, who can be better at being you but you?

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the concert was an incredible birthday present. It was announced that Florida Georgia Line will be touring with the Backstreet Boys later this year, so I just need to find another good excuse for my husband to buy me those tickets….

 

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In honor of being together for six years, here’s a throwback to us after dating for a grand total of 8 days. Talk about being young!!

Earth Day 2017-Five Ways to Go Green!

Earth Day is in two days, so let’s talk about some ways you can up your green game. Some are pretty straight forward, but still are some of the simplest (and best!) ways to save the environment and help your wallet.

  • Reusable Napkins. Ignore the pet hair on mine. We have two dogs and three cats, so pet hair is a permanent part of our home, no matter how often we vacuum! The conventional disposable napkin is chlorinated to make it white. Not only is the process extremely toxic to our environment, but do you really want chlorine around the food you eat? Reusable napkins can be neat patterns, are more durable than paper, and last way longer. Purchasing reusable napkins, no matter if you make them or buy a cheap set at Walmart, will save you money in the long run as well because you aren’t buying them so often. fullsizeoutput_3665
  • Reusable Bags. Save those free bags you get at conferences and use them for your grocery trips. Plastic bags are one of the top contributors to pollution in the world (approximately 1 trillion are used and discarded each year with only a small fraction of them being recycled). Did you know plastic is not biodegradable? There are no properties in it that benefit the earth, so any plastic that is used will just sit there. It is easy enough to leave extra reusable bags in your trunk as well for those spontaneous shopping trips we all know happen now and then. If you do get plastic bags, consider taking them to your local grocery store or Walmart for proper disposal. I know ours has a bin at the front of the store to put them. Mine pictured is an insulated Trader Joe’s bag, but I have at least 6-7 I use on a regular basis.

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  • Reusable Water Bottles. This one is a no-brainer. Although it may be convenient to buy a 24 pack of water and grab one as needed, the amount of plastic, both for the bottles and the packaging, is outrageous. Also, the plastic is #1, which should never be refilled due to chemicals leaching from the material. Invest in a stylish water bottle that will make you want to drink water each day. I have the one pictured that I got for $3 at TJ-Maxx and has reusable “ice cubes” in it; they’re BPA free, in case you’re curious. I have a stainless steel one that has served me well in the six years I have had it. Glass it fantastic, but do keep in mind it has a higher chance of breaking. Mine fell off a table and shattered 😦 Some excellent high-quality water bottle brands include Hydroflask, Contigo, Nalgene, Clean Kanteen, and S’Well. Other bottles have filters built-in (Brita makes a good one that can be bought at CVS) in case your tap water may not be the best for drinking. Add some fruit to your water for flavor as well!

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  • Wool Dryer Balls. Typical dryer sheets consist of nothing but chemicals that wreak havoc on your body and are actually flammable. Plus, they are ridiculously expensive. Wool dryer balls work just as well as dryer sheets and are non-toxic. If you like the scent of dryer scents, I highly suggest purchasing a high quality essential oil of your choice (lavender is great) and putting a couple drops on the balls before throwing them in the dryer. I use three balls per load, but when I have more laundry at a time, I will certainly invest in some more. My mom bought these for me years ago, and they have held up to hundreds of washings. I experience minimal static afterwards and feel better knowing I’m not simply throwing away something else to add to the landfill. Not mine, but here is a set in case you’re interested. I wish I knew how much money I have saved by not buying dryer sheets since graduate school!

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  • Storage Ideas. This Star Wars container is PERFECT to store the dryer balls. For Christmas last year, a pair of pajama pants for my husband came in it, and I hated to throw it away. Lo’ and behold, a dryer ball holder came out of it! It adds character to our laundry room too. Reusing items you already own is an excellent way to go green. I feel like every single child learned “Reduce Reuse Recycle” in elementary school, and that phrase holds true well into adulthood. Reusing helps your environmental impact because you’re simply not purchasing as much, which is less that you’ll put in the landfill. Be creative with your ideas; it can be fun to use your imagination!

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These ideas barely scrape the surface of ways to reduce your environmental waste, but are extremely beneficial. What are some of your favorite ways to go green? I’d love to hear them!

Seventh Generation Follow-Up

A few weeks ago, I posted an entry on Seventh Generation’s Dishwashing Tablets I received from Generation Good in exchange for a review. Well, I have been testing them for a month or so and can say with 100% certainty they are just as a good as the dishwashing powder I had previously used. We have extremely hard water at our house, and it’s difficult to find products without chemicals that don’t leave streaks on our dishes. I will say it’s more cost effective to either A) make your own dishwashing detergent or B) purchase the powder version that gives you 70+ loads instead of only 20 for $6-$8 a bag, but if you prefer convenience, these are great. This link provides you with all the information you need to know. If you have tried any other cruelty free and chemical free household products, please let me know!

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Rest, Oh Sweet Rest.

What. A. Week. It was one of those weeks where Friday night couldn’t come soon enough. I bet my husband wishes he would have stayed at his rotation dorm all week instead of coming home!

To begin, we were hit with a massive windstorm that took down 1/4 of the humongus pine tree in our front yard. All the limbs are now out of our driveway, but one section of our yard needs a ton of work to clean up the mess. Thankfully, it fell sideways and not backwards…we wouldn’t have a place to live if it had. I went home to PA over the weekend, and although it certainly wasn’t a wasted trip, I was upset I took a day and a half off of work for something that didn’t even happen. Driving is exhausting. Then Monday night around 8pm, our dogs start going nuts, growling, hair on end, etc. A car broke down in front of our house and two young guys’ Subaru let them sit. Matt will back me up that these guys were not with it AT ALL. Can’t say what drug(s) they were on, but it was obvious it was something. They were covered in mud, as was the car. Turns out they were at the river and the car was stuck in a mud hole. I’m shocked they even got the car out of a mud hole as big  as they one they were in! We gave them until the morning to get their vehicle towed out of our yard. Sure enough: We were woken up the next morning at 5am to the sound of a car trying to start and the dogs barking like crazy. They left by 6:00 and we haven’t seen them since. We got the car towed the next day after much arguing with the Sheriff department and towing company about why they should receive a bill and not us. Do they know their car is in the impound lot? Have no clue, but am thankful it’s out of our yard. Now I just hope they don’t come back….. There was usual chaos at work too, but that’s bound to happen when you are working with people.

Having tonight to myself gave me some time to reflect on this past week and how I get so caught up in the business and stress of life that I don’t take time to do nothing and enjoy it. According to John Lennon, time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted. I better start taking his advice. My self-care is terrible, and as a Social Worker, that’s one thing that’s so important to teach our clients. I work out and eat healthy, but when it comes to actually relaxing, I need to follow the examples below:

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Ahh, the life of a hound dog. Check out Meadow Mutts and Mew Mews blog for more laughter on this rescued pup!

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Why use a dog bed when the pillows are available?

I have coloring books, board games, cards, my computer, and lots of bath bombs to help me relax, but what are some other ways you turn off your brain?