Saturday, 28 June 2014

Sun, Sand, and Shrimp


Just got back from the beach about an hour ago. We stayed all day and the kids are completely wiped out. So is our dog. 


We live only five minutes by car from the beach, and yes dogs are actually allowed at this one, but our schedules have been so difficult over the last years we have not been able to go as often as we'd like. We make a point of going when we are able, which should now be every weekend. 

For the first time in the eight years we've been married, my husband and I have two days off together every single week, plus evenings off together to accomplish the daily work of life. That means we get to plan things for weekends and holidays now. It's new for us, and it is lovely. 

It's interesting to me how strange this feels, for us to have what is essentially a normal family schedule, but oh do I love it. 

We are also trying to ensure our kids have as many good memories of our Island as possible. They will be 8.5 and nearly five years old when we leave, but will be nearly 13 and 9 when we get back. They'll have spent most of their school years in Ontario, Alberta, or Newfoundland. They probably won't remember here as much, though we plan to send them or bring them home as much as possible because we will be back here. 

I worry sometimes about whether my kids will turn into city kids after we move. They are used to running free in fields, having huge yards to run in, trees to climb, dogs that can run free, food that was grown or raised within spitting distance of home. What if they decide they want malls and tiny apartments and subways and access to a ton of stores they never shop at because that's what they were exposed to during those preteen years?

I worry they won't see my home as their home anymore. So we're doing everything we can to help them build those memories to take with them, to maybe carry them through the years away.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The REALLY BIG Chart

Medical School Admissions Requirements, Historical Statistics, and Notes

This does not include Qu├ębec because their grading system is different enough, and I wasn't sure whether to write it in French or English and, well, I spend all day at work writing everything in both languages. I didn't want to do it at home too.

Anyway, any errors, let me know. I have used information as recent as possible, but as with all living documents, it's out of date as soon as it's saved.

I recommend downloading the file, not reading it on Google Drive's viewer. It is cutting off some of the info. 
 
I've included notes on the 2015 MCAT where I have found them.

Hopefully this helps some of you. 

Geez guys!

The blog hit 50,000 views sometime this morning. I figured that would happen closer to OMSAS opening, but apparently people are very bored this summer.

I found out OMSAS opens on July 9th this year, about a week earlier than last year. Yay!

MUN apps are through CaRMS and I don't know the exact date that opens. The site just says July, so I figure probably mid-July. 

Calgary's applicant manual for 2014-15 is up and I'll be reading it this evening. 

I've almost finished my big, big spreadsheet of med school requirements and stats. You'd be surprised how long it takes to get it all done up. I have only done the English schools, though, because I'm not very familiar with the 3 French Quebec ones. I'll link the document in my google drive once I'm done. It's broken down by region - Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, Western - since those seem to be the regions people stick to applying within. I've included any notes on the MCAT2015 that I could find. 





Monday, 23 June 2014

Mid-Day Lecture

One of my favourite professors gave a lecture today that a friend told me about. She's a candidate for chairing a new department, and the topic looked really interesting, so I asked my boss and got permission to go for the hour. My work is only about a 10 minute drive from the university so it's not a huge deal.

The lecture was great! I really enjoy these sorts of things, removed from the possibility of being graded, purely for the enjoyment of learning something new. And this is right on the forefront of behavioural neuroscience, so it was really interesting to hear. Turnout was great; the whole room was full.

I've had this professor for two classes and she's a really, really effective communicator. For some reason, she has a reputation as a bit of a tough professor, but I've not found that to be the case. Hopefully she gets this position; she'd be great in it!

Registration for next year is the day after OMSAS opens.

I'm vacillating between whether to overload first semester. I really want to take endocrinology in second semester. Realistically, I will get lots of endo in med school, but it's one of my favourite topics and I so, so want to take that class. But I'm also taking biochem, molecular biotech, human physics, and biomedical imaging in second semester, so overloading is a bad idea.

I could quite easily add a 6th course to first semester so that I can get both English out of the way, and I could drop the second English if I don't get an interview at MUN. It'd mean I'll do 11 courses next year, but that'd be worth it, I think.

Still have a couple weeks to decide.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

The fruits of my fruits

My gardens are starting very well this year. The corn came up en masse, the pumpkin vines are all growing great, the peas are huge. One of our watermelon seeds actually sprouted! I am so looking forward to the end of the summer because VEGGIES! The one thing that's disappointing so far is the tomatoes. I got a small variety, but they aren't just small, they're barely growing. :-/

I'll be trading some of my produce with other gardeners this year. I'm planning to do some canning/freezing if I can get some cucumbers and beets (neither of which I planted.) Depending how many pumpkins we get, I'll probably just take an afternoon and make them all at once into pie filling to freeze in batches - you can't home can pumpkin pie filling. 

I'm making jam this afternoon. It was $4 to buy a small bottle, or $5 worth of certo and sugar to make eight 500mL bottles, since my mother had some raspberry mush left over after last year. Kind of an obvious choice here. 

With applications opening just a couple weeks from now, the immediacy of the application cycle has really hit. I'm cracking down on the budget, big time. Over the summer, with me working full time, we typically have a bit of extra money compared to usual, so we tend to spend more because it means we can relax a little while still meeting our obligations. But we need to have a LOT of money saved over the next 6-8 months, so I have gone into penny pinching mode. 

Which, yes, means making an entire year's worth of jam in one afternoon, planning ahead to save my harvest, and otherwise channelling my grandmother in all things. 

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Annoying

Well, I didn't get to go to the thing today with the minister of health. Stuff happens. 

But I am getting some training tomorrow, and in the second week of July, on things that will help me with my career. 

Sometime in the next couple of weeks, I need to pay my deposit for next year. I'm not sure if other schools do this, but we have to pay a tuition deposit each year before registration. My registration will be on July 16th. 

I'm running into a few annoyances, but nothing that can't be overtime. We had an unexpected financial blip that are up what I was going to use for a MUN course, so I'm stuck definitely taking two English next year. I may overload in first semester, though, since I'll be taking essentially three really easy classes. That way I can take endocrinology second semester if I don't get an interview at MUN, and I can drop one English then take a second in the next summer. Depends on drop dates and when the interview offers for MUN come out, though. 

With this next big step just around the corner, the whole thing feels a little unreal. I'm working full time now, and that's starting to feel more normal. Swinging back into school this fall, I think, will feel differs. Even though I enjoy it. It's hard to explain, but I think the transition back will be harder. It's easier to work, it really is. Especially at a job I enjoy so much. 

But that makes it all the more important that I swing back into school full of energy this fall. The job I enjoy is dependant on my status as a student and as much as I enjoy it, I do not intend to work this sort of position forever. Medicine is ahead of me. But I am very happy with what I have right now. 

This is a pretty good place to be. :)

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Shoulder Weight

Work is fun these days. One coworker is on leave, another is going on leave shortly, though a temporary replacement has been found and is being trained, and my boss has to be out of the office for a while since part of her job involves being other places. 

So, it's kind of crazy. I'm currently doing some amazingly interesting work that I really enjoy, some do-not-screw-this-up-ever work, and some of the day to day stuff. I've kind of lost track of what work is technically mine to begin with, since I'm doing a bit of everyone's stuff to help fill in. It's challenging but really, really fun because I get to practice my ability to juggle many, many things while still doing them with a high degree of accuracy. I'm used to doing that in a general sense, but now I get to practice it at work, dealing with health care information. It's awesome.

My boss seems so worried about stressing me out, and she's such a sweetheart for it, but really, I am enjoying this so much!

This week, I get to attend an educational session with the minister of health for my province! It's on current and future health care financial management. I technically get to attend as part of my job, because it fits my learning plan. I'm considering it both educational and career-building, since I get to elbow rub a bit over breakfast. I've heard these sessions are very small, they are offered with different speakers fairly often, so it will be really nice to get to hear from people who are doing this sort of financial policy work day-in-day-out. 

I'm also being sent for some training in medical billing next month. 

Have I mentioned before how awesome my job is? For what I get out of it - good pay, great opportunities, really amazing experiences - I feel like the work I do almost isn't enough, even though I'm doing more than my own job right now. Still fine by me!

We're now under the one month mark until apps open! Excited, everyone?! I am!


Saturday, 14 June 2014

Hello summer virus

I am sick. Well, still sick. I went back on my steroids a while ago and they suppress one's immune system (rather the point...) so I tend to get sick more and it hangs around longer. 

This whole week was pretty much a wash. My son basically blew up at school and so I was in meetings Monday and Tuesday about him, plus we had an urgent paediatrics consult on Wednesday. Then I was way too sick to go into work yesterday. I slept the whole day. 

My boss is incredibly tolerant, but I feel really bad missing so much work because our work volume goes up in the summer and one of the three employees in my unit is now off for a while, another is leaving for a year shortly. Even though I'm still pretty bad off today, I'm going in (my workplace isn't technically open on weekends) because we have some stuff that is most easily done when the regional offices aren't open. 

Anyway, life is hectic. BUT my husband is now off at the same time as me every day, and he is off weekends too!

For the first time in our eight years of marriage, we have every evening and weekend off together. I cannot begin to say what a relief it is. It means if one of us is sick (like now) and really needs to sleep, they don't have to stay up to watch the kids because the other is at work. It means we can plan things in the evenings without having to ask for time off. It's great!

Still adjusting a bit, but we'll get there.

I'll be starting my pre-studying for next year soon. I'll post my schedule for that when I get started. 

Sunday, 8 June 2014

A difficult confession - My dirty little secret

I've mentioned many times that I was born with bad lungs, continue to be prone to lung issues, and am greatly frustrated with them.

What I've neglected to mention is that for the last ten years, give or take some very, very difficult periods (I'm crazy when pregnant, this is part of why) I made the very stupid decision to smoke. I fully admit it is stupid for anyone to do, and doubly so for me, given that my lungs suck to begin with.

I have quit several times, each time a massive, massive struggle that eventually failed. It's hard to admit this, but quitting attempts have made me suicidal in the past. Really.

I am so ridiculously ashamed of the fact that I made this stupid decision over and over for so long. Many of my friends (including some who will read this) do not, so far as I am aware, know about it. I go to ridiculous lengths to avoid people finding out. My goal was always to keep as many people unaware of my dirty little secret as possible. Also, even I hate getting stuck next to someone who reeks of smoke in class, so I try not to be THAT person.

I knew when I began this process of trying to get into med school that there is no way I would get in if I show up to a med school interview smelling like cigarettes. I'm fat AND I smoke - I'm a walking advertisement for what doctors complain about. As if they'll want me as a colleague.

Recently I was getting a refill of my asthma meds and the clinic physician looked at me and said "You're a smoker." It wasn't a question, just a statement laced with a great deal of disapproval - glower and jowls and all. He asked about my psych history (he could see I take an antidepressant) and then prescribed me Champix.

Thing is, I hate smoking. Not only am I so ashamed of it that even many of my closest friends, my parents, and my coworkers don't know I smoke, so far as I know, I HATE it. I hate the taste, I hate the smell, I hate the problems it causes physically. I hate the thought that my kids might, like I did, grow up seeing it as normal.

So I told my husband I was starting the Champix and told him to watch me carefully for behavioural changes (it is known to worsen psychiatric issues.)

Then I followed the directions. Within the first week, smoking started to make me nauseous and give me headaches. Then I noticed I was only smoking 2-4 a day. Then I stopped completely.

And I haven't had a single craving at all. No headaches, no crankiness. I've been in an incredibly good mood, actually.

I feel so free, so amazing. Except for the coughing; my lungs are reaching that stage of recovery where the little cilia are going "WE WORK!"

If you're thinking about it, I encourage you to go discuss things with your physician. There are options besides the one I used which are available. My drug plan covered this (fairly expensive) medication completely.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Musings about Research

As pretty much everything except nutjobs expected, more and more research is continuing to establish autism as something kids are born with.

Read a couple things recently suggesting high prenatal exposure to testosterone is associated with an increased incidence of autism. Haven't read the studies yet so I can't really speak to their reliability, but it did get me to thinking of other ways that suggestion could be explored. One way would be to study whether autism prevalence is higher in sons of women with hyperandrogenism (common with PCOS.) If this hypothesis holds, sons born to women with hyperandrogenism would have a higher rate of autism, which seems to hold with the social groups I've been in, but that could just be them sticking out more in my memory.

As I've mentioned before, I have PCOS (which sucks) and my son has autism. I know, from blood work, I have hyperandrogenism, which is probably why I'm built like a linebacker. If I could breathe normally, I'd be an AWESOME football player.

Anyway, it got me to thinking that it'd actually be really funny if prenatal testosterone turns out to be a really big factor, though of course more evaluation would be needed. I've come up with a case control study I'd like to do, since it hasn't been done yet. It'd be nice to be able to do it as an honours project, but there's likely no way I can actually get the funding necessary for something like this.


Sunday, 1 June 2014

06-01

Happy June everyone!

For those applying this year, apps open next month! Exciting!

That's then, though. Right now, I am sunburnt. 

Because the frost continued late, we were late getting our gardens in. The beds are done and mostly planted now, though. We're growing beans, peas, corn, pumpkin, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, and possibly watermelon. Melon is hard to grow here because we have cooler summers, though they are long. We'll see. A few places are able to grow it locally outside so we'll see how this goes. 

The corn, beans, pumpkin, and maybe watermelon, are the three sisters. It's traditionally corn, beans, and squash, but pumpkin was close enough. The corn benefits from the nitrogen that the beans' root bacteria fixes, the beans grow up the corn, and the squash covers the ground, helping prevent water loss and weed growth. Its a traditional growing method and we're doing it primarily for the kids' cultural education. We also really like corn and beans and pumpkin pie, so it works. 

My daughter will be starting at the aboriginal head start in the fall, so we'll have plenty of people to share the harvest with - the resource centre that runs the head start program hosts cooking classes to help teach nutritious cooking. They're fun, I've been to a few before. We'll probably give them anything we can't eat, since the centre operates on a limited budget and we have benefitted from their programs. 

On an unrelated note, my MIL may be joining us this month anyway. My SIL - part of the reason for MIL delaying her move - has decided to move back to the rez so there's no reason for MIL to stay in Ottawa longer. My husband will probably fly out on a Friday evening so he can help MIL load up, then he'll drive her here. It's about a 13 hour drive, so it can be done in one day. Growing up, we always drove straight through the night to get home. If we end up in Ontario next year, the kids will get to experience that too. 

Anyway, off to take a cool shower to ease my sizzling skin.