Brave Inventory: May + June

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Hello, internet! I'm currently on vacation in Punta Cana, but right now, I am hiding from the sun because I seem to have broken out in hives. (Thanks, autoimmune disease!) We arrived on Saturday and have been having a fantastic time (minus the hives), and later this afternoon, we're going kayaking. Hopefully, I won't be thrown out of the kayak into the ocean. Ken assures me that we'll be fine; I am skeptical. Then on Friday, we're taking a sailing cruise to the caribbean side of the island to snorkel, swim in a natural pool in the middle of the ocean, and have lunch on a floating restaurant, surrounding by nurse sharks and sting rays!

So yes. Vacation is awesome, and I promise to have loads of new content once I return. (As long as I don't get tossed overboard, eaten by sharks, or burnt to a crisp out in the sun.)

 Now that it's July, I guess I should talk about what I did in May and June. I just pulled up my calendar to look at May. As far as brave activities are concerned, I didn't really accomplish any. June was a little better, so I figured I'd talk about both months simultaneously.

In May, the only "brave" thing that I did was finish my first year of med school! That's just nuts. I was really nervous that I wasn't going to pass my neuroscience course, but fortunately, I did well enough on the final to make-up for my abysmal grade on the midterm. Also, anatomy is OVER and I never have to dissect a cadaver ever again. This is moderately terrifying because the next time I cut something open, it will be an unconscious human in the OR, I'm not going to think about that right now, though. But yes... OMS-I is in the books, and on August 3rd, I'll start my second year of med school (and final year of classroom lectures!) Craziness.

June was a little better for bravery. On June 1st, I started my summer internship, which doesn't sound necessarily brave, but the subject of the program is clinical bioengineering/design, which is not my normal habitat. It's pretty neat, though, as they took 4 undergrad engineers and 4 med students and made teams out of one of each. We spent the first week in June learning about the clinical biodesign process, and then the next 3 weeks, each team was immersed in a clinical unit at one of the bigger hospitals in our area. My teammate, Alyssa, and I were in the NICU, which was really interesting. I first applied for the internship thinking that I wouldn't be able to do it since I knew I'd be on vacation this week (and the 5th week of the program, more lectures, is occurring now), but the director of the program said it was okay and I ended up being accepted! Learning all of this design stuff and learning to "think like an engineer" has been pretty cool, even though it's pretty different from what I have been doing for the past few years of my life. Also, I had to give up the summer research fellowship that I had been awarded, which made me nervous because I was worried about upsetting the PhD with whom I was supposed to work, but that also all worked out. Yay science!

On June 5th, I had my top 2 wisdom teeth out... while awake! Granted, I also had a dental implant placed while awake, so I wasn't super nervous about it. I did take advantage of the nitrous oxide, which made me feel floaty, but I was definitely aware of all the pushing and pulling going on in my mouth. Fortunately, only one was impacted. And now, I'm going to post this terribly unflattering photo of myself on the internet for all to see:

You should see the other guy...
Yes, this is how I showed up to my internship on Monday. First day in the NICU and I look like I got beat up on the streets of Camden on my way in. There was a lot of explaining. The good news is that after a week or so, I looked way less like an abused chipmunk and could even open my mouth a little. Oh, and I didn't get any crazy infections and was able to survive by taking copious ibuprofen during the day and just taking the Vicodin at night. And I never have to have them out again!

The rest of the month was basically spent in the NICU or hanging out at home. Not much bravery going on. We did spend a night in the hospital, which was way less exciting than I expected it to be. After rounding until midnight and talking to the attending until 12:30, we all went to our respective call-rooms and went to bed until 3 am when we got paged to a delivery. Then we slept until 5:30. But hey, overnight in the hospital in Camden!

I guess the other semi-brave thing that occurred while I was working in the NICU is that I got up my nerve to ask even the stupid questions. I also introduced myself to dozens of strangers (mostly nurses and NP's) who weren't sure why we were there and were often bothered by having two more people in their space. I stood up to our program director when she wanted to change our overnight, and when an NP yelled at me for being in the resident call-room, which I wasn't and couldn't locate if you gave me a map, I politely defended myself (and my teammate) and corrected her. Hooray for being ballsy! Politely ballsy!

On the 22nd, I spent the morning in the Philadelphia passport office, praying that someone there could help me because my passport had gotten held up in NH because of some random form. Thankfully, after standing in line for 2 hours (with no appointment, which is frowned upon), I was able to fill out MORE forms and pay a $60 expediting fee and was told that passport would be ready on Wednesday. I nearly kissed the lady who was helping me, but I probably would have been tased by the security guards, so I decided against it. And yes, my passport was ready on Wednesday and we all did a happy dance.

On the 25th, I picked Pam up in Philly and on the 26th, we set off via PATCO (our mostly useless public transportation line between southern NJ and very specific parts of Camden and Philadelphia) to go to the Tall Ships Festival! We were mostly going to see the giant duck:


But as you can see, the duck did not do so well on his journey up the Delaware River. In fact, he sustained a 60 foot gash and was subsequently deflated. It was a sad day for all of us. We did get to explore some really cool ships, though, and I didn't have a panic attack, freak out, or die when surrounded by thousands of people. I did have a brief moment of terror when Pam left to find out where we needed to get tickets for the water taxi and hadn't returned as I was getting closer to th
e front of the line. I was 2 seconds away from standing on a chair and yelling, "PAM!!!!!" as loudly as I could when she jogged up and said that we could just get the tickets on board. I told her that I thought she had fallen in the river or gotten abducted. (Ab-DUCK-ted??? Ha. Ha ha. Someone help me.) Alas, we didn't get to see the giant duck, but we did get to see a slightly less giant duck. Here's a photo collage of our day, courtesy of Pam:

Left: Pam and me with the less-giant duck and the Battleship New Jersey in the background
Top right: Deflated giant duck. Womp womp.
Middle right: Sign at the duck merchandise kiosk
Bottom right: Pam and me with our tiny, consolation ducks from the T-Mobile booth
Then on the 27th, after sleeping for 4 hours and getting up at 4 am to drive to the airport (shoutout to Levi for dropping us off!),  Ken and I got on a plane and flew to a foreign country where neither of us had ever been. Since then, I've practiced my Spanish (I remember a surprising amount from high school!) and tried new foods (I'm usually very picky.) And in an hour, I'm getting into a kayak. ON THE OCEAN! I don't even know who I am anymore.

So yes, there's my brave inventory for May and June. Hopefully I'll update in a timely manner with July's brave inventory. And now, I'm going to go slather myself in sunscreen and bugspray and get back to my vacation. I leave you with this:



You Probably Don't Know...

Monday, June 22, 2015

It's been a little rough around here, and I haven't been very inspired. I've been trying to figure out what I want to write about, what brings people here, and if those things are the same. What I do know is that I will never stop being weird, honest, quirky, me. So, here are some things you probably don't know about me...

- I've never done any drugs, unless you could alcohol. (And I've only been drunk a handful of times.) I am honestly afraid of what being high would be like, and I hate being out of control, so I won't do it.

- I always said that I would get a tattoo when I was accepted into medical school. I didn't do it in 2008, but I saw this the other day, and now I'm strongly considering it. But I'm mostly still afraid.

- I seriously dread the day that I lose my cat, Gershwin. I know that no one wants to think about their pet leaving them, but I don't know what I'm going to do when he eventually dies. He's 14, and I tell him every day that he's not allowed to leave me yet.

- I hate lakes. They're squishy and I don't like swimming in them. Also, brain-eating amoeba.

- I pop pimples. I know it's terrible, but I can't help myself. It's just so satisfying.

- I've only been to Disney World twice, once when I was 9 (with my dad), and once when I was 17 (with the high school marching band, #bandgeek). I have literally zero desire to return, but I'll probably take our kids someday.

- It makes me really, viscerally, angry when people misuse the word "literally". As in, I literally want to scream when it happens.

- I would love to learn how to hand-letter, but I have zero artistic talent.

- I feel like there isn't enough wall-space in our house to hang all of the things I want to hang.

- I hate the heat. And humidity. And also extreme cold. I don't know where that means I'm supposed to live.

- I never want to own a dog, but I love other people's dogs.

- I have to crack my hips before I fall asleep.

- I can't stand when people are bad spellers. It makes my skin crawl.

- If I had to cut gluten or dairy out of my diet, I would cry real tears. Carbs and cheese are my favorite.

- I didn't really drink coffee until I started working at CHOP, where I drank it every day. I don't make it at home unless people are over. I don't need it in the morning to wake up; I just like the ritual of it, I think.

- I can play 6 musical instruments (piano, viola, clarinet, French horn, mellophone, and harp), but I can't seem to handle the guitar at all.

- I thought I hated avocados until about 2 years ago, when I discovered the error of my ways and fell in love with them. Shortly after that, I found out (the hard way) that I am allergic to them.

- Horses scare me. They're too big.

- I wish life had more opportunities for people to get really dressed up.

- Rainy nights are my favorite nights.

***

So what about you? Do you share any of my weird quirks? Share yours in the comments, or head over to Helene's blog to link up your own!


Helene in Between



101 Things I Learned During My First Year of Medical School

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Holy. Crap. My first year of medical school is officially in the books. Well, almost. I am waiting for my final grades for anatomy and neuro, but I'm 99% sure that I didn't fail them so... that's good. In all honesty, I won't be able to fully relax until I have those grades in my hands, but I'm trying. So far, I have had a very relaxing few days. I've visited with friends, slept in, eaten some delicious food, and enjoyed not reading anything about brains.

On Friday after our last exam, I had brunch and got pedicures with 3 of my friends from school and we were all kind of in a daze at first. We weren't sure what to do with ourselves! It felt amazing to be "done" for the year, but Mia and I kept saying to each other, "What just happened? What is my life? What did we just do?" We didn't really know.

What I do know is that I learned a lot. 10 months, more than 20 exams, hundreds of cups of coffee, and countless hours in the library and Starbucks, bent over textbooks, review questions, old exams, and notes. In the end, it looked like this:


Not pictured: Hours of tutoring sessions, tears, excessive laughter, study groups, fits of giggling when the pressure was high, inappropriate jokes in the anatomy lab, rage-fests, wine (so much wine), karaoke nights, whiteboards, and hugs. Also wine.

But aside from all of the science I theoretically learned, I also learned a lot about myself and about life in general. I thought I'd share that here.



1. Everything in anatomy has at least two names.

2. How to spell ophthalmic

3. Sometimes, the only appropriate thing to say in anatomy lab is, "That's what she said."

4. You won't believe the amount of information you can remember.

5. You also won't believe the amount of information you can forget.

6. Sometimes, you'll get lucky and the answer for a test question will be part of another question

7. Getting 90 minutes of sleep the night before a big exam is not smart. Don't do it.

8. Even if you're only in the anatomy lab for 30 minutes, you'll still smell like the lab. One day I realized that my car smelled vaguely like Trudy. (Trudy was our cadaver.) Don't let this happen to you. Keep a bottle of Febreze in your car.

9. You might feel the need to name your cadaver. Just go with it.

10. Never underestimate the power of dry shampoo, Febreze, deodorant, and a toothbrush.

11. Learn to be okay with "just passing".

Q: What do they call the guy who graduates last in his class from med school?
A: Doctor

It's totally true. Obviously, you're going to want to bust your ass, but if you can just pass... that's all you need.

12. There are going to be people in your class you don't like. Probably a lot of them. There are going to be plenty of people who don't like you either. That's okay.

13. There's going to be at least one time (and let's be honest, probably many more than just one) when you'll wonder what the hell you're doing in med school. It will pass.

14. Find something else to do with yourself that isn't med school, or else you'll seriously lose your mind.

15. Sometimes, you just need to say "fuck it," and watch the last three episodes of Mad Men with your husband. (Or your TV show of choice with your person of choice.)

16. The weekends after a block exam will be the best weekends of your life.

17. You'll never take the ability to do laundry, cook, or clean for granted ever again.

18. That being said, you'll learn to become far more comfortable with a higher level of mess than you ever were before med school.

19. Thank your friends and family. OFTEN. This is just as hard on them as it is on you, in completely different ways.

20. You will figure out how to cry quietly, or at the very least, know where to find the emptiest bathrooms and the quickest route to your car in case you need to have a meltdown.

21. Sometimes though, you'll  just cry before a class and your friend will hug you and you'll pull yourself together.

22. Shit happens that has nothing to do with school and you have to figure out how to handle it without failing out of school. Use your resources.

23. A lot of the diseases you'll learn about will scare the crap out of you and make you never want to have kids. The good news is, you probably don't have any of them.

24. Your family, friends, and complete strangers will immediately start asking you medical questions, despite the fact that you have only slightly more knowledge that your pre-med self did. You'll get really good at prefacing everything with, "Well, I'm not a doctor yet but..." and following that with, "But if you're really concerned, go to the ER/see your physician."

25. Get a planner. I don't care if it's digital or analog, but get one and use it. It's valuable for study time, but even more valuable for scheduling in time to see your friends and important things like scheduling doctors' appointments and car maintenance.

26. Color-coding is your friend.

27. So are whiteboards.

28. Find your study place. Some people like the library, some people like random classrooms, some people (like me) like Starbucks. I was rarely able to study at home because I would quickly find myself covered in cats.

Sure, I wasn't using that Sinatra. It's cool.
The library was, as I frequently said, "where scary people live," so I didn't usually study there unless I was in between tutoring sessions or meetings, or if I had a study room reserved. I basically lived in one of three different Starbucks cafes. I probably owe those baristas a card or some alcohol.

29. You'll quickly become used to touching people, especially if you're a DO student. If someone were to ask me to fix their pelvis, I wouldn't even blink at this point.

30. Ignore the gunners. For those of you not in med school, a gunner is a med student who is an obnoxious overachiever. If you haven't met any gunners, you might be one. Check that.

31. If you were used to being a big fish in a small pond, well... now you're probably a plankton. I am (very) fortunate and feel like my med school class is not cutthroat competitive, but like it or not, you're still going to be competing with your classmates (and thousands of other med students) for residency spots one day. This isn't like undergrad where half of your classmates were morons. Everyone in med school is smart.

32. That being said, you'll probably wonder at least a few times how some of those people manage to tie their shoes in the morning, let alone how they got into med school. Trust the process... or something.

33. It's impossible to know everything from lectures. Yes, the professors will want you to know it all. There is nothing reasonable about medical school.

34. "Studying in medical school is like having sex while you are drunk. You never actually finish, you just keep going until it's not worth it anymore." Basically, that.

35. As a first year med student, you have just enough knowledge to be dangerous. And maybe to be annoyed by the way TV shows portray medicine, but probably not even that. (Except please, for the love of God and all that is holy, STOP TRYING TO SHOCK ASYSTOLE. AND THAT IS NOT HOW YOU DO CPR.)

36. There are way too many acronyms.

37. Biochem is hell. Even if you have a professor who makes everything into a metaphor about climbing a mountain.

38. You may find yourself at a loss for words in non-med student company because hopefully you'll realize, before you open your mouth, that not everyone wants to hear about that time you bisected your cadaver's head. Doubly so if you're at dinner.

39. Everyone wants to know what you want to specialize in. And when you'll be done. The more clueless might ask what you're majoring in, and if you're female, they might assume that you're going to be a nurse. Try not to punch them in the face.

40. You might want to sleep with one of your classmates. Proceed with caution. (This did not happen to me this year, but it did the first time I went to med school. Would not recommend.)

41. You'll find yourself saying, "This isn't high-yield," or "That's not testable," more times than you can count. Sometimes, though, you'll be wrong and it will be sad.

42. You'll learn just how fast an hour can pass. Remember when an hour felt like forever? Well, you can barely get any studying done in an hour. Good luck.

43. Find these people and make them your friends: The financial aid person, the bursar, the tutoring/learning center person, and the administrative assistant for the department. Chances are, if you have a problem, one of these people can fix it.

44. Find a professor (or two) with whom you really connect. They can serve as a mentor, a sounding board, and a guide. They'll also probably kick your ass when you need it.

45. Don't say creepy things to patients like, "Spread your legs." Find another way, literally, any other way, to say that.

46. At some point, you might have to say, "Please lift your breast," so you can listen to heart sounds. Yes, even to a man. And no, it won't be weird.

47. Every once in awhile, you may need to check to see if you're alert and oriented x 3. (To the non-medical people, that means you are oriented to person, place, and time.) Trust me, sometimes, you might not be. If this happens to you, take a break. Or a nap.

48. There is such a thing as too much caffeine. Maybe drink some water.

49. There will be classmates of yours who will turn to, ahem, pharmaceutical enhancement, to aid their studying. Don't be that guy. Drugs are bad, mmmkay?

50. In the end, you're only really competing with yourself.

51. In OMM, if your patient falls off of the table, it's funny... but you fail. So don't do that.

52. If you have a question, ask it, because probably 6 other people have the same question.

53. However, don't be that guy that takes up 10 minutes of lecture asking a completely asinine question. Just don't do it. If it's that important to you, write the professor an email.

54. Everybody lies. (What? Sometimes, Dr. House is right.)

55. Sometimes, the most important guy in the room isn't your professor, but the student who knows how to work the SmartBoard and record the lectures.

56. Buy your own gloves. Hoard them and definitely don't leave them in the anatomy lab. They'll be gone in 3 seconds flat.

57. Find a second year (or a third year, but they're harder to pin down) and (lovingly) make them your sherpa. It helps if you pay them in alcohol or baked goods.

58. Don't watch the anatomy lectures for the pelvis and perineum in a public place because at some point, a giant penis or a dozen vaginas will show up on screen and you'll scare and confuse the people around you.

59. Figure out if study groups work for you. If they do, great. If they don't, also great. If you choose to study in a group, make judicious choices about who you include. You don't want your study circle to devolve into ranting, gossiping, or rehashing the latest episode of Scandal (or whatever TV show is your guilty pleasure).

60. Set time aside to relax.

61. You can find new and exciting ways to procrastinate when you don't want to study.

62. Don't forget your family. They miss you, and you probably wouldn't have gotten to where you are now if they hadn't been there all along.

63. If you're married (or engaged/in a long-term life partnership), set aside time for that person. For me, it meant having dinner with Ken as often as possible, and also going to bed at the same time. Not only was this a way for us to connect, it also kept me from forgetting to eat and sleep.

64. You will learn the meaning of "Adult Decision." Sometimes, you choose to go hard on anatomy for a particular exam and completely screw histo, but then you have to deal with the consequences.

65. Horner's Syndrome is ipsilateral. Always.

66. Remaining positive is key. This sounds like crap coming from me, the Queen of Negativity and Supreme User of the Doom Spiral, but trust me, getting down on yourself will help nothing. If you find yourself stuck in a Doom Spiral, reach out and get help. There's no reason to live like that.

67. The person who brags about not studying at all is probably lying. So is the person who complains (loudly) about studying for 17 hours and not sleeping.

68. Don't talk about grades. Or, if you do, do it quietly and only with people you trust. No one needs to know. My one friend and I had a system where we'd each ask the other, "Are you okay?" after grades came out. That way, no numbers were mentioned and if one of us needed to talk about it, they could be the person to decide that.

69. Sleep when you can, sit when you can, eat when you can.

70. Free is good.

71. Don't try to get out of mandatory stuff. Trust me, you'll get caught and no one will be happy about it.

72. There's something to be said for "playing the game". Sometimes you're going to have to do shit that doesn't make any sense, or be somewhere that seems unnecessary, or participate in some bizarre activity that doesn't seem germane to medical school at all. Just shut up and do it. No one wants to hear you complain, and yeah, we're all probably thinking it anyway.

73. Going back to the positivity thing, there might be someone (or a few someones) in your class who choose to ignore that advice entirely and instead take every opportunity to talk shit about the school, the coursework, the professors, or the fact that it's Tuesday. There are some people who aren't happy unless they're complaining. Learn to ignore them.

74. If you are that person mentioned in #73, quit it. No one is going to want to hang out with you, and they certainly won't want to be on rotations with you.

75. Don't burn your bridges before you can build them. Every physician you come into contact with now is a future colleague.

76. Be a grown-up. We all like to have fun,but don't get shitfaced at events where you will see professors and Deans, and definitely don't show up to things while intoxicated. You're only going to embarrass yourself and your school. It's not a good look.

77. You will pine for the simplicity of undergrad.

78. Then you'll remember that undergrad was a giant pain in the ass and really, you're better off here than there.

79. Learn how to nap without taking a short coma.

80. Set alarms. Lots of alarms.

81. Your anatomy cadaver is your first patient, and he/she deserves all the respect that you would give to a live person.

82. You'll never forget what it's like to cut open a cadaver for the first time. You'll also be shocked at how quickly you get used to dissecting.

83. Rushing into an exam is not the best way to do things. Make sure you give yourself enough time to get up, have your coffee (or morning beverage of choice), eat a little something, and get to school with time to settle in.

84. If you're choosing between studying and sleeping the night before an exam, always pick sleep. The extra two hours of rest will benefit you more than the extra two hours of studying. You can't take an exam if you're unconscious.

85. Shit happens. People get sick, family emergencies crop up. Reach out to your Dean or whoever is in charge of rescheduling things and get help. I had to reschedule two exams due to health issues this year and because I had proper documentation and good lines of communication, I had zero issues getting it taken care of.

86. When you finish your first semester, you'll be dazed. By the time you feel like a human again, it will be time to go back to school. The same thing will happen over spring break.

87. You will never take weekends for granted ever again.

88. Go outdoors as often as possible. See the sunshine and feel the grass and breathe the fresh air. Remember you're a human. Then get your ass back inside to study. (Or hell, study outdoors. But wear sunscreen.)

89. Your family may not understand why you can't go on vacation with them/take time off to have dinner with Aunt Sassafras/run errands for them. Try not to get frustrated when you explain this to them. Repeatedly.

90. Everyone has a story, and you probably don't know it. There might be people in your class who have been through unimaginable hardship. There might be people in your class who are only there because their parents pushed them into medicine, and who would much rather be doing a doctorate in 18th century feminist theory, or something else completely unrelated to medicine. There might be people in your class with health issues, or family issues, or who wonder if they're in the right place. Likewise, a lot of people don't know your story either. (Unless you're me, and keep a blog where you loudly and frequently tell your story.) Remember that.

91. Enjoy the little things. Read a chapter of a book that isn't a textbook. Get a pedicure. Eat something that didn't come out of a microwave. Your mind and body will thank you for it.

92. Take care of yourself. If you're coming down with a cold, rest as much as you can, take some sinus meds, drink tea. Maybe head to an actual doctor if you don't get better. You can't kick ass and take names if you can't get out of bed.

93. Of course, sometimes getting out of bed is a triumph in and of itself, so celebrate it.

94. Three words: Silly. Youtube. Videos.

95. "Sorry, my brain is full," becomes a legitimate excuse for everything from forgetting where your keys are to stopping in the middle of a sentence because you can't remember the next word you wanted to say.

96. Unless you are independently wealthy or have saved up a ton of money (or are basically a way better adult than I am), you're going to take loans out for med school. Chances are, you'll have already taken out loans for undergrad. Know how much you're borrowing, but don't obsess. There's nothing you can really do about it right now except be smart about your spending.

97. On that note, learn to make a budget and follow it. You get two loan disbursements; make it count.

98. Have a friend in med school that you can call when you're freaking out about school/life/failing/exams/professors/lab/etc. It's important to have someone who will commiserate with you for a bit.

99. Have friends outside of med school who you can call when you're freaking out and who will calm you down, tell you that you're a rock star, kick your ass when you need it, hug you, let you cry, and remind you that this is your dream and that you can definitely handle this.

100. You have to laugh or else you'll cry.

101. There are dozens of people who want to be in your seat. This is the most amazing opportunity of your life thus far. Do it right, and you'll love what you'll do. (Yes, even when it sucks.)

And there you have it. Some serious things, some funny things, some practical things. 293 days from white coat ceremony to our last exam of first year. It took blood, sweat, and tears. And wine. And as glad as I am to have the next 68 days off, I'm pretty excited to be a second year med student.

And terrified. But hey, you can be afraid, and you can do it anyway, right?

Yeah, let's go with that.

To my classmates, we did it. We're 25% doctor! To my friends and family, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I couldn't have done this without you. I promise to be a real human until August.

And to all of you out there? Thanks for reading along with my adventures. I can't wait to see what happens next.



(Rising OMS-II)

Blogger Men Tell All: May Edition

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Hello! I promise, I'm not dead, I'm just recovering from the end of my first year of med school. There is a review post in the works, but it's taking awhile to unpack what happened in the last ten months. For now, here's this month's link-up with Becca for Blogger Men Tell All! This month's these was "Would you rather...?" Here we go!

We would usually rather be drinking wine!


Would you rather...


1. Watch Star Wars or Star Trek?

Ha.  Haha.  Ahaha.  Hahahahahahaha.  Oh man.  Star Wars.

Wife's note: Not pictured? The two shelves in the office full of Star Wars paraphrenalia, or the 6 light sabers in the closet.

2. Take a summer vacation in the mountains or at the beach?

I could go either way on this one.  I really enjoyed hiking through the redwood forest in California, but I also really enjoy laying around in the sun.  I'm going to go with the beach since I'm too tired to imagine hiking anywhere right now.  Ask me again in July.

3. Use Facebook or Twitter?

Facebook.  I actually don't even have a Twitter.

4. Go camping or stay in a nice hotel?

As much as I enjoy walking around outdoors I have no desire to actually sleep out there.  Nice hotel all the way.

Wife's note: I'm so glad that we agree on this.


5. Watch sports or play sports?

It depends which sport.  I'd rather play baseball and bowling than watch, but I'd rather watch football than play it.  Anything else and I'd rather do neither.  Also this reminds me I keep forgetting to sign up for a softball league or something.


And on that note, I'm going to go back to laying on the couch in a gelatinous blob. In the meantime, you can play along with the link-up at Becca's blog. Just grab your boyfriend, husband, brother, dad, male cat, and have them answer these questions!

Becoming Adorrable



Sympathy is Easy; Empathy is Hard

Thursday, May 14, 2015


As we all know, Mother's Day was last weekend. Last weekend, I also found out that I am not pregnant. Again. Between that knowledge, having to deal with the onslaught of family, and the 284 pregnancy announcements on Facebook, last weekend was not my favorite. In fact, it was pretty bad.

Thursday morning, I saw my therapist and spent the entire hour crying (again) about the miscarriage and how sad I still am and how stupid I felt for being sad. On Thursday night, I was up late, supposedly studying, but instead, I was sitting on the couch, trying to numb my brain with the season finale of Secrets and Lies and trying to catch up with Law and Order: SVU. After seeing yet another "We're pregnant!" post, (And no, "we" aren't pregnant, your wife is pregnant and "we're expecting" for the love of God), I messaged my brother and said, "Jesus Christ, if anyone else I know announces a pregnancy soon, I will throw up." Clearly, I am processing this really well.

As I droned on, raging against the unfairness, the out-of-control-ness, and my seemingly-bottomless grief for which there is no cure other than to just KEEP FEELING THINGS, Levi listened and asked thoughtful questions and generally was awesome. He said a lot of really good things that made a lot of sense, and it was nice to word vomit at someone and not feel like I was boring him or burdening him. (The guy will be a great therapist, I have no doubt.) Then he sent me this:


My face started to leak. And then I was crying. And then I was all-out, ugly sobbing on my couch and it was midnight and I was alone. But not alone, because Levi was with me, even if he wasn't with me.

He said, "I love you, and you're allowed to be sad. I wish that I could come and be sad with you." 


And in that moment, I wished he could, too. Even though Levi has obviously never had a miscarriage, he found a way to connect with something inside himself and be sad with me.

It's easy when you're not the sad person to say, "Oh, I'm really sorry that happened. At least (insert some comment here that should never have been said)," or to try and distract the person from the sadness. It's really hard to be the not-sad person and go to a place where you can feel just as sad. No one likes to feel sad, but it's lonely when you're the only sad person. I know, because I feel like outside of my therapist's office, I can't be sad. No one likes it when you're sad. And this sounds stupid, but when you're sad, you are sad. There is nothing else. I mean, sometimes there's anger and frustration and jealousy, but sad is its own thing and until this, I have never experienced 100% sad.

Sad is not productive, and that kills me. I told Danna that I just want to do something to make this better. Unfortunately, there isn't anything to do. Being sad is what you're doing, and there's no way to speed it up and you can't just decide that you're done. Until one day, you are done, apparently. Don't get me wrong, the grief has already gotten better since January and February. At least now I am eating and spend a majority of my waking hours not in tears. However, if I had my druthers (whatever those are), I'd stay in bed most days and take Klonopin every time I woke up, just so I could go back to sleep and not deal with anything. Fortunately, I haven't crashed and burned into that level of abject depression, thanks largely in part to my husband and my therapist... and also my sick sense of masochism that won't allow me to give up a mere 8 days before the end of my first year of med school.

That's where I am. So, why did I word vomit all of these feelings all over the internet? (Besides the fact that I'm self-indulgent and have a lot of feelings?) Because I want to remind you all that sympathy does not equal empathy. Sympathy is easy. Sympathy does not require investment or vulnerability. Empathy is hard, but empathy is what people need when they are grieving. So many of us, myself included, love to fix things. Most of the time, that's great. Solving problems is awesome, especially if it makes people feel better. But someone who is sad doesn't need fixing, they need kindness. They need to not feel alone. They need someone to climb down into the hole with them without immediately trying to pull them back out.

Simple ways to be more empathetic? Listen, don't talk. Open your mind, don't judge. And please, for the love of God, don't say, "At least..." or the phrase "first-world problems," or play the "one-up" game. I know for myself, I am trying to focus on validating the feelings of others, rather than offering advice. I often say, "I wish that there was something that I could do or say, but I am here with you." I don't know if it helps, but I'm trying.

There is a lot that hinders connection in life today, despite the fact that we are connected to one another more than ever. It's a false sense of connection though, and I feel it acutely, especially after truly connecting with a friend over a cup of coffee, a glass of wine, or even just a telephone call. And yeah, it's hard to open up, even for me, the queen of having a lot of feelings. It's scary to show your soft, emotional, underbelly. I think if we all practice it a little more though, we can foster true connection and we'll all feel better for it.

What do you think? Do you think you're pretty good at empathy? What do you do when someone in your life is sad? Has anyone ever done anything for you when you have been grieving that made you feel better?


Adulting Fails

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


One of my favorite books is Adulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy)ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown. It's amazing, hysterical, and features diagrams like this:


I like to think that I am pretty good at adulting. Ken and I have a mortgage that we pay on time, I have great credit, we clean the house regularly, and we cook dinner most nights. I floss every night, I take my vitamins, I try not to have dishes in the sink before I go to bed, and I wipe down the counters at the end of the day. However, not every day is a winning day for adulting. Last Friday was one of these days.

I had slept in last Friday morning, and I was rushing on my way to get to a study session at 1:00. I grabbed my bookbag, a sweatshirt, and a banana that I planned to eat in the car on my way to school. I opened the front door, locked the bottom lock from the inside (like I always do), and since my hands were full, left the top lock unlocked. I thought, "Let me go put all of this stuff in my car, then I'll dig my keys out from the bottom of my purse and go lock the deadbolt."

I arrived at the car door and hit the button on the door that will unlock the car. 

Nothing happened.

I hit the button again. Still nothing.

I was baffled. Why is my door not unlocking? I hit the button, the keys are with me, why is my door not unlocking? And then I remembered. 

I didn't have my keys. 

Cue frantic cursing and arm flailing. 

I had locked my purse, including ALL of my keys, inside my house. In my haste to leave the house, and because my hands were already full, I neglected to grab my purse. Somehow, by the grace of God, I had my shoved my phone into my back pocket. Also, it was 90 degrees, but! I remembered that our garage door was unlocked, so I could sit in the garage. Unfortunately, because I had not failed at adulting at some point earlier that day, I had ensured that the door leading from the garage to the house was locked. So close, and yet so far.

I sat in my garage and stared at my phone for a few minutes while I decided what to do. I tried to open the garage door into the house (decidedly locked) and the front door (also decidedly locked). I texted Ken and my mom, both of whom have keys, to see if either could rescue me. I knew that this was probably not going to happen, as Ken works 20 minutes away and teachers generally can't just bolt in the middle of the day for no reason, and my mom works 2 jobs, so I had no idea where she was at that moment. Had it not been 90 degrees, I would have walked myself to my mom's house (just over 4 miles away) and gotten my spare key from her house. I begrudgingly admitted to myself that I needed to call a locksmith. 

I learned at this point that I am clearly going into the wrong field, because locksmiths make great money. $85 for a service call, $125 for a service call, the estimates kept going up! I finally found a place that had $15 service calls and whose unlock services began at $39. I figured that since I had a locked bottom lock, it wouldn't possibly cost me more than that. (Ha ha, I'm adorable.) A nice Russian guy said he'd be at my house "as soon as possible, probably 30 minutes."

An hour later, I was still sitting my garage, trying not to be seen by my neighbors who would undoubtedly ask why I was hanging out in my own garage like a weirdo. The Russian guy called again. He was running late (no shit, Sherlock) and he was sorry. I didn't even really care at that point, because I had missed my study group and had no other plans and no other options. The locksmith, whose name was Eugene, eventually appeared. He was very nice and quite apologetic for his lateness, and then he got out to examine my door.

Good news: My front door has one of the best locks in the business, a Schlage.
Bad news: Schlage locks are un-pickable. He'd have to drill the lock and ruin it.

I asked if he could drill the shitty deadbolt in my garage door (which needs to be replaced anyway) and he said sure, for $150. At this point, I called my friend Mia, who was at school in the study group where I was supposed to be, to see if she could come rescue me and take me to my mom's. She said she could, but then Eugene said he might have another idea. He "wasn't supposed to do this" but, depending on how tight our door seal was, he might be able to wedge some air pillow usually used for car lockouts into the front door and tap the lock latch. It would be $89 and it might not work, but if it didn't work, I didn't have to pay for it. I told him to go for it.

Illicit door-pillowing
Two seconds after I snapped this photo, Eugene tapped the lock latch and my front door FLEW open, much to the surprise of Gershwin, who had been sitting behind the door, meowing plaintively because he knew I was outside. I was never so happy that our front door doesn't have the best seal. I ran inside, paid the nice man, promised I'd never tell anyone (HI INTERNET, DON'T TELL ON EUGENE), and then went on my way to Starbucks to study.

So, that was a major adulting fail of last week. Other adulting fails as of late include:

- Not folding the laundry right away and leaving in the basket for so long that it gets wrinkled and I have to wash it again (or at the very least, tumble it and hope for the best)

- Continually forgetting to pick up my new contact samples that were specially ordered for my weirdo eyeballs

- Finally cleaning out my purse and finding this disaster:

Tea kettle and spoon rest not included. Also not pictured? Giant pile of receipts and other trash.
- Forgetting to apply to the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia scholarship again for next year (goodbye potential money)

- Waiting until the last possible moment to apply for a passport (just under the deadline for when I'd have to expedite the damn thing to get it before 6/26)

- I should be studying for neuro and anatomy right now but I'm not. Please send wine.

Making Melissa


And of course, the fact that I'm posting this confessional post on Thursday instead of Wednesday. Not so much an adulting fail as it is a blogging fail. Edit: It has been brought to my attention that it is Wednesday. Whoops. #medschoolbrain

What about you? Have you ever had a total adulting failure? Have you ever had to call a locksmith? If you are a locksmith, can you tell me why you charge so much? And for the love of God, can anyone tell me why I have 4 tea bags and 3 squashed granola bars in my purse?


Brave Inventory: April

Monday, May 4, 2015


And just like that, it's apparently May. What the heck is happening to time? In a mere 19 days, I will be finished with my first year of med school. I will be 25% doctor. That information kind of makes me feel like this:



Alas, we must continue on in our pursuit of cramming ridiculous amounts of knowledge into our brains. A lot of the information we're cramming into our brains this final block is about brains. So very meta. My brain is tired of learning about itself.

ANYWAY.

It's May, which means it's time to recap whether I was brave at all in April, in my quest to live my word of 2015. April was kind of a quiet month, with regards to doing things. At the beginning of the month, Ken and I drove to Long Island, dropped our car at his sister's, and then headed into the city to see Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden, which was amazing! I didn't think that I was going to die on the subway (bonus) and we also tried a new Greek restaurant (which was delicious). I know that to most people, going to a concert isn't an exercise in bravery, but I don't like the crowds at large venues like Madison Square Garden, so the fact that I got through the evening without having a panic attack was pretty spectacular. The only issue came at the end of the night when we had to walk down many flights of stairs with way too many other people, but Ken helped me get through it. Seeing Billy Joel perform was an experience that I'll never forget, and it was great way to spend a date night!

On our way to NYC!
Another moderately brave thing that I did was finally get back to taking a barre class! I hadn't taken a single exercise class since I quit the gym (finally!) so I got myself together and signed up to take a class. I took it at a dance studio where I had previously taken a couple of other classes, but I hadn't taken barre there before. At 9:30 on a rainy Monday morning, I walked in and I was nervous because I am always the least coordinated person in the room and I often have to stop and take a drink or sit and breathe for a few minutes so I don't pass out and die. Much to my dismay, I was the only person in the class! I wanted to turn around and walk out, but Nilsa, the instructor, encouraged me to stay.

I would be lying if I didn't tell you that it was hard. Really hard. In fact, within 15 minutes, I got lightheaded and nauseated and had to sit down because my vision was going in and out and I didn't want to fall on the floor and give myself a concussion. I was so embarrassed! I know that I could have gotten up and walked out, but instead, I stayed and finished working out. By the end, I was covered in sweat, but you know what? Mentally, I felt pretty good! The next two days were hell because my calves were so tight that I could barely walk, but even with that, I plan to go back and take more classes. Maybe not with Nilsa though... she does not mess around!

And then, perhaps the bravest thing I did all month was to be a part of my school's production of The Vagina Monologues. If you haven't read The Vagina Monologues, you should. The author/playwright, Eve Ensler, interviewed over 200 women for the essays, and it has grown into an international movement called V-Day to end violence against women and girls. Every year in February, benefit performances of The Vagina Monologues can be put on without paying a fee for the script. The only requirement is that the proceeds that are raised be donated to an organization that helps prevent violence against women. This year, we got special dispensation to perform the show in April, and together with some of my wonderfully talented classmates (and a professor!) I helped to stage a funny, sad, poignant, inspiring, moving, performance. I was so proud to be a part of it, and to call the women with whom I performed not only classmates and future colleagues, but friends. The monologue that I performed was called My Short Skirt, and it was first performed by Calista Flockhart. I found it to be empowering to perform, and while I neglected to have anyone record my performance of it, there are some great ones on YouTube, if you want to see what it sounds like outloud. Here is the text of the monologue.

***

My short skirt is not an indication
a provocation 
an indication 
that I want it 
or give it 
or that I hook. 
  
My short skirt 
is not begging for it 
it does not want you 
to rip it off me 
or pull it down. 
  
My short skirt 
is not a legal reason 
for raping me 
although it has been before 
it will not hold up 
in the new court. 
  
My short skirt, believe it or not 
has nothing to do with you. 
  
My short skirt 
is about discovering 
the power of my lower calves 
about cool autumn air traveling 
up my inner thighs 
about allowing everything I see 
or pass or feel to live inside. 
  
My short skirt is not proof 
that I am stupid 
or undecided 
or a malleable little girl. 
  
My short skirt is my defiance 
I will not let you make me afraid 
My short skirt is not showing off 
this is who I am 
before you made me cover it 
or tone it down. 
Get used to it. 
  
My short skirt is happiness 
I can feel myself on the ground. 
I am here. I am hot. 
  
My short skirt is a liberation 
flag in the women's army 
I declare these streets, any streets 
my vagina's country. 
  
My short skirt 
is turquoise water 
with swimming colored fish 
a summer festival 
in the starry dark 
a bird calling 
a train arriving in a foreign town 
my short skirt is a wild spin 
a full breath 
a tango dip 
my short skirt is 
initiation 
appreciation 
excitation. 
  
But mainly my short skirt 
and everything under it 
is Mine. 
Mine. 
Mine. 


***

Now, I've been on stage before, but I've never done a monologue, and most of the time when I have been on stage, it's been in silent roles or as a musician. I am used to public speaking and actually really enjoy it, but I still was so nervous. Not only had I memorized my short piece and terrified that I would forget a line and stand up there silently for 5 minutes, but I was wearing a borrowed skirt from another performer, and it was SHORT. The shortest skirt ever. I felt practically naked, but I was wearing it to make a point. I couldn't very well go up there and talk about my short skirt while wearing pants, right? Right.

So I got up there, in my teeny tiny skirt. I performed my monologue. I didn't fall over in my heels or inadvertently flash the audience. I stumbled on one line, but fortunately had had the foresight to bring the script up and stick it on a stool behind me, so I glanced down and found my place and went on with my life. It was pretty awesome... not going to lie. The rest of the women who performed were outrageously good. I laughed, I cried, I cheered. It was nice to bond with some strong, smart, future-doctors and I feel like I deepened a lot of friendships. Also, I learned that I don't look awful in a mini skirt, so there's that. And now, photographic evidence!


Some first year babes

Me, with my two favorite dudes

Ridiculously good-looking future doctors! (And a professor!)
So, there's  my brave for April. We'll see what May has in store. All I know is that this time in 21 days, I'll be free for the summer and trying to figure out what happened to the last 10 months of my life. Weird,

What have you done in your life that's brave, lately? Share it with me in the comments!