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.

A Real Life Venting Session

Has there ever been a week that just 100% kicked your butt and you thought, “This is just a really bad nightmare and I’ll wake up, right?” This week was that nightmare, and I am so thankful it’s over. Don’t get me wrong; there are some weeks that are difficult, but this took the cake. Let me start off with what happened nine days ago to give you the full effect.

As stated in my Thanksgiving post, Leia got ahold of an umbrella and chewed off half the plastic handle. She spent 48 hours at the vet (including Thanksgiving Day) and we weren’t sure if surgery would be necessary or not. Thankfully, she was able to pass the plastic pieces and had to be on a specific gastrointestinal diet for three days before allowing her to eat her regular food again. That Royal Canin food is not only expensive, but stinks too. So glad we don’t need to another can of that anytime soon… My husband and I have been watching her closely over the past week and are fairly certain the worst is over. I’m glad to have my precious pittie back to normal.

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My brother and his wife, along with their dog, Gavin, came to visit Friday into Saturday, and we had a wonderful time. They have been to West Virginia to visit three times since we moved here and it has been cold and gloomy every single time. We are clearly terrible at planning trips to see each other. We took a trip to Beartown State Park for a hike, saw Dr. Strange in theaters (Benedict Cumberbatch is equally as hot as Dr. Strange as he is Sherlock, fyi), spent some time enjoying Small Business Saturday, and basically just caught up after not seeing each other for five months. Even though PA really isn’t that far away, it’s just enough time and distance that it’s too much for a day trip and not quite enough for a short plane ride. My brother has always been one of my best friends, and thankfully for me, his wife is the sister I never had.

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Beartown State Park

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A man and his faithful companion.

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Family is everything.

When Monday hit, I was already exhausted from the busy weekend and dealing with a sick pup. I should have known the week would hit me like a ton of bricks! For starters, Matt began his month long pediatrics rotation. Although he’s having a good experience, the hours are long and like the beginning of every rotation, it’s a new place to get used to. My car had to have the torque converter replaced in my engine, and thank heavens for extended warranties. Shout out to my dad for making sure I had one because I got my car checked out at 97,656 miles and my warranty ended at 100,000. Talk about luck! The dealership is an hour away, so I missed work and spent four hours alone driving taking care of the vehicle. Now Matt’s car is acting up and has to go to the garage on Monday. Jerking him back and forth with loss of power is not something I want to mess with when he drives an hour to and from rotations every day. Ever heard of being car poor? Well, over the past nine days, I’ve realized that it’s possible to be car poor, pet poor, AND medical school poor at the same time. I swear, if we didn’t have a savings account, we wouldn’t be eating for the next two weeks. Has it been a full moon?! It rained for two days straight, and that combined with the sudden change in temperature, caused me to experience a nasty sinus infection that resulted in an Urgent Care visit for treatment. For real, those infections are nothing to mess with either.

Despite all this, I’m trying to think positive because, at the end of the day, I live in a nice little house, have an amazing marriage, and a job I enjoy with the best coworkers. Oh, and I am a rescue mama to five incredible pets who allow me to live vicariously through them. Life is good, and it’s important to remember that always.

“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.” Psalm 94:19  

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Yes, it is as cozy as it looks!

 

 

Dad’s visit to the Wild and Wonderful.

My dad has only visited our place once since we’ve been here (two years!), and with all the stress going on in his life, I’ve been trying to convince him to visit for awhile now. He arrived Thursday night around 10:30 and left Saturday at noon. It was a short visit, but I’m sure he was glad to get away. He slept in Friday morning (I took off work, so it wasn’t huge deal to do nothing for a morning) and then headed to The Greenbrier to show dad a landmark WV is proud to show off. The Greenbrier is a luxury 5 star resort in White Sulfur Springs that has been around for over 200 years. Although the decor is not exactly my taste (picture something out of That 70’s Show only with pink and green instead of orange and yellow), the place itself is stunning. There are outside activities including horseback riding, a swimming pool, gardens, and then the bunker, which is what we were mainly interested in. President Eisenhower was presented with idea of building a bunker under The Greenbrier in case of an attack in 1958 and the building took three years to complete. Although was never used to host individuals during The Cold War, it was used by the Senate and Legislative Parties for many years. It was the first bunker to be built in the United States. It was kept a secret for 30 years until a reporter leaked it to the Washington Post in 1991. Since that time, rooms are still used for activities on the premise, but as an actual bunker, the place has not changed and is not used for its designated purpose.

I am not into history and wasn’t sure what to expect during the tour. However, the tour guide was excellent and it was cool to see something to historic and meaningful. Dad was fascinated by the old equipment used to do the cooking and the electronic equipment that would have been used to communication in case of an emergency. He was extremely impressed with The Greenbrier and had a wonderful time. The links to the Greenbrier and the bunker tour are below if you would like more information about them.

http://www.greenbrier.com

http://www.greenbrier.com/Activities/The-Bunker/Bunker-History

Matt was home by 5:00 and then after a quick haircut, the three of us went to Bellacino’s for pizza. Now my dad has been in the restaurant business for a LONG time and it’s hard to impress him when it comes to cooking. (He called my homemade chicken dry!) He LOVED Bellacino’s Chicago Style pizza, which says something. We then picked up a huge tub of popcorn at the local movie theater and rented My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 at Redbox. It was hysterical, so hysterical that Matt and I went out the next day and bought it. In case one were to ask, yes, I am proud to be Greek 🙂

Lastly, we took him the Dutch Haus restaurant (located at our two terminal airport) for Saturday morning breakfast. He was, again, impressed with the food, which made us happy because we love the restaurant. If you haven’t been there, go. They use local free-range meat and eggs and take time in their cooking. Sometimes too much time, but the food is fantastic. Dad left right after lunch to head home to his bistro in PA and although the visit was short, I’m sure it was much needed for him. Thanks for coming dad; hope you had a wonderful time!!!

PS-In the middle photo, he’s loving all over Miner and Leia. There’s something special about puppy love!!!!