Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Check In - Home and Hobbies

About a month ago, I wrote a post about my goals for "Home and Hobbies" and promised to check in after starting work to let everyone know how things are going.  Here's the update:

Have two knitting projects on the go at all times:

I've been using knitting as a way of relaxing in the evenings (when I'm not mindlessly surfing the internet), and I've made some good progress on my knitting projects.  I recently finished knitting a baby sweater for a friend, and I just need to sew the hood and sleeves for it to be completely finished.  Her son is now seven months old, so it's a good thing I opted for the 18-month size!  I'm also almost to the end of knitting my first sock, which has been a six-month-long exercise in frustration; I may never knit the second one.

Now that I've finished knitting the baby sweater, I've essentially only got one knitting project on the go, so I need to find something else to work on.  I'm thinking maybe something mindless, like a prayer shawl (maybe a Christmas gift for my Mom?), or something big, like a cozy sweater for myself.  Ravelry here I come!

Cook regularly with my girlfriend:

This one has been fairly successful.  We have a ton of produce from our CSA share (too much zucchini), so we've been doing a lot of cooking in an attempt to avoid wasting the beautiful organic vegetables.  I also finally got our BBQ cleaned off, so we've been eating a lot of charred meat.  I feel a bit like a caveman.

Read for pleasure every day:

This one got off to a very slow start due to exhaustion and my unfortunate technology addiction, but it's starting to pick up.  After starting a few books that didn't hold my interest, I finally found "Chasing the Scream", which is a fascinating book about how the prohibition of drugs has led to the worldwide drug war.  If you have even a passing interest in drug laws or racism or gang violence, you should read this book.


Now that I have a good book, I'm finding some time almost every day for reading.  Unfortunately, I'm approaching the end of this book, so I'm not sure what I'll read next.  Any "must-read" books that you'd suggest?

Keep up with my finances:

I've probably been doing too well with this.  I've continued to track my budget on my iPhone, and I've started tracking all of my billings in an Excel file so that I can confirm that I'm being paid properly for the work I do.  All of the monitoring has made me a bit obsessed with money, and I'm finding that I get unreasonably anxious whenever I spend money or drop below a budget surplus that I've arbitrarily decided is "enough".  I'm hoping that the anxiety will wane as I get a better sense of my income and as I make progress with paying off my debt.

Spend time daily and weekly on keeping the apartment clean and organized:

Remember when I said "This will be a challenge.  A huge challenge."?  I was correct in my assessment.  Cleaning and tidying have been the lowest priorities in my life lately, so the clutter and disorganization are starting to return.  It's been made even worse by the fact that my girlfriend has been going through her own work transition, leaving her with neither the energy nor the motivation to help out much.

We have been doing a few things right, thankfully.  We've been keeping up with the dishes and cleaning the kitchen semi-regularly, which means that there is usually space in the kitchen for cooking and eating.  I've also been doing laundry every Sunday morning, so my laundry pile is small and I always have clothing to wear.  I've also been filing my mail as soon as it comes in, which is keeping me more on top of bills and other important things than I usually am.  So all in all, not a total failure with this goal.

Any goals that you've been working on lately?  How are they going?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Evening Routines

OMDG posted today about her challenge with evenings, which got me reflecting on my own evening routine since starting back at work.  When I was on holidays, my plans for my work evenings were very ambitious - cook tasty dinners with my girlfriend, clean the kitchen, take care of housework/paperwork, exercise, and read stimulating and erudite books.  Shockingly, the reality has been somewhat less impressive.  Despite not actually working that hard yet (I'm only working about half-time at the moment), I've been coming home mentally exhausted every day, and I haven't been able to motivate myself to do most of the things I would like to.

Currently, my post-work schedule looks something like this:

1)  Arrive home and dump all possessions (lunch bag, purse, backpack, jacket) in the front hallway.  Ignore voice in the back of my head that tells me that I should be putting things in the spaces I created for them.

2)  Cook dinner with my girlfriend.  This varies from spending 2-3 hours making an elaborate dinner (we love cooking) to BBQing hot dogs and eating potato chips from the bag.

3)  Spend way too much time on the computer.  Facebook, blogs, news, repeat.  I haven't mastered the art of turning off the computer when there is nothing good left to look at, so this eats up a lot of time.  On a good day, I write a blog post of variable quality.

4)  Watch something on Netflix with my girlfriend.  Lately we've been watching Human Planet, which is actually a decent and not entirely mind-numbing show, so it could be worse.

5)  Look at the stack of library books on my coffee table.  Decide it isn't worth the effort.  Possibly watch another Netflix show, usually of lower quality than Human Planet.

6)  Feel progressively more exhausted.  Resist the urge to go to bed like a reasonable human being.  Repeat item #3.

7)  Realize it's past my bedtime.  Rush around trying to make a lunch, pack my work bag, feed the cats, and do anything else that needs to be done.  (Feeding the cats is the only thing I consistently accomplish before bed, and that's only because they meow at me.)

8)  Finally get to bed much later than I should.  Realize that eight hours of restful sleep has become an impossible dream.

9)  Lie awake staring at the ceiling, regretting all of the things I didn't do.

This is something I need to work on, because evenings make up a lot of the quality time I have for myself and my girlfriend outside of work.  Looking back on this time of my life, I don't want Facebook and Netflix and a cluttered apartment to be my most vivid memories.

How happy are you with your evening routine?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Post on Parenting by a Childless Woman

One of my good friends from medical school has three children between the ages of 7 months and 5 years.  When it came time for her to go back to residency after her first maternity leave*, she and her husband were faced with the inevitable question of who would take care of the child.  From a financial perspective, it made much more sense for him to stay home, so they decided to go against the societal norm and make him the stay-at-home parent.

Now three children into the process, it seems to be working very well for them.  My friend thrives on her work as a physician and earns enough to support the family, while her husband (mostly) enjoys being the primary caregiver.  Whenever I visit, he is the person that the children go to first, whether for food or comfort or just to whine about one of their many grievances. 

Although the arrangement is mostly good, it does come with its own set of challenges.  While there is a huge network of supports available to mothers from the beginning of pregnancy onwards (exercise classes for pregnant moms, lactation groups, mom-and-baby programs), there is very little for fathers who choose to stay home with their kids.  There's the constant judgement of women who choose not to stay home with their children.  And then there's the never ending societal narrative that says that women should be the caregivers, not men.  It's present in ads for baby products that feature only mothers, in the language we use to describe parenting (e.g. talking about fathers who "help" with the kids or who "babysit" them when the mother is away), and in the way we label restrooms for parents with kids as "Mommy and Me" restrooms.

Even though I don't have children, and probably never will, these things frustrate me to no end.  They frustrate me because they make it unnecessarily hard for fathers to stay home with their children, even when that's what works best for their families.  They frustrate me because they perpetuate the idea that a woman's role is to raise the children, regardless of whether she would prefer to be in the workforce.  And they frustrate me because they limit us to traditional gender roles, even though two X chromosomes don't automatically make a person a better parent than an X and a Y.

We have to start doing better.

*Unlike in the States, Canada has a great parental leave policy that allows the mother and/or father to take a combined total of 50 weeks of partially paid leave.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Doing the Unthinkable

Yesterday afternoon I left work at 1 PM.

This may not sound all that amazing to you, given that people sometimes leave work early for doctors' appointments or other things that need to be done during working hours.  What made it amazing is that I had absolutely nothing to go to.  I was simply done my work for the day*.

As a fellow, I never intentionally came late or left early; it was completely unacceptable to not be at work for the full day.  The few times I was late because of a missed alarm or unexpected traffic, I was inevitably met by a supervisor who would look at his watch and say "Slacking off, are we?"  It didn't matter if I was finished my work for the day or if I could accomplish my work more efficiently in the quiet of my own home:  if it was between the hours of 9 am and 5 PM**, I was expected to be at my desk or in the hospital.

As an attending, on the other hand, I set my own schedule (within certain limits).  I decide when I take call, I decide how many clinics a week I work, and I decide when to do research (if at all).  The freedom is awesome!  And while I have no intention of abusing this freedom, I do intend to make the most of it.  Before starting work, I decided that I will no longer stay at work just to make an appearance.  If I finish my work before 5 PM, I will go home early and enjoy my life outside of the hospital. 

I don't expect this to happen often, and I'm sure there will be days when I make up for it by staying far past 5 PM.  But on the days when I can go home in the early afternoon, I fully intend to do it.  And I intend to enjoy every minute of the kitchen gadget store browsing/cooking with copious amounts of zucchini/napping that I do with my time off.

*Of course, as soon as I left the hospital I got paged to go back, but such is life.

**If you're a resident/physician/other hard-working person who can only dream of a (mostly) 9-5 schedule, I'm sorry.  My chosen career is awesome.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

It Only Took Two Days

As a resident, it used to drive me nuts when I would try to page my attending and he or she wouldn't respond to my page.  It was particularly annoying when it was the middle of the night and all I wanted to do was review a case quickly so that I could get to my call room and possibly be horizontal for a few minutes.  Whenever it happened to me, I would vow that I would never, ever fail to answer my pager as an attending.

Guess which attending woke up this morning to discover that she'd slept right through a middle of the night page?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Choices

Last night, my girlfriend took me to my favourite Ethiopian restaurant for a meal to celebrate my first day as an attending.  We ordered one vegetarian platter and one meat platter, which is too much food for two people to eat, but not quite enough food to leave a good serving of leftovers.  After my girlfriend had given up, while I was still trying to finish off every last tasty morsel, we had the following conversation.

Girlfriend:  "You know...if you stop eating now, we could share a mint Oreo Blizzard for dessert."

Me (pausing while bringing a handful of food to my mouth):  "What if I want to keep eating, but I also want to have a mint Oreo Blizzard for dessert?"

GF:  "Well...you're an adult and you can make choices for yourself.  My only request is that you not vomit in the car on the way home."
 
Me (reluctantly returning the handful of food to the plate):  "You never let me have any fun." 

Monday, August 17, 2015

That Wasn't Horrible

When I was planning my schedule a few months ago, I thought that I would "start off easy" by being on the consult service for the first two weeks and only doing one or two half-day clinics per week.  I spent months (and months and months) on the consult service as a fellow, so being on service as an attending shouldn't be all that different from what I was doing before, and it guarantees me a minimum income to help with the bills that have piled up after seven weeks of vacation.

The only problem with my plan?  I scheduled my first clinic for the morning of my very first day.  At the inner city clinic where I've only worked twice and therefore am unfamiliar with pretty much everything (like the bloody EPR).  The clinic with the very complicated patients who actually require time.

In the end, my two-and-a-half-hour-long clinic took four hours, followed by a full hour of charting and paperwork.  Amazingly, I stayed calm throughout it and didn't once cry or freak out.  And it was actually (dare I admit it) a tiny bit of fun.  My nurse is absolutely amazing with both me and my patients, and she was the main reason why I didn't go insane when my clinic ran horribly over.  It also helped that there was nothing pressing on the consult service, so it was okay that I showed up at the other hospital at 3 PM.

Maybe this attending gig will be bearable after all.