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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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.

Shelter Spotlight

5.14.17-ADOPTED!

Meet Elsa!! My husband and I met this pretty little lady while walking dogs at our local humane society today. I love walking dogs and interacting with them just as much as my husband does, but I love being behind the camera and trying to capture their personalities too. This darling Boxer was a gem to walk and clearly not afraid of a few photos 😉 I mean, seriously. Who could resist that grin?!

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If you are interested in learning more about Elsa or any of her available sheltermates, please contact the Greenbrier Humane Society at 304-645-4775. We are located in Lewisburg, WV.

The Starlight Foundation

I look forward to my Fab Fit Fun box every season, and this winter box was no different; details here if you want more information on what I’m talking about. However, this box included a piece of jewelry supporting a charitable organization that I was actually interested in looking into for more information: The Starlight Foundation.

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The Starlight Foundation, a nonprofit founded in 1982, seeks to improve hospital stays for young children and teenagers. Over 30 million children each year in the United States experience a long-term hospital stay due to a chronic, critical, or terminal illness. When you think about how scary the hospital can be for a short-term stay, the thought of a young child being there long term is devastating. I had an emergency appendectomy at age four, and I assure you Barney helped me get through the week I had to be without my mom and dad.

The Starlight Foundation is a top-rated nonprofit with Charity Navigator, GreatNonprofits, CharityWatch, and GuideStar. Out of every dollar received, 85 cents goes back into programs to benefit the children and teenagers in need. That figure is awesome compared to some other popular organizations that are more popular and well-known and only give a fraction of what they receive back into research and education. More than 800 hospitals are involved with the foundation and provide education, technology, and entertainment to help turn children’s fear into joy. Although they cannot make the pain go away (unfortunately), there are simple ways to make a child smile. An upcoming project in the works will be converting ugly hospital gowns (let’s be real…does anyone really look good in those things?) into colorful and fun robes for kids to wear. How awesome, right? If you would like more information, the link is below.

I had not even heard about this foundation until three hours ago, and I now I am so glad I did. Although my die-hard passion in life is animal rescue and advocacy, we all have to live for something. Some of these children are literally living in hospitals with an uncertainty of when they’re coming home. It is wonderful that programs like The Starlight Foundation exist!

https://www.starlight.org

*FabFitFun link is a referral code. I am not affiliated with them in any way.

A Day of Thanks

No matter your thoughts on Thanksgiving, it’s still a day where most people are off work and can relax with family and friends. For me, I am simply happy eating yummy food, spending time with my husband, and possibly get a head start on my online Black Friday shopping 🙂 This year, I’m extremely thankful my dog, Leia, is going to be okay. She ate half the handle off an umbrella (note to pet parents: don’t let an umbrella fall next to the toy bin) and got plastic in her abdomen and intestines. She’s been at the vet for the past 36 hours severely dehydrated and monitored closely. If she didn’t end up passing the plastic pieces, she would surgery first thing in the morning. Well, the vet called earlier today and said she had started eating and drinking, along with taking medication. If she is like this tomorrow, chances are she’ll be home by lunchtime. I’m so grateful we know our dog enough that if she’s acting out of character, we can pick up on it. We know her daily patterns and when that changed, our pet parent cues kicked in and got in touch with the vet. If we hadn’t caught it in time, she could have faced an entire bowel obstruction or bowel perforation, neither of which are good. I had a wonderful day with my other fur babies and Matt, but I am especially thankful Leia can come home and will be herself again.

For those at the medical school who aren’t able to be with friends and/or family on Thanksgiving, the President and his wife host Thanksgiving meal in the new student center. Matt and I took advantage of this free meal and shared some time with friends we don’t see too often. Overall, it was a wonderful meal, and I’m especially thankful for the WVSOM community that surrounds us.

No matter how you celebrated Thanksgiving, I hope it was a day of rest and relaxation. Happy Thanksgiving from The Smiths!!

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A Bit of Photo Shoot Magic

I can’t resist sharing more pictures of our time on the Greenbrier River Trail. This time I brought my trusty Nikon 3100 and attempted to capture some fall beauty. Believe me, I am not a photographer, but there’s something about being behind the lens and seeing what I’ve captured that is incredible. Wish I would have went when all the leaves were still on the trees, but it’s nearly impossible to be on that trail and not see beauty somewhere. Plus, it’s always the best when I practice on my favorite subjects. Enjoy!

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The Greenbrier River

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The bond between these two is unbreakable.

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This pup….<3

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Look at this stunner.

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Fall in the Greenbrier Valley…

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PC: Matt Smith

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I definitely should have worn makeup today. PC: Matt Smith

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PC: Matt Smith

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PC: Matt Smith

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Country roads, take me home.

 

Trail Time

There is something about living near the Greenbrier River Trail that makes me feel so at peace with my life. If I’m having a good day, I take the pups to the trail and get in an even better mood. If I’m having a bad day, I still take the pups to the trail and instantly my mood gets better. With fall coming to an end here in WV (although much later than in previous years), I am bound and determined to soak up as much time on the trail as I can. It’s amazing how the fresh air opens your mind and instantly is a mood booster. I left work early today and spent some much needed outside time with my favorites. This spot is one of my favorites on the section of the trail near us, and it is honestly the perfect place to relax and meditate. I was lucky enough to have Matt home today and he came with us. Wouldn’t trade these moments for the world. What are some of your favorite moments, and if you live in WV, some of your outdoor recommendations to take the pups?

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What a beautiful day.

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My happy place.

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So at peace with the world.

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My pretty girl.

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Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. -Anatole France

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Fall is beautiful. Need I say more?