Currently: August 2015

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Hi there. It's Tuesday, and I have 3 days (including today) to get my proverbial excrement together to take our first Clinical Medicine exam on Friday. I should really be more concerned about it, but it's hard to feel motivated to study when I feel like the entirety of the block is a rehash of my MPH. The photo above is of my current and usual view when I am in the library. I sit in one of two places. Out here where there are lots of windows, or in the back at a table surrounded by the stacks, where it's quiet as a tomb. It's quiet up here, too, but there are more people. As you can see, I'm blogging instead of studying, but... oh well.

Since it's been awhile since I did a "currently" post, I thought it was about time!

THINKING about how I need to be studying more. A lot more. Also about the PHLBloggers event I went to last week and how I want to change things up around this space...
FEELING alternately pretty good, punctuated by abject anxiety. It's been a weird month here.
READING Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. It started it approximately 937 years ago and I love it, but I only read it before I go to bed or if I bring my Kindle to read while in waiting rooms. I also just borrowed All the Light We Cannot See from the library, and they'll steal it off of my Kindle in a week and change so I need to get on that.
WATCHING Hannibal. Oh my God, Hannibal. Also, Ken and I have been watching Louie on Netflix. We haven't watched The Walking Dead (we're still on Season 4) because it was just SO bleak. We want to start something else soon, but I'm not sure what. 
TRYING to catch up on studying, organize my house, and remain calm.
BAKING as much as humanly possible. I have the ingredients for a Key Lime pie in my fridge, and I haven't made the world's best peanut butter cookies in awhile. Have to remedy that! I bake when I'm stressed and don't want to study. I call it procrastibaking.
EATING carrots. So many carrots. It's kind of problem. Please tell me if I turn orange. 
DRINKING iced tea. Hot tea. All the tea.
CALLING Comcast 900 times. My least favorite thing in the world.
LOVING Ken, my friend Kristian who is living with us for the time being because she is super handy and is going to teach me how to use tools, and also anything chocolate.
ENJOYING sleeping in, having a house cleaner once a month, and making Starbucks flavored coffee at home.
HOPING for good news soon.
LISTENING to Circle + Bloom meditations, and the Undisclosed podcast. SO good.
THANKFUL for my husband cooking for me when I am too tired or stressed to cook, for friends I can call at any hour of the day, and for my upperclassmen friends who keep me sane.
What are you currently up to?

A Letter to First Year Med Students

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

This time last year, I was starting my first year of med school (again), and even though I had been through the hell of first year, at least partially, I was terrified. One thing that made me feeling amazingly better was a card and care package that LF sent me before I started. In the spirit of that card, here is a letter for first year med students everywhere.

Dear First Year Med Student,

Well, you made it. The hours of studying, the countless times you rewrote your personal statement, the expense of applying, and the stress of interviews all paid off and now you're here! Congratulations! I'm proud of you.

Some of you are fresh out of undergrad. To you, I say, "You think you know, but you have no idea." I don't care if you were first in your class at Harvard, you're all big fish in a big pond here. At times, you might feel like a guppy in an ocean full of whales; I promise, you belong here.

Some of you have worked in "the real world" for awhile, and now you're re-entering the life of a student. To you I say, "This is completely different from where you were before. It might seem harder, it might seem easier, but it's definitely different."

Some of you, maybe, are like me, and are starting first year again for the second time. You're probably really nervous and maybe feeling kind of down on yourself. That's okay. You will be the person that other first years come to with questions, especially if you're starting first year at the same program. Don't rest on your laurels, though. This is still quite the endeavor. (But you're such a badass for coming back. Never forget that.)

To all of you, this is a huge opportunity, right here in front of you. You're going to have to focus hard and put all of your energy into this new job and you will succeed. There is no doubt that you can do this; you wouldn't be here if you couldn't. You have to take care of yourself first, though, in order to make it through. And so, some advice.

Study hard, then fuck it and go to bed. Sleep at least 6 hours the night before each exam. That extra sleep will help you more than the extra hours of studying. And you don't want to be the person who falls asleep in the middle of an exam. Your professors will not wake you.

Get some Febreeze. There was a point last year where I got into my car after lab and realized my car smelled like Trudy, our cadaver. Don't let this happen to you. It was very upsetting.

Highlighters. Find the ones you like and buy them in bulk. Some people prefer the clicky ones; who has time to mess with caps? I like the ones with a see-through tip because I like to see where I'm highlighting. The more colors, the better.

The same goes for pens. I am obsessed with color-coding, and my favorite pens are either the Sharpie brand ones, or Staedtler Triplus Fineliner brand. They come in a ton of colors, and I use them all the time from organizing my planner to drawing diagrams for physiology.

If you are in a relationship, be warned that this is going to test it like nothing else. If you're dating a non-med student, they're probably not going to understand what the hell you're going through. If you're dating another med student, you either will never see them or you'll see them all the damn time and want to punch them in the face. Or maybe you're one of those unicorns that can toe the line between those two. My sincere recommendation is that you don't date someone in your own class, but there are people who meet in med school, fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after. Just... don't expect that to happen. That being said, if you want to maintain your relationship, whether you're dating, engaged, married, cohabitating on a permanent basis, (insert life partnership phrase here), you're going to need date night. If you can manage it once a week, that's great. No sweatpants, put on a little make-up or do your hair or shave or whatever. Even if you don't go out (because let's face it, being a med student means you're broke a lot of the time), that's okay. Just spend some time together, not talking about school, remembering what it's like to be a human being.

Take naps. But not small comas. Get enough sleep at night. Trust me.

Therapy. I know a lot of people will disagree with me and fight me tooth and nail on going to therapy, but trust me, you will be glad you have a neutral, third party to tell you that you aren't a failure, that you aren't going to die, and that yes, people do actually graduate from medical school. I am an equal-opportunity therapy pusher, so if I know you in real life and tell you to go to therapy, it's not because I think you're insane or broken, it's because I care about you and don't want you to walk into traffic over an exam. Also, I think therapy is great for everyone.

Don't listen to anyone. Okay, maybe listen to a few people. Find your people. The ones who don't make you want to push them down a flight of stairs, the ones who build you up instead of stress you out, the ones who make you laugh when you're ready to cry, and the ones who will cry with you and tell you that, yes, this is insane and no fun and the worst, but that it will be okay. Somehow. Most people are just noise, though. You'll hear all kinds things about how much people studied or didn't study; take it all with a grain of salt. If someone says they honored something, don't believe them unless they're willing to pull out their grade and show you. Really, if you can avoid talking about grades in general, you'll all be better for it. It just stresses people out, and spoiler alert, as long as you pass, it doesn't really matter what your grades are, because residency programs care way more about board scores, rotation scores, and recommendations.

Figure out how you study. What you did in undergrad might work for you still, but it's okay if it doesn't. It might take you a bit to figure out your new groove, but it will happen. When you figure it out, don't switch it up unless it stops working for you. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, etc. If you like text books, buy text books. Find a second year who you trust and ask how they studied.

Stay off of forums on Student Doctor Network; it's like GOMI for med students. It's full of crazy people, occasionally amusing, and before you know it, you've spent 4 hours reading nonsense and you should have been studying. Also, remember: Assholes are like opinions. Everyone has one.

You are going to hear a ton of advice, including this piece right here! Listen to it all, choose what works for you, and throw the rest out.

But seriously, medical school is fucking hard. You'll hear this over and over, but it's not the material that's difficult (for the most part), it's the sheer volume. Hopefully, you're at a school that cares about its students' well-being, where there is at least some attempt at making life not supremely hellacious for students. If you are not at a place like that, I am sorry. But you will get through it. And remember, this is your dream. This is what you've worked for for so long. It's right here in front of you. Go out there and grab it.

See in you 2019, doctors. Glad to have you aboard.

PS: I wrote a helpful guide to the care and keeping of your med student, so feel free to check it out and give it to all of your friends and loved ones. They'll thank you. 

Our Toilets are Broken and My House is Full of Bees

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Hello, and welcome to Thursday! I am currently contemplating what I did in a former life that is causing derivatives, the Henderson-Hasselbalch equation, and Fick's Law to continually plague my existence.

Now, about that subject line. Contrary to what you may believe, this is not a poor translation, or a,"My hovercraft is full of eels" situation. This was  my reality on Tuesday afternoon.

For the longest time (like, a year, because I am an awesome adult), our quarterly water bill has been telling us that there was a leak detected. I kept saying that I was going to call and find out what that meant, but I didn't. Well, I finally did last week and was able to easily schedule an appointment for someone from the township to come to our house and check it out. So on Tuesday, we found out that all of our toilets are in overflow status, which means that the water level in the tank was too high, so there was a lot of water running basically all the time. The options were to adjust some of the valves, and if that didn't work, replace all the toilets (of which there are 3). Super.

Then, I got a phone call later from Ken about how there was another wasp in the house. For the last few weeks, we had been finding random wasps in dining room/living room, and our cats had found and killed a couple, but we had no idea where they were coming from or why they were coming inside. Also, important to note, Ken is absolutely terrified of bees of all kinds, and hates them with the violent passion of a thousand suns. I wasn't home, or else I would have been forced to wrangle the wasp. Instead, Ken called me to tell me that a wasp had emerged from the return vent of our air conditioning system, and that we probably had wasps in our attic. Yay. I hung up and called the exterminator.

20 minutes later, he called to report another wasp, this time in my Peace Lily plant, and so he had to spray the Peace Lily and I told him that if he did that, he had to wipe the leaves, water it, and tell it that he was sorry, which he agreed to way more easily than I thought he would. (The man seriously hates bees.)

So, that was my Tuesday. Last night, we adjusted all three of our toilets, and I learned that toilet mechanics are both baffling and fascinating, and all that I can adjust a toilet. #adulting

In other news, classes have started again and I am faced with the unfortunate prospect of having mandatory class at 8 am on Wednesdays, as well as the need to construct a schedule to study for boards (yes, it starts this early). I am not looking forward to it. And what do we pay for the pleasure of taking this 8 hour exam on the entirety of our first two years of medical education? $800 for COMLEX, $600 for the USMLE (if I decide to take it), and a few hundred for extraneous prep materials. YAY.

Unrelated to all of that, I ate oatmeal for the first time today and didn't hate it. If anyone has any favorite oatmeal flavors for me to try, pass them along. (No nuts please, unless you'd like me to have a crazy allergic reaction. Or avocado, but I can't imagine avocado being a part of oatmeal so...)

tl;dr - Pharmacology is awful, toilets are baffling and fascinating, bees are terrible especially when they're in your house, second year of med school is going to be rough, oatmeal is okay.

I think that's all of the stuff and things I need to share with you today. If you want to play along, grab the button and link up at Stuff, Thinsgs, etc!

A Perfect Philly Saturday

Monday, August 3, 2015

I'm really fortunate to be part of the PHL Bloggers group, which was started by Chrystina. I've met some really awesome people, and they still include me in things, even though med school sucked my soul out and made me miss all of the cool events that were planned. I'm hoping to be at a few more events this year, but we'll see what second year has to say about that. (Probably something along the lines of, "Muahahahahaha, you're adorable, puny human. Now get back in the library.")

Anyway, today's post is all about a city I love, Philadelphia! I'm a self-professed suburbanite; if I can't go out at 9 pm on a Tuesday in my pajamas to grab a gallon of milk and come home to a reserved parking space directly in front of my house (at no extra charge), I'm not happy. However, Philly has been a serious part of my life since 2005 when I transferred to Drexel University. I lived in two different apartments while in undergrad, and while I'm still pretty directionally challenged, I know how to get around pretty well. (Let's be real, it helps that it's a grid system.. mostly.) I have zero fear about driving in Philadelphia, and I am a killer parallel parker. While I don't live in Philly now, I do have some pretty strong opinions about what you should do if you land in my city and have a Saturday to spare.

Let's start at the beginning of your Saturday.


Oh, so many options here! True confession: I'm not super into breakfast. Or brunch. I know, I should get off the internet right now, someone is probably on their way to revoke my blogging license. That being said, I do love a good cup of coffee, breakfast pastries, and mimosas, so at least there's that. My favorite place to grab a morning bite though, is definitely Sabrina's Cafe, specifically the location by the art museum. There are other locations in the Italian Market and University City, and there are two in the suburbs, but the Callowhill one has a special place in my heart because it's where I used to go with my MPH classmates after exams once in awhile. They have fun menu specials, great coffee, and mismatched mugs, which is just fun. Also, they have amazing challah French toast. It gets crowded and they don't take reservations, but it's totally worth it. Bonus? It's BYOB!


After a leisurely brunch, I'd head out to do some pampering! First up, a manicure and pedicure at Nail Bar in Rittenhouse, which is a hidden gem above a row of shops on 18th Street. It's a small salon; 7 pedicure chairs and 6 spots at the bar for manicures, but it is immaculate and relaxing. Their prices are pretty reasonable, especially for being in the city, and you get a complimentary mimosa, or a glass of wine or champagne with your service!

After I made sure my nails were dry (I am the queen of destroying my manicures exactly 26 seconds after leaving the salon), I'd stay in Rittenhouse and walk over to Heads & Tails, Philly's first blowout and waxing salon. I know the women that own the salon, and they are fantastic human beings. Their salon is fun and relaxed, with a great staff. They have a lot of options for treatments and blowouts, and their Brazilian wax can't be beat. They also do keratin treatments and make-up applications. I'd be stopping in for a blow out and an eyebrow wax, and then I'd be on to the next part of my day.

Music and Arts

There is so much culture to immerse yourself in here, it's hard to pick a favorite place! I would definitely try and make a stop at The Kimmel Center to see the Philadelphia Orchestra, and maybe duck into The Curtis Institute to hear a few student recitals (they're free to attend!) I'd love to see PhilaDanco or BalletX, or catch a musical at The Walnut Street Theater. 

Wild Animals

Nope, I'm not talking about the enormous squirrels that pop out of trashcans when you least expect it, although that's always an exciting event. I'm talking about The Philadelphia Zoo! The zoo has been improving and upgrading their exhibits and enclosures over the past few years, so the settings are even more natural. You can kind of forget that you're in Philadelphia for a little, and there are so many cool animals to learn about. The primate house is amazing, and we all know how I feel about cats, so you can guess that one of my favorite places to visit is their Big Cat Crossing. Of course, I will always stop to see the penguins, and will go visit the Small Mammal House (The joke being, of course, that I am a small mammal.)

Throwback to me in college, in front of the small mammal house. Original caption: "Look, I'm a small mammal! In front of the Small Mammal House!" 

Lunch and Exploring

There are approximately 937,382,475 places to eat in Philadelphia. That is probably a slight exaggeration, but there's definitely a lot to choose from. My favorite place to grab a bite, hands down, is Reading Terminal Market. It has a rich history (like most things in Philadelphia), and opened its doors in 1892! Part indoor farmers market, part food court, all delicious, fresh, and fun to wander, Reading Terminal has something for everyone. Seriously, check out this map:

I can't even suggest a just one place here, since it really depends on what you're looking for. I will say that you should probably stop at Bassetts Ice Cream, though. And the Famous 4th Street Cookie Company, where they bake fresh cookies ALL day. It smells like heaven!

Sip & Read

My next stop would be the Barnes and Noble in Rittenhouse Square. I love that it's two stories, it's quiet, and they have plenty of seating in the cafe upstairs. I'd grab a stack of magazines or the latest book on my to-reads list, order a latte, and settle in for an hour or two. Whenever I have some time to kill between appointments in that area, that's where you'll find me. It's a little oasis of books and coffee, overlooking the park. Afterwards, I'd probably spend some time walking through Rittenhouse, petting as many dogs as I could. (There's someone who walks an enormous Newfoundland that I want to snuggle!)

Dinner, Drinks, & Dessert

This list is really food-centric, haha. Again, there are a ton of food options in the city, and where you end up will depend on what you want to eat. Some of my favorite places are Jones, Mad Mex, Alma de Cuba, and Zavino. After grabbing dinner, I'd head to Tria for a glass of wine, and then top off the night with either gelato from Capogiro, a cookie (or three) from Insomnia Cookies, or a slice of pie at Magpie

With a full belly and tired feet, I'd hop back in my car (suburbanite, remember?) and head back over the bridge to my personal parking spot.

This is just my ideal day, so many sure to check out what the other PHL Bloggers would do on their perfect Philadelphia Saturdays!

What would you do in your city with a free Saturday? 

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