Monday, 30 December 2013

One week

Second semester starts in one week. To be honest, I haven't pre-studied at all. I did last year over the break, but decided to just take time off from academics this time around.

Really, I needed the break. After almost a year and a half of nonstop studying with only a break day or two here or there, some time off was necessary.

I've also been really sick the last week, so there's that. Wouldn't really be productive at all. We've actually all been doing really well this year with avoiding illness. Besides a few days of disquiet, just on the edge of a bug, we've not really come down with anything too bad. Compared to last year, this is awesome. I'm not surprised I got hit so hard this time, it always happens at least once a year.

The kids are getting a bit wound up because our routine is different, but I expect things will settle more next week when it's back to school for my son and I.

Have to start getting my books for the coming semester. One class doesn't have a book, one class is using an open-source book (free!), and I need to get three books, but one only costs a few dollars. I have an older edition of another. My books, all together, should come in under $200 for this semester meaning I'll be under $500 for the entire year. Hard to beat that.

Still debating whether I'll take summer courses or not. I could get the English requirements for MUN out of the way, and it may be a good idea to get that done over the summer. It will really depend if I can qualify for the financial aid to do it. Can't really lay out the ~$1100 it'll cost to take two courses right before I apply to med.

Also, I have to scrape together enough to challenge the calc II so that I can qualify to declare my double major. Pretty sure now I'm going to declare general biology (instead of life sciences) and physics. That leaves my backup plan - medical physics - open.

Lots of thinking tonight.

Time for popcorn I think.

Saturday, 28 December 2013


Well, sometime yesterday I passed 30,000 views of this blog. Being that I am almost exactly 600 days into writing this, that's an overall average of around 50 views a day, but it was a good eight months before I got more than a handful of visitors, so I'm actually around 80-100 views a day now. 

It's really funny to me that so many people are reading this. People are even looking it up on Google to find their way here, they aren't just clicking from the premed board or other blogs. I have regular readers across the globe. It feels so weird

I even saw someone at my school reading it! Bet he didnt know I was not even ten feet behind him. 

I'm glad to have people who are following this, people who maybe are doing the same thing. This is more or less my journal for all things school/goal related, it's not really intended to be anything else, but it's still nice. 

Maybe someone who will eventually be in my class reads this and will know a bit about me before we meet. Perhaps I wont be so absurdly anonymous when I start med school as I think I will be. I'm already connecting with other premed parents through this blog, and I think that's really the coolest thing. 

Thirty thousand views in, and it's helped me find out how not alone I am in this pursuit. That is the best part. 

Saturday, 21 December 2013

An amazing time

I think this is an amazing time to become a doctor.

For all the challenges that exist in medical systems, medicine itself is progressing at such a pace that I can't wit to be part of it.

Just think about it: Just over twenty years ago, HIV was a death sentence. Now it is a chronic illness when one has access to HAART. Two people have even been cured of it (two more were thought to have been but were found not to be.)

Many childhood cancers are curable, even the ones that aren't often have very effective treatments that can greatly extend life and life quality. I personally know three people in their thirties who had cancer as children. All three of them now even have kids.

We are on the verge of eradicating polio which just sixty years ago was responsible for untold suffering and is now limited to a few hundred cases a year.

3D printing offers untold possibilities for patients; from the affordable prosthetics to hopefully someday tissues or even organs on demand.

Babies that would have been considered hopeless just two decades ago are often surviving, and as the years pass our ability to save these tiniest lives and improve their prognoses grows.

Artificial organs are coming closer to being a viable reality for patients in desperate need. Stem cell seeding of animal organs that were stripped of their own cells is a promising avenue for this.

Not to mention the leaps and bounds in genetics, epigenetics, genomics, and proteomics that every year sees. Things that can give us a much deeper insight into our own uniqueness and pave the way for better drug development or more targeted cancer therapies (which are already being used!) The predictive methods developed by these fields can help us take preventative medicine to a whole new level.

To me, this is all utterly amazing. Some of it obviously also raises ethical issues - particularly with respect to genetics - but look at how far we have come in the last 10 years, in the last 100.

While I know I won't be on the forefront of medical research as a family doctor, these people will be my patients. I will see them grow and thrive and be helped by the work of my colleagues.

I can't wait to be part of this future.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Final marks for year two, semester one

I hope people don't take my posting my marks as a bragging thing. As I've said before, this blog is supposed to be an honest accounting of this process for me. The good and the bad. It is for me to look back on as I progress through this undertaking and see what I've done and where I started.

So, my first semester wrapped up as:
Cell biology: 91
Animal diversity: 90
Organic chemistry: 91
Modern physics: 92
History of biology: 84

For an average of 89.6%

Despite all my hand-wringing, I made it out of the physics exam without completely killing my mark.

Animal diversity was actually the one I was most worried about, and I just squeaked out a 90.

Then got completely messed up by history of biology. I've now completed fifteen courses, and that is the ONLY ONE under 90. And it isn't just a bit under 90, it's far enough below 90 that it converts as a 3.7 instead of a 3.9.

I know, I know, a 3.98 cGPA is hardly the end of the world, it's still really competitive, but dammit I have ONE red box on my marks spreadsheet and it makes me twitchy. It's also because it is *that* course. The elective I asked the prof to let me into because it looked fun and interesting. There were three second years in the course and all three of us ended up with marks far below what we anticipated after the exam based on how we judged our performance.

Had to happen eventually, but I really intend to absolutely rock next semester to make up for this one.

No excuses.

Storm days

Yet another snow day. That's two this month. Well, two for me. Everything shut down Sunday too but I had no commitments so we just spent the day hanging out.

The university is closed today and today also happens to be the final day for marks, so I'm not positive all of my marks will be up. Right now, I am just waiting on physics.

That physics exam did not go well. Most profs put a recommended time for the exam on the front. This exam said 2.5hrs. I thought that was the recommended time. Nope, 2 hours and 23 minutes in he told us we had seven minutes remaining. EVERY exam is scheduled for three hours. My exam schedule said three hours. He gave us no advance notice that this time would be cut.

I still had two very long, multi-part, ten point questions remaining, which I would have had plenty of time to do in 37 minutes. Not so much in 7 minutes. I just barreled through and wrote down as much as I could hoping for half points. I was tired and cranky and against my wishes got teary because I was freaking out. I couldn't think at all because I was panicking so I doubt I got much out of those questions.

Anyway, it was a mess and I was not happy with my performance. I went into that exam with over 95% in the course and I have no idea whether I will even break 90.

This semester has resulted in my average taking a beating. I got my first sub-90 mark in a course and I'm actually rather sick to my stomach over it and am giving myself a few days to cool off before I email the prof to discuss what I did so wrong as to earn an 84. I participated heavily (my friend and I were the two most involved people in the class! We both got 8/10 for participation, so lost 2% of our marks), our presentation was awesome, I got 90% on the midterm after correction. To have ended up with an 84% in the class I would have had to have gotten 75% on the exam.

I knew I'd get a mark below 90 eventually, but I was not expecting it from that class or that prof. Everyone I have talked to in that class scored far, far lower than they expected so I'm wondering if he may change things.

It's funny how angry I got at myself for not getting 90. We had a house fire that left us out of our house for two months and required a ton of work and meetings for me, I'm working this year which I was not last year, and my son's school stuff is taki a huge amount of my time. It would have been insane to expect my marks to stay where they were.

But still, my highest mark so far this semester is 91. That's not like me.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Nada, zip, zilch, nothing.

I didn't do anything productive today. Okay, I folded some laundry, made a big thing of spaghetti and did the dishes.

But that's it. My husband worked last night and today and is now asleep to rest up for his shift tonight. He doesn't work tomorrow during the day but he does overnight so he'll be unavailable most of tomorrow too.

It has always sucked when he worked overnights. While this does provide us a considerable relief from the staggering heating costs we suffer over the winter ($100-$200 per WEEK), it is still hard on him and on us. Whenever the kids are awake, he is sleeping. The exception is that he gets home in time to drive them to school/daycare before he goes to his other job so they see him for about a half hour in the morning.

Really, it's no worse than when he was out west. He's working two full time - technically part time on paper, but with full time hours - jobs instead of the one, and he makes much less than half what he did out there, but at least he is here. Every bit of struggle we've had has been worth it to have him home.

Our much reduced family income has resulted in me being eligible for some awards I was not last year. The one I received this year is a donor-funded scholarship based on community service and academic achievement. It is a small award from a monetary perspective, but I am still incredibly happy to have received it. It's enough to pay for my books next semester, and I think it is really rather awesome that the family of the donor (a physician) chose me. I sent them a somewhat lengthy thank you note.

This time off is rather lovely. I had a few meetings on Friday - one about my son's school issues, one a meeting of the executive for the mature students association - and my wonderful, wonderful boss didnt mind me taking the time off to attend them.

Next week I get to attend one of the medical meetings. I deal with preparing the cases for these meetings so I have learned a lot of the clients' stories and it will be interesting to see how the cases are discussed amongst the professionals I work with.

Friday, 13 December 2013


I'm sitting here with my stethoscope around my neck not because I'm trying to be something I'm not, but because it is very important to what I am.

My son is sick. He's had a fever a few days now and he's weak, pale, and sore. Probably self-limiting viral somethingorther, but this kid goes from sick to 'holy crap get to the hospital' fairly quickly. I'm listening to his chest at regular intervals to make sure his lungs don't get bad.

Learning to listen to my own diseased lungs is what made me know this was what I was going to do. I picked a red stethoscope because the first one I ever held was red. It's a little silly and sentimental, but it is special for me.

I spent so long learning to understand the different sounds of my own lungs, their different states and moods, that I have a decent working knowledge of how to tell when things are going downhill. Not physician level, but certainly more than the typical patient. I can tell 'healthy' from 'getting sick' from 'sick' lung sounds. That's good enough for monitoring my kid.

I also get to practice something else tonight. My son needs monitoring. I will stay up and check him through the night. My husband works tonight, tomorrow, and tomorrow night, so I'm setting myself up to not sleep for at least another 24 hours, but I can function just fine on that. It's practice for residency, not insomnia.

Sunday, 8 December 2013


Three finals down, two remain. Neither of the remaining ones will be particularly difficult, I expect. Physics and history of biology. Both are tomorrow.

The only course I'm not positive I'll have 90 in is animal diversity. The questions on the final are just so heavily weighted that half a point could be the difference between 89 and 90.

35 points, 35% of our mark. The midterm and quiz were the same way - one point = one percent, heavy on obscure details that were mentioned once and never touched on again.

Cell bio yesterday was rather grueling. My longest exam yet. 110 multiple choice questions, eight definitions/short answer, two long answer. Not terribly bad, but the MC took a while.

I also gave an answer on the long answer that was not from any course materials or the book, but is still right. Id read about it in one of the additional materials I learn from (my little pubmed addiction.) Since I don't know if she has others mark the exams, I asked her if it'd be marked wrong and she said no. So, yay!

As of Tuesday I go full time at work until January 3rd. The holidays mean I lose three days (no holiday stat pay - I get paid an additional 4.25% in lieu of it) but still, it'll be a nice boost as we enter the super expensive heating months.

On the note of holidays, I received a lovely card from Kasia (MDorBust blog linked to on the right.) As I am terrible about sending out cards myself, I have yet to make it to the post office with hers, but it'll be on its way shortly. :)

It's shaping up to be a lovely December. Good luck on exams to everyone writing!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Eighteen Months

I started this blog eighteen and a half months ago, on May 17th, 2012.

I realized the other day that I'm past the halfway point to acceptance out of my third year.

If I get in out of third year, I should find out almost three years to the day from when I started this blog. That is seventeen and a half months away.

We're already making plans based on the idea we may be out of here in a year and a half. We can't commit to anything that might take longer than that to wrap up here.

Today is very stormy. The university had to cancel exams - it's that bad. I went downtown to study with a friend and in a half hour it went from slushy but drivable to no visibility and dangerously slick roads. It took me an hour to get home from downtown with no traffic (usually 15-20 mins.) I went no faster than 30kmh and still managed to slide all the way through an intersection with winter tires and traction assist.

I remembered Ottawa on a similar day about seven years ago. I was heavily pregnant, about to start mat leave. It was stormy and the roads were insane. I had a car, but chose to take the bus that day. On bad roads, buses are safer and unlike the city here, Ottawa doesn't shut down for bad weather.

I doubt U of O has ever cancelled exams. In the three semesters I've been at my school, there have been around 5 or 6 snow days. There are safe ways to get places during storms in big cities, while there aren't here. Life can go on, it doesn't grind to a halt. For all people may complain of OCTranspo, I miss it sometimes.

But you know, I'm not sure that normal, everyday activities continuing despite terrible weather is a good thing.

These days where we're forced to slow down, to stay home, to listen to the wind howl from inside a cozy home, these are special. The only snow days I had as a kid were when I lived in northern-ish Ontario and then during the ice storm of '98 in Ottawa.

My kids will have memories of sipping hot chocolate by the fire while the snow darkens our windows at midday.

Even though we're very possibly only 18-19 months from going back to Ontario, home will still be here when we're ready.

Ad as much as I may be looking forward to temporarily having access to some features of a large city, I will miss these quiet days where our world ends at our windows and we must patiently wait for the storm to pass. Patience in the face of nature's awesomeness is a lesson I think I'll take with me, no matter where we end up.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Exam week

My first exam is on Thursday (animal diversity) and my last two are next Monday, the 9th.

Honestly, I'm not very concerned about all but one. The highest mark I need on an exam to get 90% in a course is in animal diversity and the exam, which is worth 35% of our mark, will only have 31 questions, four of them worth 2 points each, for a total of 35 marks on the exam. 

Every point on the exam is worth 1% of the mark. It was the same for the quiz and midterm (on which I scored 85% each due to the extremely narrow margin of error) as well. The lab final was longer than the course final will be. It's straight up memorization too so if you don't know a certain word, you lose 1% of your mark. It's a very frustrating marking scheme, but I intend to hit my goal. My 4.0 is a point of pride and this ONE course puts it in danger. That makes me very determined. 

Also, my prof for that course is the dad of one of my son's classmates so I have additional incentive to not want to embarrass myself in front of someone who I consider a peer. 

However, at least it will be my first exam. I have ochem on Friday, cell on Saturday, and then history of biology and physics on Monday. Quite an easy lab exam for me, honestly. The more condensed, the more efficient I am. I took the week off work so I can focus. 

I've been reviewing already for a few weeks, but the heavy studying will happen over the next couple days then I'll relax into exams. I took the week off work so that I have nothing else occupying me. 

Although we took a nice break today to go sledding, which is always a worthwhile distraction. We came home for hot chocolate and watched an episode of that show from the 90s I loved - Dinosaurs. My kids LOVE it. :)

Tuesday, 26 November 2013


My daughter has what can only be fifth disease. Butterfly rash, lots of spots/lacyness all over her. She's otherwise fine but we kept her out of daycare today because they are antsy about rashes. The doctor we saw was awesome - he was looking it up on UpToDate and we chatted a bit. I've seen him a few times and really like him.

Only 7 classes left this semester. Three tomorrow, one Thursday, three Friday, and that's it. It is utterly amazing how fast this semester seemed to go.

So far, I've had three requests I lead study groups or provide tutoring. I'm really surprised, to be honest. I'm not the most social person so I find it funny how many people seem to learn my name and feel comfortable coming to me for help. I don't mind helping interested people.

Next week I'm planning to hold an organic chemistry study group for people in my class because so many are freaking out about the final. I'll probably do that one on Wednesday. Many people are interested in that one, so I'm going to prepare ahead of time since I have a feeling I may be leading more than co-studying.

Found out today that I may be able to apply my life sciences physics classes towards a physics degree because my marks were so high. If I take the first year calculus I and II, I'll have what I need to be able to double major. The more physics classes I take, the more I want to take. Whether or not I can do it depends on intermediate calc. I'm very good at math - but am I good enough to get 85%+ in those courses?

Anyway, I have some thinking to do. After this year, I'll only actually need about five courses to meet the requirements for my bio degree (besides electives) and it would only take 15-16 courses for me to complete the physics degree (depends if the modern physics I took this year counts.) It may be doable in four years if I challenge calc this summer, but that's only if the classes end up REALLY well scheduled.

Going to go snuggle my red, blotchy little girl and then get my son in an hour or so.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Moving on

Just over a month ago, I cut ties with a group of women I'd been a part of for around seven and a half years.

A big disagreement about my son came up, which accelerated the move. Several maintained that he's a dangerous, manipulative monster lying in wait until he can hurt people, and insisted that he started the fire on purpose to hurt people (he didn't. He made a stupid decision to play with fire, which many thousands of kids make every year. He was not attempting murder. Had no idea it could have hurt us until we told him afterwards. He's still having horrific nightmares two months later.) He is six. And has massive executive function deficits. This has to be taken into account when trying to understand his behaviour. While he does have issues with aggression when not properly monitored, as do a huge portion of autistic children, he is not actually capable of being what they made him out to be. One of his specialists actually laughed at the absurdity of it when I showed her the messages because it so does not make sense in any way when you actually know this kid. I had maintained those relationships only because we'd been friends so long, and that conversation really made me see how incredibly stupid I had been to stay 'friends' with these people so long. 

I had also noticed that over the past few years, I'd spent way too much time being diplomatic about my opinions on things I actually really feel very strongly about. I didn't want to lose my friends, so I kept quiet on stuff and just rolled my eyes and scrolled down when one brought it up. 

Like the vaccines cause autism thing. 

Frankly, I think if you can look at the huge host of data surrounding this and think that this is still a matter of debate among scientists, you lack understanding of the scientific method or are massively gullible. Or both. 

I also tended to bite my tongue on the issues of this group being very heavily into the alt-med scene. It's treated like a religion. If I say something factual about their chosen quackery, I'm jumped on as though I'd shat on a bible or something. 

You know what? When people are distributing verifiably false information, I am going to say something about it. When I see people posting 'baking soda/coconut oil/unicorn poo cures cancer' stuff, I am damn well going to say something, not roll my eyes and keep scrolling. People die terribly and painfully because of these things. There is actual harm done by such quackery. Look up 'fungating wound' on google image search if you want to see what cancer NOT treated by actual medicine does. 

Dr Crislip (an infectious disease physician who writes/podcasts for Quackcast, Puscast, SBM, Rubor Dolor Calor Tumor, amongst others) tells a story of a patient my age who came to him with a necrotic leg. Her leg was rotting, caused by the osteosarcoma eating its way through her. Her naturopath told her that her leg was black because it was 'rejecting the cancer.' She refused any treatment and died a day later when the cancer ate through a major artery. 

I do think information can be dangerous, and lies shouldn't stand unchallenged. I'm tired of shutting up because I don't want to lose 'friends.'

Instead of staying in this group where saying anything against the demonstrably wrong beliefs/conspiracy theories of (certain) others was heresy, I left them, as well as the ones who most tended to viciously jump on those who disagreed, a few who I felt might feel 'put in the middle' if I terminated relationships with their close friend but not them, and a few others I just didn't talk to much. I've moved on. 

And I'm really happy for it. Are people truly friends when you can't speak your mind around them? 

I've noticed significantly less eye rolling recently, and overall a lower stress level. Obviously, getting rid of momentum-only friendships is something I needed to do for a while. 

Reality is not a matter of opinion. 

Science doesn't care what you believe. (Neil de Grasse-Tyson, sort of.)

Friday, 22 November 2013


I am straight up exhausted. Really looking forward to just working for a month.

This semester has flown by so fast. Just five days of class left, one assignment, one lab, one lab quiz. I'm sitting above 90% in every class now and fairly comfortable heading into exams.

School stuff hasn't worried me much. The material is not difficult, really, nor are any of the assignments time consuming. It's been a pretty nice semester scholastically, but it's the stuff outside of school that is causing issues.

First the fire, then stuff with my son's school. The school stuff for him is proving very time consuming, and I still have tons if stuff to do with the insurance to get the claim all wrapped up.

I knew coming into this that sometimes life would get in the way of school and that putting school first would prove difficult. I didn't expect it would live me so exhausted, but it has. Still, just another couple weeks and I'm done for this semester.

My son's school stuff is... difficult right now. His teacher is less than helpful and definitely doesn't seem comfortable implementing any accommodations. We had a team meeting yesterday and she tried to pull the 'the bullying isn't happening because I haven't seen it' thing, which is bullshit. Sorry, but it is. I had some hope that in the last twenty frigging years teachers would have progressed past that but apparently not.

She also justified the other kids making fun of him because they 'see all his behaviours' and are 'jealous of all the extra attention he gets.' (He has a full time aide - finally.)

I am considering requesting another classroom for him since she's made it pretty clear that she's not open to any behavioural work. He has not been in class the last two weeks - first week was a suspension, second week is so we can phase him back in slowly - and, surprise surprise, his behaviour is fine.

During the team meeting, she had nothing to contribute except on the 'problem behaviours' list. She did not know any motivating things for him, nothing about his interests, not a single clue about what his perceived function of the behaviours is. She had no clue what was going on before the behaviours, no idea about his sensory needs.

He has had pretty terrible behaviour at school, I'll admit. It needs to stop, which is why *I* requested a meeting, why I've been on the phone constantly, why I'm working so hard with him at home. These things don't happen at home, so they can be extinguished, we just need to find the right combination of approaches.

Thing is, when you look at isolated events, it looks like he's just a brat, but when you look at the whole picture, a lot more things become obvious. For instance, most of the negative behaviours are happening in music class, which is physically painful for him. Most behaviours are happening after he's been stopped from running (from a situation he knows he can't handle. He's trying to leave so he can calm down before he blows up.)

He's being bullied badly by a number of kids and has absolutely no friends, no one to play with. His teacher, instead of looking into why things happen, just sends him to the office (constantly) for behaviours and calls them 'unprovoked' when they are anything but. She doesn't pick up his huge red flags of overload. His EA doesn't either. He is pushed far beyond his limit and is refused when he requests cool down time.

Absolutely no accommodations for his sensory needs are being made. His teacher is ignorant of them, and appears unwilling to learn or do anything about them.

School is physically painful for him because of the overload, he's being denied in his requests to be able to calm down, he feels completely unwelcome and his teacher certainly doesn't seem to be helping that since she seems to have decided to write him off. I'd be doing anything I could to leave too!

I'm very angry and very frustrated and the school is going to hear from me regularly until we get things into place to help him. This has been a rough week.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Two to go

Two weeks left in the semester then I'll be into exams. It seems classes end a bit earlier at my school than at others. Not that I'm complaining, mind you.

I had a cell test on Friday that I'm really not happy with. I don't think I did very well, but we'll see. I just have to do better on the exam and it'll be dropped anyway.

I've been less prone to freaking out about my marks this year. I'm sitting at a comfortable 96% in organic chemistry, 95.4% in physics, 93% in cell, and only a 91% in animal diversity (which makes me a little uncomfortable - I prefer to have at least 93% going into exams. I hate depending on exams to bring up my mark.) The wild card is history of biology. While I'm sure I probably have a very high mark in the participation component, I don't actually know my mark. The only marks besides the exam are for participation, the midterm, and the presentation. I think we did very well on the presentation, but I don't know the mark. We still haven't gotten the midterms back after a month. Having absolutely no marks available to me in a course is very disconcerting only three weeks before the exam (it's my last exam which I write on December 9th.)

Obviously I've started reviewing, since it's less than three weeks to my first exam. The semester has gone by exceptionally fast, it seems like. I think with everything else going on, that was unavoidable.

It's just under eight months until OMSAS opens next year. That feels very, very soon. Eight months is nothing in the grand scheme of things. You can bet I'll be registering the first day it opens.

I'm still trying to figure out who my referees will be. I'm fairly certain my boss will act as one - she is awesome, I really like her, and she seems generally pleased with my work. I'll have to get on her early in the summer, though, since she's very, very busy and finding time to write me a recommendation may be difficult.

Another I was thinking could be the liaison for the mature students association - she is lovely and works hard for the students. She knows me well and I hope might be inclined to write one.

The third, I'm struggling with. There are two profs I think I could comfortably ask, but it feels like such an awkward thing to ask of someone. "Could you tell professional programs how awesome you think I am?" One prof is my faculty advisor who I have had for two courses, the other is a physics prof I will have had for three courses. Both are really amazing instructors and I did well in their courses and it's material I've been very enthusiastic about. 

Still have a while to decide, and it will also depend on whether they say yes. Having a short list helps, though, since I will need to ask in August. 

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Wrapping Up

Tomorrow I have my third test in cell and on the 28th is my lab exam for animal diversity, but otherwise, I'm done for the semester. Except for exams, of course.

My first exam is three weeks from today. I've already started studying, of course.

I have animal diversity first, then chem, then cell (on a Saturday!), and on the 9th I have history of biology and modern physics; my two favourite classes.

In 25 days, the semester will be completely finished. Then I just have to get through second semester, which shouldn't be too bad. Three biology, one math, one physics. I dropped the religious studies course as the professor (who I'd heard wonderful things about) is going to be having surgery and won't be able to teach the class. I'm looking forward to the physics course, though. It's radiation detection and measurement. My awesome physics prof from last year teaches it, and it's done once a week as a 2.5 hour lab-based course. I need it for my minor, but I'm also just really excited to take it since I took an interest in radiation measurements following the Fukushima disaster.

I'm seriously debating whether to take the stats course though. While, yes, additional statistical methods would be good things to learn... it's an 8:30am class. I prefer to avoid those if I can. I don't *have* to take this class, I'm taking it as an elective because way too many doctors suck at statistical analysis and I don't want to be one of those. However, the research methods course I'll be taking in third year goes over a lot of the material as well. I'm taking it because I'm really just good at math and I have a logical brain which makes statistics really easy for me conceptually. I don't like the idea of adding another material-heavy course to my schedule if it can be avoided, though.

Lots to think about.

Right now, I need to go study cell. The week has been crazy and I had to break my 'no studying within 24 hours of the test' rule.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Doctor, Teacher

I got a message from people I don't know who are in my physics class asking me for assistance.

It's happened before. This is the downside of being someone who is really interested in the subject matter and it getting out - people learn that you get it.

Honestly, I don't mind helping. Physics in particular is one of my favourite subjects, and I enjoy sharing that with others. I've made a few hours this week ahead of the midterm available to help them out if I'm able. They offered to pay, but I am not a tutor, just a fellow student, so I intend to refuse. School costs too much to begin with. While I do like teaching to a degree, it depends on the students. I refused last year because most of the students in the classes I was taking were just trying to get the necessary credits and didn't really care about the material, but this is a class you don't take unless you're already interested, so I don't mind helping these people. I'm flattered they asked, honestly.

Doctor means 'teacher.' Medicinae Doctor - what the MD after the name means - literally means 'teacher of medicine.' I am entering a career whose very definition involves teaching. I have to be comfortable doing it, so this provides me an opportunity to work on that role.

In the past, most of the teaching I've done has been with kids in an unstructured way, or with adults in a highly structured way in my employment.

While I know this isn't an EC I can list, it's worth the practice. I may apply to be a tutor next year if time permits and if I'm comfortable enough in my ability to help other students succeed.

Time to head to bed. I've got a lot to do over the next few days.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Stupid lungs

I hate when my health keeps me from doing what I need to do.

For the last year and a bit since I've been off my steroid, I've been doing okay. Getting sick less, but respiratory illness does hit me a bit harder. Been managing it okay.

But right now, I'm sitting here with a salbutamol/budesonide (bronchodilator and steroid) mask strapped to my face because I overdid it and couldn't catch my breath between coughing fits. This wouldn't have happened if I didnt already have a cold. I'll be fine, if jittery, after the mask, but I hate that my stupid lungs are costing me a good half hour of time I could be unpacking.

I hate that I either have to be fat or able to breathe. I have lost weight, but I've reached the point where diet can't take me further, I need to exercise heavily. I need to do cardio.

I can't do cardio. Like, physically can't. I can walk, I can even walk fairly quickly for quite a long time, which I suppose counts, but more than a bit of that sets off an attack and sends me to the nebulizer desperate for the disgusting-smelling mist that lets me breathe. I also can't walk outside for very long if the weather is too cold, because that sets it off.

Asthma has always seemed to me to be something kids have. I rarely see adults under 60-ish who are as controlled by their asthma as I am. Of the adults I know with asthma, none do more than take an occasional puffer when sick; they all 'grew out of' this severity. Why couldn't I?

I know why - my lungs didnt grow properly - but still, it sucks. At least I know that, barring very serious illness, the most I need the majority of the time is a quick puff on my inhaler or a mask, which takes 20 minutes max. It's annoying, but I'll live and it shouldn't impact my career plans. I'll just need to make sure I can access meds when I'm doing hospital shifts if for some reason, which I don't really see as being a problem in a hospital.


We're moving home today. Everything is here, most of it is in boxes. With the help of people from the company that cleaned my stuff, we got the kitchen, living room, and some of the basement unpacked. The bedrooms are going to take a while, but I hope we can finish this weekend.

Besides the bit of food we brought from my parents' house, we have pretty much none. Not even sugar or salt. That all has to be repurchased which means I am going to have to do the biggest grocery shopping trip of my life today. I'm waiting for my husband to finish work before I do that, because there's no way I'm bringing the kids.

I've got two midterms next week, but I'm doubting I'll have much time to study for them. I just have way too much to do.

Still, it's nice to be home. I'm curled up on the couch with the kids watching a movie while I take a bit of a break from unpacking.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Brain fried

Today was a long day.

I was up at 5:30 to go to my house for 6 to do some cleaning. Classes and a tutorial from 8:30-2:30, work from 3-5:30, lab from 6-9 (I finished at 8, though.)

My son had a crappy, crappy day behaviourally so I had to talk to the vice principal at his school. He was bad off enough that he needed to be restrained for his own safety. It's been a long time since that has happened. His specialist (the person who organizes his therapies and monitors his progress) this year has so far been almost completely absent. She came and saw him for less than an hour one day in September. It's now a week into November, and no follow up. I get that she's got a case load and has other kids, but if she can't find time to see a kid more than once in two months (when his former specialist saw him every 3 weeks) then she's got time management issues, or has put my kid at the bottom of the priority list for some reason.

He needs MORE support during transitional periods like this. And especially when we had the fire, she should have come in to see him, but she hasn't been since.

I'm going to call an IEP (his special needs individualized education plan) ASAP. Tomorrow is parent-teacher interviews, so I'm going to discuss that with his teacher too. We - me, his teacher, specialist, resource teacher, EA, ST, OT, and vice principal - are supposed to meet every 6-8 weeks.

We haven't met since June, and never with his new teacher. This is not acceptable.

I have an organic chemistry midterm on Friday and I can't be arsed to study right now. I have cell bio on Wednesday and physics next Thursday, but I have Monday and Tuesday off so I can do quite a bit of studying and unpacking.

In good news: That animal diversity midterm I thought I'd done terribly on, I got 85%. Below my 'happy' point, but still decent.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Almost home!

We'll be home within the next few days. The contractor taking care of my stuff is moving the last of it in tomorrow and they'll be unpacking. I have some unpacking to do as well, since I requested that they leave the bedrooms to me.

I cannot wait to sleep in my own bed and cook in my own kitchen and not have to drive over a half hour just to get to class in the morning.

This is kind of crappy timing (not that it could be *good* timing) because I have absolutely no time this week to do everything I need to do. I'm just going to have to get up really early and let my husband do 100% of the morning stuff so I can run around before classes in the morning.

I have an organic chemistry midterm this week and I'm really just not feeling it. Don't give a crap about studying for it. I got 100% on my first midterm, I'm averaging 97% on my labs (I expect the next one is going to be terrible, though. 7% yield! I screwed up somewhere...) and the midterms, labs, and exam are the only components of the class mark.

Organic chemistry and physics are my two highest marks right now at well over 95% in both classes. Animal diversity and Cell bio are both around 93%, and I still have yet to get a mark back in history of bio. With less than 4 weeks of class left, I have not yet received a single mark in that class. There's only three components to the mark besides the exam; a midterm, a presentation, and participation. I think I'm good in the participation area since it's a class that I really, really enjoy. We wrote the midterm on October 16th, and my friend and I did the presentation last week, so it's just down to the exam now. Nothing else I can do besides participate (which isn't difficult since it's fun.)

I'm going to be taking two third year courses next semester. My religious studies course has been cancelled due to the prof having a surgery with an extended recuperation period. Conveniently for me (not for him, obviously...) this leaves a space in my schedule for the radiation detection and measurement course I really wanted to take and need for my minor.

It's actually not scheduled, though it is offered. I asked the prof today and he explained that the class is typically so small that he just finds a time that works for everyone and schedules it as a once a week thing. It's a lab-based course taught by my physics prof from last year who I think is really awesome.

My brain's all over the map tonight. Time to go finish my assignment and get to bed.

Sunday, 3 November 2013


I've had a few people ask me how I study since my time is quite limited but I still manage to get pretty decent grades.

In summary, I have a few rules that I live by, and some methods I switch out depending on class.

The first thing is to pick courses strategically. Pick things you like, don't pick killer classes for electives (sometimes unavoidable as required classes.) Balance high-content/long assignment classes with lighter material electives. That's just basic university stuff, though.

The Rules:

GO TO CLASS! Unless completely unavoidable, go to every single lecture. Yes, even the 8am ones. Go for a bit of a walk before to wake yourself up.

Sit up front. Much harder to ignore the lecture, drift off, or get distracted by other people if you have the prof literally right in front of you - it would be rude to ignore someone who is talking right in front of you. Also makes the lecture feel more like a conversation which makes me more comfortable asking questions.

No tech. It's been shown repeatedly that using electronic devices in class is distracting and can impact your marks (and those of people around you!) Unless completely necessary, leave the laptop/tablet at home or in your bag. Take notes with a pen and paper. You will retain it better, and can add diagrams and symbols much more easily.

Know your prof. Research them. Research their research - if it overlaps with course material, which it usually does for obvious reasons, they may ask harder questions about stuff they are heavily involved in. This has come in surprisingly handy for me. Talk to other students about the prof's methods and expectations and what 'tells' to watch for - many profs give away a LOT during lectures and you can often anticipate certain questions or that certain subjects will be tested more heavily just based on how they approach something.

Don't study the material the day before (or of) a test. Take care of your brain instead, relax a bit, get enough sleep. You won't really learn anything you can usefully apply within that short of a time before a test. Sleep is your best friend when it comes to test prep.

Unless absolutely necessary, don't memorize. Understand methods, relationships, and mechanisms. For instance, I need to know the 20 important amino acids for cell. I've been using my organic chemistry knowledge to understand *why* they have the properties they do, not just memorizing lists of traits. The names do require memorization, though. No way around that.

Cross class! Orgo helps in cell biology, physics helps in chem and bio, bio helps (conceptually) in some aspects of physics and chem! Stats helps with genetics and research methods. A LOT of classes have material that complements or more fully explains material learned in other classes, but they aren't pre-/co-requisites. Try to course plan with this in mind.

Take Good Notes. I actually end up not talking to other students about this because some don't believe me, but I really don't read my books much. I skim them to find information in the readings that wasn't covered in class, and I'll take some notes on that, but besides that, I barely touch my books. My notes from class are just very thorough. I include not just the slide information, but diagrams, additional information from the lecture, mind maps, things like that. They are thorough and make up 95%-100% of my study material for most classes. For most of my classes (animal diversity is a noteable exception), reading the book is a waste of what little study time I have. It's there for doing questions if I need to clarify a concept, but I honestly don't have time to read it. The return on invested time is, for me, pathetically small so I don't bother.


Other Useful Methods:

- If memorization is absolutely necessary, flash cards and post-it notes around your house help expose you repeatedly. Quiz yourself.
- Learn the roots! Get familiar with Latin and Greek prefixes, suffixes, and frequently used root words that you encounter. You can often figure out a word based simply on its parts. You can find lists online. This is very useful in bio courses.
- Read actively. If you are tired and just seeing words, you aren't reading properly. Think about what you are reading (notes or book, see above about books) and tie the information to what you have already learned.
- Underline things mentioned more than once, highlight if mentioned repeatedly. Circle if clearly very important. If they said it will be tested, write 'Will be tested!' in the margin. When the prof tells you that, it is free points on a test. This also forces you to think about what you *wrote* not just what you are writing.
- Set study time. Keep it. It's a date with your future, remember that.
- Review the damn notes. Yes, I know, it sucks, you still have to do it. Make it a daily thing.
- Use additional resources if you run into issues. All profs can't teach all things in all ways. Someone else may have explained it in a way that you understand better. Google is your friend. Khan Academy too.
- If you don't know it and can't figure it out, get help ASAP. You will screw yourself over if you leave it until the week before a test to figure out a tough concept you've struggled with.

Taking good notes will make review and studying relatively easy. The more often you review through the semester, the less you need to do immediately before a test or exam.

All that said, this is what I do and it may or may not help others. Methods change by class and are applied or discarded as needed. Knowing my profs and briefly looking over course structure and information to be covered at the start of the semester really determines what I need to do and how I need to do it.

While I am rigidly disciplined, I am not rigid about everything. If I absolutely need a night off, I take it. Provided it doesn't mean an assignment will be late. Running yourself ragged doesn't do anyone any good! You need to take care of yourself or the marathon turns into a death march.

Don't be that crazy, exhausted, twitchy premed who is constantly on the edge of a nervous breakdown. This is a very long road and it does get harder, so you can't let yourself go nuts too early on.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Warm small people...

My daughter's sick. She is adorable when she is sick. She gets very cuddly and wants to just be around me. Unfortunately she has death breath and is a sweaty mess, and I hate that she's sick, but it's hard to take issue with the snuggles since she's getting to the point where she often doesn't want to be held.

On the up side of things, I am so flipping excited that we're going to get home within the next week. I managed to get a new (to us) sectional for $300. Ours was old, stained, and getting very uncomfortable to sit on. Since it has a bed in it, we're putting it into the playroom to make it into a guest room. The new one is from one of those 'lease to own' furniture places. It was mostly paid for and then was repo'd by the shop, apparently. There was not much left owing on it so we got it for a few hundred bucks. It'll be cleaned and delivered and set up. Woo!

I don't have a ton to do this week. Midterm in orgo on Friday, assignment due on Friday as well. With just four weeks left in the semester, I'm really looking forward to the four weeks off I'll have once I'm done.

This evening, I'm procrastinating a bit so I'm going to try to finish editing my study tips document and I'll post it, since I've had a lot of questions about how I study.

As an aside, the DVM applications at my school were due yesterday so all the pre-vets are alternating between very stressed and very relieved. I'm really pulling for a few of my friends who are applying. They're intelligent, driven, and professional. The competition is about as tough as it is at Dal Med, so it's quite the process. They won't hear anything about interviews until March and I know I'd be going nuts! At least with med you typically hear by January at the latest!

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Two Thirds Burnout

With four weeks (and one day) left to the semester, I'm just exhausted. I didn't hit this wall first semester of last year, I just kind of plowed right through. With working and dealing with the house and insurance stuff, I'm just stretched so, so thin this time around. I'm hoping next semester will be easier, particularly since I'll have a week off in the middle.

On the plus side, my big projects are out of the way. Now it's just a few labs, three tests, and then into exams.

So far, so good on the grades front. My grades are consistently above 90%, so I'm good so far. Haven't gotten any grades back in History of Bio yet, though, even though my midterm was over two weeks ago. Not sure how that went, I'm anticipating mid-80s because I wasn't pleased with my performance on it. Really depends on the prof, though, I'm not entirely positive what he was looking for.

Right now, I really just want to curl up in a chair and sleep for a week. It's been hard to sleep for a while so I'm really just not well-rested right now. I'm physically and mentally exhausted and ready to just have this semester over with.

On the plus side, we expect to be home next week, so it'll be just over 6 weeks that we'll have been out of the house. It's looking great, though. Everything nicely repainted and clean and shiny.

On the not so great side, the house being unattended with broken windows has lead to some new inhabitants. Small, furry inhabitants who would not be there if we were home with the cats. I expect they will be evicted before we get back.

We took the kids out trick or treating this evening. My parents only have a couple neighbours within walking distance and because we're quite a ways into the country, there aren't many kids and everyone buys way too much candy. They gave the kids cans of pop and full sized chocolate bars and handfuls of bags of chips... Five houses and the kids half-filled one of those large cloth grocery bags between them. They thought it was really cool. I was just glad we didn't have to take the car into town or something.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Thrice around

My daughter turns three on Monday. Because of my husband's work schedule, we're celebrating her birthday tomorrow. 

I am incredibly cheap in some ways and figured that she is three (almost) and doesn't really care where her cake comes from, so I made her one. Boxed cake mix and (home made) buttercream icing. I had to buy the black gel though and it bugs me. 

I piped 'happy birthday' and her name on to the left and a little '3' in the bottom right corner. Not perfect, but I'm happy with it. Except my edging is crooked. I did it freehand and I am obviously an amateur at this, but I hate not doing things just right. 

My son's birthday in January, though, I think I'll have to buy him a cake. Hello Kitty is the limit of my ability. I don't think I could do hot wheels. 

I'm glad to have a bit of downtime this weekend. Not a ton, but just enough that I could take my son shopping for a present for his sister, and I could bake a cake. Just mom stuff. It's such normal stuff to do that it becomes special in this crazy couple of months we're having. 

Friday, 25 October 2013

What a week!

This has been a hell of a week.

Two high-content midterms, plus a difficult assignment, plus exec stuff, plus house stuff, plus work stuff, and I'm just completely spent.

Oh, plus I had a field trip for my animal diversity class which required that I get up before even my birds had considered waking up.

This was my hardest week this semester - every semester has to have one, I think - and now it is over and tonight I am doing nothing school-related.

I dropped the ball on personal stuff this week because everything I had pretty much was going to school and house stuff. I did, however, get the paint colours picked for the house.

The landlord's guys have finished with the new insulation and hanging the gyprock, plus have gotten the first coat of mud on. They'll be starting the painting in the rest of the house this weekend, but they can't do my son's room until the seamfilling is done. Still, it isn't too far off now. The house doesn't smell like smoke, which is an improvement, and my son's room isn't a burnt out husk. It's warmer, with the new insulation, and my daughter's room is about to have new flooring put in (yay! no carpet!)

When we get home, it's going to be like a new house. Which is awesome. I'm so excited to go home. It's been over a month and I just want to get back to my own space, my own life.

On the plus side, I did get 98.3% on my physics midterm and 100% on my organic chemistry midterm. Overall, not too bad. I wrote one midterm this week that I am REALLY not happy about and I'll honestly be surprised if I get 80% on it. The test was 20 questions and is worth 20% of our mark which I really think is ridiculous, but it doesn't really matter what I think.

I knew that MCAT studying would pay off, though. Physics, cell, and organic chemistry are all coming very easily to me.

Saturday, 19 October 2013


After weeks of waiting, the repairs to our house started on Thursday. Our house is empty except for the stuff the repair guys need - everything we own is in a warehouse owned by the restoration company.

Insurance is lovely to have, but man was th red tape driving me nuts! At least it is getting done.

We stopped by today and the guys doing the repairs are going to be working every day straight until it is done. They expect two and a half to three weeks.

My landlord is also doing some improvements/upgrades while they're in there - may as well do it while they're in there, eh?

They're semi-finishing the unfinished part of the basement. Adding drywall and upgrading the insulation should make a big difference in our heating costs.

The carpet is being taken out of my daughter's room they're going to put in the same flooring we have elsewhere.

Plus I get to pick paint colours, which is nice. We get the whole house painted to our liking - which we were doing ourselves gradually anyway - so that's a bonus.

Honestly, this whole process is frustrating and tiring and we all just really want to go home. Soon, fortunately, we can actually do that.

Back to studying. Life marches on even in the face of renovations.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Evening off

Got a test back today; 91%. Nice to know I've still got it, though that is lower than I like. That prof will drop your lowest test mark if your exam is higher, though, so I'll be fine so long as I do better on the next two and the exam.

Wrote a midterm today that I really do not feel comfortable with at all, though. I had to skip a question that was worth two points because I ran out of time, and that is very, very unlike me.

I'm just kind of 'off' this week. Being away from home is really starting to get to me. The financial pressures and the extra hours every week of driving are wearing on me a lot. I've finally gotten the house stuff started, though. Saturday will be four weeks since the fire and the repairs are going to start tomorrow. Finally.

We will hopefully be home the second week of November. Not before my daughter's birthday as I'd hoped, but still, we'll be home within the month. Most likely. These things can stretch on, though.

I have midterms in cell and animal diversity next week, so I have plenty to keep me busy with there. Back to studying, I guess. Wish my head would stop pounding, though. I hate headaches.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Give me money!

That's what I feel like I am saying with this bursary application. It's stressing me out and I'm actually thinking of going to the registrar's office and asking to cancel my application.

Three of the four bursaries I applied for are based on financial need. The application requires that you state how you fit the criteria for the bursary and I feel like what I wrote may be just too whiny, or too much like I'm looking for pity, when I'm really not.

Essentially, I'm going to the university, hat in hand, and asking the scholarships and awards committee to decide that I'm deserving enough to be gifted with funds that someone else might really need too.

Honestly, I'd rather just earn scholarships with my grades, because then it's for something I did, not as a result of my circumstances. The application required submitting a financial need form which meant writing out, in detail, all of our expenses and income. I come from a family where you do not talk about money. It just isn't done. I talk about it more here than I typically would with anyone besides my husband or a very close friend. Writing it all down for the awards committee and for the people involved in each organization/group's decision-making to look at makes me feel incredibly, incredibly uncomfortable.

I'd really rather just not ask, and request the form back. Having serious second thoughts here. How many people are going to look at that financial need form? How many are going to see my potentially too saccharine short essay? Ugh.

The fourth bursary I'm eligible for is based on my day's military service. That one doesn't make me feel as exposed, particularly since it is based on something my dad did - which our whole family experienced - not just something that *is* and it does not require a financial need form.

In the end, I'll be absolutely honoured if I am chosen to receive any of the bursaries. I just wish it didn't require opening up so much of my life to the committees.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Long Weekend

Much as I needed to recharge a bit, a day off sans kids is more what I was thinking.

I adore them, they are lovely children but my gods if they don't stop picking at each other I'm going to lose it on them at some point.

This is the problem when you have more than one kid. They annoy each other, but they are each others' favourite playmate so separating them results in whining too. You can't win. Either way, you've got them bickering over piddly little things or arguing that they want to play together. Then they get into stuff when they are playing nicely together.

It's like herding cats.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the long weekend next month. I get Remembrance Day off, of course, but my school gives us the next day off too. Hopefully, hopefully, we'll be back home by then.

I'm taking this evening to study since I have a midterm on Wednesday. Have to turn in my bursary application tomorrow as well. It's interesting how few bursaries I'm actually eligible for. The few that take academic performance into account are for other faculties, other majors, or single moms. As a married mom in second year Biology, I only fit the criteria for four bursaries, so I'm applying for all of them. None take my academic performance into account.

One of the downsides of a small school: very little in the way of academic awards. I'm a high performing student, but it does me no good. I expect this will be a problem come application time. A lot of the big universities have dozens and dozens of awards (small and large) based on academic performance. Besides entrance scholarships, my university has almost none. It means my 'awards' section is going to be very thin come application time, not for lack of merit, but just because I go to a small school with few awards for science students (particularly those who did not attend a local high school - a criterion that excludes me from half a dozen awards.) The few awards we do have are very small, compared to those at schools like U of T, and I'm sure an AdCom won't consider them highly.

Sunday, 13 October 2013


What with it being Thanksgiving tomorrow, it seems appropriate to mention what I am thankful for. 

I'm thankful that my family - including the furred and feathered members - is safe after a very close call. 

I'm thankful we had a safe place to go, and insurance that would have paid for one if we didn't. 

I'm thankful my husband has enough work that it is possible for him to stay home. Barely, and it means sacrifices, but he's here, not one idiot away from being blown up or gassed to death thousands of kilometers from home.

I'm thankful that we live on a beautiful island, surrounded by people who go out of their ways to help others. Our neighbours took time out of their evenings to help us when we were in a rough spot, bringing us coffee and helping us board up windows. 

I'm thankful that the fact that we're honest and hardworking means that even after tens of thousands of dollars in damage were done to his house, our landlord wants us back and is giving us a lot of options with the repairs so we can make the house even nicer than it was.

I'm thankful I live in a country where I, as a woman, can pursue my education as far as I choose. Where having a family doesn't mean my future involves only diapers and dishes but is as bright as I choose to make it. 

I'm thankful that I have a husband who supports me in all things and does not feel challenged by my career driven nature but encourages me in it. 

I'm thankful to have met, and that I continue to meet, many wonderful people whose paths cross mine sometimes in the oddest ways. 

We have a lot to be thankful for, and these are items I reflect on a lot, not just with it almost being Thanksgiving. I am incredibly, incredibly lucky for what we have and I try not to dwell on what we don't have, because regardless of what struggles we may face, we really do have it pretty good. 

Next Thanksgiving, I will have just applied to med school, and I will have a whole different set of anxieties; the stresses of these past few weeks will seem long past and the stresses of third year all the more present. 

That's how life goes, though. Time moves on and old hurts fade and new challenges arise. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow Canadians. I hope you have many things to be thankful for as well.

Saturday, 12 October 2013


Six weeks into term, seven to go. It feels like it has just started. I have so much to do, so the long weekend is just what I needed.

We're all rather miserable right now, which is not normal for my family. While we have our moments, like any family does, we're generally pretty happy and easygoing. But we all just want to go home. Tonight is three weeks since the fire and the repairs haven't even started because my landlord's adjustor has been so, so slow (much to the chagrin of my adjustor.) And as of Friday, my landlord decided to have his construction company do the repairs.

They aren't certified in smoke restoration (as the company my adjustor was going to hire is) and my landlord, nice guy though he generally is, does not have a reputation for putting money into his properties and there's a very good reason for that. It's not unsafe (mostly) just... done as cheaply as possible. Which, when you've been ripped off by bad tenants many times, is understandable. Still, we're the ones who are going to be living in it and we really want it done properly - not that they can't, but I just somewhat doubt his company has the same sorts of experience as the restorers. But it is his house and it is entirely his right to decide what happens to it.

So we're considering just renting another place and terminating our tenancy at the end of the repairs (we wouldn't leave him up the creek by terminating before he could rent it out.) It would mean paying rent for two places at once, but it would at least get us into a place we could settle into long before we'd have otherwise been able to go home, and it gives us the option of finding something in town.

We discussed it with our son since he's old enough to have his opinion heard (doesn't mean it influences our choices, but we take it into account if reasonable) and he really just wants to go back home.

Our house with the big yard and the paintball arenas that act as an extension of it, the woods where we spend so many hours, the neighbours we consider to be much like family. We've lived there for two and a half years now; the longest my husband and I have spent in one place. It's home.

And we want to go back too, because it is home and we belong there.

I bet when I have to go away to med school, we're all going to feel uneven while we're gone. If we are all feeling so wrong just because we're not in our house, how are we going to feel when we're not in our province, away from the ocean?

Friday, 11 October 2013

Lovely Hope

Kasia (Kasiunut), another mom working towards getting into med school, whose blog is linked over to the right, and whose store I asked her permission to link to can be found here, is incredibly sweet and she sent me a present. My husband was at our home on Wednesday and it turns out it was delivered there even though we have a mail redirect on.

I absolutely love it. 

Shiny things are probably the only things about which I get super girly. I've only taken it off to sleep since Wednesday.

I'm so, so very touched to have been given such an incredibly lovely gift. Hope is what keeps me going, after all, which is probably true for all of us who are doing this. Hope that we'll make our dreams come true, hope that we can play a part in changing and saving lives, hope that we can build secure, fulfilling futures for ourselves and our families. 

Given that it's been an emotionally rough week, this is even more perfect. I needed to have my hope renewed a bit, because it's sometimes hard to remember what this all is for, and Kasia's beautiful gift reminded me that I've got it in me and I just have to keep going. 

Because this will all be worth it. I have to hope that I will make it, and where hope goes, hard work follows. 

(Don't mind the messy hair - I'd just returned from lab. A pony tail is about as much as I 'do' my hair. Zero girl skills.)

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Less than optimal

I posted a huge - and I mean huge - rant and promptly took it down. It really has nothing to do with premed-ish stuff.

This is going to be an interesting week. Two big midterms (15% each) and to be honest, I've really barely studied. Orgo and physics. Two classes that normally have people quaking in their shoes but to be honest, nah. I'm good. I know the material already anyway. It's a matter only of applying what I know.

It has been hard to get much done lately. I really want to go home. My kids want to go home. We're all tired of climbing into beds that don't belong to us, and waking up to strange routines.

It's making it hard to keep up with my school routines. Of course I wouldn't go so far as to let an assignment slip (my physics assignment has been done for two days already, not due until Thursday, the day of the midterm) or something like that, but my extra studying, the stuff that puts me from pretty good to really good marks-wise just isn't really a priority.

Hell, I'm still just trying to find us a place to live. The repairs to our house haven't even started - paperwork, why else? - and won't until later this week, almost three weeks after the fire. Then it's going to be 4-6 weeks. Possibly longer.

I don't even like to go somewhere overnight. Not being in my home, in my own space for that long is really hard.

That said, the marks I have gotten back for things I've done since the fire are all really pretty good anyway. I've not really asked for anything besides a bit of flexibility with tutorials which my professors have been more than willing to grant. I have no intention of asking for leniency on anything; it's just not in my nature to request it.

Typically, I'm really good at dealing with stress. The fact that I have not devolved into a bubbling puddle of cortisol right now means I'm doing pretty good, though, all things considered.

Right now, I'm probably more stressed out than I have been in a couple of years. School is not helping; I really just need a break, some time to regroup, but I just don't have it because of school.

Going to just have to keep on rolling, though. Stuff to do, things to turn in. The world doesn't stop even if I wish it would for a day or two.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Annoyance: Conspicuous Charity

I have realized what it is that annoys me so much about all these premeds going out of their way to do impressive ECs that show how caring they are: I hate it when people use the situations of others to make themselves look better.

Like the rich kids who go to Africa and post tons of pictures of themselves with malnourished children to show how bad off the kids they are going to save were before they got there. Because their volunteering for a week totally saved those aid organizations more money than they spent to get there. These trips cost, what, at least 2-3k? How many vaccinations or dewormings or mosquito nets would that have bought? How many lives could they have ACTUALLY saved by working to help their local community and just sending money to aid orgs in Africa? The couple weeks they are there on their little voluntourism trip is not going to equal what they could have actually done by just sending that money. But it looks good on a CV, and you can't add tax receipts to your OMSAS application.

Or the people who go to the homeless shelter to feed the hungry one day a year and take fifty pictures of themselves with ladles to show how nice and selfless they are.

If you're doing something nice for other people just because it's a holiday or because you want people to perceive you as amazing and giving, you need to rethink your reasoning.

People who brag about how amazing and giving and caring they are annoy me. A lot.

How many of those people in the soup kitchen on Thanksgiving sneer at homeless people with addictions on the street? How many premeds would be volunteering if they didn't get a pat on the back from friends/adcom/community/whatever?

It's how you are when people aren't looking, when there's no Facebook or Twitter post about it, that is really telling. I know some people who truly are really giving people. Often you wouldn't know it since they don't talk about it or, if/when they do, it's just to communicate that there's a need to be filled and encourage others to help. My parents have been helping hands in the backgrounds of many lives, and refuse to let people acknowledge them. That is what I learned; it isn't actual charity if you're doing it to look good. You do the right thing because it's the right thing to do.

I have a gigantic rant related to this that I've opted not to post publicly, but suffice to say that one of those 'look how awesome I am!' people really pissed me off today.

Saturday, 5 October 2013


I've so far spent over 20 hours at the house, sorting things and packing things up to clean here. I will be paid for my time, at least.

We're also getting paid for the extra commute. So far, just my time and that $0.25/km extra driving add up to hundreds of dollars. That is applied towards our (already low) deductible. We will not be paying anything out of pocket for this at least.

Right now, I'm going through and filling out the schedule of loss. So far, I've listed several thousand dollars of losses.

Damn, Lego is expensive. We bought very little of it. We actually buy our kids very few toys but by virtue of being the only grandkids, they are spoiled. Tons of Lego and Angry Birds sets - averaging about $60 each.

The reason I'm mentioning all of this is because this is why it's so important to have insurance.

At any given point, if you can't afford to replace every single item in your home - at full cost, not at sale prices since disasters don't necessarily happen when there are good sales on - and/or pay for weeks of additional living expenses, then you need insurance.

ONE room is so far over $3000 and I'm not even done. The food in the kitchen is going to run around $1000 because all of my spices and packaged goods and bulk goods have to be thrown out. Even though the kitchen is on the other side of the house (and another floor) from my son's room, EVERYTHING in it was coated with soot. This is what my gloves looked like after going through just one cupboard of items that was closed at the time of the fire:

None of the food that wasn't sealed in glass is salvageable. If it wasn't sealed or the packaging can't be washed and survive intact, the food gets tossed. Most of what I buy is in bulk, so that's everything except my unopened jars of preserves. Even the cans get chucked; it'll cost more to clean than replace.

If we were in a hotel, we'd be paying at the very least $100/night, which would make $1400 as of today, with weeks to go. Not including tax. Not including food.

Plus there's the tens of thousands of dollars the cleanup and repairs will cost.

Forgive me harping on it a bit, but SO many people I have talked to do not have tenant's insurance, say they can't afford it. Well, you can't afford not to have it. We would be completely ruined right now; even just the repairs to the house will be easily more than 6 months' income for us, and our landlord would have been able to come after *us* if we didn't have insurance. We could have so, so easily been completely ruined by this.

If you do not have insurance, buy it. Call your car insurance company; you may save more on your car insurance than you'll pay in tenant's insurance, meaning it can save you money. Ours costs $184 a year and that's because we carry extra coverage for some things (tenant improvements and jewellery) and pay extra for a lower deductible.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

One third in

I have a huge dislike of low-point tests or assignments being heavily weighted. I had a quiz last week worth 10% of my mark in animal diversity and it was out of 10. Each point on that quiz was worth 1% of my overall mark.

I had one test in cell this week but fortunately she will throw out your lowest test mark if you score higher on the exam (I do well on exams so I expect I may be able to take advantage of this.

That animal diversity quiz, I got 8.5/10. Overall a decent mark, but that means I have lost a non-recoverable 1.5% of my final mark. Those little losses add up and I am only a third of the way through the semester. I got a 90a% on my first lab quiz too (also out of 10) and so I am not liking this class a whole lot right now. Immense amount of material to know, very detailed tests.

The month is going by very fast and I have a large assignment in history to do. It's in pairs and my partner - my pre-vet friend who is as rabid about marks as I am - is doing some research now. I'm starting to write up the scene we have to act. It'll be fun. We present on the 30th so we still have about four weeks.

The semester has really gotten rolling. Time is flying by. Hard to believe it is October already - a third of the semester is gone. My daughter's birthday is on the 28th and I just find myself hoping we'll be home by then.

While this is stressful, I'm not finding myself *too* stressed out. I've had a few moments but overall I'm doing well. Just feeling tired because I'm pretty much constantly doing something. I usually had at lest a little downtime every day, but right now don't have that and it's getting to me a little.

On the plus side, the room we're staying in has gigantic windows looking east over the river. It means we wake up to positively gorgeous sights every morning and really, it's hard to feel too bad when the first thing you see that day is a fog-covered river surrounded by sun kissed golden fields.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Still kicking around...

We're still in my parents' basement. I'm trying to find alternative temporary lodgings but so far nothing has panned out.

This week has been emotionally and physically exhausting. I've been doing so much with the house while trying to hold things together here, and dealing with an extra hour on my daily commute... it's been hectic to say the least.

On the up side of things, the stuff I bought with my MCAT Amazon gift card arrived. I bought two things; a book for the kids and a new calligraphy pen for me.

The book I got for the kids is You Are Stardust by Elin Kelsey. It is both gorgeous and adorable. My son has wanted me to read it to him every night so far and it has sparked in him so many new questions about the nature of the universe and how we understand it.

Tonight, we ended up discussing red shift and distant galaxies. His question meant pulling up some diagrams explaining the electromagnetic spectrum and showing him some MinutePhysics videos. Those are the best kinds of questions.

It's nice to be able to distract him from what's been on his mind a lot - the fire, obviously - and to review some aspects of modern physics that continue to hold my fascination.

For once, I'm leaving an assignment unfinished until the night before. I have a physics assignment due Tuesday but I won't finish it tonight. I have a lab to write up (draft is done, just have to copy it to the carbon paper and format my references) and I have a test on Wednesday in Cell bio. It's going to be a busy week and I really let my mind get out of the game last week. I absolutely have to get back into school work.

I've worked too hard to let a house fire keep me from my potential. Even if I am a little exhausted from it all.

Monday, 23 September 2013


Today I did something very out of character for me.

I skipped class.

Realistically, it wasn't possible to avoid it. My husband had a dental appointment and he gets paid for his working hours; something had to give, and today, that was classes. I had to meet with the adjustor and contractors.

There is a LOT of damage to the house. The whole place is a wreck right now, though the actual fire damage is contained to one room. The smoke and heat did damage throughout most of the house, though. My plants that were completely on the other side of the house from the fire had leaves burnt by the heat of the smoke, but they did survive.

We came very close to losing everything the other night.

Instead, I am currently sitting in the basement of my parents' house which is bigger than my entire house, avoiding studying (yes, I know, so unlike me) and trying to find a place to live temporarily while my uninjured children sleep in newly bought clothing nearby.

We'll be out of our home for probably 3-4 weeks. Two weeks at the very, very least, but as we're already 2 days in and it's looking like 3 more days before work can start, I'm doubting that things will happen that fast. Wonderful as my parents can be, I do not want to stay with them for a month so we are looking for something in town. I moved out at 18 for a reason.

My son did cause the fire accidentally. Children cause thousands of house fires every year, though it is often not reported in the media. They think it's a fun thing to play with, then it gets away from them because they overestimate their ability to control the fire. Fortunately he didn't try to hide it and told us right away. Those seconds probably made the difference in everything.

Do me a favour this evening:
- Check that your smoke detectors work.
- If you have kids, discuss your fire safety plan (two escape routes from every room, where to gather, etc.) *and* discuss how fire is a tool to be used by adults only, not a toy.
- If you rent your dwelling, make sure you have tenant's insurance. We would be facing catastrophic financial ruin right now if we did not have ours. Our landlord could hold us liable for every dollar of damage done to that house; instead, our insurance policy will pay if liability is determined to be ours (which is likely, given the circumstances.)

It's hard to feel normal right now.

But I have a quiz worth 10% of my mark on Thursday, so I have to study whether I feel normal or not.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Burned Out

No, this isn't a post about stress, this is a post about fire.

We'd had supper and I was making some squash and carrot soup for tomorrow (Mabon. Well, today now I suppose. It's 1am.) My daughter was playing in the living room with my husband, my son was downstairs.

The six year old came screaming up the stairs to tell us his room was on fire. My husband and I went down to look and indeed it was. His bed was in flames. My husband tried to put it out, gave up and closed the door. The smoke detectors were screaming, the kids crying, the birds screeching.

We hauled ass out of there, got the kids out, got the pets out, got some of the tech (backup drive and my school laptop) before the smoke got too thick upstairs to safely go back in.

Our fire plan worked, everyone got out safe. The fire department showed up within probably ten minutes (keep in mind, we live in the country. This is pretty good.)

The kids are okay. The pets are okay, though the small birds seem to be having some respiratory distress but there isn't much we can do for them.

I needed some oxygen for a bit, but otherwise am fine. My husband's quick thinking about closing the door saved the rest of the house. Our son's room is gutted, there's smoke damage everywhere, but most of the house is safe and all the lives are safe. Even the plants are okay.

Any of you who have kids, talk to them about your fire plan. Talk about getting out and STAYING OUT. Talk to them about not playing with fire and talk to them about how to get out if their main way is blocked.

This is my son's room. You can see the outline of his bed. It went up in seconds. We do not yet know the cause of the fire, but we do know it started on his bed (which was reduced to coils.)

If this had happened at night, I would probably be writing something very different.

This is how close we came tonight. Our son has lost everything of his that was in his room, but he is alive and he is upstairs (we are at my parents' house) sleeping.

Also, to any of my readers who rent, get renter's insurance. We are careful to have it, we had to use it once before when our basement flooded, and now we are beyond glad we have always kept it. If we didn't have a place tonight, it would have paid for a hotel. It will pay for my son's furniture. It will pay for the cleaning and clothing and everything we have to replace. Like all of our food. The power is off so the food in our fridge and freezer will spoil. Anything that was not sealed in the cupboards will have to be thrown out (the smoke was thick even up there.) We live on very little these days, this would be catastrophic if it weren't for our insurance.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Getting going

Next week I have a quiz worth 10% of my animal diversity mark and then I have at least one test or midterm worth 15%+ every week through mid November. So far I have only gotten back one mark - a chem lab - but it was 100% so at least the year is starting strong.

I love it how when school gets going, it really gets going. It's fast paced and consuming and you have to keep up or you get buried. So far, I've been doing well staying ahead. Even with work, which I didn't have last year, my schedule is not so rigorous as to have me stressed out about a lack of time. I study in the evenings and in my one hour stretch between history and orgo. I'm still new enough to my job that I do not have time between tasks, and I may never since my job is pretty busy.

My husband has an interview on Monday for a better position. It's also sort of a crappy job, but it is a crappy job with better hours which is a considerable improvement.

My boss is gone next week. I'm only three weeks into this job and neither of my coworkers actually do everything I do, so I'll be less directed next week. My boss told me that I get to be her next week. I'll be directly interacting with health care providers, getting reports on financials, things like that.

She also has my name in for some training which would be immensely helpful. It's on medical claims tracking and coding. She wants me to do it because there's only a chance to do it locally twice a year and it is something I can put on my CV. She's really actively looking out for my future, and that is part of why I have the responsibilities I do. This job is *intended* to help me get into med school, she designed it that way. For that, I am immensely grateful.

All in all, things really are going quite wonderfully lately. School's good, work is amazing, kids are happy and healthy, my husband has brighter horizons to look forward to when it comes to work.

Pretty awesome how things work out when you follow your dreams. :)

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Privileged Perspective

I grew up fairly comfortable. My dad had a very good job, my mother took good care of our family, I had what I needed and many things I wanted. We never went without basics, not once in my entire childhood did we go without adequate food or clothing or utilities. We lived in safe areas and I went to good schools, always in the gifted program being trained up to go to university and be a professional someday.

Because of our choices early on, my husband and I have spent the majority of our marriage rather low-income, something I've talked about occasionally. This blog is intended to be a real accounting of this process for me to look back on in a few years, and that is part of our reality.

For me, this existence is very different than how I grew up. When I was a kid, the food bank was where you volunteered, not where you got groceries. Charity was something you did, not something you received. Being on the other side of that as an adult with kids is both humbling and enlightening.

A lot of doctors come from privilege - at least half, according to most stats I've read. Upper middle class kids who mostly did things right, went to university right out of high school, went to med school from undergrad, then into residency. I'm not saying that is a bad thing (in fact, it's great that they were careful about their futures!) but for many their privilege makes them blind to the reality of their patients.

It's easy to tell patients to eat better when your food budget can be increased if you want higher quality food.

It's easy to say they should take their medication when the $125/month cost seems to you a small price to pay for health.

It's easy to say they need to get out and exercise more, when you live in an area where it is safe to go out for a walk in the evenings or have a gym included with your condo fees.

It's easy to say they should move out of the mouldy, decrepit building because of their asthmatic kid.

It's easy to say they need to get a less physically demanding job, when you had access to education that could qualify you for professional work.

It is very easy for many doctors to not know the reality of their patients.

A lot of you will have absolutely no idea what it is like to stand in line at the food bank and be tearfully grateful for that half a cabbage and the two apples you got because it means your kids actually get some fresh produce that week. I'm glad for those of you who do not have that kind of experience; you are more fortunate than you may realize.

Why I bring this up is that this discrepancy of experience is huge in the med school application process, and because so many involved with it have no real idea what living with very limited means is like, the process perpetuates its own biases. Many of you probably do not realize how daunting this all is from a financial perspective for those of limited means.

For instance:
- Going to university full time (which is necessary for most schools) is nearly impossible for those who need to work full time to support themselves. Going only part time seriously limits the schools they can apply to and their competitiveness.
- Volunteering is awesome if you can afford the time off work to do it. Between school and the work necessary to survive, premeds of limited means are extremely limited in their ability to volunteer.
- The $284 to take the MCAT is a big deal. For people of limited means who live in rural areas - and people living in those areas are more likely to be poor - and have to travel, the additional travel costs can be an insurmountable burden even if they qualify for the fee assistance program from AAMC.
- Additional resources like tutoring to help deal with academic difficulties (or to prepare for the MCAT) are not an option.
- Application fees are a big deal. My OMSAS application (U of T, Ottawa, Mac, Queen's) will cost $600 next year. That is more than my food budget for a month. It will require careful scrimping to put that away.
- Travel to interviews can be $700+, not including any lodgings, making it incredibly difficult to apply broadly. Calgary, to my knowledge, is the only school that offers MMI travel bursaries.

Some schools are taking very small steps towards helping change this inherent preference for those of means - NOSM's MCAT statement, for instance - but I really doubt this is ever going to be a process that doesn't favour the privileged, since a single application cycle can easily cost 10% or more of an average worker's annual income.

If I am fortunate enough to turn my plan into reality, I want to set up a fund that will provide bursaries for Island students going through this process to help them with travel costs or application fees.

Those of you who are in med, or will be in med, I urge you to be aware of your privilege and try to look at things through the eyes of your patient instead of through the lens of your own experience. If you are fortunate enough to have grown up in comfort and stability, try not to let that isolate you from the reality of the difficulties your patients face. They will see you as more human for the effort taken to understand.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Long mornings

Tuesday and Thursday, I don't have class until 10 so I'm still home at the moment, doing dishes.

Okay, my dishwasher is doing the dishes. I'm just making sure nothing goes wrong with it.

My husband's new overnight job is not going well. It's in food service and because it's a very busy place, they expect the overnight shift to do all the cleaning and maintenance. Problem is, this particular location is on the way into the city from the bridge direction so it's busy even at night and there's very little time between customers to do the long list of tasks that is really designed for overnight people at quieter stores. He's coming home physically and mentally exhausted, then goes to his other job. It doesn't help that, despite him stating he wants only 3 shifts a week, they are insisting on giving him four which means he only gets to nap most of the week and gets very little restorative sleep.

He's on the lookout for something better. An evening job would be preferable. We need him to work ~15-20 hours a week additionally (his primary job is 32.) A 52 hour week isn't that bad. He used to work over 100 hours a week frequently, so this is still an improvement. At least the risk of him being blown up or gassed to death is now so small as to be insignificant.

One thing I am considering is moving my Thursday lab to an evening lab (6-9pm) which allows me to work four additional hours. Given the amount of work my unit has to do, I am pretty sure my boss could get approval for me to work those hours. I'm cheaper than casual or indeterminate employees, anyway. I am not allowed to work during the academic term for more than 22 hours a week, so I do have an upper limit on what I can do.

Taking five courses, raising a family, working 17 hours a week, maintaining my grades, finding time to meet my commitments for the executive for the mature students society... I think I can do it. Not like I'm going to get *less* busy going forward, anyway. It all just requires good time management and a nice, restful sleep every night.

Besides, two evening labs for the ten weeks remaining in the term is nothing in the long run. I can manage that easily.