Saturday, 31 August 2013

Organize!

I'm known as a very organized person, and really it is born of necessity. I do not tend towards being organized as many people do, I have to work at it. I am not a neat freak, my house is typically in some state of disorder, but when it comes to work and school-related things, I have systems that work and which keep me on top of everything which is absolutely essential.

Since it's worked so well for me, I thought I'd share some of my life and information organization tips. Obviously these might not work for you, but they've helped me immensely and don't require a ton of time so it's easy to keep up with them,

Organize your life.


This is my whiteboard. Everything goes on the whiteboard. Paydays, what garbage bin to put out that week (you would be surprised how often I have nearly forgotten to do that.) Doctor's appointments get put on there. Days off school/work. My first lab days are marked on there, and I mark every lab for the ones that are biweekly since it is too easy to forget whether you had it last week or not since things blur together. Midterms and exams are put on there in another colour. My son's field trips or special school days (eg. pajama day) go on there too.

I got into the habit of checking it in the morning to make sure I've prepared for the day and in the evening to make sure I've done everything I needed to finish that day. This thing has saved me so much time and frustration. Adding things to it has become automatic. The white space in the bottom is where I write down any additional stuff like phone calls that need to be made but aren't urgent, or big things for the next month that I should prepare for ahead of time.

This is a $10 white board from Walmart with $1 dry erase markers. Not much of an investment, but it is a life saver.

Organize your time.

Make a schedule.


This schedule has several purposes for me. I turn my phone to vibrate during class and to be honest usually won't notice it if it goes off. If there is an emergency, my husband (or daycare) know exactly where to find me during class or lab times.

It also helps me visualize my time commitments. The dark blue boxes are working times. On my more updated one, I've input my other commitments, and there is a box where I put my commitments that are not scheduled in a specific time but require a certain amount of time per week or biweekly. "Supper," "studying," and "Travel" are also indicated on my more up to date one.


Organize your academics.

That's a random page I picked out from last year's agenda. My agenda has everything that goes on the whiteboard in it, but also has specifics. I put in what I need to study, what I need to have done and by when. I didn't show a page that includes this, but on the weeks before a midterm, I mark the days that are one and two weeks before, so I don't forget it is coming up.

I do that as soon as I find out the dates - typically the first day of class since my profs usually put that on the syllabi. As soon as homework is mentioned or a quiz date announced or online supplemental activities made available, I whip out my agenda and record it while the prof is talking. The agenda goes to every class with me, and I check and update it obsessively. It makes it virtually impossible to forget anything, since I almost reflexively record it as soon as it is mentioned.

Really important things like midterms and large assignments, I've even put in my iPad calendar too.

This also prevents me overbooking myself.

Additionally, I have my notebooks organized. I use 80 page spiral-bound notebooks for every course. One book is one course for one semester. If the course has handouts or relies heavily on slides (my physics prof was big on that last year) I print those and keep them in a duo-tang and take my additional notes in the notebook. Classes that have me doing a lot of problems, I have a separate 'homework' book.

I never lost notes, which was great.

As I was taking notes during class, I would underline things emphasized, circle things mentioned twice, and highlight things mentioned repeatedly. If it was mentioned that a particular thing was going to be tested, I would write in the margin "THIS WILL BE TESTED" so I would pay particular attention to it during review. Page numbers or book sections were written in the margins and circled so I could refer to them.

Even if the prof posts slides, TAKE NOTES! Try to do so by hand as well. It is very easy to turn your brain off and type what you hear without thinking about it. When writing by hand, you need to think about it and summarize important points on the fly because you can't write down every word the professor says.

Honestly, I did not have to study a lot from the book for most courses because my notes were very comprehensive as they included information from the slides and from the lecture. This was a *huge* time saver, which is important when I have so little study time relative to other students.


Bit rambling. I'll come and organize this post a bit more later, but there's a brief overview of what I found most helpful last year.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Reaction

I've mentioned before that I have a severe allergy to latex. It can and has put me in the hospital for extended periods, though I have been careful enough in avoiding exposure that my last serious reaction was over ten years ago.

This allergy is annoying and inconvenient. For one, I can't take my kids to classmates' birthday parties. Unless my husband can take them, they can't go. The chance of there being balloons is too high, and no one wants the mom of a guest having to leave in an ambulance.

I can't help but wonder if my allergy may have faded over the years. Frankly, given the risk involved, I have no desire to test this. I do know I have increasing trouble breathing if there are, say, a few hundred balloons in the atrium of a building I happen to be in. This was the case last year. I had to leave the building within about ten minutes and take way more meds than I like taking. Or even a handful of balloons being manipulated near me, as was the case when my chem prof was using them to illustrate VSEPR. I do not know what my 'threshold' exposure is. I know a single, latex injected dissected specimen in a lab room built for forty students gives me hives and an itchy tongue, but not difficulty breathing. I always carry salbutamol and Benadryl in case of exposure. I suppose I should have an epipen, but the reaction is slow enough to build (takes ~1 hr to peak) that I am able to realize I am having a reaction and take appropriate steps to mitigate it.

Last year, I disclosed my allergy to my lab coordinator and was able to dissect a non-injected rat in a room that never houses injected specimens.

This year, as I am taking animal diversity, I contacted my lab coordinator to discuss alternatives ahead of time. She seemed appreciative of my contacting her with so much advance notice. They do use injected specimens in the last couple of labs, so I will be going through my school's disability accomodation processes to ensure I have access to a non-injected specimen and an uncontaminated room.

I've had people ask me about why I would pursue medicine with such a severe allergy. Thing is, I am allergic to latex for the same reason that as many as 1/10 healthcare providers are allergic to latex: overexposure. I spent so much time in the hospital as a child that I developed an allergy to latex. Since so many healthcare providers have as well, most hospitals are latex free. Our local hospital has signs up that they do not even allow balloons. While there are rare components that may contain some latex (eg. Foleys), they are rarely powdered and would not be open to the air long enough to spread enough proteins to cause me any problems.

Because of the number health care providers with latex allergies, health care has become one of the most latex-allergy-aware sectors out there. I've contacted several schools that have come back and said they are latex-free. Realistically, I don't expect this to be as much of a problem in my professional life as it is in my personal life.

But, like this year, I will be careful to bring it up ahead of time, do the footwork necessary to make accomodation less difficult for whomever I am dealing with, and will continue to advocate for myself.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Cool

I got a look at my official duties for my new position because my letter of offer came in today.

My duties are much more comprehensive than I'd originally thought they would be, and I'm really excited about the research portions. There's typical administrative, filing, tracking, that sort of stuff, but there's also researching and presenting information (not academic research) to some high-ups in the department. The kind of administrative health stuff that I'm really interested in.

Lots of analysis and data gathering. It's right up my alley, stuff I really enjoy doing. Privacy is, of course, super important since I will have access to private information, but keeping a secret has never been difficult for me.

Of course I plan to work my butt off for my new boss, as I do for my current boss, because I'm just like that when it comes to employment. I really hope I impress her and that she might feel comfortable writing me a strong letter of recommendation next year. While that was not *the* goal of moving over to the new division, I can't deny that I hope she will be happy enough with me to act as a referee next year as it is pretty normal to ask one's boss.

I'm really excited to start my new job, though I'm really going to miss the group I work with now. My boss is such a sweetheart and my coworkers are really amazing. Fortunately I'll still see them and occasionally work with them on things. I will be losing access to the finance programs I currently use (the department is very strict about only having access to 'need to know' information) so I will have to ask them to look things up for me from time to time.

This fall is going to be pretty amazing I think. So much new stuff to do as I get back into school. And hopefully my MCAT scores will be out next week.

Time to wrap up the summer. One more weekend, then back to school!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

I'm not *that* busy.

I worked out my schedule today and it really isn't that bad. I have fifteen hours of class, six hours of lab, two hours of tutorial, and thirteen hours of work each week for first semester. So, thirty six hours of scheduled time, plus 21-30 hours of scheduled study time, which will really depend on how much I need. Roughly 60-ish a week, give or take a few hours which I can handle easily.

Honestly, that isn't that bad. When/if work is slow, I can read a bit while I'm there too, while waiting for emails to come in or forms to be approved, that sort of thing. I also have to work in some time for my executive position with the mature students association, and possibly some time to assist my friend with the supplemental instruction sessions she is starting for first year bio students.

Kind of cool how I haven't really sought out ECs but have found plenty to do anyway. I even kind of fell into a healthcare related position, since I'll be working in healthcare administration.

It's certainly going to be a busy year, but my responsibilities around the house have been pretty much cut in half since my husband is home and I'm sure when school becomes more demanding around midterms and exams, he'll take on more so I can dedicate additional time to school. That alone is enough to take a huge weight off my shoulders. Not having the stress of all the household stuff on me alone is what is going to make it possible to do as much as I'm going to this year.

Really, I think it's shaping up to be a pretty decent academic year with a lot of extracurricular stuff to keep me from vanishing into the blur of academia.

With proper planning and organization, I can do it. :)

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Dammit

We had an unexpected clutch of chicks back at the end of May. I'd been checking for eggs, stopped since they never laid any, then surprise! Birds.

That clutch was very sickly, and only one chick survived (Dracula.) They didn't get off to a good start and just couldn't make up for it. One clearly had some sort of genetic issues, another was starved by his older siblings, and the third survived. Up to 80% chick loss is normal in zebra finches, though typically in captivity more survive because there is no scarcity of food. Doesn't stop the parents from refusing to feed younger or weaker chicks, though.

We decided that once Dracula was no longer sleeping in the nest and was fully eating on her own, we'd remove the nest and separate the males and females. They will never lay eggs when there is still a chick in the nest.

Except they did. When I went to take the nest out (even though Dracula was still sleeping in there most nights) there were eggs. I candled them and several were fertilized, and I couldn't bring myself to destroy them.

So, we have four of these right now:

They are awfully cute. Three of the four have ventured out. One can perch and fly a bit already. We'll be separating them as soon as the fourth comes out and I am checking daily for eggs so I can prevent this happening again.

While I may have had unexpected new pets, I do take responsibility for them and will be keeping them, though we'll be permanently separating males and females. The chicks will go in with the girls until we can tell what sex they are.

Any name suggestions? They are all white. Two have grey heads, but that will moult out when their adult feathers come in.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Down to days

School starts a week from Wednesday, so not too long now. Conveniently since I'm going into second year, I get a raise as my pay 'steps' are based on my academic years. I can start at any 'step' but go up by one per year or if my duties changes significantly. It's a pretty fair system I think.

I got this job through a program called FSWEP - the Federal Student Work Experience Program. I recommend that any of you who expect you will be seeking work for next summer apply. You can just google it. The inventory is wiped in October, so wait until towards the end of the year to apply, then you can get on the lists for next year. I enjoy my job, and not just because I have an awesome boss. My department has been active in helping me make a move that will help further my career ambitions. Pays pretty well too, for student work.


My school shopping is done, my bag is packed for the first day back. My son's clothes have been purchased, he just needs some new sneakers since apparently a new first grader can't go to school with old shoes.

My kid is going into first grade. Sheesh. He's really an elementary school kid now. Kindergarten is still 'meh' school, first grade is real school. I'll be sticking him on the bus and watching him go, no longer part of the youngest group of kids.

If I get into med school on my first try, my daughter will start kindergarten that year herself. In fact, if we were living in Ontario right now, she'd be starting (junior) kindergarten next year which is rather a scary thought. Once she's totally potty trained, she will be starting preschool at the aboriginal head start program and it's hard enough to imagine that when she's still my tiny little baby girl as far as I'm concerned.

Well, not so tiny anymore, I suppose. She wears her purse everywhere and obsesses about shoes. No hope for that one.

My husband is barbecuing supper and I have some fresh yellow beans on the go. Tournedos and local veggies; going to be a tasty supper tonight. Kind of disappointed nothing came of our pea plants. I'd have loved to have some fresh peas,but the crows ensured we wouldn't. I have more beets and tomatoes than you can shake a stick at, though.

These beautiful, warm. summer evenings are coming to an end soon, I think. Fall is on the air and my trees are starting to shrug off their glory. At least I'll have school to tide me through the lean seasons.



Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Sept

Tomorrow is my husband's and my 7th anniversary.

When we decided to get married, we did not want a wedding. We just wanted to go to city hall and be done with it as neither of us was really into weddings. The parades of coordinated satin monstrosities and black suits that so many people look forward to was not something we even considered. As neither of us was (or is) Christian, we had no desire for a church wedding either.

However, my dad being a minister and my husband's mother being an Elder, this was not something they were okay with. So we threw up our hands and said "Fine, but you guys have to plan it."

In the end, we got married in my parents' back yard (beautifully landscaped, I should add) with my dad and my husband's mother officiating - my dad modified the ceremony to be non-religious. My dress and my husband's ribbon shirt were gifts from my mother-in-law. The food was cooked by my mother, her close friend, and my SIL.

All around, it was a fun little gathering. Twenty five people were there, including us.

If we were to do it again, we'd have gone to city hall. Even though it was a tiny wedding costing just a few hundred dollars (most of which was the license) it caused far too much family drama.

I was 19 and five months pregnant when we got married. Of course people were talking and what most had to say wasn't very pleasant. We were engaged two weeks before we found out I was pregnant, but almost no one believed us. Few people had any real happiness for us but those that did remain friends today, and we've been beyond happy to see so many marry and start their own families as well.

Seven years on, we're still happily together and working hard on building the best future for our family that we can. We did things the 'wrong' way around, but in the end it's working for us. We have happy children, a happy marriage, and a home filled with laughter and love.

My husband is amazing and I am so glad we found each other.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Ins and outs

I despise gastro bugs. Like, really, really hate these illnesses. I'm not sick, my son is, but I can think of few things I would less like doing than cleaning up vomit and showering a floppy, feverish kid who really doesn't feel like having a shower.

In other words, I'm not at work right now. My husband will be home around noon then I'll be going to work. I'm using alcohol rub liberally and wore gloves for any cleanup because I really, really don't want to get this.

After making it through toddlerhood with two kids (okay, mostly through it with the second) I've learned to withstand a whole lot of gross. Children, adorable as they are, tend to be rather disgusting little things until you teach them better, and even after they learn not to be inadvertently gross, they still find gross things hilarious and try to surprise you with them as jokes.

I'm at least well prepared for medicine. Motherhood has made me unshakeable when it comes to this kind of stuff. I really wonder how often med students have to leave a room when someone vomits, or finds they are sensitive to the sight of blood or needles.

My husband can't handle needles. It's rather inconvenient for him, but isn't something he can control and while he's tried to 'get over' it, it isn't a matter of fear at all, it's just a physical response to seeing a needle pierce flesh. I know this isn't a problem for me given how often I've had blood work done or IVs inserted.

It makes me wonder if med students ever discover they faint at the sight of needles, or have a sympathetic response to vomiting. Some people could make it to adulthood without realizing they have these responses. I wonder how they handle that if they find out in med school - a doctor who passes out at the sight of a blood draw or gets sick when someone else does may have some issues down the line, even though it's usually RNs or techs who draw blood in a hospital setting.

This is what happens when I don't have anything to focus on mentally. My brain wanders all over the place, wondering about utterly useless things. My son seems to be improving since he got some water into him and is now happily watching Brave, so I have some time to do some unproductive musing at least.

I'm going to go organize something. Kid is past the age where he wants to snuggle when sick (cute as that may be, I am rather grateful he's beyond that since I don't appreciate the germ sharing) so he's perfectly happy to watch movies all day while I do other stuff.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Reflex

Last night, my husband started doing the dishes right after supper and I told him that I can do it. He said 'but you should go study!'

I gave him a bit of a flat look for a moment before he caught on. I don't *need* to study right now. I'm trying to catch up on all the housework I haven't been doing for nearly four months. While my wonderful husband has been invaluable at keeping up the house, I do like some things done a certain way and my organization systems are all out of whack. I had to be very organized while he was gone just to keep things running smoothly by myself and I found I rather liked that instead of the free form order we had before, so I want to keep it that way.

We're going to a powwow this afternoon so right now I'm just procrastinating from folding laundry. Husband's going to head out to mow the lawn, kids are going to tidy the living room, all around a decent Sunday.

Still three weeks until I get my MCAT scores. I'm nervous that I will need to rewrite; it really was quite the slog this summer and I don't want the pressure of it being my last chance to write before I apply as it will be next year.

Time seems to be going so quickly now that I have something to work towards. My daughter's third birthday is just over two months away, my son is starting grade one in two weeks, and I'm starting my second year.

Two weeks left of summer, then twelve weeks of class, two weeks of exams, three weeks off, thirteen weeks of class (with a week off), two weeks of exams, and then the summer during which I'll start my applications.

Twelve weeks is nothing. Thirteen weeks is nothing. The exam periods and breaks are barely a blink in time. I don't think things are going to slow down at all in the near future; school seems to go by so fast once I get started. It's all a flurry of readings and studying for the next test. The weeks melt away.

For now, I'm going to enjoy my two weeks left of break, and spend time with my family and revel in the glory that is my home province in the summer.

And listen to a little drumming music while munching on bannock and corn soup which is an experience I highly recommend.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

Back to school in two and a half weeks!

I got my cell bio book for next to nothing, my orgo book for $80, and the animal diversity book I'll probably be buying the Kindle edition which is $50. All my books for under $150 is awesome.

Also, my husband's new benefits plan through work just kicked in so I can opt out of the crappy university plan, saving another $400. I will be eligible for the public service plan in three more months too so I'll have two good plans that cover all of us for just a bit more than the university plan would cost. While my husband and kids have Indian status, we haven't actually gotten the kids their cards yet and we prefer to use the private plan first before putting anything towards the publicly funded non-insured health benefits.

Things are shaping up very well. My pay will be delayed in October since my paperwork for my new position hasn't been submitted yet (which is incredibly annoying but not something I can do anything about.) I will get my last full time pay on September 11th and a paycheque covering my last four days of full time work on the 25th, so I will at least have something to put away.

I wished to make a product suggestion. I used these in high school and loved them so I'm ordering more to use this year. They are graph paper post it notes. Super useful - just stick one in your notes so you can make a nice, neat graph. Useful in a lot of science courses.


http://www.instagraphs.com/

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Meh

My motivation to do anything really kind of went out the window a few days ago. I'm just a little burnt out and my mind keeps wandering off into the abyss of useless thoughts.

So today I did my school supplies shopping. I'm probably one of the only people who enjoys shopping for pens and paper as much as I do, but it made my night. The sad thing is that I know how little this stuff actually costs because part of my job is supply ordering so I buy stuff through business accounts every day.

$12 for a dozen Papermate pens? Pfft. 80% of that is markup. Desk organization and filing stuff is even worse.

Unfortunately I can't buy things for myself using these accounts, so I have to pay retail and being a proud cheapass, that bothers me. Fortunately it is back to school time so there are a lot of great sales.

My book list came out. I only need three books. One of them is new this year to the course so I can't get a used copy locally, but it is fortunately a book that's been out for a few years so I can get used copies online pretty cheap. The other two shouldn't be hard to find. I should be able to bring it in under $250 for all three.

My other two courses don't need me to buy books. Modern physics uses the same book I used last year, and history of biology will not have a book.

Because my books are coming in way under budget, I'm treating myself to something I very much need: a scanner.

I want to digitize all my files and notes. We are far too prone to losing child care receipts and such so I want to ensure we have digital copies of them (invaluable in the case of an audit), so I'm in the market for a good, fast, automatic fed, colour, auto duplex, document scanner that scans to PDF quickly and has optical character recognition so my PDFs are searchable.

Ever see the movie Taken? You know how at the start Liam Neeson's character spends all that time reading the specifications and the manual for a karaoke machine? I'm like that about any tech I purchase; I know everything about it before I buy it. It has to be worth it.

I suppose I'm like that about everything. I read the monograph for a drug before I take it, I pre-study for classes before the year starts, I spend hours and hours researching med schools years before I would even apply.

Being prepared is incredibly valuable in life. But I don't think anyone would ever accuse me of spontaneity.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Class sizes

After this year, my class sizes will shrink dramatically but it has already happened somewhat.

On our online course management site, I can see the numbers in each class. My classes are as follows:
Organic chemistry: 105
Animal Divrsity: 135
Cell Biology: 111
History of Biology: 43
Modern Physics: 19

I have quite the range of class sizes. The three classes that are over 100 are classes that every bio major needs to take, and only one section is offered which is why they are so large. In fact, of the ten courses I am going to take this year, only one (statistics II) has more than one section offered.

That's both a perk and a drawback of a small school. It is very hard to truly customize my schedule because I can't just pick a section that works better, but I'll also get to know my fellow students very well. We also have a very small number of faculty so I'm going to get to take classes from all the bio professors and likely most of the physics professors by the time I'm done.

It is going to be an interesting year and I'm excited to get it started.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Since I have time...

I made up a spread sheet last year with the details of admissions requirements and stats on it for all the non-Quebec med schools in Canada. I think I'll update that over the next few days and when I'm done I will post the link. It should be useful for figuring out where to apply.

There have been some changes, such as MUN moving to a mixed MMI/traditional interview format, some space number changes (MUN went up, U of A and U of C dropped some,) and some requirement changes.

While this is a personal blog about my path, I'd like it to be useful to others as well. :)

Saturday, 10 August 2013

After effects

I keep feeling bad about the fact that I'm not studying. Not that it's going to do any good. My score is set, there's nothing for me to do now but wait.

I'm having my coffee, kids are watching a movie because it's rainy and unpleasant out, and I have nothing pressing on my plate besides an intense desire to clean up the master bedroom which has become far too disorganized for my tastes lately since I have only slept or studied in there for a while.

School starts in three and a half weeks, so my summer is quite abbreviated. I think if I do have to rewrite, I will do it earlier in the summer so that I don't lose most of the fun times to decidedly not fun preparation.

Tomorrow we're taking the kids to the local family fair event. The fair is the sign that the end of summer is here so it really feels like I missed out. The whole summer was eaten up by preparation. If my scores aren't adequate, I won't let that happen again. My kids give up a lot of time with me for this process, it's hard to make them sacrifice the best part of the year too.

Once I've had a few days downtime, I think I'll start doing some pre-studying for next year. It was really helpful last year and while some of my upcoming classes overlap with the MCAT material, I want to be sure I'm prepared.

It will just be less intense than the MCAT studying, because I'd like to have a life outside my books for a few weeks a year.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Sweet oblivion

Well, that's over with. The trip was uneventful - except for the mess of trying to find parking in Halifax. Ugh - and I got home earlier than expected.

I am surprised that I don't really have any particular feeling about the test either way. I did my best, but since I won't know why my best means until next month, it's rather hard to have an opinion. VR felt fine. Bit shaky on one passage on PS and one on BS. No particular question stands out in my memory as being terrible.

I did over study. The depth required on many topics was not as much as I had studied, but there were certainly many little details that came up as asides during my studying that turned out to be useful. Sorry, can't give specifics since that would break the examinee agreement and yes, I intend to actually uphold that.


I hope the others who wrote today feel they did well. Many of the people there that I chatted with had written before, and I expect I probably will have to as well, so if I don't that will be a nice bonus. We'e planning a family trip to Halifax next summer anyway so I have to rewrite, we'll plan the trip around that.

Anyway, I am going to relish in the fact that I can do nothing for the next few weeks. I just have to work and take care of my home and family. And maybe pre-study a bit for next year. Once my brain recovers from the post MCAT haze.

Prep breakfast

So my MCAT is four hours away. I got a good night's sleep and now I'm waiting for some eggs Benedict for breakfast.

There are some med students, I assume, near me, judging by the conversation I can't help but overhear. A good sign? We'll see.

I got to my room around midnight and fell asleep shortly thereafter. I haven't been to Halifax since I was ten, so I've definitely never driven around the city, so actually finding where I needed to go was interesting. I'm not used to busy cities with large city centres. Charlottetown is small enough that you can walk out of downtown in ten minutes.

This is new.

Well, four hours and breakfast to go.

Time to wrap up this part of the journey, eh?

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

And here we go

It's my final MCAT study session! Hopefully for good.

I'm spending the evening doing some review of organic chemistry reactions that I need to know. I didn't have much to do at work today and one of the senior employees told me to study so I did.

I'm confident about my physical sciences mark, and my verbal reasoning, and biology. Organic chemistry remains, as it has been throughout, my one weak area. I've improved massively, but Friday will tell if I've improved enough.

Last night, I just could not focus at all, so I took the night off, besides flipping through some flash cards on the Kaplan app (I highly recommend it.)

I realize taking a night off when one is in the last days before their MCAT may be heresy to some premeds, but really the best thing I can do right now is take care of myself. I pretty much know as much as I'm going to know at this point.

Keep my brain happy and the rest will follow.

My boss is insisting I take off from work early - even though I don't leave until 7, well after work. She also told me I'm not to pick the kids up early and to just relax. Hard to argue with that. She's a sweetheart and I am really going to miss working for her when I move to medical next month.

After my abbreviated shift tomorrow, I'm going to go do a bit of paperwork I need to have done in the near future, then pack up for the trip. It's just overnight, I know, but I like to be prepared. I decided to take the ferry there and back so I can avoid the most densely moosed areas that I otherwise would be driving through in the evening.

Off to do some orgo questions, lament my imperfect understanding of the subject, and finish off this marathon of study.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Deep breaths...

It's Tuesday.

I write my MCAT on Friday.

Holy crap.

The day after tomorrow, after having supper with the family, I leave for Halifax on my own for my little adventure.

I'm not as terrified as I thought I'd be. I have accepted that, really, at this point I pretty much know as much as I'm going to know.

I've done one final practice test.

11-13-11. Not bad.

I've seen many people say that their actual MCAT score worked out to being an average of their practice scores. If that works out for me, my score should be roughly 11-12-11.

I can live with that. A nice, balanced 34 is just fine by me. Higher is better, obviously, but that is a score that isn't going to hold me back, though it won't make me stand out either.

Deep breaths.

I'm as ready as I'm going to be, I think.

Still, I have about 8 more study hours until I write. Down to the wire. I can do this.


Sunday, 4 August 2013

Distracting myself

I needed a mental break so I broke out some new pens to play with them.





Clearly, I only have one thing on my mind this week. I was planning to write out a poem (Dulce et Decorum Est) but ended up doing this.

Nice to have a bit of a mental break where I can just focus on my hands. I've noticed that my flourishing is improving, though I've still got a long way to go with it. The early attempts were just laughable.

Sunday Mornin'

At the moment, my daughter is sitting on my lap pretending to read what I write.

It's a beautiful, sunny Sunday morning and my husband is sleeping in, which is very well-deserved considering how often he lets me do it. That won't be able to happen once school starts, unfortunately. I have 8:30 classes three days a week in first semester, and all week in second semester. The two mornings where classes don't start early, I'll have to be at work at 7am for a three hour shift.

On the topic of work, I've received final approval for my move to another department. I'll be sad to say goodbye to my current coworkers, but this move will be good for my med school applications. I'm going to be working in the health care management area, directly under one of the national officers. I'll be involved in the administrative side of health care. Great place to be for a future doctor, which is why my manager is allowing it and my supervisor encouraging it, even though I'm very good at my current job and wouldn't mind staying in it if they asked me to.

It looks like interesting, very involved work and I am really looking forward to it. It's amazing the sort of things you can fall into when you work hard.

My MCAT is now five days away. I have tomorrow off from work as it is a federal holiday but not a provincial one, so my kids will be at daycare. I have to drop off one of my forms for my student loan, so I'll be doing that then coming home for my last big study session.

But right now, I'm having a cup of coffee, my kids are watching Spirited Away, and I'm browsing the scholarship and bursary listing. Nice, quiet Sunday morning. I love it.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Pep Talk - Lucky (mildly sappy post. You've been warned.)

I won't name names, but the people I'm going to mention will know who they are if they read this.

I'm lucky. When I had a kid at 19, people told me my life would be over. I was told - by an immediate family member, no less - that I would be a terrible mother and my child would be disadvantaged because of me. This same person told me when I applied to nursing several years ago that I'd ruin the profession if I got in. While my parents love me, I'm sure, and they are wonderful people, they aren't really particularly proud of me, they never have been and I rather doubt they will be even when I'm a doctor. It's easier to brush off now than it was when I was little, but it leaves its mark.

But through it all, here's my husband. This incredible man, so laid back and easygoing but right there beside me through everything. We actually separated for a year when our son was little. Things got pretty nasty for a while, but in the end we realized we are best friends and do better together than apart, and here we are, two and a half weeks from our seventh anniversary and we still make each other laugh every day.

I'm lucky to have him and can't overstate that.

I also have some really amazing friends. I have had some people say some pretty negative things to me about pursuing medicine. From derision-masked-as-concern to direct disparagement. There are undeniably people who think this is a bad idea, or think I can't do it.

But I have these friends, you see, people I've known in some cases for over a decade and who I consider my family. They've encouraged me and shared in my joys and sorrows and helped distract me from frustrations and kept me from implanting my head permanently in a book. They also try to make sure I stay realistic.

In the past few weeks in particular, I have just been so incredibly fortunate to have these friends.

When I posted on Facebook looking for a rideshare to Halifax, without mentioning our financial situation, one friend offered to pay for me to take the bus. Another offered to drive me herself. One offered me her house to stay in. Another offered to pay for a hotel.

I still struggle with not feeling like I'm worth anyone's time. The result of growing up being reminded constantly how worthless you are to other people, I suppose. I have an incredibly hard time accepting gifts, particularly big gifts, and particularly help like this. I found a way to do this without outside assistance, but I was still moved to tears by these people coming out and offering me their support yet again.

Their kind words, their encouragement, their jokes, their reminders that life exists outside this process, those things mean far more to me than any thing they could ever give me, yet still they offered. Just because they are proud of me for working so hard.

Yesterday at work, a coworker bought me breakfast because she felt I deserved a treat for my effort. It was very hard not to cry in front of my boss.

Turns out that even my doctor is rooting for me. My husband mentioned that my MCAT is coming up when he was at a recent appointment, and he mentioned that I've had some negative response. She called them 'bastards' and told him to wish me luck. Keep in mind, she originally told me not to go into medicine.

So I have all these incredible people around me, many of them spread across the continent and the world. These people who know me very well and see me as worthwhile, who believe in me and are willing to even put up their own funds to see me succeed.

Given that I grew up feeling worthless and believing all the poison poured into my ear over the years, having so many people behind me is an experience I can barely describe.

With so many people rooting for me, how can I fail them by listening to those who would say I can't do it?

My husband, my friends, my kids, my coworkers, even my doctor and even a few people on the premed board. I've got this.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Survival Guide to Premed Motherhood

Since I started this journey, I've learned a few things. Obviously, I am only just approaching the second of the many difficult milestones, but I thought I'd share some things I have learned so far.

If you are a parent planning to work towards getting into med school, here are my survival tips:

1. Don't. This is an engulfing, exhausting process and has resulted in far more family time being dedicated to books than I like, and realistically that isn't going to improve much for the next decade. If you can't handle giving up every evening when school requires it, relying on others to do things that you normally do, and dealing with the potential (likely) financial hardships, reconsider.

2. If you choose to continue: Organize. Get a white board calendar and an agenda. Use them. Also, keep the white board high enough the kids can't reach it. Nothing like 'helpful' toddler scrawling all over your carefully organized month.

3. Stick to your schedule. As a parent premed, getting behind in your school work is a lot harder to come back from than it is for other students who have more time.

4. Getting behind in housework is totally okay, though. Within reason. If you are discovering new and interesting species of mould on your dishes, you have taken this suggestion too far.

5. Accept that you can't be perfect at everything at the same time. Sometimes, things that can be cut must be cut. Say "no" sometimes. To get in, you need to focus on school, but you also need to focus on your family. If you can't do a million ECs and be on every parent organization at your kid's school, then don't.

6. Take up a hobby. I'm sure you love your kids very much, but you need something for you too. Something besides school, even if you love what you are studying. Throwing things seems like a good hobby some days.

7. If you've got a partner helping you, let them help you. Delegate. Probably a bigger problem for moms than dads; we tend to feel we should be doing everything, and guilt ourselves into anxiety if we don't. Your partner may not do things the exact way you want, but the dishes will not care if they are put away 'wrong.'


This is just the first part of the journey. We're all in this for the long haul, and I'm really kind of doubting the demands on my time will get lighter from here out.

I'm not an expert by any means, but I figure if I managed to get through a year of school with a 4.0 while on my own and a summer of work and MCAT studying that has me coming in strong on practice tests, I'm doing pretty well.

All the above has helped me a lot. Good luck to those of you who are starting or continuing on this journey!

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Write Off

Enh, tonight was a write off. I was up really, really early. I studied between tasks at work (flash cards) but this evening I have not done as many questions as I'd like.

I did a whole pile of orgo and bio questions last night and, as usual, the orgo is my weakest area. But 'weak' is relative. I'm stronger in every area now than I was a few months ago when I started this.

I am consistently scoring 10+ in every section I try. I'm getting around 60% of organic chemistry questions right. Around 95% of biology questions. So my biological sciences score will likely come down to how orgo-heavy my particular test is. I'm reaching the point where my studying will have diminishing returns. If I don't *know* it within the next few days, I'm not going to know it for the MCAT.

I have to be okay with this, or I will get nervous and I do much, much better on tests if I go in relaxed.

This is just a test. A big test, a hard test, and an important test. But it is still just a test.

I'm more nervous about the drive to Halifax than I am about the MCAT. I have never driven that far on my own, particularly at night. I've also never gone anywhere by myself. Ever.

I'm 26 years old, and have never once in my life left my family (be that family of origin or my kids and husband) in one place and travelled on my own. This is just overnight, I'll be gone about 28 hours total. Not really an extended trip, but it is my first ever one by myself and so I am both excited and a little nervous.

I'm really rather bummed that my husband isn't coming because he is my biggest cheerleader and supporter. He also likes driving long distances. But circumstances just didn't work out that way. That's life.

Managed to get the overnight thing handled. A friend made an incredibly kind offer, but it would require either an additional four hours of driving for me, or for her, and I don't want to put either of us in that position. It was awfully sweet of her to offer, though. She's not the only friend who has offered to help me out with this, and I am incredibly touched that I've had so many people willing to put themselves out so that I can do this. It is really amazing to have such support. I'm lucky there.

At the recommendation of a friend, I'm staying in a university dorm overnight. I was pleasantly surprised to find out it's only $32 and has free WiFi. $6 parking. Works for me!